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The Christian and the Law

socialmedia@cityrise.org April 19, 2021 sermons, cityrise, cityrise missouri city, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, Good News, Roger Patterson, sermon, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday April 18, 2021 at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage.

I want you to think back to the last time you or your organization that you work for hired someone. Most likely, that person that joined your organization fit into one of two categories: They made things up as they went along, trying to find their way into success, or they were absolutely by the book.

If they made things up as they went along, they REALLY frustrated those who play by the book.  Those who make things up as they go see a policy manual as a bunch of suggestions that they don’t even need to consult.  They see procedures that should be done on a daily or weekly basis as something that they will get to when they want to. They don’t realize that their lack of discipline will ultimately lead to their dismissal. And, they don’t realize that when their co-workers go home, they talk about them to their spouses and their spouses make up nick-names for them, like I have for one of my wife’s co-workers!  These workers take way too much LICENSE in their work and hurt the organization.

On the other hand, those who play by the book 100% of the time aren’t prepared for situations that aren’t in the book. The policy manual is their LAW. And if it doesn’t address it, they become paralyzed and don’t know what to do.  These people make common sense appear to be uncommon, because they can’t navigate the complexities of real life.

People who work like this can be very harsh, critical and NO-FUN to be around. These people are rule followers to the NTH degree and they make everyone else’s lives miserable at work. These workers are LEGALISTIC and RIGID and seem unprepared for real-life situations.

Do you know anyone like these people I have described to you?

In Romans chapter 6, we have been looking at the person who sees the GRACE of God as an excuse to live any way they want.  And this is something that the Apostle Paul addresses. In verse 1 and 15, he asks the same question, saying, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”  And both times that he asks that question, he answers with, “By no means!”

So, in chapter 6, Paul is dealing with the sense of LICENSE that some people feel they have because they are under grace, and he challenges that mindset to quit living as if you have no rules and can do whatever you please. Instead, offer your bodies as instruments of righteousness.

He says in Romans 6:13…

Romans 6:13

 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

As we step into chapter 7, he swings to the other end of the spectrum and challenges those who are bound by the law and the legalism that it produces. As a matter of fact, the word LAW is used 23 times in this chapter.

Now, here is something to keep in mind as we look at our portion today. In chapter 6, Paul instructs us on how not to do BAD things. We just saw that in verse 13.

In Romans chapter 7, Paul is now going to instruct us on how NOT to do GOOD things. And it is in Chapter 7 we are going to be taught how to be DELIVERED from LEGALISM.

Now, before we go much further, let’s define LEGALISM.

Definition: Legalism is one’s obligation to maintain rules to maintain a right standing before God.

Legalism strives to do good things and cultivate good outcomes, but is overbearing, harsh, shameful and judgmental.

Another way to look at this is to understand that Romans 7 is like a TRAINER at a NEW JOB who is telling you, “I know you used to do this job that way at your old work, but here, we don’t do that this way…we do it like this instead.”

So, let me reverse the order of how I normally teach and share my outline with you first and then we will look at our portion for our study today.

3 Topics to Deliver us from Legalism

  1. The Authority of the Law (Romans 7:1-6)
  2. The Ministry of the Law (Romans 7:7-13)
  3. The Inability of the Law (Romans 7:14-25)

Now, we are only going to get through the first two of these and we will pick up with this third point next week, spending our entire time next week there.

Also, keep in mind that Romans 5-8 is about our SANCTIFICATION – Our growing into the image of Jesus Christ.  This is why it is so important to allow Paul to train us for what we are called to do.

Let’s read Romans 7:1-13 today.

Romans 7:1-13

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

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. 

Let’s get to it, as we are seeking to understand…

I. The Authority of the Law

Now, in verses 1-6, Paul is going to use the illustration of marriage to help us understand how freedom from an obligation to a law happens. Simply put, freedom from law over our lives requires a death.

In the illustration of marriage Paul notes that when a man and woman marry, they are united for life. Marriage is a physical union, where the two become one flesh, and this can only be broken by a physical cause. That cause here is death.

I say in marriage ceremonies, “This vow you have just taken can only be broken honorably in the sight of God by death.”

That doesn’t mean that the vow can’t be broken another way. Vows are broken all of the time when someone commits adultery. And that’s part of the illustration here. If a woman is married to a man and then lives with another before that man dies, she will be called an adulteress. He says in verse 3b…

Romans 7:3b

“…But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

So, the freedom from the law of marriage comes at the death of the spouse. The remaining spouse is released from that vow, because that vow is, “…until death do us part.”

Now, why does Paul use this illustration?  I believe it is because he is giving us two principles about our salvation and how it relates to the Law.  Keep in mind that half or even maybe more than half of his audience were Jewish and they held the Law in the highest esteem. And if you look through a lot of the New Testament, there were those in the church called Judaisers who were trying to put the requirements of the LAW on top of being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

These principles help us avoid the shame filled existence of legalism and help us walk in Liberty as we serve Jesus Christ.

Principle #1 – We died to the Law.

Romans 7:4-5

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 

Quote: Warren Wiersbe says…

“It appears that Paul has confused his illustration, but he has not. When we were unsaved (‘in the flesh’), we were under the authority of God’s Law. We were condemned by that Law. When we trusted Christ and we were united to Him, we died to the Law, just as we died to the flesh (Romans 6:1-10). The Law did not die; we died.”

Now, remember, we looked at Romans 6 and saw that when we took Christ as our Savior, we identified with his death.

Let’s remind ourselves of Romans 6:3-4.

Romans 6:3-4

 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

So, as he died, our old self died.  We identified with his death!

He died to sin…and we too died to sin.

That’s Romans 6:10-11.

Romans 6:10-11

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So, we are dead to sin (chapter 6)…this frees us from LICENSE…and we are dead to the LAW (Chapter 7)…this frees us from LEGALISM.

Quote: Wiersbe says…

“To be dead to the Law does not mean that we lead lawless lives. It simply means that the motivation and dynamic of our lives does not come from the Law: it comes from God’s grace through our union with Christ.”

Transition to 2nd Principle: Now, I’m going to come back to verse 4 in a minute, because it is central in our understanding our liberty and responsibility before our Lord.

But there is a second principle about the Authority of the Law that this section teaches us.

Principle #2: We are delivered from the Law.

This is the most logical conclusion. We are delivered from legalism. We are delivered from all of the rules of religion that govern our lives. And friends, we are good at making rules.

Now, stop for a minute and think about this with me.  What does legalism look like? How is it expressed?

It’s expressed in ANGER when someone doesn’t live up to your expectations.  From the preacher not wearing a tie (I know some of you have a preference for a tie) to someone having an alcoholic drink in your presence. They aren’t drunk, but are having a drink.

Do either of those things make you angry? Or things like that?  Legalism places expectations on others and doesn’t allow liberty.  And anger gets expressed and it damages the relationship. One feels superior and another feels shame.

Verse 6 tells us that Jesus died to deliver us from legalism.

Romans 7:6

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

The law held us captive. Legalism holds relationships captive. It keeps us from serving with joy and places shame on us.  It’s the old written code of service.

Let me ask you a few simple questions before we move on:

  • Have you approached faith based on what you ought to or ought not to do?
  • Have you been practicing your faith based on rules that you or others have set up for you?
  • Have you been heaping legalism onto others?
  • Do people feel loved or shamed by you?

Jesus died to set us free from legalism.

Transition: Let’s look at this second topic about legalism that we must grasp.

3 Topics to Deliver us from Legalism

  1. The Authority of the Law (Romans 7:1-6)
  2. The Ministry of the Law (Romans 7:7-13)
  3. The Inability of the Law (Romans 7:14-25)

II. The Ministry of the Law (vs. 7-13)

Look at verse 7-13 once more.

Romans 7:7-13

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

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.

In this portion we see three things about the law.

Four things about the Law…

  1. The Law Reveals Sin

Romans 7:7

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 

Over and over again, we see this declared about the Law of God. The Law of God reveals to us the sins of our hearts.

  • We see in Romans 3:20 – “By the Las is the knowledge of sin.”
  • We see in Romans 4:15 – “Where no Law is, there is no transgression.”
  • We see in James 1:22-25 – The Law is a mirror that reveals the inner man and shows us how dirty we are.

And what Law of the Ten Commandments does Paul use here to show us our heart problem?  He uses the last one—coveting.  One could argue that of all of the Ten Commandments, the first nine are external and observable.

Just look at this list of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments

  1. No other gods before God…
  2. Do not make idols…
  3. Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet

One could argue that they have nailed the first nine of these.  This seems to be the argument of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10.  He comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After Jesus quotes a bunch of these 10 Commandments to him, he says, “What else? I’ve done that.”

And, though, Jesus doesn’t tell him to “Not Covet…” he says, “Go and sell all that you own and give it to the poor,” and this is what lead to the man’s sorrow.  He had kept all of these external commands since his youth. But he hadn’t kept his heart from coveting.

In many ways, it’s the hardest of the commandments to keep.  The heart desires what others have.  And we don’t even realize it, do we?  It desires stuff to try and satisfy it. And when our friend gets something, we are like, “Hey, I want that!”

The Law Reveals Sin.

What else do we see about the Ministry of the Law?

Four things about the Law…

  1. The Law Reveals Sin
  2. The Law Arouses Sin

That’s what verse 8 and 9 say.

Romans 7:8-9

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 

Verse 8 says that the commandment came and it, “…produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” Sin was aroused.  Then the last phrase in verse 9 captures this, “…but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”

This happened to the Rich Young Ruler. He had based all of his pursuit of eternal life on his keeping the rules and doing so, just right.

But look at how sin came alive…how it was aroused by the commandment.

Mark 10:21-22

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Notice it says, “Disheartened by the saying…

The word “Disheartened” means to become DARK or DISTRESSED.

The word Sorrowful means to be GRIEVED or DISTRESSED.

So, clearly this guy was DISTRESSED. He was undone. His entire world view came crashing down.

But notice something, he didn’t change course. He didn’t receive the promise that Jesus offered, if he would but remove those idols. No, when the instruction of the Lord came to him, it exposed what was in his heart and he went away dark, grieved and distressed. But he didn’t take Jesus up on His offer.

The Law aroused his sin and instead of running from it, he went back to it.

Four things about the Law…

  1. The Law Reveals Sin
  2. The Law Arouses Sin
  3. The Law Kills

Verse 10 and 11 show us that the LAW Kills.

Romans 7:10-11

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 

The Rich Young Ruler felt deceived. It was let down. He was crushed in spirit.

Quote: Warren Wiersbe says…

The Law cannot give life: it can only show the sinner that he is guilty and condemned. This explains why legalistic Christians and churches do not grow and bear spiritual fruit. They are living by Law, and the Law always kills.

Four things about the Law…

  1. The Law Reveals Sin
  2. The Law Arouses Sin
  3. The Law Kills
  4. The Law Shows the Sinfulness of Sin

That’s what verse 12 and 13 convey.

Romans 7:12-13

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

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.

The logic of this is something like, “Hey look…the Law is holy and right and good.  It is God’s standard.  And if something so good could produce something so bad in me, then sin is really really sinful. The problem isn’t with the law, but with my sinful nature.

And this is going to lead to the last part of the chapter where Paul will expose the Inability of the Law.

And that’s where we will pick up next week.

But, before we go, I want to come back to something that I told you I would revisit.  It’s found in verse 4&6.

And it’s a different way.

It’s not the way of LICENSE, where because you are under grace, anything goes.

It’s not the way of LEGALISM, where there is no grace.

It’s the way of LIBERTY…the way of the SPIRIT.

Notice verse 4 and 6.

Romans 7:4 & 6

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What we need to see is that our Sanctification has a goal – to BEAR FRUIT FOR GOD.

And the WAY, is the “NEW WAY of the SPIRIT.”

Up to this point, the Holy Spirit has been mentioned two times. This makes it the third time.

But in Chapter 8, we will get into the NEW WAY of the SPIRT, as the word SPIRIT appears 22 times, 19 of which refer to the Holy Spirit.

So, this new way…this way of the Spirit is coming. 

And when you live it, it changes hearts…fruit is born…lives are changed!

CLIP OF LES MISERABLES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhpwV4cwB4o

I think of the famous musical Les Misérables when I think about this passage. You probably know the story. Jean Valjean was a thief who has just been released from prison after 19 years. He can’t find work or even housing until a Bishop offers him a place to stay. Valjean attempts to steal the Bishop’s silver and is caught by the police, but the bishop claims he gave Valjean the silver.  Valjean is blown away by this act of grace.

After this moment, Valjean proclaims these words…

One word from him and I’d be back, beneath the lash, upon the rack. Instead he offers me my freedom. I feel my shame inside me like a knife. He told me that I have a soul, how does he know? What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go? I am reaching but I fall and the night is closing in. As I stare into the void to the whirlpool of my sin. I’ll escape now from that world, from the world of Jean Valjean, Jean Valjean is nothing now, another story must begin.

He can’t believe someone would show such grace. Such forgiveness. It changed him. A new story began, one in which he desired to be generous and serve people, show others the grace he’d been shown.

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