Summary: True release comes from a relationship with Jesus, not from rules.
Dying in Order to Live
Rev. Brian Bill
This past Sunday I preached at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. Beth and I spent about 10 years at Calvary and were supported by them for three years when we were missionaries. For the last several summers I’ve been invited to come back and preach and always enjoy my time there. They have four services – three of them are “live” and one is simulcast to their gym area for a service they call “The Upper Room.” The first service went well and then I decided to attend a few minutes of the Upper Room service before I had to come back to the auditorium to preach the second service. I was singing along with the music and taking everything in until I heard the worship leader ask Dr. Michael Easley, the president of Moody Bible Institute, to lead in prayer.
I must confess that I didn’t concentrate very much during this prayer because I was suddenly paralyzed by the thought that the president of this world-renowned Bible Institute was about to hear my simple sermon. Talk about feeling intimidated! I snuck out of the service, making my way back to the auditorium, wondering how I could massage my message to make it better. A quick look at my watch was all it took for me to realize that I was stuck…and so was he. And then a funny thing happened. Instead of feeling intimidated I started to wonder if he would be impressed with the sermon. Maybe he would ask me to speak at Moody or drop my name in conversations with Christian leaders from around the country.
Thankfully, God brought me back to reality by reminding me that I was just His messenger and my role was to faithfully preach the Word of God. It’s all about Him and not about me anyway.
As I was driving home I realized that before I became a Christian I swung on similar extremes: most of the time I was intimidated by God and at other times I tried to impress Him with my behavior. I knew that I fell far short but every once in awhile I thought I was doing OK, especially when I compared myself with others.
What about you? Are you paralyzed by your sins or are you on the performance track? When faced with God’s Law do you feel like a loser or do you feel like a winner? As we come to Romans 7:1-6 we’re entering the heart of Paul’s argument. While many of us would like to avoid the authentic agony in this chapter and move on to the great glories of chapter 8, we can’t skip over this key section of Scripture. While commentators differ on how to interpret these verses, the outline is rather clear. It’s the perfect sermon with a main point, an example, and some action steps. We see the proposition in verse 1. In verses 2-3, Paul uses an illustration from marriage and in verses 4-6 we’re given the application.
Please turn to Romans 7 and follow along as I read: “Do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to men who know the law-that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
The main point of this passage is that we can try to live by rules or we can live by a relationship. We could put it this way: True release comes from a relationship with Jesus, not from rules.
1. Proposition (1). Amazingly, in just this one chapter of Romans the word “law” is used 28 different times. Let’s look at verse 1: “Do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to men who know the law-that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?” The “law” refers to the Old Testament law, or specifically, the 10 Commandments. Actually, if you were to count up all the laws and rules, there are 613 of them! Paul is assuming that there is general knowledge among his readers about the nature of law – that’s what he means when he writes, “Do you not know…” that the law has absolute authority or jurisdiction over us? The problem is that none of us can live out the law completely, and when we try to do so some bad things can happen.