"1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
"1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."
Historical Context & Message
Now that Paul has laid the foundation of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, he begins to explain the benefits of that salvation. First, we have peace with God. This is different from the peace of God, but instead is referring to being in right-standing before God - no longer subject to His wrath. Sin demands the wrath of God, but the wrath of God was forever satisfied through Jesus Christ. Second, because we have peace with God through Jesus, we can also experience a standing in grace. We were justified through Christ so that we can stand in God's abundant grace - both now and always. Standing in grace means we don't have to prove ourselves worthy to receive God's love and salvation. It means using that energy instead to praise and worship God, who provided salvation to us freely through Jesus Christ. Third, we have access to God through faith. "This is a blessing beyond peace with God. 'One may be reconciled to his prince, and yet not to be brought into his presence. '(Poole)” (1)
We have been given instant and lasting communication with God. So, not only did He extend grace to cover our sins, but He extended Himself to maintain a relationship with us. Our access to God is described in the perfect verb tense, referring to a perpetual possession. Once we receive the salvation of God, we will always have access to God through Christ, our Mediator. Fourth, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Once we have received salvation and all of the benefits described above, the natural outpouring of our souls is joy. We have received the promised hope of Christ - rejoicing is all that's left to do.
Immediately after Paul talks about rejoicing, he mentions suffering. It sounds like the two don't really go hand-in-hand, but in fact they do! Think of anything joyful in life....a baby being born, getting a promotion, building a home, winning a game, etc. What has it taken to get there? Labor, hard work, training and pain...tribulation. Anything worth having is worth going through a little suffering. Let's take a deeper look at the Greek:
Suffering (thlipsis): "pressing together, pressure, stress, burden, tribulation"
Endurance (hypomone): "steadfastness, constancy, patience, the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his
deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings"
Character (dokime): "proof, specimen of tried proof, tried character"
Hope (elpis): "joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation, faith"
Each of these virtues builds upon the other. When you're experiencing stress and pain and you feel like you might explode because of all the pressure placed on you, keep pressing in. Without exercising patient endurance, you can't gain character - proof of your exercised faith - and, you can't have hope. Merely getting through a season of difficulty is different from pressing through a season of difficulty. Getting through something is passive, but we are shown here that we need to remain steadfast and unswerving in our faith - active. But, just like our loving God, He doesn't ask us to press in without giving us a glimpse of what we're pressing in for - hope, the "joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation". The season of difficulty and pain is just that, a season. It will pass. Our salvation through Christ remains forever.
God's love is so transcendent that we, as humans, can barely grasp it. Look at our highest forms of love - that between a parent and child, or a husband and wife. Even to the people we love the most in this world, we still say hurtful things and do damage to the relationships. Even on our best day, our love doesn't hold a candle to God's love. His love is perfect because God is love (1 John 4:8). In verses 6-8, Paul states that Christ chose to die for us while we were still sinners. It is a rare occasion when a person gives their life for a good person, but Christ sacrificed His for us in our worst state. We are totally and completely undeserving of His love, yet He still loves us. This love isn't based on us or anything we can do, but is solely based on God and His goodness, faithfulness and grace.
Let's briefly discuss the Two Men, as referred to in verses 12-21 of chapter 5. Adam and Jesus are the only two men to ever enter the world sinless; they were born into perfection. Adam, however, was not god and sinned. Once he sinned, death entered into the world and each of us were born into it. Jesus, on the other hand, is God and remained sinless. When He died and rose again, He conquered death and the grave and brought life and salvation into the world. "Between them they represent of all humanity, and everyone is identified in either Adam or Jesus. We are born identified with Adam; we may be born again into identification with Jesus." (2) It's a beautiful parallel. Jesus is the grace of God in action. In verse 20, Paul says that grace abounds where sin is present. The word abounds means to super abound. Essentially saying, no matter how much sin is present or how deep the sin runs, God's grace super abounds over that sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness so we can have all the benefits of salvation.
The two extreme views of grace are that (1) the law is above grace, thereby attempting to control the actions of the believer through a belief of salvation through holy living (works), and (2) we should sin abundantly so that we may receive God's grace abundantly. We have already been discussing the first view for the past few weeks. Now having firmly established salvation by grace through faith, Paul begins to discuss the second view. The phrase "continue to sin" in verse 1 is in the present active tense, implying a lifestyle of sin - habitual and continual sin. "To treat being under grace as an excuse for sinning is a sign that one is not really under grace at all” because when one has been saved by grace they desire to live a life pleasing to God. (1) He then begins discussing baptism, which is translated as "to immerse or overwhelm something." "The Bible uses this idea of being baptized into something in several different ways. When a person is baptized in water, they are immersed or covered over with water. When they are baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5), they are “immersed” or “covered over” with the Holy Spirit. When they are baptized with suffering (Mark 10:39), they are “immersed” or “covered over” with suffering. Here, Paul refers to being baptized – “immersed” or “covered over” – in Christ Jesus." (2) When we accept Christ as our Savior, our sins are covered by Him and He reigns over us rather than sin.
In verse 5 of chapter 6, Paul says we have been "united with Him [Christ]" in His death and His resurrection. This phrase "exactly expresses the process by which a graft becomes united with the life of a tree... The union is of the closest sort, and life from Christ flows through to him” (Morris). (3) There are some people who only want to be united with Jesus in His resurrection, not His death (receiving the benefits without making the sacrifices of dying to their sin). But, one cannot be raised to life again without first having died - it is impossible, for there would be nothing to resurrect if a death had not first occurred. The death of the old self in verse 6 is referring to our identity with Adam, as we discussed last week. We were all born into sin under Adam, who first sinned. We, in and of ourselves, cannot put the old self to death because we are not powerful enough - we do not have dominion over sin because it has dominion over us. But, the second we choose Jesus He puts the old self to death because He has conquered sin and death and emerged victoriously. We have been freed from a lifestyle of sin and an eternity in hell. We are no longer under the dominion of sin, but of righteousness. Just as a dead person no longer has a right to control, as he is dead, sin no longer has the right to reign in our lives, as Christ has put it to death (Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:9).
So, why do we still feel the pull to sin? The flesh and Satan. We are still confined by our human bodies, and since we are in the flesh, Satan will continue to tempt us to return to our old nature. He attempts to counterfeit God by resurrecting the old self that Christ put to death. How do we overcome this natural pull to sin and the temptations Satan hurls at us? We daily put the flesh to death (Galatians 5:24). "Our slavery to sin can only be broken by death. In the 1960 film Spartacus, Kirk Douglas played the escaped slave Spartacus, who led a brief but widespread slave rebellion in ancient Rome. At one point in the movie Spartacus says: 'Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he is not afraid of it.' We are set free from sin because the old self has died with Jesus on the cross. Now a new man, a free man, lives." (4) Christ has already freed us from the dominion of sin, so now we daily choose to throw off sin and run after Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3).
There are so many Christians who have received salvation, but they do not walk in the freedom of that salvation. "A person can be 'officially' set free, yet still imprisoned. If a person lives in prison for years, and then is set free, they often still think and act like a prisoner. The habits of freedom aren’t ingrained in their life yet." (5) So, how do we walk in this freedom of salvation for which Christ paid the price? We must not present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness (vs. 13).
Present (paristemi): "to place a person or thing at one's disposal, to place beside or near, to bring near, to stand ready"
Members (melos): "a part of the body" (i.e., eyes, hands, feet, mouth, ears, etc.)
Instruments (hoplon): "arms used in warfare as a weapon"
In other words, an alcoholic shouldn't go into a bar. An unmarried couple shouldn't be in the bedroom together. When we place ourselves near sin, we put ourselves at risk of engaging in sin. However, simply not giving ourselves to evil and sin does not mean we are living in freedom. We must also present ourselves to God to be used for His good purposes and glory, as He is the One who freed us in the first place.
In the last part of this chapter, Paul discusses a different type of sin. We have already talked about how a habitual sin life is not consistent with the life of a true believer. Now, we are going to briefly discuss the occasional sin. The sin described in verse 15 implies "dabbling in sin," not a continual or habitual sin. We are all prone to sin because we are born into the identity of Adam. When we allow one, seemingly small sin into our lives, we are setting ourselves up for the potential of habitual sin. Lawlessness leads to more lawlessness (vs. 19). So, although we will never attain perfection in our mortal bodies, we are to pursue righteousness. Jesus empowers us to resist the temptation to sin and provides a means of escape from the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). When we choose righteousness, we are paving the way to holiness. We must fight against sin, even the casual sin however infrequent, because we answer to God, not ourselves. He has freed us from the stronghold of sin and we must walk in that freedom, not allowing the old self to be resurrected. It is the new self that reigns in our bodies, hearts, minds and souls. When someone dies and then raises to life again, there has to be a change. Staying the same as they once were is impossible. So, we, as believers born again into the identity of Christ, cannot stay in the sin that was put to death on the cross. We have a choice to make. Let us choose holiness.
In Chapter 7, verses 7-14, Paul discusses how sin has corrupted the law. When we are made aware of something we are not supposed to do, we end up being drawn to do the very thing that is forbidden. Why? Because we have an innate sin nature that capitalizes on our weaknesses. This doesn't make the law evil because it drew a boundary that we were then destined to cross; but rather, it shows the evil residing within us. The law exists to point and draw out the sin within us. Even as Christians, we have a sin nature. Yes, we have been set free from sin, in that, we have been set free from the dominion of sin and the consequences of sin, which is death, through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, we do still sin because we are carnal beings (in the flesh). When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are made aware of our sin nature. " That is the proof of the spiritual and wise man. He knows that he is carnal, and he is displeased with himself; indeed, he hates himself and praises the Law of God, which he recognizes because he is spiritual. But the proof of a foolish, carnal man is this, that he regards himself as spiritual and is pleased with himself.”
In verses 14-25, Paul describes the predicament in which all Christians find ourselves. We want to be holy and obedient to God's Word, but we keep sinning and doing what we don't want to do. C.S. Lewis wisely said, "No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.” Our response to such an epic shortcoming of the holiness of God's standard can make us either go in one direction in which we delude ourselves into thinking we're not that bad, leading to legalism and self-righteousness; or, can make us go to the opposite end of the spectrum in which we become discouraged, giving up on pursuing God and holiness. You see, either end of the spectrum results in a self-focus. Piety or pity - both are rooted in the self. The commentary I am studying says that Paul refers to himself roughly 40 times in a 10 verse span in Romans 7, depicting how sin in the form of pride weaves its way into our hearts and minds as we pursue holiness. In verse 24, he calls himself wretched. This word, talaiporos, means "wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor." Paul is utterly run down and exhausted from focusing on himself and trying to keep God's commands in his own strength. Paul finally gives in. He comes to the end of himself, ready for someone to deliver Him from his pit of despair. When we attempt to be holy in our own strength, we will fail every time because we do not have the power to overcome our sinful nature. It's not possible here on this earth. In verse 25, Paul switches his focus to Jesus. He reaches out for Jesus, acknowledging that he still has to battle sin in this life on earth. "Paul doesn’t pretend that looking to Jesus takes away the struggle – Jesus works through us, not instead of us in the battle against sin." Yes, that's right; we have to do some work.
I challenge you to walk in the fullness of your salvation. Jesus gave His life so that we might fully live through Him. Utilize the blessings He has graciously bestowed upon those who trust in Him. And, when the going gets tough, press in to God. Don't blame Him, don't ignore Him, don't run from Him - run to Him.
Live a life free of sin. Yes, perfection is impossible in this life, but true freedom from the bondage of sin occurs when we seek and pursue righteousness through obedience to Christ. "Faith results in obedience because if we really believe something, we will act according to that belief." If we have faith and truly believe Christ as our Savior, then sin is no longer our master. Righteousness is our Master, and we will pursue it. Satan will lie to us, telling us that freedom is not found in Christ and His commands. Anyone who has been freed from the bondage of sin through the salvation of Jesus Christ will tell you that they have never felt so alive, free and at peace. When you allow sin to be your master, you can do whatever pleases you. It's true, and it's enticing. When you allow sin to be your master, you also must reap the consequences of sin yourself (death, vs. 23). But, when you choose Christ and the salvation He freely offers, you obey His commands. It may sound confining, but you also don't bear the consequence of sin. You are given life (vs. 23). There is such freedom in knowing you are not weighed down by your sins but have been redeemed and promised eternal and abundant life! Salvation by grace through faith lifts the heavy burden of sin and places righteousness over us as protection of our freedom from sin. Only He can provide you with rest, peace and strength for the journey. And, only He can use all the bad for your good and His glory. Revel in His love and bask in His grace that super abounds over every sin, every lie and every evil.
We are all in need of a Savior because we are all sinners. Perfection is unattainable in this life on earth. Jesus is the only One who was able to remain perfect in our sin-filled world, which is why He is the perfect Savior for us. He did what we couldn't. It takes a while for a slave who is freed to adjust to his newfound freedom. Similarly, we spend our entire lives being torn between freedom through Christ and bondage through sin. Sin will always be a struggle for us, and for some more than others. We will fall short, and when we do we need to stop and direct our attention back to God. He is the only One who can rescue us. Satan wants us to focus on anything and everything except God. He will distract us with the world and tempt us to look within ourselves instead of fixing our gaze on our Lord and Savior because he knows that therein lies the power of living victoriously. When we look to Jesus we are strengthened, made whole, filled with peace, compelled to gratitude and overflowing with joy. Satan doesn't want us to have that bounce in our step; his goal is to keep us burdened, discouraged, unsettled and broken. Which life would you rather live? I choose Jesus, and I challenge you to do the same.
1) When you encounter stress, obstacles, suffering and trials, do you cut and run or do you press into God, maintaining an eternal perspective that puts all things in the right perspective?
2) Joy and happiness are different. Happiness is based on circumstances and is outward. Joy is independent of circumstances and is inward because it is based solely on Christ. It is only when your hope rests securely in Christ that joy flows freely and shines as a light to the world. Is your life characterized by joy? Explain.
3) The flesh and the spirit cannot co-exist. When you are feeding and gratifying one, you are starving the other. Mortiphication describes the process of putting something to death and vivification describes the process of bringing something to life. In order to achieve mortification of the flesh, we simply bring to life the Spirit. Discuss how we can put the flesh to death and live in the Spirit. (Note to facilitator: examples are pressing into Jesus through the good and bad, prayer, fasting, renewing mind with scripture, worship, etc.)
4) Go around the room and discuss your struggle with and journey from relying on self to relying on the spirit. Is this something you are still struggling through?
Father God, I thank you for your salvation and for the benefits it provides. Thank you for the peace we have with you because of Jesus' sacrifice and obedience to your will. Thank you for the access we have been given to have a relationship with you. Thank you for the grace that super abounds over sin and that I stand in now. I praise your name for who you are and all you are. Father, strengthen me to turn to you when I face trials, tribulations, stress and pain. I know, Lord, that you are the only who can sustain and support me. I choose in advance to place my faith and trust in you. Give me resolve to press in to you through the bad situations. Give me eternal perspective and keep my eyes fixed on you and the hope I have in you, Jesus. Father, I pray you would reveal your deep, unconditional and perfect love to me. Show me how much you love me. Help me to walk in your love, as a child of God. I choose to rest in it right now, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!