Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 18, 2018
Thanks to Molly, I have been blessed by being a part of a Charles Spurgeon Facebook page, which means all day long I see quotes from the Prince of Preachers. This week I saw one that said, “The Bible in memory is better than the Bible in the bookcase.” And this is why we memorize Scripture. So with that said, let us begin with our February memory verse, Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Before we read our text for this morning, I want to draw your attention to the title of this message, “Delight in the Law.” Now some of you may think nothing of the title, and others of you may think that I am schizophrenic. And this would be because last week, the title of my sermon was “Dead to the Law.” So which is it? Are we dead to the law or do we delight in the law? Yes.
And hopefully, by the end of today, God willing, that answer will make sense. So with that said, let us stand in honor of the reading of God’s Holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
Last week we unpacked the question, how do Christians relate to the law? To that question Paul answered in verse 4 by saying, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” So what does Paul mean when he says that Christians have died to the law through the Body of Christ?
First, we are dead to law in that we know that the law cannot save us. We know that only Jesus saves. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. We understand that the purpose of the law is to show us our sin, it does not have the power to stop sin. Therefore, we are dead to the lie that law keeping can bring salvation, or maintain salvation.
Second, we are dead to the law in that the law no longer arouses us to sin more. We were told that before we were followers of Christ, our totally depraved nature reacted rebelliously to the law. That prior to being born again, our sinful passions were awakened by the law with a longing to break the law; that the law actually made us sin more. However, when we place our faith in Jesus, this ends. No longer does the law cause us to sin more. As a new creation, we start sinning less. Therefore, we are dead to the downward spiral of sin that results from the existence of the law.
Third, we are dead to the penalty of the law, which is death. Our memory verse for February is Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is what the law of God requires, our eternal death. However, in Christ this legal penalty no longer applies to us, for it has been applied to Christ on the cross. Jesus died; therefore, anyone in Jesus no longer has to eternally die. Death has no power over us. Therefore, we are dead to the penalty that the law requires.
So in those three ways, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are dead to the law. Having said that, this does not mean that the law is irrelevant to us. Some people, after reading that section of the Bible think that the moral law of God no longer plays a role in their Christian walk, and that is just not true as we will see today.
As we enter into verse 13-25, I want you to be aware of the two views regarding this text. The first view is that verse 13-25 are discussing an unbeliever’s battle with sin. The other view is that verses 13-25 are discussing the believer’s battle with sin. Let me tell you up front that I take the second position that these verses are discussing a believer’s battle with sin.
Just to give you some understanding of the difference of opinions regarding this text, most of the early church fathers, those who lived immediately after the apostles, believed that Romans 7 was about an unbeliever. However, there was as a shift around the time of Augustine (400 A.D.). Augustine changed his understanding of Romans 7 during his back and forth with a person named Pelagius. Augustine's new view being that Romans 7 described Paul’s post conversion battle with Sin. This view became the dominate view by the early reformers: Luther, Calvin, etc. This view is also held by others such as John Owen, Charles Hodge, JI Packer, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and John Piper, to name a few.
The other view, that this text is a description of an unbeliever, was held by John Wesley, Herman Ridderbos, Anthony Hoekema, Thomas Schriener, Paul Washer, and Douglas Moo, whose commentary I am currently reading.
I list those names so that you can feel the tension that exists and cut people some slack. I have great respect for most, not all, of those people I just listed, so we need to be somewhat careful in throwing them under the bus, for this text is not abundantly clear. But as I said, my view on this passage is that this is Paul’s description of himself after he was born again, and that will be my approach to teaching this text.
The Law is Good
Let us begin by all agreeing with what Paul says in Romans 7, that the law is good. Verse 12 says, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” What is not good is our sin. The law itself is a good thing.
Why is the law good? Look at verse 14. It says that the law is spiritual. What does that mean? It simply means that the law of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter speaks of this in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore the law was given to men by men who were carried along by the Spirit of God.
Therefore, the law is good because the law is from God. The law is the revelation from God of His will, His standard of living. And as we saw last week, the law is what reveals to us our sin. The spiritual law of God shows us our sin nature and our need to place our faith in Jesus. The spirit inspired law directs our path to Jesus Christ.
Prior to repenting and believing in Jesus, we rejected God’s law. As we saw in Romans 1 we were ungodly, unrighteous, we suppressed the truth about God, we did not honor God, we did not give thanks to God, we were fools and exchanged His glory for our own glory. As it says in Romans 3 we were unrighteous, we didn’t’ seek God, we had turned from him, we were worthless, doing absolutely no good.
But all of this changes when we are born again and begin to follow Jesus. Instead of rejecting God’s will, we now desire His will. The law that at one time produced in us a desire to rebel because of our total depravity, is now delight in. Look at verse 22 and how Paul describes his relationship with the law of God, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,” The NASB translates this, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Does this sound like an unbeliever? Not at all.
So what does Paul mean when he says, “For I delight in the law of God.” My mind automatically goes to Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” We see the same thing in Psalm 112:1, “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!” Then again in Psalm 119 we see the Psalmist use the word delight ten separate times in that chapter to describe his feelings about God’s law. Psalm 119:174 says, “I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.” This is how Paul sees the law, as his delight.
And this delight in God’s law is not superficial. It is not Pharisaical. It is a joy that he has in his inner being. What does inner being mean? This is a reference to the renewed man, the regenerate man, the man that is not of Adam but that is of Christ. Paul, here, is speaking of a the new heart, the new life that now exists within a born again believer.
Paul speaks again of this inner man in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when he says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Then again in Ephesians 3:16 Paul writes, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” This inner man is the new creation that you become upon repentance and faith in Christ.
In my daily Bible reading plan, I was in Matthew 23 which is the chapter where Jesus rips into the Scribes and Pharisees and says to them in verses 25-27, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
The scribes and Pharisees did not have a inner being that delighted in the law of God, instead they were dead inside, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. There relationship with the law was completely superficial. This is not what we are seeing in Romans 7. We see a man who loves the law of God, and desires to live consistent with God’s will.
And this is a mark of a true Christian. A true Christians delights in God's Word. A true Christians loves his Father, and longs to hear His voice in the living and active Word of Scripture. Remember, all Scripture is God breathed. If you do not have this desire to read your Bible, than I would be very concerned about your salvation, for one who has the abiding seed of God's Word implanted in his heart, does not despise God's Word, but delights in it.
The War of the Flesh
But in our text, we have a problem. Look at verse 14 again, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” Who is Paul talking about? Himself. Paul sees himself “of the flesh.” What does that mean? To begin we must understand that Paul does not say “in the flesh” he says “of the flesh.” What is the flesh? The word in Greek is sarkikos (sär-kē-ko's), which is, at times, translated “carnal”. To be of the flesh means to approach things in a creaturely way, like a human, versus a spiritual way. Paul uses the exact same word when addressing the Christians at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:1 when he says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” The people of Corinth were living “of the flesh” and not of the Spirit. And this is what Paul is alluding to in Romans 7.
Christians, even though we are born again, even though we are justified, even though we are in Jesus, even though we are dead to sin, we are still of the flesh. We still think worldly, we still thing creaturely, we still sin. And I would guess that you all would agree to this, for your life is a testament to this fact that Christians still sin. There is no such thing as a perfect Christian. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
After becoming a Christian we find ourselves in a position that is called “Already, but not yet.” We have been cleansed by the blood of the lamb, yet still sin remains in us. That we are justified, but not yet perfectly sanctified.
Even the great Apostle Paul struggled with the sin that dwells in him. You can see this in our text today. It is like a wrestling match between the sin that continues to dwell in him and his inner man. In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Really? Paul, the foremost sinner? In Philippians 3:12 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul, despite being justified through the blood of Jesus was not perfect. He still stumbled, he still sinned. He presses on for perfection, but it remains out of his grasp until he sees Jesus face to face.
And as I said, we see this very clearly in our text for today. Look at verse 15. Paul says of himself, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul hates the sin that he sees in his life. He despises it. His greatest desire, in his heart, is to do the will of God, but what does he see when he looks at his actions? He sees himself as a wretched sinner. Paul is dead to sin, for it is not his master, yet he still sees sin in his life, and it repulses him.
This is a mark of a mature Christian. One who recognizes the holiness of God, and how far we fall short of that standard. It is a standard we see from the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6, when he stands in the presence of of a Holy God and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” The closer you are to God to more you see your fallenness.
As I ponder Isaiah 6 and Romans 7, I wonder where are the Isaiah's and where are the Paul's of today. Where are those Christians who hate their sin? Where are those who see themselves in the light of God's Word, and cry out “wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death.” Unfortunately, the Church is full, not of wretched men like Paul, but self-righteous men like the Pharisees.
It reminds me of a parable that Jesus shared in Luke 18:10, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Oh what God would do in our lives and in this Church if we delighted in God's Word in our inner being and hated the sins in our lives. For where would our focus be if we did? Look at verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Delighting in the law and hating our sin, drives leads us to Calvary. We fall at the cross of our savior and cling to his nailed pierced feet. This is a mark of a true Christian; one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
But how do we become that man? Simple, by delighting in the law in our inner man. By spending day after day reading God's spiritual law, shining the light of God's Word upon our lives to expose the sin that still clings to us. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more we will hate the sin that dwells in us.
And as it says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”