Summary: Our sanctification (being set apart for God as holy) does not occur through human efforts to keep the law, but through the power of the Spirit animating, motivating, and empowering us to do God’s will. It is a matter of motives and means.
Free from the Law: The First Question of Romans 7
1. Sally was married to Bill for many years. Then one evening Bill had a heart attack and died. Several years latter Sally remarried a man named Jack. Jack was in many ways different than Bill. Bill didn’t like to eat breakfast (he just grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out the door) and Jack liked to start his day with a big country breakfast. Bill didn’t care if the house was kept clean and Jack wanted the house to be neat and tidy.
After Jack and Sally had been married for a year, Jack was beginning to get aggravated. He came down the stairs hoping to find things different but the house was messy and as he went into the kitchen hoping to smell bacon and eggs cooking on the stove, he only found a cup of cold coffee. When Jack voiced his dissatisfaction with the situation Sally said "well that’s the way Bill liked things".
Jack said " Sally, Bill is dead. You are my wife now. You have to stop living like you are still married to Bill. (Source: Sermon Central)
2. The story of Bill and Jack pictures a problem in the early church: Many Jewish believers continued to use the Law as though they were still living under the Old Covenant.
3. There was nothing wrong with a Jewish believer living as a Messianic Jew and being zealous to follow the Law in the power of the Holy Spirit; it is the Holy Spirit’s provision of power and a new nature that is the heart of the New Covenant, not the standards God gives, but the way in which believers are internally energized and motivated. It is a matter of MOTIVES and MEANS.
Acts 21:17-26 passem, “When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly.
The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.
…When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.
They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? …There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification … Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."
But some Jewish believers apparently had continued on with an external conformity to the Law of Moses out of tradition, fear, or the belief that following the Law of Moses made them more acceptable to God. They thought they could live a godly life by their own willpower. They looked down upon gentile believers who had fewer standards. The problem wasn’t the Law, but their misunderstanding of what the Law was for.
Chapter 7 is arranged around 4 questions (7:1, 7, 13, and 24) that deal with living godly lives under the New Covenant as opposed to under the Old (or, in the case of gentiles, conscience and the Covenant of Noah).
4. The issue of the believer’s relationship to the Law is complex, partly because of terminology, partly because the Law is a many-faceted subject.
5. Paul writes to Timothy of the Law of Moses:
“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
6. The restraining influence of the Law of Moses should not be necessary for the Spirit-filled believer. He lives by a higher moral standards. But the Law is good if one applies it properly to the New Covenant era. The Law is useful and important for all believers to study, since 2 Timothy 3:16-17 clearly makes the point:
“ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Unfortunately, some believing Jews and some gentiles they influenced had wrong perspectives on the Law, as do many believers today. They taught that the external keeping of the Law was God’s method of making believers holy.