The Law: Death Brings Life

The Law: Death Brings Life

Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my words should stray from yours, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. Well, the signs of spring are beginning to abound. Many gardeners have started seedlings in pots by windows, and a few have decided to brave the 25-degree nights with their fall garlic or onions or the frost hardy spinach and kale. And this new life begins with a ritual not unlike a burial ceremony. Each seed is committed unto the earth buried, and in a sense dies. And for those first periods, whether it be days or weeks, one only sees barren dirt. But with the death of that new seed, new life comes forth, and with it the hope of the abundance of fruit and a glorious harvest. Paul, in our text this morning, he’s also dealing with a connection between death and life. And in our text, Paul makes the extraordinary argument that only in our death to the law can we find and experience and enjoy life in Christ. Most of chapter 6 is a plea to put off the sin in our lives and to live instead for Christ.

And one might be tempted to think that in Paul, in making that argument, he would be urging his audience to go back into to spend time under the law. F. F. Bruce, for instance, notes that indeed many men and women of God in Israel have found the law to be a safeguard against sin. You may They think of Psalm 119:65, Great peace have those who love thy law. Or Psalm 19:7, The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. But throughout Chapter 7 and even into 8, Paul speaks differently about the law. He’s given a glimpse of where he’s headed in Chapter 6:14, and that’s the point that he develops more fully in our text. Chapter 6:14 reads this way, For sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under the law, but under grace. The law, Paul seems to imply, brings sin and death. What the believer then needs is freedom from this law. We find this in our union with Christ and in his death. In Christ’s death, we find life. Furthermore, having been freed from the condemnation of the law, we find that the law is good, for it reveals God’s character as holy, just good.

And flowing from that, we see the revelation of his will. Paul brings us to these conclusions through the use of oratory practices and phrases and approach that be well known throughout the Roman and Hebrew world. And he begins this text with one of those common phrases in verse one, Or do you not know brothers? It’s the perfect setup for the principle that he is about to present, that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives. Certainly, one knows that no one buried in a cemetery is ever find for loitering. Once one is dead, laws do little to bind them. And Paul chooses to illustrate this point in a different way in verse 2 by pointing to marriage. He marks that a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives. Paul here is stating an idea so obviously understood among both his Roman and Jewish audience that he has no need to defend it. He simply state this clear truth and press on. If her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. Paul shows in verse three how this clear principle makes a difference.

If she lives, With another man while her husband is alive, she is rightly called an adulterous. However, if her husband has died, then she is free and can marry another and is not an adulterous. What Paul says about marriage here is true. It’s God’s intention for marriage to be permanent and lasting as a union till death do us part. But Paul’s intent here is not to lay out a theology of marriage or of divorce and remarriage. To gain that, one must consult Jesus’s teaching, Paul’s teaching elsewhere, in addition to what the Old Testament speaks of marriage. Paul is simply making the illustration that while she is to her husband, she is bound to him under the law. And if and when he dies, she is freed up to marry another. Paul then in verse 4, applies this principle to his audience You also have died to the law through the body of Christ that you may belong to another. Now, this can become awkward and confusing if you try to see it as a perfect analogy. If you try, that is to make straight correlations between the husband law and the woman believer. For in verses 2 and 3, it’s the husband law that dies.

But in verse 4, it is we, the believer wife, who dies. But if you don’t take it as an analogy and rather as a simple illustration, the point is clear. Through death to the law, we are freed up to belong to another. Verse 4 has some remarkably beautiful theological points that are worth looking at this morning. It speaks of the union with Christ in his death, with a language of through the body of Christ. There’s a hint to Matthew 26:26, where Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, he broke it and he it to his disciples and said, Take, eat, this is my body. ‘ Or 1 Corinthians 10:16, The bread we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Or Hebrews 10:10, We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And there are others which speak to that connection. Furthermore, verse 4 shows us that our union to Christ in his body, in his death, also means we have been united in his resurrection. I love Christopher Asch’s note on this, which we printed in the bulletin. Asch writes, Because this new husband has been raised from the dead, this new marriage will last forever.

There is no till death do us part. Praise the Lord. Finally, our union with Christ in verse 4 brings us to life that is both fruitful and blessed. Verse 4 is, In order that we may bear fruit for God, pulls in the idea that we saw from chapter 6, verse 22 last week, where we saw that the fruit there bears to a life of sanctification and its and eternal life. This beautiful new marriage, this life in verse 4, it contrasts less dramatically with a reminder of a picture of our old self in verse 5. And there we are shown why we need to apply the principle of verse 1, why we need to be released from the law. It’s because while we lived in the flesh, our sinful passions were aroused by the law, and we were at work bearing fruit for death. This fruit bearing death, in addition to contrasting with the life bearing fruit for God, also reminds us of a truth which Pastor Lloyd made beautifully last week, all sin leads to death. It promises us pleasure, and then eventually robs us of that very own pleasure. We can see that dramatically played out in those whose lives are addicted to something, but all of us are headed in that direction towards that same death if we continually live life in the flesh pursuing our passions.

Verses 7 through 11 really amplify on the point that Paul is introducing in verse 5. So I’ll move to verse 6, which shows the wonderful consequences of what life looks like when we are released from that law. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive. F. F. Bruce translates this discharged from the law. This reminds me of when I was discharged from the Navy 33 years ago. I had served for six years in the nuclear Navy after high school, But the day that I was discharged, as I left the base, I was finished. I had lost my clearance, I had lost my access. For six years, every morning, I was welcomed on to serve that master. But now, if I did a U-turn, the way would be barred. This life was over. And it should be that way for us as believers, where we truly recognize that the old way was one that held us captive, one in which we were driven by our self-serving diluted passions. But the the virtue of the death of Christ, which Bruce calls the death with Christ and the death to sin, we are no longer under the old way of a written code.

Here, I think Paul is making a reference to a connection that he develops in 2 Corinthians 3:6, where we contrast, Paul rather contrasts for us that the spirit gives life with a letter that kills. Here as well, we’re invited move from the written code that can kill to a new life in the spirit. When you hear that, it’s no wonder then that Paul begins verse 7 with a dramatic, What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means. If you had been following Paul’s argument so far throughout the Book of Romans, you might have easily come to that conclusion. For in Romans Chapter 3:20, he declares that while the law shows us sin, it cannot save us. It has no power. In Chapter 4:15, we read that the law makes us even more guilty than we actually are. And Chapter 5:20, and even 6:14, seems to show that the law and sin are aligned with each other. And now, even as recent as verse 5 in our text, we read that the law arouses sin. It’s no wonder that some may have thought Paul was teaching that the law was evil. Testament scholar Douglas Mu notes, Paul is undoubtedly aware that such charges against him have reached the ears of the Roman Christians.

And so to prepare his way for his visit, he seeks to dispel any such apprehensions. Is the law sin? By no means. Paul does that here in his emphatic statement, as well as in verses 12 and 13, which again affirm that the law is holy, the commandment is holy and righteous and Good. And yet in between the statement in verse 7 and the reaffirmation in 12 and 13, Paul moves back into once again looks like a significant critique of the law, claiming that it showed him sin, that it produced in him all kinds of covetedness, that sin came alive in him before the law. And yet in verse 13, Paul shows us exactly why he wants to highlight these aspects, this working of the law. It is precisely because one of the great functions of the law is that sin is shown to be sinful, or as one writer puts it, to the utter sinfulness of sin. That’s exposed through the law. Cranfield writes this. He says, While the law is certainly not sin, it is true that sin has been able to exploit it for its own purpose to deadly effect. And Paul demonstrates that in the section on verses 8 through 11, in which he takes the Tenth Commandment and shows the laws, that law’s effect in his own life.

When he hears You Shall not covet. Most of us are familiar with the law’s function to help us understand what God’s will is. How should we live? The function that some call as a model for living. How are we to love God? How are we to love the neighbor? And the law certainly gives us that function. But the function that Paul is speaking of here of the law is demonstrating what sometimes is called its mirror function. That is, in which the law shows back to us our true condition. Paul remarks, I would not have known what it meant to covet had not the law said, ‘You shall not covet. ‘ On Paul’s Choosing the Tenth Commandment, several scholars have noted that it seems to lie at the root of all sin. One writer comments, It reflects the conscientiousness of the sinfulness of all inordinate desires as the expression of man’s self-centeredness and self-assertion over against God. Paul, in hearing the command, You shall not covet, begins to see how full he was of covitusness, that spirit in him which coveted. He mentions this in verse 8, that sin Seizing that opportunity produces all kinds of covettiveness.

I was recently read and finished 1001 Nights, also called 1001 Arabian Nights, and several of those folk tales follow the same basic pattern. A genie whisks a poor young man away to a castle or some oasis in which all his dreams come true as he opens door after door, box after box, enjoying everything, as long as he promises not to open the red door or the perled box. And you know what happens. While he may enjoy for a moment, that red door, that perled box, seems to gnaw on him, and eventually, he reaches for the door, turns the knob, and poof, he’s right back in his impoverished rags. All of us have felt the pull of the one thing forbidden, growing stronger and stronger until we find it impossible to resist. I love the picture that Pastor Lloyd gave us last week where sin promises to be quiet, to wait into the background just in case we need it. Promises to behave believe. Paul seems to allude to this as well in verse 9, But when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. One scholar suggested it that it’s like being chained to a monster.

The monster is perfectly fine as long as you and he know he’s in control. It can wait, it can sit quietly, and it can even sleep for long periods. But when the command comes to kill it, the monster awake. Because it will have no part of that. And we find in our strength, it kills us. It’s not hard to think all the way back into the garden with our first parents, where God had given Adam and Eve everything good. All of their needs, physical, social, and spiritual, were provided for. And then, additionally, to protect them, God gave a simple command, forbidding one tree. And yet, as one writer commented, the divine command, which is God’s good and gracious gift for man’s preservation, is seen also as an opportunity which the serpent can exploit to man’s ruin. Hearing the law, the command not to eat of the one tree, the serpent seized the opportunity. That’s the reference that many scholars think Paul is alluding to here in the text. Some have even translated as the serpent sprang to life to begin to work discontent in Eve’s heart through doubting God’s word, doubting God’s character. In fact, the very commandment that promised life proved to be the death of Adam and Eve and all posterity.

Says verse 11, states, It deceived me, and through it, killed me. But here’s where the gospel comes in. For although we cannot possibly follow God’s law perfectly, God has provided for us a savior in his son, one who could, one who has. And he is the perfect one. Recalling in verse 4, We are reminded that we are united to Christ in his death and in his resurrection. That in his death, he has nailed the certificate of our debt to the cross, or by his blood, he has purchased our redemption. These are all passages which remind us and comfort us of God’s complete and perfect work of saving us. But further, many of us, this journey to the Lord The gospel working in our life, it all started with the law mirroring back to us the sin in our own life, showing each of us the utter sinfulness of our sin, bringing us to a point of despair There where we called out for salvation to the Lord. This sets us up for two quick applications. First, for ourselves. Having been freed from the legalistic or performance-based requirements of the law, don’t go back. Resist the urge to check boxes for God, to measure our days of spiritual growth through any performance metric.

You are free. You are free to be guided by the Holy spirit who will lead you into a life bearing good fruit, and that good fruit will look like loving your God and loving your neighbor. Secondly, with this in mind, consider those in your lives, friends, family members, neighbors who do not know the Lord. Some of you may even be here this morning who have never called out to God for the forgiveness found in his salvation. In that case, pray that God will intensify the pressure and the burden of his law. Which will drive our loved ones, our friends, our family members, our neighbors to their knees, praying for deliverance and for relief. And as they do, as they will experience the joy of being raised to life, of finding forgiveness and peace, and then bursting through that barren soil, they will begin to bear fruit for God’s glory. This is why we see that the law is good. It shows us the utter sinfulness of our sin and returns us right back to the savior who has purchased with his blood the payment for that sin. Let us pray. Oh, Father, thank you for your finished and complete work in your son, Jesus Christ, our savior.

Father, you have loved us with a perfect love, and we rejoice in that. Father, we ask that you would work this truth deep into our own lives, that we would resist the urge to move back into trying to impress you with a sense of righteousness or a deep sense of morality or a comparison of ourselves with others. Father, the world screams that in our ears to try to be impressive. And you have freed us from that, for only your son is truly good. And he has done the work for us, and we need simply cling to him and his salvation. Father, I pray that in addition to releasing us, you might also help us to pray more deeply and dearly for those that we love. That we may be aware of areas in their life in which we can begin to pray or you can begin to apply, that you would apply the pressure of your law, that they would recognize the utter sinfulness of that sin, and that it’s leading them to death. And Father, that you give us wisdom and insight, love and creativity to show them where forgiveness and freedom, where peace and life are to be found.

Lord, thank you for your finished work in our lives. And we pray that we might live for your glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen. I invite you to stand as we sing together of our redeemer. Let us stand and sing to the glory of our Lord.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.