“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (deprived it of its power over us as believers) 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4) Last week in these verses we looked at our great deliverance from the power and condemnation of sin wrought by our wonderful Savior and this week we will focus on walking in obedience to God’s law through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 6-8 is deep theology that has tremendous implications for our daily walk and our living out God’s very purposes for our lives and for those He calls us to influence for Him. In Romans 6 we see who we are in Christ. In Romans 7 we see the battle with the flesh that wages war with our new nature in Christ which delights to obey and please God. (Romans 7:22-25). And in Romans 8 we learn how to walk in love for God and neighbor by dependence upon and submission to the Holy Spirit Who is more powerful than the flesh which seeks to pull us down into the sin of autonomy and self-centeredness.
I will use a portion of an outline from Pastor Alan Dunn and add my own comments. (See: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?m=t&s=619052190) The outline goes as follows: 1) the prophecy of Ezekiel; 2) the piety of David; 3) the preaching of Jesus; 4) the power of the Holy Spirit; 5) and the practice of the Spirit-filled believer. As we have seen earlier, believers cannot be saved by the law nor sanctified by the law but the law can and does convict us of sin (falling short of God’s moral standards in character and action) and it serves as a path for our new desire to lovingly please and obey our Father. It is not a source of salvation but it is a course for the saved. And as believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit we can now do what we desire to do. “The common sense definition of freedom is to be able to do what you most want to do and only in the power of the gospel are we able to do what we now want to do as new creatures in Christ: please, obey and glorify our God. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 7:22.) This is the very purpose for man’s existence and at last our new desires conform to the realities of the universe.” (Tim Keller) “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
1. The prophecy of Ezekiel – The new covenant was promised to Israel many times in the OT and the promise included the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers and an internal desire (versus external rules) to obey God’s Word. “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27) [“That, instead of a heart of stone, insensible and inflexible, unapt to receive any divine impressions and to return any devout affections, God would give a heart of flesh, a soft and tender heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, conscious to itself of spiritual pains and pleasures, and complying in everything with the will of God. Note, Renewing grace works as great a change in the soul as the turning of a dead stone into living flesh.” Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Ezek.36:25] “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14) “Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify (or cleanse) for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)
2. The piety of David – [“We believe that David wrote Psalm 119. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David’s experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it “David’s pocket book”, and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout a long life. After long reading an author one gets to know his style, and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own. SUBJECT. The one theme is the word of the Lord. The Psalmist sets his subject in many lights, and treats of it in divers ways, but he seldom omits to mention the word of the Lord in each verse under some one or other of the many names by which he knows it; and even if the name be not there, the subject is still heartily pursued in every stanza. He who wrote this wonderful song was saturated with those books of Scripture which he possessed. Like Luther, David had shaken every fruit tree in God’s garden, and gathered golden fruit therefrom.” http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/spurgeon/psalm119intro.htm] As NT believers we love God’s mercy and grace which came by Christ Jesus’ atonement, but like David and Paul we also love God’s law and Paul declared his delight in God’s law: “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” (Romans 7:22) The way of obedience is the way of blessedness. Listen to David’s love for God’s law.
“How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.
4 You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes; Do not forsake me utterly!” (Psalm 119:1-8)
3. The preaching of Jesus – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:16-22) Jesus loved God’s law and kept it perfectly in thought, word, and deed for 33 years as a Man. In Psalm 40 David is speaking but prophetically it speaks of Jesus’ love for God’s law and Hebrews 10:5-9 quotes this Psalm referring to Jesus. “Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, nor have You delight in them; You have given me the capacity to hear and obey [Your law, a more valuable service than] burnt offerings and sin offerings [which] You do not require.7 Then said I, Behold, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me;8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8) Jesus obeyed all the laws of the OT and personified all that the Law and the Prophets (meaning the OT) spoke of regarding obedience. The Pharisees misapplied the law by over-emphasizing an external rule-keeping obedience and boasted about their superior knowledge of and obedience to the law (self-righteousness). Jesus rebuked their misapplication and self-righteousness by showing us that God looks at the attitudes of the heart and not just external obedience in order to be right with Him. Jesus alone fulfilled both the external and internal meaning of the law and calls us to do likewise. This refers to God’s moral law of love for God and for our neighbor.
4. The power of the Holy Spirit – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…. 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” (vv. 2, 4) ) The word “law” is used two different ways in these two verses; one as a principle (like the law of gravity – it always happens); and one as referring to God’s moral law of love. For example, in the first case, the law of lift opposes the law of gravity. Likewise the law of the Spirit of life opposes the law of sin and death. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another.” (Gal. 5:17) How can we fulfill the Law (of love)? Recall Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6: 1) to know (who we are in Christ); 2) to reckon it true (believe who God says we are in spite of our feelings to the contrary); 3) and yield (submit – Thy will, not my will be done, O God). In summary we live in dependence upon and submission to the Holy Spirit. Just as we need an airplane exercising the law of lift in order to overcome gravity, we need the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the downward pull of the flesh (the law of sin and death). “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with (controlled by, submitted to) the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:18-21) The Spirit-filled life is dependence upon and submission to God that leads to praise and thanksgiving to Him and humble service to others. This is the law of love for God and neighbor. And in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit we have been set free from the law of sin and death (autonomy and self-centeredness) to do what we delight to do – to please our God and serve our neighbor.
5. The practice of the believer – “who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Our walk is not one particular act but our general course of action, our “bent” as some commentators call it. Our new bent as believers is to walk in the way of the Spirit, follow His leading, His path.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. The prophecy of Ezekiel 36:24-27 – What in these verses describes your experience with your new life in Christ?
2. The piety of David – How did you view the Bible before you were saved? How do you view it now?
3. The preaching of Jesus – How did Jesus feel about God’s law (Psalm 40:8; Matthew 5:16-22)? Since Christ is in us now how do we feel about God’s law (Romans 7:22)? How did the Pharisees interpret God’s law wrongly and how did Jesus correct them?
4. The power of the Holy Spirit – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…. 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” (vv. 2, 4) How does the law (principle) of the Spirit of life always work? What law (principle) does it overcome? What is our part in experiencing the power of the Spirit?
5. The practice of the believer – How is your walk (or bent) different from the way you walked before your new life in Christ?