Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Romans 7

    I very rarely post twice on the same day, but I posted earlier and I still want to get into Romans tonight (why do I never get to post until late at night? Are there pills for that? :). I really enjoy this series anyway for my personal quiet time, because it makes me think through a lot of what I would usually just glance over as a verse I've read many times before. I think it was Einstein who said that if you can't explain something to a six year old,  you don't truly understand it. In trying to write it down in a clear, explanatory fashion, this series is making me learn Romans much better!

    Romans 7 is such a fun read. Many of you are probably like me, and have always been amused when this passage of Scripture is read at church, because it sounds as if Paul is purposefully joking around. Seriously, I don't do what I want to do, and what I want to do, I don't do, but I still want to do it, even though I don't do it, and those things I don't do are what I want to do! Until I took the time to actually read this passage several times, it was just confusing!

    In reality, chapter 7 is where Paul continues speaking of the results of our justification. If you remember, chapters 1-3 were proof of man's guilt before God and need of atonement, chapter 4 was how the atonement is given, chapter 5-7 are the results of that atonement. Romans is surprisingly orderly!

    The first part of this passage (v. 1-13) speak of our unification and joining with Christ through His substitutionary death. In taking our place, we are joined with Him. V. 1-3 uses the analogy of a woman married to a man, and is bound by Levitical law to him, until he dies.

    The same is true of us in our sin. Before Jesus, we were bound to the Law, with nothing in our power to enable our escape. Now, however, we are dead to the Law that we might be joined with Christ, in place of the Law! We have been made free from the judgment that comes from examination under the Law, and have instead been joined with Christ (v. 4-6).

    So, the logical question that follows from the discussion Paul has been initiating about our freedom from the Law is: why did the Law ever have to exist? Why bind anyone under it?

    The answer is one we've seen before in Rom. 5:20. The law exists to condemn all mankind, and to force us into the realization of our error. Naturally, the pride of our human hearts leads us to believe we are better, purer, and holier that we really are. Only when looking at it through the glasses of God's high demands through His law can we see our own shortcomings and failure.

    V. 7-13 begins another strain of argument, namely: if the law is brought in to condemn me, is not the law sin? Paul is very clear, the law is righteous. The fault is not with the law, but with my own flesh, whose very nature it is to break the law and act contrary to it. It is not the law's fault I fell (although that was it's purpose, to force me into a recognition of the failure that would not have occurred without it), but through the law, I have fallen, and I can now see my error through the eye-opening work of Jesus.

    I have to warn any staunch non-Calvinists reading this that this is where the reformed doctrine really starts coming through loud and clear. Feel free to point out below (cause I know some of you out there have voiced your disagreement with these views before) where I'm wrong and please feel free to give your own interpretation to the passage.

    V. 14-25 are some of my favorite verses ever written by Paul, and if he has thus far failed to convince you that man is his natural state is fallen, in complete rebellion, and unable to come to Christ on his own (as I see clearly taught in Rom. 3:9-12), this should seal the deal. This is where Paul clearly speaks of the war between his two natures. He is clearly speaking of after salvation, since before salvation Rom. 3 was clear that man did not want to do right, as Paul claims he does in v. 15.

    First off, Paul says that the Law is spiritual, but he as a man, sold under sin, is carnal, thus unable to keep the law. Even when Paul desires to, he can't. He doesn't have the strength in himself. It would be really easy to walk away from v. 14-21 saying that there is no point to even trying to do right. What's the point? Even Paul failed!

    But we're missing a pivotal point here. Look at the difference between Rom. 3 and 7. In three, Paul gives a glowing account of the condemnation we have brought on ourselves, saying that we have done nothing righteous. But in seven, Paul opens v. 18 with the statement that while he doesn't have the power to follow God's commands in his own strength, he now has the desire.

    Here we see one of the gifts of the regeneration from God. In chapter 1-3, we see no such desire for good. We instead only see man's evil actions and intentions. When God turns man over to the intentions of their hearts in chapter 1, man's inclination is not to turn to God, but instead to turn deeper into sin.

    But when we get to chapter 7, we have been made new! We now desire to do good, even if we still can't. Now we have the want to serve God, something that was completely lacking before.

    While I don't want to contradict the gospel many of the people on here have heard, I do feel it would not be entirely right of me to go through this series without addressing at least some of this. I want you to think about some of the logic of the salvation message some of y'all have heard. It usually goes something like this (summarized), "we have all broken God's law, and are thus under the judgment of God. But, if we decide that we want to be forgiven, all we have to do is confess and repent of our sins, and pray this prayer, and God will save you! Yay, you've just been saved!"

    Problem 1.) As we've seen, "broken" doesn't do justice to our status with God before salvation. We haven't just broken His law. "Broke the law" is anything from a mass murderer and serial killer to a dude with a parking ticket. We aren't just law-breakers; we have defied the law. We are completely contrary to it, dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1), and haters of God (Rom. 1:30). Mere law-breakers doesn't do us justice; we are dead men.

    Problem 2.) Try explaining the logic of a man dead in sin, hating God, and contrary to all His laws deciding one day that he needs God and he wants to accept him and love Him from that day onward. That makes no sense! When God turned the Gentiles over to their own lust and intentions of their hearts in Romans 1, what was their natural inclination? Not to turn to God, that's for sure! By our own human natures we will choose sin ever single time, because it is our nature to do so.

    Problem 3.) Where is God in all this? Rather than this being the gospel of grace it is presented as so often, this is simply a softer and better disguised version of self-help gospel. Rather than the Soli Deo Gloria gospel of the reformers (and the Scriptures), we have too often softened it to a cheap replica that relies on us to realize our guilt and do something about it. Cause we just naturally are longing for God. Huh? How did we get that from the Bible?

    What I'm trying to present here is that the gospel we have been taught and find ourselves teaching so frequently is man's default gospel, Pelagianism. Pelagianism is the belief that man can choose to do either right or wrong, either follow in the ways of Jesus or Adam, and thus has no need of grace. He can simply repent when he errs and return to Christ.

    But that's probably a little too radical for some of us. I mean, most of us realize we need grace, at least to some extent. So, we flee straight into the arms of semi-Pelagianism, our happy medium. Yes, we need God's grace, but we still come to God ourselves and recognize our need for Him on our own. As if haters of God will ever on their own decide to come to Him!

    But Paul is blowing this idea out of the water with Romans 7: 14-25! Even Paul is completely open that he cannot keep the law on his own. Without Christ, he is destined to failure, despite even his saved desires to follow Christ. Much less can a sinner follow Christ who has no such desires!

    So then, what is the conclusion? Is there hope for the saved, much less the sinner? The same hope for both, as Paul shows us in verse 24-25!

    What can save me from my own nature and carnal desires? Jesus Christ. He is the answer. Without Him, I can do nothing, not acknowledge His existence, not desire Him, nor come to Him. Without Him, I am bound by the desires of my nature contrary to the law. Only through Christ can I serve God while still resisting my flesh.

    So, what is the answer to the problems I spoke of above? What is the gospel that fixes those problems? It is the gospel of Christ alone, Solus Christus, as the Reformers would have called it if you asked. The foundation of the five Solas, through Christ alone.

    What is the answer to an over-emphasis on man and man's achievement? Christ and Christ's achievement. It is Christ who saves, Christ who draws, Christ who died, Christ who makes new, Christ who works in me, Christ who does it all! It is none of me and all of Him!

    If I come to Christ through my own strength of my own prowess, how then can the glory which is due Jesus come to Him? Instead, the glory should go to me for my wisdom in seeing the error of my ways over all the other poor sinners who had the same chance I did but still did not follow. But that is the pride of my sinful heart!

    Instead, I owe all to Christ. The very drawing of me from my sin and the desire to follow and love Him is due to Christ, not I. And I owe Him everything!

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