Living in the Power of God (3)

The life free from condemnation
Romans 7.14-8.4

1. A paradox of life (v14-21)
However much we try to do the right things there is something at work in us which means we do the wrong thing (or is that just men?).

A Christian (v22)
Since Origen (who was a heretic anyway), it has been a popular view that Paul cannot be talking about himself when he writes “.. but I am unspiritual (v14)”. Or rather that he could not be referring to his current state as a mature Christian. How could he describe himself as “sold as a slave to sin”, when he has already written that he is a slave to righteousness (6.18). Douglas Moo sees Paul “looking back from his Christian understanding of [those] living under the law”.

So it is suggested Paul must be referring to his pre-Christian past, or he is giving an example of how a non-Christian feels, or a collective human – in Adam and not in Christ. Augustine initially agreed with Origen, and then changed his mind! He accepted that Paul was writing about his current experiences. There are three clues to this:

  1. Paul says he is unspiritual and sinful. Christians do speak of themselves in this way, with realism. Unbelievers are often self-confident in their evaluation of themselves and their spiritual state.
  2. Paul is very positive about the Law. It is spiritual, holy, righteous and good. In his inner being he delights in the Law. For Paul, the Law is to be loved and submitted to.
  3. Paul cries out not in despair but in hope of deliverance. This is an example of the cry of all of God creation of redemption.

Charles Cranfield suggest that these verses show “the inner conflict characteristic of the true Christian”, when someones mind is being slowly renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Prisoner of the past (v23)
There is a contradiction here and that needs to be resolved.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that the great cry of wretchedness (v24) described a moment of revival as the Holy Spirit brought about a renewed sense of sinfulness. It doesn’t matter therefore if the “I” is Christian or not, since these moments are about conviction and not conversion.

James Dunn argues that the tension here is eschatological. It is the tension between Adam and Christ. It is the same tension experienced as the Kingdom of God breaks into the present. The believer is therefore both enslaved and liberated. There is much truth in this – the tension between the now and the yet to be. But there remains a contradiction between at the same time being ‘set free from sin’ and ‘sold as slaves to sin’.

Missing the power of God (Rms 7.6)
For my part, I think Stott is about right. Stott agrees that the “I” is a Christian for all the traditional reasons – his love and submission to the law. But this is a unhealthy Christian. For this Christian the normative conflict between the flesh and the Spirit has reached gargantuan proportions – warfare has broken out. But most importantly, this “I” seems to know nothing of the work of the Spirit. Stott says that this therefore is an Old Testament Christian! A lover of the law and of the church. An “in-between” person who is shaking off the legalistic religion to enjoy the freedom of the Spirit. Like Lazarus, such a person has appeared from the tomb, alive but still bound hand and foot.

2. A vital understanding of God’s love (v21-25)
Despite this paradox, God’s rescues us from the spiritual, ethical, emotional war which rages about us.

A Realistic View (v14, 21)

Love it and hate it there’s a battle going on (v17)

Two cries from the heart (v24, v25b)

3. An essential principle for Christian wholeness (8.1-4)
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. If Christ has set you free you are free indeed! Praise God!

A rescued Christian … (8.1)
Charles Hodge and Martyn Lloyd-Jones both affirm the whole of Romans 8 is for one purpose: To convince the Christian that he or she is secure!

No one’s going to condemn you (Rms 8.33ff)

Set free by the Spirit (2 Cor 3.8)
The law can neither save or sanctify. That is not the fault of the law, but us. It is our humanness which makes the law ineffective. What sin-weakened law cannot do, God does through the Cross. Now, once the work of Christ is complete, the Spirit is able to set us free from condemnation.

Footnote: The work of the Father

  • Sends his Son
  • As truly human but without sin
  • To become a sin offering
  • Jesus was made sin for us
  • So that we might be different and live by the Spirit (Ez 36.26ff)

Cell outlines
What’s interesting here is that, our standard, the standard that every person uses to measure themselves before believing, is dead wrong. All religions measure themselves by their own standard or a standard of a very good man (Buddha). What is the flaw in this thinking? Who is the judge in this line of thinking, us or God? Will God judge us according to our own standard?

Rewrite verse 15 in your own words? Do you sense this tension too?

Do Christians sin and why (15-20)? What does Paul want to do in verse 19? Does he do it? What does he not desire to do (19)? Does he do it?

Who can set us free? What part of us serves the law of God? What part of us serves the law of sin? How does it feel to you to be set free?

Define “condemnation” (1). Use a dictionary if necessary.

For what reason did the ‘Son’ accomplish these things (4)?

How can we look for the signs that we are trying to get around something we know is right in everyday life? Matt 7:14

Non-Christians and even some Christians are often surprised that God expects people to be perfect. Does it appear from Romans 8:4 that people are expected to fulfil the Law?

List at least two changes you desire to take place in your life because of these verses:

Going deeper:

Verses 14-20 seem to be one long run-on sentence. Try to summarize what Paul is describing here.

If we keep the Law, would we be saved? Gal 3, Heb 2, Rom 3, 1 Tim 1:8, Ps 119:39, Nehemiah 9:13, Ps 19:7, Ps 119:72. Do Jews get to heaven by keeping the Law?

As a Christian, what are your experiences with your old nature? Do you still think the flesh can do any good or at any time be relied upon?

How can we deal with our feelings and emotions when they go contrary to the will of God?

1 comment to Living in the Power of God (3)

  • John Smith

    Trish says: I think that while we remain in the body we will continue to experience the tensions between our own physical needs & conscious identity on the one hand and the imperative of Christ to live and share the Gospel on the other. As we grow to see that imperative as our heart's delight and purpose we may experience less conflict between the two (flesh & spirit) but there will always be some tension whilst we remain in the body. Our experience of the needs of the body and its conscious identity can/should also enable us to understand the needs of others so that our physical being becomes a bridge to our fellow human beings rather then a barrier. It's all in the God-given perception which our hearts/spirits should continually ask God to give us. But our own physical world absorbs a lot of time and energy, it's hard to keep focussed.

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