Thursday, 15 July 2010

Who is "I"?

Ben Davies won't now be with us this Sunday, so I will be continuing our series entitled 'Sin, Law & Life'. We shall be starting Romans 8, so to remind us where Romans 7 got us to, I have outlined my last sermon below.

Read Romans 7v7-13
Paul vindicates the Law - Paul has painted such a bleak picture of the Law that he anticipates that he readers will question the integrity and usefulness of the Law. Paul now demonstrates the usefulness and purity of the Law:
#1 The Law defines sin v7 - We didn’t know what Sin was until the Law was added to show it. The Law provided an objective standard in which to evaluate our own actions (Rom 3v20).
#2 The Law provokes sin v8 - Man in his rebellion is provoked by the Law, the Law became an avenue in which sin entered.
#3 The Law is good v12 – The Law reveals our sinfulness; it reveals God’s very best for us; and it leads us to Christ (Gal 3v24).

Read Romans 7v14-25
Handing difficult texts - Romans 7v14-25 and V19 in particular is amongst the most controversial in the book of Romans. The key question people wrestle with is “Who is Paul referring to when to? A Christian (a regenerate person) or an unbeliever (an unregenerate person)?” Wise, godly, pastor/theologians disagree over who they think Paul is describing. Whatever your view is of whose experience Paul is describing, it must stand alongside other bible passages describing the Christian’s life. To help us draw our own conclusions, I outlined some of the most important arguments for each position.

Some argue that these verses speak of an unregenerate person because:
1. The use of the term sinful nature v14, 18 & 25 suggest Paul is talking about being unregenerate – before God awakened us.
2. Throughout the passage this person struggles on their own, without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
3. This person is ‘sold as a slave to sin’ a state from which every believer is released. (6v2)
4. This person is defeated by sin but Paul’s theology is always more positive than that when writing about Christians.
5. This person struggles with the need to obey the Law, yet Paul has already proclaimed release of the believer from the requirements of the Law.
6. For those who find these arguments decisive, this passage describe the struggle of a person who is outside of Christ and trying ‘to do good’ (which is doomed to failure because it is fought without the power of God, who alone is able to break the power of Sin).

Others, however, say these verses speak of a regenerate person because:
1. Paul refers to himself and the shift from the past tense to the present tense explain his present experience as a Christian
2. Only the regenerate truly ‘delight in God’s law’ and seek to obey it. – the unregenerate do not seek after God (3v11).
3. The person must be a Christian because only they possess an ‘inner being’ (Eph 3v16).
4. The passage concludes after Paul’s mention of the deliverance by God in Christ – this shows the inner struggle of a person already saved by God in Christ.
5. For those who find these arguments decisive, they describe an important aspect of normal Christian experience: The continuing battle with sin that will never be fully won as long as the believer is in this age.

For what it is worth, I think Paul is talking about his struggle as a Christian. As I understand it, Romans 6 makes clear that we will win the war against sin (v6:14). Chapter 7 makes clear that we will know some tactical defeats in this battle that will make us love our Saviour Jesus all the more. It's the earnestness of the war and the response to our defeats that show our Christianity, not our perfection.

How Does This Affect My Life?
Remember the promise of Justification - We are justified by faith apart from works of the law (Rom 3:28) and trust in him who justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5). Jesus is our righteousness (Rom 10:4).

Remember the promise of Sanctification – We are sanctified by faith (Acts 26v18). A life of fruitfulness for the glory of God does not come first and decisively through law-keeping, but through personal union and satisfying fellowship with Christ by faith.

Remember there is a difference - John Piper said "There is a world of difference between a soldier who experiences tactical defeats, but keeps fighting on his way to victory and a soldier who surrenders to the enemy because war is just too painful and the enemy territory just too attractive. There is a difference between the divided man of Romans 7 and a sellout. Don't sell out. Trust Christ and fight sin".

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