August 31, 2011

Thursday after the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 49, 1 Sam. 22:6, Lk. 20:27-40
Evening - Ps. 50, Micah 6:9, Rom. 7:1-13

Commentary
Romans 7:1-13

Romans 7 continues to teach about the results of justification by faith. In essence, those who are justified by faith are now restored to fellowship with God through the atoning work of Christ. Our fellowship with God is not a static condition, however; it is a growing process in which we become closer to God in our hearts and more Godly in our way of life. Theologians often call this process, "sanctification," and that is the theme of chapters 6 and 7. The point being made in tonight's reading is that we are under grace in sanctification just as much as we are under grace in justification. In other words, we are not sanctified by our own efforts to keep God's law, we are sanctified by grace through faith. This may seem like nothing more than a discussion about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, but it is really very important. It means we don't earn sanctification any more than we earn justification. Both are free gifts of God's grace received by faith.

In Romans 7:1-6 this point is shown using an illustration from marriage. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives, but if he dies, she is free to marry another man. The legal marital bond dies with the passing of the husband. In this illustration, we are like the wife, and the law is like the husband. The point is that in Christ the law has died and we have married a new husband, grace. Verse 4 tells us "grace" is really Christ. Thus, through His atoning work, the law died and we became His bride.

As His wife, we bring forth fruit unto God. This is a very moving illustration in itself. It refers to living with a passion for God. Before we were married to Christ, our passions, called here, "motions," led us into things that displeased God. Now, married to Christ, our passions lead us to do the things that please Him. It is our passion, desire, and pleasure to please our Saviour. Under law we might attempt to keep commandments out of slavish fear and compulsion, but under grace we keep the law out of love for God. Under law we would attempt to earn and continue in God's good will by doing good things. Under grace we have and continue in God's good will as His gift to us. In grace we do His will and keep His commandments because we are in His good will, not to earn it.

Verses 7-13 remind us that our problem was not the law of God. The law is not evil. The illustration of the husband and wife is not meant to suggest that there was a problem with the law, only to show that we cannot be under law and grace at the same time. We were the problem. Our sin was the problem. The law did us a great favour by revealing our sin to us. By the law came the knowledge of sin.

Verse 9 has often troubled people, especially those new to the study of Romans. It does not mean Paul, or any of the rest of us, were at any time right with God (alive) apart from the grace of God in Christ. It means there was a time when we thought ourselves to be alive without Him. Either we thought we were alive because we kept the law well enough to justify ourselves to God, or, we thought we were alive because, without the law, we convinced ourselves we were not in sin and not under the wrath of God. But with the knowledge of the law came knowledge of our sin, and the realisation that we were dead toward God.

Just the opposite of being evil, the law, called, "the commandment" in verse 10 "was ordained to life." Read Psalm 19:7-13 and see the goodness of the law of God. The law of God is the way of life and happiness and peace, if we keep it. Virtually everyone agrees the world would be a far better place if everyone kept the Ten Commandments. It is the realisation that we have not kept the law that makes it appear as death to us. The commandments slay us because they make us realise we have broken the Law of God. The commandment itself is holy, just, and good ((Rom. 7:12). But, as verse 13 shows, knowing the law reveals that sin is "exceeding sinful."

It is important to remind ourselves here of the means of grace. These are the means by which God gives His grace to His people, thereby sanctifying them to Himself. The Scriptures, the Church, the Sacraments, and prayer are examples of how God works sanctification in us, and no one should be surprised to find themselves out of fellowship with God if they are not making diligent use of the means of grace.