Who Will Deliver Me?

Who Will Deliver Me?

Of the role of the law of Moses in the life of a Christian. As we look to the reading of God’s word, if you please join me in prayer. Merciful Father, from you are all the blessings of the light. And even in our darkness, you are near to us. We praise you for your manifest goodness. We thank you for your Holy word delivered to your church for the faith which has conveyed from one generation to the next. And so, Lord, we ask that you would grant us that same faith today to receive from you, Lord, your words of life, that we too might convey our faith in Christ to the next generation. As we do so, that we would do it in abounding joy and grace. In this we ask through Jesus, our Lord. Amen. Beginning in verse 13. Did that which is good then bring death to me? By no means. It was sin producing death in me through what is good in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh sold under sin.

For I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now, if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law within me that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and make me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin. The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. In many Jewish circles, at the time, Paul was seen as an actual traitor to his people he was really hated. Not very long after he wrote the Book of Romans, he was nearly murdered by the mobs in Jerusalem. We hear their complaint in Acts 22. They said, Men of Israel, help this man who’s teaching everyone everywhere against the people, the law, and this place. He was hated so much that a group even took a vow to try and kill him once he was under Roman guard. So this theme of the law is so present in Paul’s letters because it was such a big deal for the early church. Many of the Jewish Christians felt that the non-Jews, they needed to actually follow the laws of Moses in order to be Christians. And Paul, along with the decision of the leadership of the church in Jerusalem, resoundly said no. They do not have to become Jewish to be Christians.

They do not have to follow the laws of Moses. Now, imagine you spent your whole life, your whole career working for NASA, building the ultimate rocket launching scaffolding. Since your youngest days, you went to school to study it, and everybody you knew was a part of this. You learned to weld, you learned to fabricate. You working side by side with friends and families to perfect the perfect ultimate launching system. And then the rockets here, it matches up perfectly. Everyone is so excited, it disappears into the sky, and suddenly over the loudspeaker, someone says, It’s a wrap. Tear it all down. We’re done here. Wait a minute. This was my life. I can’t just discard it. And of course, this analogy only takes you so far because for the Jews, this was not only their Life, it was their entire belief system and faith. This is what God told them. And now here’s this former rabbi coming along saying, We’re done here. The Messiah has launched. It’s no longer necessary for righteousness. 2000 years later, we are way on the other side of this debate. What are we supposed to do with it all? What’s our relationship as Christians to the law of God?

And more than that, Paul brings out the deeper recesses of the heart. We essentially don’t have a lot problem, we have a heart problem. And this conversation about the law of Moses, it brings all of this out. This racial, religious tension shows much more than we want about our own hearts. Because we are helpless to change our hearts apart from the work of Christ, we must move from trying to work harder on our own to trusting in Jesus and giving thanks for his accomplishment. And as we come to Romans and continues through, we recognize Romans can be hard to follow. Paul, he can jump around, and at times, he can compress his thoughts so much. It’s like when you get one of those vacuum-packed, sealed packages, and you undo it, and then you try to put it back into the box. You’re like, none of this fits. How does this connect? And Paul can be that for us, that really compressed in his thinking. And remember, he’s answering this question about the law of Moses. Is it still valid? Is it good? The whole Jewish system, what’s its present role now in the life of faith in the believer?

And these Jewish Christians, particularly, were just wanting some black and white answers. Come on, Paul, yes or no? Just come out and say it. And Paul is giving them colored nuances, and it’s upsetting some. But in doing so, what we see is we see from Paul the good of the law, but a very miserable me. The law is good, and that’s what he starts with, and he’s continuing to unfold. In verse 13, Did that which is good then become death to me? Speaking of the law of Moses, by no means. It was sin producing death in me through what is good in order that it might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Very compressed. Okay, what does that look like? Your good friend just got her driver’s license, and her grandparents bought her a new car. You’re still working saving up money for that fated green 1999 Ford Focus. And then thou not covet your neighbor’s things. That is great, and that is good, and is right. How is that helping you deal with your heart right now? Did it disappear? You know what? You’re a terrible friend.

You should be super excited and grateful for your friend, and you’re not. Inside, you’re mad and envious and you’re disgruntled. Oh, wait Wait a minute. I’m a little jealous, but it’s harsh to call me a terrible friend. You’re right. You’re a terrible person. You’re supposed to love your neighbor as your spouse. You’re supposed to delight in their good. You’re supposed to rejoice wholeheartedly with them. Stop grading on the curve. Your foul heart is just stinking up the place. That’s the law. That’s what it tells us. The law says, Oh, No, it’s you. It’s not me. That’s his purpose. And Paul goes on. He says, For we know that the law is spiritual. But I am of the flesh. I’m sold under sin. And by flesh, he means his sinful self, not his physical body. He goes on in 15, I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very things I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, and I agree with the law that it’s good. He’s recognizing the law is not making him do this. Now, a major question comes at this point, and Pastor John dealt with this last week as well.

I’m just going to touch on it briefly. It’s who is the I referring to? Is this Paul speaking about his own life? If it is, is it before he was a Christian or after he’s a Christian? Is it Paul speaking as if he’s Israel as a whole representing them? Or Or is Paul speaking generically for every man, every woman? A lot of ink has been spilt answering this. And all these positions have good and reasonable arguments. There’s no slam dunk on any of them. And Paul’s overall point is still made regardless of which option. But from a pile of commentaries stacked nearly to my height, I’m just going to give you my conclusion. The fruit of my labor, not the sweat. And if you want to sweat it out, I can get you started. It’s a lot. Okay. It makes the most sense to see Paul as speaking about his current life, his current life as a believer. It also makes a great deal of sense for Paul speaking generically for all spiritually sensible people who are trying to live righteously under their own efforts, Christian or not. What he’s saying fits both of those.

The apostle Paul has been preaching to Jews and Gentiles for at least 20 years by this time, and he knows his audience, he knows his arguments. And within the Gentile world, there were philosophers, poets, even playwrights who said very similar things to what Paul is saying here. From a Greek play, from the Greek writer Euripides, one of his characters, a woman, Mediah, she says, I know indeed that what I’m about to do is evil, but passion is stronger than my reasoned reflection. From another one of Euripides, We know and recognize the good, but we don’t do it. From the Roman poet, Ovid, Oh wretched me. I should be more reasonable, but some strange power holds me back against my will. And there are other similar quotes. People recognizing the good they should be doing that they’re not doing. And Paul, no doubt, is using his missionary experience to speak to these Gentile Christians in Rome in a way in a language they would understand. What’s important for us to hear is that the experience of wanting to do good but feeling powerless to do it, that’s a common human experience. For those who are more spiritually sensitive, lots of people feel this, but to be sure, there are lots of people who don’t feel this at all.

So just know that that’s there, too. They rarely think about what they do or the consequences of it or how they feel about it. But there are some who really do. And Paul is speaking their language and experience because it’s his language, it’s his experience. Anyone trying to do good under their own steam, their own efforts, they fail miserably. Think about it. Spring break, Waikiki, South Beach, pick a beach, a fill of people. And you manage to walk 15 minutes down its length without lusting for anyone. That’s good. That’s great. It’s only 9:00 AM. How are you going to do for the rest of the weekend? How is it going to come about in your heart And Paul is speaking to this. He continues. He says, So now it’s no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me. That is my flesh, my my sinful capacity. For I had the desire to do what’s right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want. That’s what I keep on doing.

Now, be very clear, nowhere is Paul saying the devil made me do it. That’s not his point. He’s not going, Dad, I didn’t hit my little brother with a wiffleball bat. Sinse seizing the opportunity. He’s not saying that. He knows it’s him. He’s saying, My flesh And one writer put it really well. He said, Paul is not disclaiming responsibility for his actions. Rather, he’s trying to explain his actions by revealing the force within himself that leads him to act as he does. That force is sin. It’s a power that he’s been describing throughout Romans 5 to 7. So the conclusion from Paul is the law is good. The problem is not with the laws of Moses. The problem with the human heart. Good laws, but a miserable me. And he goes on in verse 20, very similar to what he just said, Now, if I do not do what I want, it’s no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me. He said, How can Paul say that? He can only say that if he is united to Jesus, the one person who never sinned himself but became a sin offering in order to destroy the power of sin.

If you are under your own resources in battling sin, game over, you lose. You’re never going to do it. If you are now united to Jesus, who is the fulfillment of all of the law of Moses, everything it pointed to, the animating principle of your new life is his spirit within you. Now, you can never ultimately fail because of him. Paul goes on, So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right evil is close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, this newness. But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells within my members. And what you see here is the power of regeneration, of being born again. I now want to be changed. I want to desire these good things in the law God. I want to be able to look at my friend with her new car and celebrate with a sincere and joyful heart with her. But under my own power, my own strength, Paul sums it up. Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?

For all those Gentiles Christians looking for the answer, Paul clearly tells them, It’s not in the law of Moses. It will rightly tell you how bad you are, but it It won’t change you. For all those Jewish Christians looking for the right answer, Paul clearly tells them, It’s not the law of Moses. It will point you to the solution, but it’s not the solution itself. In Galatians 3, Paul speaks of the law being a custodian, a guardian until Jesus came. The scaffolding was just there until the rocket launched. It was never intended to get you to the moon. He refers it as this body of death. That’s the sum total of all substance of reality with us. Who can set me free from the state of sin and misery and human depravity? To both Jew and Gentile, Paul says, Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Because that’s it. This is a whole lot of depressing and bad news, but in the end, it’s not the end. Jesus is. And he goes on. He says, So then I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, my sinful capacity, I serve the law of sin.

And many say, Well, Paul, that sounds rather defeatist, doesn’t it? You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Yes. And you also have, Apart from me, you could do nothing. Bring those together. We live in the here, but not yet. Sustancial victory has been achieved, to be sure, but complete victory awaits when Jesus returns. Paul is not giving up, but he’s recognizing the struggle. Charles Mitten, he paraphrase verse 25, I’ll put in your bulletin, but said, This then is the conclusion to which I’ve been leading. When I rely on my own resources and cease to depend on God, then this is what It happens. I continue to acknowledge with my judgment the authority of God’s commands, but in my thoughts and in my actions, it’s the authority of sin that holds sway. Now, just as I mentioned, the law of Moses being the scaffolding for the rocket of the Messiah. In another way, we can actually think of Romans 6 and 7 as being the scaffolding for the rocket of Romans 8. We’re going to get there, but here’s some of the stratosphere of where we’re going. There’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. All of this is built on Romans 6 and 7. For all those Jewish Christians who love the law of God, the sacrificial system, this rich heritage of faith that they have lived in and have been passed down through, Paul reminds them that none of this will free them from spiritual death. It was never the intent. Only Jesus can do that. For these new Gentile Christians, it’s the same as for the Jewish Christians. They both need the same Jesus and only Jesus. In nearly 2,000 years from Moses to Jesus, the Bible has shown us an unbroken story of Israel’s failure to follow God’s commands. At one point in the Book of Numbers, after they blew it big time, the people are crying out, Oh, we’re all going to die. Woe is me. Get too close to God and he will kill you. That’s their comment after they’re doing wrong. The solution is just stop being dumb. Just don’t do those things you know you’re not supposed to do. But they couldn’t.

From Moses to Joshua, to the judges, to the kings, to exile and return, they couldn’t stop breaking the laws of God in serious and terrible ways. And today, 4,000 years or so since Moses We recognize we do not need more education, more enlightenment, more rules clearly given. We know right and wrong. We need a savior who can set us free from ourselves. I’ll put this in a much smaller scale. People speak. In Montana, it’s almost a constitutional right. Getting bigger and brighter speed signs, even the ones telling you how fast you’re going. Not going to make people slow down. Maybe a little bit, then they go back and forth. You know what? And you can show more gory crash films in driver’s head. Not going to change speeding because the problem is not ignorance of the law. Oh, that was there? I didn’t see it. You know the speed limit. The problem is not wanting to go slow. And that’s on everything. It’s not an issue of ignorance, it’s an issue of what you want to do. But Paul is not giving up on his fight with sin. He’s pointing us to the only resource in our arsenal that can do anything about it.

We don’t need more things telling us what to do. We need a savior. That’s the point of Jesus. We need the God, man, Christ, Jesus, to change our hearts. We need to even repent then of our good works because we often try to use them somehow to make God owe us something for our good behavior that we can cash in some righteousness for a payout. The Bible tells Paul quotes it earlier, Our righteousness as as filthy rags. The best that we have to offer needs repented of before the Lord, let alone the worst. We need Christ’s righteousness freely given to us. We need a new heart, his spirit dwelling in us. And this is what Paul is pointing to. That change of heart, the Holy spirit, now animating us to a new way of life. One of the writers I’ve appreciated over the years, he’s a Greek Orthodox writer named Alexander Schmemen, and he worked at a seminary for a season, and he was the confessor for these young seminarians It meant they would come and confess sins to him, and he hated this part of his job. Just didn’t enjoy this. And one of the comments he made, it just really stuck with me.

He said, I appreciate appreciate the sins of the flesh. And with these seminarians, it usually meant lust. Because it’s the one thing that’s keeping these young seminarians from the enormous sin of spiritual pride. Because they don’t see their spiritual pride. They see their struggle with lust. And it’s the only thing that keeps them humble about who they are. He’s just recognizing so often we focus on the wrong thing. We miss the greater sins in our hearts because of the lesser. Paul, as he’s speaking about all of this and From the earlier part of chapter 7, what’s the sin he mentioned? He mentioned, Coveting. Coveting is about the issue of the heart. I mean, we can be like the rich young ruler, come and go, Well, I haven’t committed adultery. I haven’t haven’t murdered anyone, haven’t stolen anything. I’m doing pretty good. Jesus says, Yeah, we’ll give everything up. Wait a minute. Paul talks about cometing. It’s a heart. It’s a disposition. What do we do with that? That’s the part, again, your friend gets the car and you’re upset because you wanted a new car. We deal with this in all parts of our life.

You go to a wedding as a single and it’s hard because you want to be married. A couple has a child and you don’t. It’s hard because you want a child and you can’t. And these types of things in our lives, they point out Some of our not only our greatest sins, but our greatest hurts and desires that we do sinful things with. How do you change that? How do you not let that crush you on one hand, or maybe drive you towards a type of legalistic obedience to give you some sense of superiority over other people. Both of those drive us away from Jesus. He’s the solution to both of those. That change of heart, that desire for someone else’s good, and when it’s not there, we are then able to come and confess that sin. And asking God, please change my heart. Make me more like my savior. His spirit is dwelling in me, crying out, Abba Father. That’s the joy of the Christian freedom we have that the law was never able to do. It was never able to change. It just told you, you’re a terrible person. Stop doing bad things.

And Jesus comes along and says, I am a great person. I’m the only one who can enable you to do what is good and right because of my righteousness given freely to you by faith alone. That is the good news of the gospel. This is why Paul is just racing us forward into Romans 8. I say, thanks be to God in Jesus Christ. I’m going to struggle with this ind dwelling sin for the rest of my life until he comes or I die. I’m not giving up to struggle, but I recognize my powerlessness outside of him. It draws us to worship. It draws us to confession. It draws us to love one another as Christ has loved us. Brothers and sisters, simply look to Jesus. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you this day, we all recognize we have grubby and dirty hearts. And Father, we need them cleansed. And you have provided that cleansing through your son, Jesus. We bless you for that. We thank you, Lord God, that you have now given us a new animating principle of life in your spirit. And Lord, we pray and ask that you would continue to be glorified in our lives.

Father, that you would continue to show us where we are depending upon our own righteousness, our own comparison to others. Father, please show us that. Set us free. Set us free, Father, from our Coviches hearts. Oh, Lord God, we love you and we bless you. You have given us so much. And we pray and offer all this to you in the name of Jesus. Amen. Please stand. He will.

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