Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sermon Audio on Romans 7: New Life in the Spirit

OK. Romans 7 is a deeply controversial chapter. This is my attempt to teach it on a Sunday morning in 25 minutes:

Click HERE FOR SERMON AUDIO. (Or right click, 'Save as' to Download.)

A few things for the record:
  • Yes, I do believe that the Christian Life is a life of struggle.
  • No, 25 minutes is not enough time to really dive into all the arguments.
  • Yes, I hate Sinless Perfectionism in every way, shape or form, .
  • No, I don't think I have it all figured out.
  • Yes, I do believe in total and utter depravity (in fact, this reading is stronger on total depravity, for it points out that Romans 7 is not a struggle, but a total defeat.)
  • No, I do not believe that Paul is being autobiographical -- either before or after his conversion.
  • Yes, I do know what 'the Present Tense' means in grammar.
  • No, I do not believe that you can easily reconcile his 'sold as a slave unto sin' and being 'of the flesh' with THESE verses from Romans 6-8.
  • Yes, I believe (in 7:7-12) that he is speaking of himself as being 'in Adam, back then'. (Hence, 1st person and past tense.)
  • Yes, I believe (in 7:13-26) that he is speaking of himself as being 'in Israel, right now', as in unbelieving Israel, with Torah, but without the Spirit. (Hence, 1st person and present tense.)
The point of the chapter is that without the work of the Messiah, the Torah is powerless against the real problem: the Tsunami of Sin. So the Torah is neither the problem, nor the solution.

Sin is the problem, Jesus the solution, and the Law good.

That means that the Spirit doesn't merely 'help us' in a struggle, but he totally and utterly *saves* us from total and utter defeat.

I am VERY open to change. I just can't see the other side just yet (Sorry, Big Gav.)

Pic on Flickr by Polarity4Peace.


seapea said...

but what about adam & eve? where do they fit into the law, or do they not fit into anything as they were pre-mosaic law. but weren't they sinful?

i think you mentioned adam & eve in your sermon but i think i was a bit glazed over by that point.

Justin said...

Seapea -- You always engage with the sermon -- I don't beleive that you 'glaze over'!

Adam and Eve are the perfect illustration: they had one commandment: Don't eat.

And they did!

In other words, they had sin working within them.

That is, they had a commandment, and when it came, sin revived, and they died.

In other words: even In Adam, Sin is the problem!

Which is Paul's point!

Listen to the sermon: From 10 minutes to 15 minutes. Listen to those 5 minutes, and then see if you get it!


Br'er Jim said...

I think you're making this harder than it needs to be. Consider it this way: The role of the Law and of the Holy Spirit is essentially the same in their most basic function. That is to convict us of sin. Show us our sin, so that we can repent and say we're sorry. That is all the Law was ever good for. It was never expected to make sinless beings of us. It was meant as a mirror to show us our unacceptability to God.

It is from that state of repentance and surrender that God is able (willing) to dispense Grace. He resists the proud (who refuse to admit they sin) but gives grace to the humble.

This has always been true, in OT and NT times. And it was the eventual sacrifice of Jesus which made God's forgiveness possible, even before that chronological moment when he died. Even Job said "I know my redeemer liveth."

What's new, and what Paul had viscerally experienced, is the power and reality of the Holy Spirit, unleashed on us at Jesus' behest. Therein is life itself. Eternal life. And the real power to resist sin and evil. We will always sin as humans, but less and less as Christians, and with more and more remorse, thanks to the indwelling Spirit of God himself. I don't subscribe to "total depravity," or any of the other four points of "Calvinism." We DO have some capacity (no matter how small) to resist evil, with the Spirit's help. After all, Satan is bound. There IS a kingdom of God now established with a beachhead in this world.

And we will be judged accordingly for our obedience. In Christ there is now no automatic "condemnation." But being spared summary execution does not mean we are not to be judged, punished or rewarded in other ways.

Myself, I'm hoping for the lowliest street-sweeper's job in the New Jerusalem, and will count myself mightly lucky to get it.

Justin said...

Hi Jim -- have we met? Glad to have you over.

A lot of what you write I agree with.

But the issue is difficult, and every commentary points that out.

Actually, the issue itself is not really difficult -- it is a simple exegetical problem: how can Paul say on one hand that he is 'sold as a slave to sin', and then say that he is not under sin (Romans 6 etc)? How can he say that he is 'of the flesh', when in the next chapter he will say that he is not of the flesh.

The issue is exegetical and simple to point out.

The resolution, is the difficult thing!

sam said...

hey justin... thanks for blogging on Rom 7. great food for thought. i really enjoyed Vaughan Roberts talk. Haven't listened to your yet. Listened to Kellers last year and felt uneasy about his approach to the passage as well. may revisit it again soon. keep up the good blogging.

Mrs. W said...

Hey Justin, in conversation with Clint, and in an attempt to understand the logical flow of Romans 7, I drew a frame by frame comic book representation of the passage. I'll have to show you on Sunday. It's quite funny and makes it look very simple after all.

Anonymous said...

hi justin, nathan here...

i remember reading a quote from jerry bridges which to paraphrase says that if you want to understand and fully appreciate salvation, you have to better understand sin, even as the one who is forgiven much loves much. going back to sin and good deeds, i remember spurgeon saying in a sermon that good deeds are determined by good intentions even as proverbs says a man's ways may seem right to him, but God judges the heart. again, i have to think of paul harping on the more subtler law of not coveting in the ten commandments. i think it only makes sense that through most of our 'good deeds' are impure intentions so perhaps given our intentions, things are a bit more bleak as paul pictures it? the other thing about being dead to sin while being a slave to sin: i find helpful as well alternative translations that sometimes use flesh in lieu of the sinful nature. Going back to sin being at least 3 dimensional; the penalty of sin (the wages of sin is death), but also the power of sin and its presence. Are we not as Ephesians 6 portrays still under attack by the power and presence of sin? I think the alternative translation that use "flesh" instead of sinful nature hint at the frailty of the body that also empowers sin and through its cravings perpetuate the presence of sin? 1 Cor 15: "I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."...so due to the flesh and separation from God (is there some typology here where the tabernacle was ordained to be at the center of israel's camp, but after transgression was brought to the outside of the camp). i bring this up again because i feel the continued presence and power of sin helps me accept the fact that we are still slaves to sin, although the penalty of sin has already been paid. how can we also be dead to sin though? Col 2 says that prior to Christ's atonement we were dead in our sin but in Romans 6, we are now dead to sin. I hear a commentator say that being dead in sin is like having a seared conscience so you dont even know you are sinning or when told you are sinning you deny it and even persuade other people to sin...so being dead in sin is sinning and happy to be sinning while being dead to sin (or the corollary showing some signs of life with regard to righteousness) is sinning but seeing it as sin and being sorrowful over breaking God's law (a broken and contrite heart...the sacrifices of God?) According to CJ Mahaney (How can I change?), a Christian who accepts sin as not completely absent in our lives even post conversion reacts to sin with repentance and an ever increasing dependence on God (the thorn in the flesh while my grace is sufficient, power made perfect in weakness) while in contrast the one who expects sin to be completely absent post conversion will be devastated by guilt when sin occurs or doubts his salvation? Romans 7 will be nice test to see where our understanding and expectations fall...related to the perception of post conversion sin, I heard an interesting take on Revelation when Satan was released after a thousand years to deceive men once again and only after a second revolt is he finally vanquished and thrown into the lake of fire to join the other heads of the antichrist...why release him a second time? could this be a way to show (as rc sproul puts it) that the flesh doesnt avail a little something but it avails nothing and only the Spirit gives life...a lot of metaphor here but could that also show that there is no victory apart from Christ? I think it was packer who said the perfectionist and the reformed view both agree that God is the author of faith, but the dissension is whether He is also its perfector? Keller mentioned that it is truly amazing that Adam and Eve had the garden of Eden and face to face fellowship with God and it wasnt enough.

In going from children of wrath to children of God:

1 john 3
2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,[a]we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Justin said...

Hi all. Thanks for commments. Not enough time today to respond.

But Mrs. W -- scan it and post it on your Blog!

Anonymous said...

nathan again, just wanted to tack on something to my last post after the verses from 1 john. what we will be (more than conquerors over sin and the world?) is not yet known until the second coming (post millenial gang dissenting though but also some parallel to the mirror metaphor in 1 cor 13) so interpretive context for romans 7 on still being slave to sin? however, keep on sinning talks to continued pattern of sinning or a lifestyle of sinning but after being "in dwelt" by the Spirit, now the Spirit is at war with the sinful nature (or in some translations the flesh--surely i was sinful at birth, sinful when my mother conceived me Ps 51; Matt 26: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.) but after being in dwelt with the Spirit there is now this tension to not follow the sinful nature and that is what Paul is writing about in romans 6?...not a complete victory for that belongs to Christ at the second coming, but the signs of life and a beginning of a resistance to sin which inevitably leads to eternal separation from God and death....regarding utter depravity that can affect one's conclusion on Rom 7: another parallel to Revelation's post millenium revolt...the Arminian metaphor to illustate free will and works based approach to salvation is that all humanity is a beggar and that the Lord has the alms of salvation--we however need to stretch out our hand and take it--doesnt have anything scriptural typology to support it. The Lord did instruct his disciples to give to the poor but He himself is never recorded to give alms in such a manner...However, we do have the Lazarus event (to the extent that one reads the story historically and literally not metaphorically) where the Lord tarried until Lazarus was incontrovertibly dead (Dickensian dead as a door nail) so that Lazarus shrouded in graves clothes and already rotting might be raised and we also benefit from the related instruction: 25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? Perhaps this is consistent with Romans 6 timeline where victory is assured but the consummation is still yet to come?

However, free will is paradoxically still at work because the Lord commands us to love (Him and His works) which is voluntary and assumes free will. God's holiness also assumes free will as argued by RC Sproul. He judges justly so those who sin in free will are punished, but if we are punished for deeds over which we had no choice, is that a shadow on the Lord's holiness?

A lot of this might appear tangential and extraneous to the text, but I remember a commentator saying that understanding complicated text is like flying an airplane...there are 6 major instruments (seeing thru the windshield being one of them but in cloudy situations mere sight alone not enough) to help in navigation and the totality of their signals get you safely to your destination, however, focusing on one instrument to the exclusion of others can get you into trouble...the non-Roman text I feel are as helpful and integral in understanding Romans as those verses within it...Paul's allusion to the whole counsel of God in Acts 20?

Anonymous said...

About to listen...

byron smith said...

Justin - totally with you on this one. Great stuff!