Thursday, October 15, 2020 -
Martin Luther, in his “Preface to Romans,” makes the point that chapters 6-8 deal with the one work of faith, which is to slay the old Adam and subdue the flesh. I believe it is indeed a good idea when reading or studying Romans, as I am now doing, to look at these three chapters together, reading them in one sitting the entire book of Romans actually builds upon itself, making a profound case for the gospel.
What hit me this morning while reading through chapters 6-8 for the second time as a complete entity, after reading Luther’s summary, was the many contrasts within these three chapters. They are loaded with contrasts, something Paul is doing and encouraging us, the reader, to do as well.
In 6:1-11 we see contrasted living in sin to dying to sin. Our sin was crucified with Christ so that we would walk in the newness of life, no longer being slaves to sin. And we are raised together with Christ so that we might be freed from the bondage of sin and death living to God, alive to God in Christ Jesus!
And so in 6:12-14, we see in contrast the members of our body as instruments of righteousness to God, instead of instruments of unrighteousness. Reading on through the end of chapter six, we recognize that once we were slaves to sin, but becoming freed from sin, we become slaves to righteousness. As slaves to sin, the consequence for us was death. But being freed from sin through Christ’s redemption has resulted in our sanctification and eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Chapter 7 illustrates this release from our being joined to sin with an illustration of a wife whose husband dies, freeing her to become the bride of another. So we too, when freed from our marriage to sin are joined to Christ so that we might bear fruit for God (verse 4). This is contrasted to our former lives in verse 5, which bore fruit for death. And so, we serve in “newness of the Spirit” as contrasted with the “oldness of the letter” of the Law (verse 6).
In verses 7-13 we learn the purpose of the law, which came alive during Moses’ time, was for us to recognize that we are indeed dead in our sins. The law is holy, yet its revelation of our sin made us recognize our unholiness which leads to death.
In verses 14-25, which includes Paul’s classic “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (verse 15). And so we see the conflict between two natures, that of the spiritual, and that of the flesh. The law is spiritual, Paul says in verse 14, for it shows us our need for Christ’s redemption. Yet our fleshly nature makes it impossible to be righteous apart from Christ. Verses 24-25 show us that no matter how hard we try under the law we are still condemned to death until we allow Christ to set us free!
Paul then continues this theme into chapter 8, which begins with the wonderful verse, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And so in verses 2, we find the wonderful contrast, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Indeed, the law could not set us free from the condemnation of sin in the flesh, but God sets us free from sin’s condemnation. The law was weak because of our flesh, yet in Christ, we are set free from its condemnation! And so we no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (verses 4-5). In verses 6-9 then, Paul contrasts the mindset on the flesh with the mindset on the Spirit, and death is replaced by life and peace. Here he also clearly states that the mindset on the flesh is hostile toward God and does not belong to Him. But the one whose mind is set on the things of the Spirit, Christ lives within, and he is alive (verses 6-11).
Paul continues with comparisons in verses 12 through 17. We must die (to the flesh), in order to live (verses 12-13). Instead of a spirit of slavery leading to fear, we have a spirit of adoption as children and heirs of God (verses 15-17). We suffer with Him, in order that we may also be glorified with Him (verse 17).
In verses, 18-25 Paul continues with a theme of suffering with Christ. We are to consider or compare our present sufferings with the glory to be revealed to us (verse18). Luther states, “nothing else is so good for the mortifying of the flesh as the cross and suffering, He comforts us in suffering with the support of the Spirit of love, and of the whole creation.” And our hope leads to perseverance which causes us to wait eagerly for the redemption of our body on our own resurrection day (verses 23-25).
This theme of suffering versus hope is continued in verses 26 through verse 39, the end of the chapter. We see that we are weak, but He is strong and He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words! When things seem hopeless, He makes all things to work together for good! Others may be against us, but God is always for us! While we may meet with injustice in this world, God is the One who justifies! Though tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword may seem overwhelming, we can overwhelmingly conquer all these things through Him Who loved us. And nothing can separate us from His love. And so we see the contrast between the world’s injustice and hatred for us, and the victorious nature and love of god through Christ, which is inseparable from us, praise His holy name!