“Wrestling With Romans”
Dying to Live (Chapter 7 Verses 1-6)
The fruit (v4b) comes from the tree of grace, not the law. The legalists and the moralists those whom Paul has already refuted, live under this great delusion that the law is productive, in producing good works, it does not, it produces only wrath (Romans 4.15), and a consciousness of sin (Romans 3.20). Any reliance on the law for good works that are pleasing to God, is exposed here as a fallacy. It is only in the death and resurrection of Jesus that consequent lasting fruit to God can be realised (John 12.24). One backward glance at our previous condition (v5), would remind us of this fact. We were slaves to sin, the sinful nature simply carried us along with it, and instead of the law killing our sinful passions, it ignited, it simply energised our lusts (Romans 6.13, 19). You know, you put the poker in the fire to stir up the flames, well you apply the law and that is what it does, it stirs up the sinful nature. You try so hard to be good, and the harder you try the worse you seem to get. The result, O yes, it was fruitful says Paul, but it produced the very opposite of grace, it produced death (Galatians 3.21). O the sweet release of the perfume of grace that reveals another way, dying to live (v6).
Now (v6), we have died to the law (v4), we are released from it, to serve in a totally new way, the way of the Spirit, not the letter. Yes, we are still slaves (Romans 6.16-22), but with a willingness, a glad and joyful surrender to grace and that forever (Exodus 21.5-6), to righteousness. Now the new wine of the gospel courses through our veins, now eternal life wells up within (John 4.14), now the renewing influences of God’s Holy Spirit are at work within us, enabling us to serve God and that with the entirety of our inward beings renewed. The heart of stone is gone (Ezekiel 36.26-27, 11.19), and that new heart joyfully submits to God’s lawful rule (Psalm 40.8; Jeremiah 31.33), as Paul will eventually tell us (vv22, 25). The will of God is revealed in his law, and through the power of God’s Spirit (Romans 8.13), in this new and living way we use the law as our guide to holiness, not as a slavish master (2Corinthians 3.3). Any thought that Paul has lawlessness in mind has already been quenched (Romans 6.1-2). A good solid grounding in the understanding of grace is an important precursor to the preaching of God’s law in a congregation. The exposition of God’s law needs to be heavily Christologised. The written code (v6), is gone? Washed away in Calvary’s blood, never to be seen again (Colossians 2.14), there is no condemnation now (Romans 8.1).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)