Romans 7:7-13 — The law is NOT our moral compass! (Bible study notes)

For the video teaching of these notes click here Romans 7:7-13 — Week 22 — The law is NOT our moral compass!

I.  Introduction

  • The Jews in Paul’s day greatly esteemed the law even believing Jews
      • what Paul has had to say about the law in his letter to the Romans probably shocked them 
      • the law and the Temple was the center of their lives 
  • He’s told them so far: 
      • The law can’t justify you:
          • Rom 3:20-21:  because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets
          • Rom 3:28: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
      • The promise doesn’t come through the law:
          • Rom 4:13-14:  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
      • The Law came in so that the transgression would increase:
          • Romans 5:20: but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
      • Because of grace they were no longer under the law:
          • Rom 6:14:  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 
      • They are now dead to the law: 
          • Rom 7:4:  Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
      • The law arouses sin and links up with sin to bring death
          • Rom 7:5:  for while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5 NASB
      • and finally, the law hinders life in the Spirit 
          • Rom 7:6:  But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
  • Which brings us to verses 7-13 in chapter 7

Romans 7:7-13 (KJV)  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. (9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (10) And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. (11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. (12) Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (13) Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

II.  The law was not sin

  • to these Jews, it sounds like Paul is against the law
  • The law was 613 commandments.  
      • 248 things for them to obey and 365 things for them to avoid
      • so these Jews spent all their time trying to keep 248 commandments and avoid the 365.
          • that would be a full-time job!
      • to them, the law was the most precious gift God had given them
      • safeguarding their relationship with Him and set them apart — making them not “sinners” like the Gentiles
  • Then along comes Paul and connects the law with sin and that they had died to the law
      • he told them in chapter 6 that they died to sin
      • and now in chapter 7, they died to the law
      • their logical question would have been “is the law sin?”
  • He answers this in v. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
      • the law is not sin — the law reveals sin. 
      • it’s the same thing that he said back in chapter 3 and verse 20: I would not have come to know sin except through the law.

II.  Moral Compass

  • I don’t think any believer today believes we have to follow the law by following 613 commandments as the Old Covenant and 1st century Jews did.
      • I do think though that a vast majority of believers believe that the “moral” part of the law is still our standard… our guide for right living.
      • our concept of victorious Christian living is to avoid wrong actions and do right ones.
          • doesn’t sound much different from the Jews of the Old Covenant and the Jews of the 1st century — trying to keep 248 commandments and avoid the other 365.
          • it didn’t work for them, AND it doesn’t work for us
  • Again, I can’t stress enough… the law was ONLY for the Jews and only until Christ came 
      • Gal 3:24: Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith
  • However, a big majority of Christians don’t realize that and think part of the law, the moral part, including the ten commandments, is still for us under the New Covenant of grace.
      • but Paul said the ten commandments were a ministry of death!
          • 2 Cor 3:7:  Now if the ministry of death, having been engraved in letters on stones…..
          • in this verse, he is specifically contrasting the ten commandments (tablets of stone) and grace….. “the letter kills,” “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation” versus “the Spirit gives life,” “the ministry of the Spirit … more glorious” and “the ministry of righteousness exceeds more in glory.”
      • and there are actually two sets of ten commandments — one which includes not boiling a baby goat in its mother’s milk!  
      • the Ten Commandments were not individual “moral” laws. 
          • the ten precepts found there are also found in the rest of the Law of Moses, where they are explained and expounded in greater detail. 
  • The problem is we don’t read the Old Testament and the Gospels through the lens of the finished work of Christ, and we get all messed up
      • Matt 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
          • we read this and what we hear is Jesus didn’t abolish the law, but instead He fulfilled “part” of it… the ceremonial. 
  • A large number of Christians divide the law into three categories — ceremonial, civil and moral
      • believing that Christ fulfilled the ceremonial laws through His sacrifice  
      • and that His coming meant that there is no civil law because we are the church and are not the nation of Israel 
      • and also believing His moral law continues to be apply to Christians FULLY — no change in its continuity
  • This idea of the law being divided into three categories started with Thomas Aquinas back in the 13th century and has stuck with us ever since.  
  • There is nothing in Scripture to support the idea that the law should be divided into three parts 
      • Paul told the Jews the died to the law
          • he didn’t say they died to PART of the law — they died to THE Law — ALL of it
      • James 2 – you break one law you’ve broken it all – it’s a package
      • Gal 2:5 is the same thing – if you want to be circumcised, you are obliged to follow the whole law
  • Jews had ONE law, not three — to them, the law was the 613 commandments.
  • And to break ANY one of them was extremely serious
      • Deuteronomy 27:26:  cursed is everyone who does not abide by ALL things written in the book of the law to perform them
  • Disobedience resulting in a curse was deeply ingrained in Jewish mindset…. obey the whole law or come under a curse
      • it wasn’t a buffet that they could pick and choose from
      • and they couldn’t merely know it or desire it — they had to DO it
      • Do ALL of it…. ALL the time
      • Keep the law perfectly, 100% of the time or they were cursed. 
      • Paul told the Galatians this in chapter 3 — If you are under the works of the law, the only way you can stand approved and blessed before God by the law is to do it and to do it ALL.  If you don’t, you are cursed.
  • What are the moral laws?
      • what commandments do we “assume” would fall under that category? 
          • some things we think are “moral laws” actually fall under Israel’s civil law — such as bestiality, incest, adultery, homosexual acts, fornication, rebellion against parents. 
  • Jews believed ALL of the Law – ceremonial, civil and moral  – were moral
      • because disobedience to any part of the law was considered immoral
  • the good news is…. Jesus fulfilled it ALL!  The WHOLE law!

III.  The Law – Only for the Jews and only for 1500 years!

  • It wasn’t God’s desired plan for the Israelites to live under the law either
      • they were always meant to live under a covenant of grace based on faith.
  • In Exodus 19:5-6 God spoke through Moses to the people and said “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’”  (6) The people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.”
  • Our translations say if you obey me and keep my covenant
      • in the Hebrew, it says if you shema, meaning if you hear from the heart and respond to my voice
          • the first time it’s mentioned is in Gen 3:8 where Adam and Eve “heard” the Spirit of the Lord in the garden
      • keep is shamar – which means to protect, to watch closely, to hedge about as if by thorns;
          • the first time it’s mentioned is Gen 2:15 where Adam is instructed to “keep” the garden 
      • it doesn’t speak of obedience and following rules but of His original design for His relationship with man…. one based on mutual fellowship
  • Notice God said, “keep My covenant.” What covenant?
      • In Exodus 2:24 it says God heard their groaning and He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
          • remembered is zakar in Hebrew meaning remember but also involves action
  • Another definition is to celebrate — I love that!
      • God must’ve been so excited that the 430 years He had told Abraham about was over and He was now ready to celebrate by redeeming the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt!
  • This covenant rested entirely on what God would do — it was God plus nothing.
      • He made the covenant with Himself — Abraham was merely the beneficiary of that covenant.   
      • It was purely a grace covenant — not a mixture of law and grace.
      • God’s blessings to Abraham’s family was based on His promises alone, not their obedience.
  • This Abrahamic covenant was the covenant He remembered when He delivered the children of Israel
      • this was the covenant He desired them to walk in with Him — a covenant of grace where they trusted Him
  • Wasn’t that what He had been teaching them through their wilderness journey?
      • when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they were continually murmuring and complaining YET God treated them with grace instead of as they deserved.
  • But at Mt Sinai, everything changed
      • the people now wanted to participate by doing instead of just “being.”
          • they said to God “whatever You say we will do.” 
      • It sounds like a good response, a right response to a Holy God.
          • but in reality, it was a response rooted in self-effort, not in faith.
          • they chose a covenant of laboring over a covenant of rest.
          • they didn’t want an intimate face to face relationship with God — they wanted a mediator to speak for them and God.
          • they fell from grace!
  • So God gave the ten commandments along with the rest of the law to the children of Israel in Exodus chapters 20-23.  
      • and the covenant, the promise, that was given to Abraham was postponed. 
      • the children of Israel now entered a new covenant called the covenant of Moses.
          • a covenant that rested entirely on man’s ability to keep and obey ALL 613 commandments ALL the time!
  • When Moses came down the mountain with the ten commandments written on stone, 3000 people died that day!
      • they died because the Law demanded death for sin — Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death. 
      • this was 50 days after they had celebrated their first Passover and come out of slavery in Egypt
  • When God gave the outpouring of Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Grace, it was also during Shavuot (Pentecost) 50 days after the final Passover where the Lamb was slain.
      • and 3000 people believed!
  • Jesus went to the Cross and ended 1500 years of slavery to the Law FOR THE JEWS!
      • declaring IT IS FINISHED!

IV.  Conclusion

  • In Romans 6 the Jews were asking “how will we stay sinless without the law?”
  • Paul told them the KEY is in understanding their identity
        • they had been baptized in Christ – this was their new identity
        • they no longer identified with Moses but NOW Christ
  • For these Jews, Paul is talking to (the transitional generation) — 
      • your association/identity is no longer connected to Moses and the Law
      • you are no longer in Adam — at the cross, you died to the Adamic sin nature and to the authority/dominion of death
      • Jesus’ finished work was 100% complete and successful  
      • you died with Him and were co-buried with Him, and now your new nature is Christ!  100% Christ!  
  • The same is true for us
    • an understanding of our identity is key 
      • for ALL (born after the cross) the good news is — 
          • You’ve always been IN CHRIST
          • you never had an Adamic sin nature
          • you have never been under the dominion of death!
  • No one has an association with the law any longer — Jew or Gentile
    • Eph 2:14-15 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (15) by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace
        • the dividing wall has been torn down 
        • no longer any outsiders to the Covenant — no more us and them!  
        • but now one new man IN CHRIST
            • included in that declaration of created in Himself ONE NEW MAN were these Gentiles – pagans; heathens; unbelievers; idol worshippers
        • that’s why Paul could proclaim that in Acts 17 – we are ALL His offspring!
        • ONE NEW MAN at the Cross
        • not two men – one good and one bad; one old and one new; BUT ONE NEW MAN!  ALL MADE NEW
    • And Colossians tells us the law was nailed to the cross with Him
      • no longer applicable for any Jews born after the cross
    • Col 2:13-14: When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (14) having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 
        • this is to a transitional generation – those born before the cross and alive after the cross
        • He wiped out the handwritten requirements that were against us — THEM  
            • the handwritten requirements have NEVER been against us 
            • but if you don’t know that you will be susceptible to people saying you need law in your life – handwritten requirements that are required of you
            • IT WAS NEVER REQUIRED OF YOU!  JUST THEM!
        • and then he says which was contrary of us — THEM
            • the law has NEVER been contrary to you and me — only THEM!
  • Romans 4:15 says where there is no law there is no transgression
      • what did we just find out in Colossians 2:13-14?
          • there is no law in the New Covenant — it was nailed to the Cross
      • so where there is no law THERE IS NO TRANSGRESSION 
          • if there is no law there is nothing to violate or transgress — you’re above accusation
          • what does it mean to be above accusation?
              • it means to be without sin!
              • for me to be above accusation in God’s sight, I have to be without sin
                  • Rom 5:13 says sin is not imputed where there is no law
  • What is our association to the law?  IT IS FINISHED!
  • The law was a taskmaster… always requiring more! 
      • there’s nothing more we need to do except grow in our revelation of IT IS FINISHED! 
  • Rom 6:5 says we were united in His death and united in His resurrection
      • we’re already in union with Him — based on His achievement
      • we are not the future bride of Christ who is spot cleaning our wedding dress
      • we are bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh — ONE with Him
      • we are absolutely 100% spotless, glorious — right now!!
  • So, if the Law isn’t our moral compass, what is?
      • Grace is our moral compass!
      • Titus 2:11-12 says For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age.  
  • There is no such thing as grace-based Law.  It’s one or the other.  It’s law or grace.
      • Romans 11:6:  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works (law); if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
  • Gal 2:20 — Paul said he lives this new life by the faith OF the son of God… not by using the  law as his moral compass

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