Dead to the Law (Pt 2)
April 22, 2018
A decade ago, A. J. Jacobs wrote a book in which he pondered the question, “is it possible to follow all of the commands of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament” (which was of interest to him because of his Jewish heritage)? And is there advantage to following them? Jacobs, an editor for Esquire magazine, was an avowed agnostic. And in The Year of Living Biblically, he describes his attempt to obey the Bible:
A lot of [the Bible] is so startling relevant to today.…The parts on avoiding gossip and lying and coveting, these are huge issues that I struggle with. I loved having this Book that taught me how to have an extreme ethical makeover.…
Forgiveness was [another] big one. Forgiveness is such a hard thing. Even when I did forgive, I forgave with an asterisk. That was a problem. Paul says that love does not keep score. I disobeyed this literally because, before my year, I had been keeping score of my wife’s arguments with me. Any time I would win an argument or she would make a mistake, I’d always jot those down in my [Palm] Treo in a little file so that I could remember them. The Bible taught me to get rid of that.…
One thing I learned was how much I sinned. That was a little disturbing, but once you start to pay attention to the amount that you lie and gossip and covet and even steal — I was taken aback and that was a real eye-opener.
What was the result of his attempt?
I started out as an agnostic. I grew up with no religion at all. Throughout the year, I went through all sorts of permutations, including believing very strongly in a present and loving God. Part of this was because I was praying all the time, and when you pray for a year, you can’t help but start to believe in the being that you’re praying to.
By the end of the year when I stopped praying as much all the time, I sort of settled into a radically different agnosticism. I am what a friend of mine calls a ‘reverent agnostic.’ Whether or not there is a God, I believe there is something very important about the idea of sacredness: prayer can be sacred, the Sabbath can be sacred, family is sacred, rituals are sacred. That was a huge change in perspective for me.
But I never did convert; I never did make the leap of faith to accept Jesus as my savior. As I read the New Testament, I more tried to live by his ethical teachings, which did change my life. [“Living the Bible,” Leadership, Winter, 2008, 17.]
Is there value in ritualistically keeping the Law? Is there benefit in being a law keeper without Christ? Or is it even possible to keep the Law? Can an unbeliever keep the Law of God and “benefit” from that? Is a believer in Christ required to keep the Law (and is there benefit for him in keeping the Law)?
What is the function of the Law in an individual’s life — particularly in a believer’s life? That is the question Paul is addressing in Romans 7.
While some people will attempt to abuse grace by licentious living, others will attempt to abuse grace by legalistic living. Paul addresses licentiousness in chapter 6 and he addresses legalism in chapter 7 — a theme that he actually first raised in 6:14, “we are not under law but under grace.” And that is the statement that Paul returns to defend in chapter 7. We are not under Law. We have life by grace, not Law. And we live daily by grace, not Law. What does that kind of life look like?
Here is Paul’s premise in the opening verses of Romans 7 —
If you are in Christ, you are dead to God’s Law.
Paul identifies three realities the believer should remember to keep himself living obediently under grace and not rebelliously under sin.
- The Statement of the Principle: the Law has a Limit (v. 1)
- The Illustration of the Principle: the Law of Marriage (vv. 2-3)
- The Application of the Principle: the Believer is Dead to the Law (vv. 4-6)
- The Application of the Principle, Amplified: the Law and the Unbeliever (v. 5)
- The Application of the Principle, Amplified: the Law and the Believer (v. 6)
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 7:5-6.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website tomorrow morning.