Summary: In this message we look at the Premise and Promise of God's love.
As we read through the book of Romans there seems to be some common themes that we see over and over again. The common topics are: The Law, Sin and Grace. And in case you are thinking those are probably common themes throughout the Bible, or the New Testament or even Paul’s letters, they are, but we see this combination more in the book of Romans than anywhere else in the bible.
The topic of the Law is broached 250 times in the 27 books of the New Testament 50 of those incidents are found in the book of Romans. Grace is mentioned 13 times in the book of Romans as compared to 70 times in all the other New Testament books combined. And in the New Testament every third time the word sin is used we find it in the book of Romans. What does it tell us, other than Denn spends way too much time counting words in the Bible?
It tells us that Paul was trying address a couple of problems in this book that appeared to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand it seems that there were some in the Church in Rome who were struggling with legalism. The law was supreme to them, they were still trying to dot every “I” and cross every “T”. And I would suspect because people are people are people and there really has been very little change in people over the past 2000 years, that not only did they expect themselves to follow the Old Testament law but they expected everybody else to as well.
And there are all kinds of issues that arise when we condense our relationship with God down to simply following a set of rules. For one thing it removes it from the area of a relationship and turns it into a contract and it becomes something we earn not something we are given.
Then at the other end of the spectrum from Legalism was Liberty, in this case liberty to sin, it would appear that as often happens it takes a while for the pendulum to find the centre and as it swings away from one extreme it misses the middle and ends up on the other side ( video or PowerPoint)
And so on one hand you had those who were in bondage to the law, and you don’t have to investigate very far to find that the law of the Jews really was bondage; it dictated what you could do, when you could do it and who you could do it with.
And that wasn’t the intent of the law. The law was put into place to protect us and to protect others. It was there to hold together the fragile ties of society and relationships but leave it to people to mess it up. And so the commandment to respect the Sabbath and avoid work on the seventh day became a complex series of regulations defining what work was and what work wasn’t. How far could you walk, how much could you carry and on and on it went. And so much time was spent on the minutia of the law of God that they never got to know the God of the Law.
And so there were still those who thought that if they were going to please God it wasn’t dependant on the relationship they had with him, instead it was dependant on how good they were and that at the end of the day it was going to come down to a tally sheet and they would need to have more in the plus column then in the negative column. And it was to them that Paul wrote Romans 3:27-28 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
And on the other hand you had those who felt there was no need to follow the law at all, not only had they thrown out all of the excess of the law they had thrown out the law as well. And so they used grace as an excuse to do what they wanted to, they used the gift of heaven to justify living like hell. The thought was that if the sacrificial death of Christ was able to grant us forgiveness from the sins of yesterday the same sacrificial death of Christ would be able to grant us forgiveness from the sins of tomorrow.
And as a result for some it was like it had been written in Judges 21:25 . . . all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. And it was this error that Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-2 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?