Basic Facts from Romans (Part 3)

Basic Facts from Romans (Part 3)

From a secular perspective, one of the most controversial statements in Romans appears at chapter 6:22-23, where Paul points out that Christians have been set free from sin so that we can become servants. (The Greek word here – douloo – can mean both bond-servants or slaves.) What is often ignored here is the fact that this “slavery” is the voluntary and grateful response of one who has received the gift of “holiness” (sanctification) and eternal life! The alternative (in vs. 23) is permanent separation from God. One who serves by choice is not a “slave” in the worldly sense of that word, but a truly free person!

As he describes the actions – and shortcomings – of Moses’ covenant (i.e., “the Law,” or “the ten commandments”) in chapter seven, Paul gives one of the clearest descriptions in all the bible of what “law” actually means. In vs. 7, “law” is what defines and identifies sin AS sin; without it, we could have no knowledge of sin. In addition, where there is no law, there can be no sin (vs. 8). Because law is what identifies what “sin” is, it also specifies “death” (spiritual death) as the penalty for violating God’s law (vv. 9-10). In verse 11, it is sin – not the law – that causes condemnation and spiritual death. The law itself is holy, righteous, and good (vs. 12). Humanity’s problem with sin lies in our unwillingness to obey God’s law, not in any flaw or shortcoming of the law itself (vs. 13). In verses 14-20, Paul describes the constant conflict we all experience in knowing the right thing to do while experiencing the temptation and desire to do wrong instead (cf. James 4:17). So long as we are obedient to the “law of sin and death” (vs. 23, cf. Ezekiel 18:4 & 20), we stand condemned before God, but when we serve the law of God we are delivered from it and can give thanks to Him (vv. 24-25). Paul summarizes all of this in chapter 8:2 by pointing out that we are freed from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ.

In Romans 8:6-8 we find an inspired definition of true spirituality. According to these verses, spirituality is neither a “feeling” nor is it defined by a specific list of actions. A person is not “spiritual” because of how frequently they pray, or because they maintain a serene approach to life, nor even because they frequently use the Lord’s name in common conversation (“Thank you, Jesus!”). Spirituality is defined here by having one’s mind “set,” focused on the things of the Spirit and by submitting to God’s law (vs. 7). A person whose mind is focused on the things of this world, or who will not fully submit to the law of God (vs. 8) is not a genuinely spiritual person.

Part of Romans 8:28 is often lifted out of its context in moments of distress and difficulty; “all things work together for good.” There are two points we should not overlook, that are crucial to the truthfulness of these words: First, Paul’s words are conditional; “all things” only work together for good for those who love God (cf. John 14:15). Second, God’s working of “all things for good” (even hardships, heartbreaks, and evil experiences) is only accomplished for those who are “called” by Him – that is, in accordance or conformity with His purpose (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:14). In verses 29-30 Paul goes on to explain the “how” of God’s calling.

The closing paragraph of Romans eight (vv. 35 -39) presents one of the new testament’s most encouraging and motivational exhortations, to emphasize the point that there are no “external forces” that can separate a child of God from the Father. Despite the challenges and hardships we may face, only we have the ability to separate ourselves from Him (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22). Therefore, if we choose to remain faithful to God (as we should!), there is no power on earth that can prevent us from carrying out that decision.

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