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A LESSON FROM ROMANS.

BEARING FRUIT BY DYING.

"Therefore, my brethren, you were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for Christ." (Romans 7:4).

A Premise of the Roman Letter:

The righteousness of God is revealed through the death, burial, and resurrection of CHRIST, and sanctifies me (the Christian) for CHRIST'S use despite the sin principle that dwells in me. God has provided deliverance from my body of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and makes it possible for me to walk in the Spirit and bear fruit for God. Romans 5:12 - 8:39.

DISCUSSION:

Even after we realize our past sins are forgiven, even after we know and reckon ourselves dead to sin, and present our newly created man to God, we still go on sinning. Even though we know the principles of chapter 6 concerning how to deal with the old man of sin we inherited from Adam, there is still more we must know about ourselves and our predicament before we can expect any progress toward becoming a useful vessel for Christ. That is, we must know that the old flesh is still subject to law.

When Adam sinned, he was cast out of the Garden of Eden into a world where he was subject to law. As long as he lived in the flesh he was under a law of God. The law was good, for it was given by God. But he could not keep the law. He broke it. And all of us ever since have been born into the same world under a law of God. The Jews with the Law of Moses were a special example of this. However, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, are subject to a law of God. We can't keep the law perfectly. But, it is God's law to which we are subject in the flesh. And, like the Law of Moses, it is a good law given for a good purpose. We are seeing as we study Romans that the law does serve good purposes, and without law we might never be brought to salvation. But the result of law alone is death. It was destined by God to bring us to that end. When we break law (and we do break it), it results in our spiritual death. That is sin. And the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23).

Why is this important now that we have been forgiven of our past sins and have been born again as new creatures in Christ? It is important because we lead our new lives in faith, and we still have this old dead fleshly man hanging onto us hindering us from being useful to Christ. We want to be useful to Christ in spite of the old dead fleshly man still hanging on to us. But, even though we know what Christ wants to do with us, we inevitably find ourselves doing things to the contrary.

The first step in remedying this is to understand why we do it. If we understand why, then we can get to the root cause of it, and we can discover God's steps of obedience to circumvent it. Paul said in chapter 7 that the cause is that the flesh wants to be subject to law, and keeps on trying to gain merit by performing works of law. When our flesh does this, which is most natural for it to do being descended from Adam, we can't be useful vessels for Christ. Again, Paul showed that God's gospel was the answer in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Let's see what the Holy Spirit through Paul had to say about this subject.

" Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by the law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man." (Romans 7:1-3).

Again Paul used the device of asking "Do you not know?". He followed the question with the parenthetical statement that he was certain that they did know. Paul's meaning seems to have been that they might not understand the full implication of the subject. The subject was the law's jurisdiction over a person. "Do you not know that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?". Why did Paul cite this illustration concerning the law governing marriage? Apparently it was something the readers understood and he wanted to use it to illustrate something of God's truth in comparison to the example. When Paul said, "I am speaking to those who know the law", he was probably speaking of the Jewish Christians who knew the Law of Moses. But the same illustration served with the Gentile Christians. The law of marriage was almost universally the same throughout the world, even for Gentiles. So Paul put before us an illustration.

In Paul's illustration there were three characters, a wife, her husband, and another man. The wife was bound in marriage to her husband, but she was dissatisfied with him. And she was attracted to the other man. In dramatic literature down through the ages the plot involving three such persons has been called the "eternal triangle". It has happened in real life many times, even among Bible characters. And such a plot was often used, even to this day, in dramatic literature.

There was a strong intimation in Paul's telling of this plot that the woman wanted to be free from her marriage to her husband so she could marry the other man. The possibility of her leaving her husband and marrying the other man was mentioned. Everyone knew that the law forbade anyone from leaving a spouse while both parties to the marriage were still alive. While the husband was alive the wife could not leave him for another man without breaking the law and becoming guilty of the sin of adultery. If however, the husband died, the law of marriage did not apply anymore. The wife then would be released from the law of marriage to that husband. In the case her husband died, she would not be breaking the law to marry the other man.

This set the stage for Paul's comparison. We must read on to see why and how Paul used this illustration. In the comparison, for whom did these three characters stand? Why was there a contemplation of a wife leaving her husband to marry another? Was there some desire on the part of the wife to be free of her husband? Was there some great problem in the lives of this husband and wife that made the wife think it necessary for her to leave her husband? Was there some strong attraction between this wife and the other man? We will learn the answer to these questions in the next few verses of chapter 7 where Paul told who these characters really represented and what the problem was.

"Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. 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. 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." (Romans 7:4-6).

Who were those to whom Paul compared the wife, the husband, and the other man? Paul said, "My brethren, you..." were the "wife" in the illustration. The "law" was the "husband". And the Christ, "Him who was raised from the dead", was the "other man".

The "wife" represented Christians in the illustration. Before we became Christians, we were married to the "law". The law was causing us a problem. We could not keep its demands. Our sin of law-breaking under this "husband" resulted in our spiritual death. We wanted to get rid of this "husband" which Peter once called "a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear". (Acts 15:10). And there stood another "man", Christ the Savior, who could save us from the consequences of the "law". There came a time when we just wanted to get rid of our husband, the law, and be married to Christ.

But the law itself forbade us from leaving our husband. In the illustration, the possibility of the husband dying was mentioned because, of course, that was the only normal way in earthly terms that a wife could be free and still be alive to marry another man in fleshly life. But at this point the fleshly illustration failed. The real characters inhabited a realm which encompassed both the spiritual and the fleshly. In the fleshly realm, the husband, the law was not going to die. No. The law was not going to die. And the law did not die, even to this day. Jesus said, "Until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law" (Matthew 5:18).

"Heaven and earth" have not passed away. The law was and is still with us. Law exists to this very day for the fleshly man. It serves some of God's very essential purposes. Paul said, "Through the law comes the knowledge of sin". (Romans 3:20). And Paul also said, "The law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ". (Galatians 3:24). Also, great numbers of unrighteous people of the world are dying spiritually everyday because of their law breaking.

What a predicament! We, as human beings, were seeking to be married to Jesus Christ, but our lawful husband, the law, could not release us to be married to another. The law would not die, and it lives to this very day. How did God handle this predicament? He did handle it. He has made every provision for our salvation. We can be married to our Savior, Jesus Christ. How? The answer comes as a complete surprise. No human being could have ever figured out such a solution. God's solution was completely paradoxical to the thinking of the world.

The husband would not die. God did not want the husband to die. God still had use for the law. So God's solution was for the wife to die! "My brethren, you" were made to die to the law"!

Paul said, in effect, "You, my brethren, before you became Christians, were married to law. You Jews were married to the Law of Moses. You Gentiles were married to God's law that He wrote in your hearts and consciences. The law was from God and it was good. It was good for you to be married to the law. God had a purpose in having you married to law, and the purpose was for your good. Was something wrong with the law that made you want to leave it? No. There was nothing wrong with the law. The fault was with you! The problem was with you, not with God's law. We humans are incompatible with God's law."

Can we now see the problem between that husband and that wife? The husband, the law, was a fine man. God created him to be as he was and he did exactly what God told him to do. He wanted only good for his wife. Everything he told his wife to do would have been good for her. If she had done exactly and fully as he told her to do, she would have been sinless. The other man, Christ, would not have looked attractive to her if she had done fully what her husband told her to do. But she was incapable of doing what her husband told her to do. She had a serious problem. She respected her husband, and she recognized that what he told her to do was right. But the more she tried to do what he said, the more she actually did just the opposite. And when she, over and over again, violated the things which her husband told her to do, he could not relent. He could not give her any help or sympathy. All he could do was promise her death.

The woman was you and I in the flesh, married to the law. The law requires much, but offers no help in carrying out its requirements. The law makes demands and leaves us helpless to fulfill them. The other Man, Christ, requires just as much as the law, even more, but what He requires from us He carries out in us! Christ makes demands. But He Himself fulfills in us every demand that He makes. No wonder the woman desired to be free so she could marry the other man. In the flesh, she could have hope of salvation only through the death of her first husband. But there was not the least prospect of his passing away. "Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law".

"Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God." How marvelous! Who but God could have thought of that? How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

(Someone may ask: Was not the law "done away with" when Christ died on the cross? How can it be said that the law still lives? The answer is: when Christ died on the cross He fulfilled the law and "nailed" it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). But, apart from Christ, the law still lives. The Roman letter was written to people who were already Christians. Until people become Christians by coming "to the cross" and "dying to law" through the substitutionary death of Christ, they cannot become free from the law. Those who come "into Christ" by rendering "obedience of faith," can be free then from law.)

One of God's reasons for bringing this about was that "we might bear fruit for God". This letter to the Roman Christians was not primarily a treatise to teach the difference between the old and new covenants. It primarily was (and is) a treatise to teach those already under the new covenant to become useful "to bear fruit for God".

Paul wanted the Roman brethren to know, "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 the oldness of the letter". That was God's marvelous action to release us from the law, having us die with Christ through the crucified body of Christ, so that we might be joined to the risen Christ and become useful to Him.

But someone says: All right, so I have died to the law and I am no longer under the law. I know that intellectually. I died with Christ in His death almost 2,000 years ago. I availed myself of this great provision through my obedience of faith when, after I believed, I repented and was baptized and was thereby joined to the risen Christ. Now, why am I not doing more for Christ? Why doesn't Christ use my talents more? Why is it that when I work so hard for the Lord, I accomplish so little? I try very, very hard but it doesn't seem that the Lord wants to use me.

But Paul wanted us to know that the Lord does want to use us. That's what the Roman letter is all about. The trouble is, even though in our faith we know that the flesh died to the law, we still sojourn in the flesh and the flesh still wants to strive under law. In chapter 6 Paul reminded us that we still sojourn in the "body of sin". He gave us practical commands on how to proceed on a path of progress toward becoming useful to Christ even though we are still sojourning in the body of sin. Then, in chapter 7 Paul wanted us to know that the flesh in which we must sojourn for a while longer is still subject to the law. So Paul's purpose was to give us some real practical help so we can become useful to Christ in spite of our problem.

Paul taught that we must come to know and understand that the old man of flesh still strives to serve the law of sin. But in faith we must also come to know that the flesh died (is "as good as dead") and now our new man can serve in newness of life. The help we need Paul gave in the form of commands which we need to obey. Paul started enumerating them in chapter 6. They were: "Know" that you died and were created anew (Romans 6:6). "Reckon" that you died and were created anew (Romans 6:11). "Present" your members to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).

These three steps of obedience on the path of progress to usefulness are not the only steps. There is still another step. After "presenting" the members of our body to God, we found that our flesh still hinders us by striving to work in answer to the demands of the law. Christ cannot use us if we insist on working to the demands of the law. We must cease to strive in the will power of our old fleshly man and yield ourselves to Christ's will. Paul gave us the answer to this problem in chapter 8 where he indicated that the fourth step in the path of progress is to "walk" in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

(Taken from the book "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on the Roman Letter, by F. M. Perry.)

© 2002, F. M. Perry

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