For Jacob German, Saturday, May 20, 1899, began like any other. He donned his uniform, unplugged his electric taxicab and started collecting fares for the Electric Vehicle Company in New York City. For unrecorded reasons, Mr. German was hurtling down Lexington Avenue in Manhattan at 12mph, four miles per hour above the speed limit. He was pulled over by a policeman on a bicycle and arrested. He didn’t receive a speeding ticket, as they hadn’t yet been invented (that first goes to Harry Myers in Dayton, Ohio, in 1904), but he became the first person in the United States to be cited for speeding (albeit under an outdated law written for non-motorized vehicles).
Speed limits in the United States have been on the books since 1652, with the colony of New Amsterdam’s selectmen issuing a declaration that “no wagons, carts or sleighs shall be run, rode or driven at a gallop.” The fine was approximately $150 in today’s money. One hundred years later, the city council of Boston set a Sunday speed limit for carriages, horses and wagons at a walking pace.
New York City was the first to adopt a comprehensive traffic code in 1903, and in 1909, for example, Washington enforced a 12mph speed limit on straight roads and 4mph on curves. However, as late as 1930, a dozen states had no speed limits at all, while 28 states did not even require a driver's license to operate a motor vehicle. As cars have increased in ability through the years, so have speed limits and other traffic related laws. However, speed limits and rules governing the use of public roads had always been up to the individual states. For example, some California highways were at 70mph; turnpike speed limits in Kansas had been as high as 80mph, while Montana and Nevada had no posted speed limits and instead relied on the concept of “basic rule” -- that drivers are required to drive at a safe speed for conditions.
A pivotal milestone in the history of speed limits in the United States happened on January 2, 1974, when President Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, a government reaction to the 1973 Oil Crisis. Included in the legislature was the National Maximum Speed Law, setting the maximum speed limit at 55mph throughout the country, trumping all state laws regarding speed limits.
The National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL) affected 29 states that had to lower their limits, while nine states actually had to raise their speed limits from 50mph. The remaining 12 states already had 55-mph speed limits. The anticipated result was that gas consumption would fall by 2.2 percent from the previous year, and states must comply in order to receive Federal funds for highway repair. Interestingly, Montana complied with the change, but did so by charging only $5 for exceeding the new speed limit.
In an effort to enforce the 55-mph law, on September 1, 1979, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that speedometers emphasize the number 55 (by either a highlighted color, placing it at the top of the gauge, or both). Two years later, the NHTSA concluded that an emphasized “55” is “unlikely to yield significant safety benefits” and “…adds little to the information provided to the driver by a roadside speed limit sign.” However, for model years to come, the appearance of speedometers would echo this change with the “55” at the top of the gauge.Pressure from the states, public and lobbyists would begin to erode the NMSL during the early half of the 1980s. As part of a 1987 highway funding bill, Congress permitted the states to raise their speed limits from 55 to 65 mph on certain interstates. This was due to falling gasoline prices and a reduced need to save energy, as well as a widespread noncompliance with the Federal speed limit.
It was not until December 8, 1995, that the NMSL was repealed entirely by Congress in the National Highway Designation Act. One of the most compelling arguments made by members of Congress in favor of repealing the federal speed limit law was that it violated states’ rights to set their own limits as they wished. Despite loud opposition from safety, medical, and insurance groups, the Senate repealed the Federal speed limit law by a vote of 80 to 16. Congress did not mandate that speed limits must be raised; it merely allowed states to raise the speed limits as they saw fit.And most states saw fit immediately. All but Hawaii returned the speed limits to pre-1974 limits (Hawaii raised the speed limits on some stretches of freeway to 60mph in 2002). Montana was the only state to revert to no posted daytime speed limit beyond the “reasonable and prudent.” However, after the Montana Supreme Court decided that the “reasonable and prudent” was too vague, Montana's legislature imposed a 75-mph limit on rural freeways in 1999.
In 1983, on his way to Lake Placid in a rental car at two in the morning, Sammy Hagar (of Van Halen fame) was pulled over for speeding. In a 1994 interview, Hagar remembers: “Cop stopped me for doing 62 on a four-lane road when there was no one else in sight. Then the guy gave me a ticket. I was doing 62. And he said, 'We give tickets around here for over 60.' And I said, 'I can't drive 55!' I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics.”According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 100,000 people per day are cited for speeding in the United States, with an average cost of $150 per ticket, generating around $15 million per day or around $5.5 billion per year in revenue.
So, let me ask you – did the law create speeders? Technically – yes. By defining what speeding is, the law created speeders. But the other side of the equation is this – in our sinful world, would people drive responsibly without the law? Without a posted speed limit would people just naturally drive in a way that respects others, is practical for the circumstances and the unknowns and doesn’t endanger anyone in the process? Probably not. So, does the law create sin or simply define it? Or by defining it, does it create sin (i.e. rebellion to a written rule)? So, the law defined sin while instigating sin all at the same time (though the law is perfect). Sin, by definition is lawlessness and Scriptures say we are sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5), which is why “I can’t drive 55”. So, what is the solution to this madness? Let’s read Romans 7:1-6.
Many years ago a very tragic boating accident resulted in the loss of two lives. A family enjoying a day at the lake made a sudden turn in their boat and the daughter fell overboard. Quickly turning the boat around, the father jumped into the water to save his daughter. The father could swim, but for some unexplained reason he immediately drowned, leaving the little girl thrashing about in the water. No one on board knew how to operate the boat, and it continued to drift away as the girl struggled.
Nearby a man was fishing in a small rowboat. Seeing the accident he began to row to the scene to help in any way he could. Paralyzed from the waist down, the man’s ability to help was limited. Approaching the struggling girl, he held out an oar for her to grasp, but he could do no more because of his condition. Unable to hold on to the oar, the girl slipped beneath the surface of the water while the man watched helplessly.
Humankind is just like the drowning girl. We are overcome by sin and unable to save ourselves.
The Old Testament Law, and any other system of rules, is very much like the paralyzed man attempting to rescue the girl. His intention is sincere and commendable, but he lacks the power to save her. Likewise, the Law cannot save the sinner. Neither can the Law release the Christian from his or her bondage to sin. As a matter of fact, it is the Law, which somehow sustains our bondage to sin. The solution to the problem of sin, therefore, is to be released from the Law and thus, from sin – unto something greater than can save us. Paul describes this release in Romans 7:1-6. He does so by explaining two great truths: (1) We have been released from the Law, and (2) we have been joined to Christ. (Read Hebrews 8).
Let me take you back for a moment to Matthew 5-7 – any ideas what this section of the Scripture is? The greatest sermon ever – the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus explains what God’s will is – basically taking the letter of the law and upping it to equate the transformation of the heart and mind. The letter of the law says don’t commit adultery – but Jesus says, don’t even think about committing adultery because that is where the source of the problem is.
God doesn’t want his people to look at the speed limit with resentment. He doesn’t want us going all Sammy Hagar screaming “I can’t drive 55” – rather He wants your heart to understand why we shouldn’t speed in the first place – understanding the greater reason for the law in the first place. So rather than saying “I can’t drive 55” we start saying “I don’t want to drive too fast lest I hurt someone else.” That is a transformation of the heart and mind – something the letter of the law can’t do. But that means we are still under restriction of the flesh because of our transformed mind – not because of the law. So, if the law didn’t exist we would still act like the King. Do’s and don’ts do not produce change agents in the culture. To become a change agent, we must think and act like the King because we have a greater sense of purpose and understanding that the law could not produce.
Rather than a speed limit let me put it another way. My children have curfews – why – because as parents, we know there are dangers (physical and spiritual) and they need boundaries for healthy discipline to protect them – even from themselves. Their curfew is 10:00 p.m. Now that means we have some who come in at 9:40 p.m. (giving themselves plenty of time). Then we have others who will come in at 9:59:59…and a half. They wait until half a second before curfew. What do Brandi and I, as parents, really want from this outcome? Do we really want children who just obey the curfew? Or do we really want more? We want more. We want children who understand why there is a curfew in the first place, respect the boundaries, the dangers, staying out of trouble and staying pure before God because they want to…not because I told them to. Then I can free them from the boundary knowing they will give themselves boundaries because they are mature in the faith.
In the same way, God mandated sacrifice to create the standard of holiness – the law. But He didn’t want the sacrifices. He wants hearts that are sold out to Him. He says this in Isaiah 1:11, Hosea 6:6, Psalm 51:16, Psalm 40:6 and 1 Sam. 15:22. He wants hearts that love His ways and therefore subject themselves under restriction because they love Him.
God waited 430 years between Abraham and Moses, 800 years from the Flood, and 2,400 years from Adam (there were 1,600 years between Adam and the Flood alone). He waited all this time before He had to have Moses write the law because men would not naturally turn from wickedness to follow God. They abused freedom to fulfill the lusts of their flesh.
So, what had to be done for men to want to follow the ways of God? Well – He would have to put His law in their hearts and their minds. We are already told to be transformed by the washing and renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Do we do this in our own strength? – Nope. We won’t do it and we can’t do it. After almost 4,000 between Adam and Jesus, that is a proven fact. Men will always go back to their evil ways. In order for us to love righteousness, we have to have the law in our hearts. The law is of God:
– “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
So how does God put Himself in us? After all, he said that this would happen – that He would write His law in our hearts and minds – that rather than a written instruction, it would become our way of thinking – thinking like the King.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says, "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." Hebrews 10:16
This is also stated in Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 8:10 and Isaiah 59:21
That is right – the Holy Spirit is God and God is in us – therefore, His law is in us.
“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts (loved by us), to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
So we are freed from the written law because we now have something greater – not something that gives us a license to do lawless deeds but to completely transform our way of thinking.
Verse 1 serves as a principle for all that Paul will say. He then illustrates his principle in 7:2-3, and finally concludes with an application in 7:4-6. The main point of this passage is that we can try to live by rules, or we can live by a relationship. We could put it this way: Focus on the Ruler not the rules. Paul’s first great truth is . . .
1. We Have Been Released From The Law (7:1-3)
The reason that we’re free is because we have died to the Law. In every church there are believers who are prone to abuse grace and others who are more likely to advocate legalism. In chapter 6 Paul deals with grace abusers; in chapter 7 he deals with legalists. At various times in our lives, we are guilty of both. Therefore, Paul’s words are immensely practical for us. Paul begins with a foundational principle in 7:1: “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?” The question, “Or do you not know” refers back to 6:3, which is the only other place this phrase is used in the New Testament. Here, Paul asks, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Paul assumes that his biblically astute Jewish and Gentile readers (“brethren”) understand that they are no longer under the Law because they have died with Christ. This is especially evident in the word translated “jurisdiction” (kurieuo), which is a form of the word “lord” or “master.” Paul is saying that the Law only has mastery over us while we are alive. But since we have died with Christ to the Law, we are free indeed!
Let me put it another way – the Law was written to define the standard – the standard of perfection. All 613 laws were written to define what perfection is because there would be only one who could fulfill that standard – again – it all pointed to Christ. But, by this same standard, the Judge can judge fairly at the Great White Throne of Judgment that all are under the law – expect those who have been freed from that stand in Christ Jesus. Meaning, if you are not saved, you are under the law and its perfect standard. So, if you don’t meet every jot or tittle, you are doomed to judgment. What did we just read – “for the wages of sin is death” – there is no “good enough”. But for those of us in Christ Jesus, he stands with us at the Great White Throne of Judgment and He fulfills the standard of the law for us – which is why we are truly free – though we are Doulos in the flesh. I don’t know about you, but I will gladly serve as a bondservant to the one who will stand before the Judge for me to give me life everlasting when I didn’t deserve it.
Here is what Revelation 20:11-15 says:
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
If I drive 65 in a 55, I can still get a ticket for breaking the law, but the law of God demands blood for sin, so without Jesus Christ the punishment is death eternal because the standard is perfection.
As Paul says in 6:14b: we are “not under law but under grace.” We are freed from the Law by our death in Christ. One relationship is terminated, so that another may begin. The Law of Moses, or any other law, only applies to us while we are alive. Dead people are released from the Law.
Imagine someone commits a crime and the legal authorities want him for prosecution and possible imprisonment, but then the police discover that the person has died. At that point they drop all concern about trying the criminal with any charges. The police no longer bother with him because the law only has authority over him while he is alive. Again, Paul’s principle is: The Law only has authority over a person while he is alive.
In 7:2-3 Paul now illustrates the principle that we have been released from the Law. “For the married woman is bound by 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.” Just for your information, this illustration does not really help us in the controversial issue of divorce and remarriage. The only point that Paul is making is: Marriage is for life. Any other commitment is not Christian marriage. Too many people—including some Christians—go into marriage thinking that if it does not work out, they can always get a divorce. That “back door” mentality often leads to the break-up of the marriage. The only way to stay married is for both parties to believe that “divorce is not an option.” So if you’ve been using “the D-word: (i.e., divorce), stop it! The only D-word you should be using is death, as in “til’ death do us part.”
Okay, I’m off of my soapbox. This purpose of Paul’s illustration is to help us understand our relationship to the Law, not our relationship with our spouse. Paul indicates that a wife is bound to her husband as long as he is alive. If she chooses to marry another man while her husband is alive she commits adultery (see the seventh commandment, Exod 20:14). However, if her husband dies, she is free to remarry. The wife is not guilty of breaking the seventh commandment because death has severed her legal relationship with her husband. A death puts the wife into an entirely different status. The Law that was restricting her is entirely irrelevant. She is free to enter into another relationship without being troubled by the Law, which once bound her.
Similarly, we died to the law in Christ. We are now “married” to Christ. This leaves the Christian free to pursue an entirely different kind of relationship.
The illustration of marriage has always be a symbol of the relationship of Christ with the Church. This is why marriage is so sacred between a man and woman. He calls us the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25-27, Rev. 19:7-9, Rev. 21:9, II Cor. 11:2, Jer. 31:31-34 and many others). This is why God told Hosea to take an unfaithful wife so that Hosea would understand the pain that our Lord goes through over us. He is a jealous God over His bride – His church whom He has freed from the bondage of death (Exodus 34:14). He has a righteous, holy jealousy. Men - women – you too – you know how you feel when another woman looks at your man a certain way and then gets all flirty and close…your heart starts beating faster, feeling of space violation and disrespect kicks in, you are like “she better not put her hand on his shoulder or she is gonna hear it from me!” – now put that into perspective. That is how God (in a righteous way) feels over us, His bride – which is why He is so strict with the marriage covenant because it always symbolized the union with His bride.
So, Paul is showing that we couldn’t be the bride of Christ until we were freed from the law that held us to bondage of death. We had to be set free in Him before we could be married – forever. He is the knight in shining armor ladies – He rescued us first, never laid eyes on another, waiting for you and then clothed you in royalty. Men – yah – He saved you too – cleaned you up and all. You know what I am saying…
So I must ask you: “What is keeping you bound? Why are you staying in a legalistic relationship when Christ has set you free?” Mixing law and grace will never work. God has released you to experience and enjoy spiritual freedom. This is your emancipation declaration—your spiritual Independence Day.
[The first great truth we learned was, “We have been released from the Law.” Now in 7:4-6, he provides a direct application and a second great truth . . .]
2. We Have Been Joined To Christ (7:4-6)
When we died to the Law, we were made alive to live for Christ. In 7:4 Paul writes, “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.” Paul uses the word “therefore” (hoste) to introduce the application of his theological argument and to conclude this section with a bang! He argues that we “were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ.” The passive verb translated “were made to die” (ethanatothete) shows that God made us to die to the Law. In Christ’s death we died! We died to the Law! The Law can never die, but we died! It is worth noting that we had to be “made to die to the Law” because our independent, performance-oriented way of life had to be broken. Prior to conversion, men and women attempt to earn their way to heaven through the Law and other works of righteousness. Yet, this verse makes it clear that “through the body of Christ” we have died to the Law. We must, therefore, place our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and relinquish any confidence in our flesh. This is true of our salvation and our sanctification. Remember, Paul is no longer discussing salvation, as he was in 3:21-4:25. In 5:1 he began a new section on sanctification. The context then makes it clear that we are no longer under Law as believers. To put it even more radically, the key to the Christian life is not obedience to God’s standards! In true spirituality, obedience to God’s standards is the byproduct and inevitable result of something that is centrally more important. God wants to release us from a life of rules, rituals, and regulations. Focus on the Ruler not the rules.
Paul states that we were made to die to the Law for two very specific purposes: a person and a purpose. The first purpose of our death follows the clause “so that” (eis). We have died to the Law so that we “might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead” (7:4b). To bear a better fruit we had to marry a better husband (i.e., Christ). Paul uses the word translated “joined” (ginomai) to refer back to his analogy of marriage (7:2-3). The good news of the gospel is that we are now married to another. We have been “joined” with Christ. Paul is motivating us to experience a deepening relationship with our new husband, Jesus Christ. Jesus longs to be intimate with us. Have you ever thought about that? Did you know that Jesus desperately desires a deep relationship with you? This is a mind-boggling realization. The God of the universe wants fellowship with you and me more than we could or would ever want fellowship with Him (even on our best spiritual day).
Not only have we been released from the Law to a Person but Paul also shares with us that we have been released for a specific purpose. Notice that we have died to the Law “in order that [hina] we might bear fruit for God” (7:4b). Paul expects us to “bear fruit for God.” Please notice, Paul doesn’t say “manufacture fruit” or “produce fruit”—he says “bear fruit.” He explicitly states that we are to “bear fruit for God.” This means our first aim is to please Him and glorify Him. The phrase “bear fruit” (karpophoreo) is used elsewhere by Paul in a positive sense only in Col 1:6, 10 (cf. Rom 7:5b). In this Pauline prayer to the church at Colossae, Paul challenges his readers to a life of good works. Are you flowing in good works? Are you seeking to serve? Are you striving to love those that the Lord brings to you on a daily basis? Jesus said, “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 (Matt 5:16). When people observe your life they ought to say, “What shiny and delicious fruit! I’ve got to pluck a piece of that fruit and bite into it!”
Elsewhere the word for “fruit” (karpos) includes:
1) Worship (Heb 13:15), 2) giving money (Rom 15:28), and 3) godly character (Gal 5:22-23).
As we contemplate how the Bible uses the term “fruit,” may I ask you several questions? Is your love for worshipping Jesus deepening? Do you look forward to attending church and being with God’s people, or would you rather be out of town, shopping, or watching sports? Do you offer God the fruit of your lips as you worship with His people (Heb 13:15)? What about giving? Rom 15 calls giving “fruit.” Giving is one of the greatest expressions of our worship. Jesus talked more about money than anything else. He devoted twice as many verses to money than to faith and prayer combined. He even had more to say about money than heaven and hell combined. Jesus spent a whopping 15% speaking about money. If you are a committed follower of Jesus Christ, are you growing in this area of stewardship? What about the most obvious expression of fruit bearing—the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)?
Are you looking more and more like Jesus on a daily basis? If not, why not? As we will discover in Rom 8, God has predestined you to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” How are you cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Why not choose a particular fruit from the list of nine and cultivate this character quality? God wants us to bear fruit for His glory!
It broke my heart to read this week that boxing legend, Floyd Mayweather just bought another supercar, a Bugatti Veyron, for $3.5 million dollars, bringing his car collection to $19 million dollars. Yet – he still feels empty. The very next day, Bugatti announced the new version of the Veyron coming out and it looks even better. So, I wonder how long before he has to have the new one. If you are not living in the purpose that God has for you – running from it perhaps, you will never find contentment in this world. You will never be complete until you give all you can to the cause of Christ. Haggai 1:6 warns us that we will never be satisfied if we are not living for God.
In 7:5 Paul contrasts our fruitful experience as believers with our unfruitful experience as unbelievers. He commonly reminds us that who we once were is no longer who we are. Paul writes, “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.” In our old life, the Law was the means of arousing our sinful passions, and the members of our body were used to “bear fruit for death.” Consequently, we certainly bore fruit, but it was deadly fruit that led to a harvest of death! Well-meaning Christians often divulge how they formerly lived wicked and immoral lives, and one almost gets the impression that they feel they are missing out now. We must emphasize the death dealing consequences of our sin and avoid glorying in our past life apart from Christ.
Paul concludes this text in 7:6 by summarizing 7:1-5: “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.” Thank God for 7:6! It means that 7:5 is not the end of the story. When we are utterly hopeless and helpless, God has a wonderful habit of butting in! Paul says, “But now.” Through Christ we are discharged from the Law, dead to that which held us captive. Exercising faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is not a small matter. It is a gigantic leap from sin, death, and despair to life, newness, and power. When a person believes in Jesus Christ, he or she is taken out of this realm of sin, judgment, and Law, and is given the Holy Spirit. It is an entirely new realm, a realm “in Christ” and under grace. Where sin once abounded, now grace abounds all the more (cf. 5:20). We must grasp this fact. We have died to the Law; we are in the Spirit forever.
Let us make sure that we understand why and how we have been “released from the Law.”
(1) The why: We have been “released from the Law” as a result of Christ’s sinless life. Jesus “fulfilled the law” (Matt 5:17-18). He came “under the Law” (Gal 4:4). He kept the Mosaic Law in minute detail. He obeyed the Sabbath (but not additions to it). He kept its ritual, attended its festivals, and offered its sacrifices. He refused to criticize it when invited to. When He changed it (and He did) it was to move in the direction of a deeper and higher spirituality (Matt 5:21-48). Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly! He is the epitome of all that the Law was intended by God to be.
(2) The how: Since Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, we are released from the Law the very moment we trust in Him. It is a matter of substitution. Instead of striving and straining to keep the Law perfectly, we choose to trust in the One who did keep it perfectly.
Let me ask you – any gamers here today? If you master a game – who is greater? The master is. So, since Jesus mastered the law perfectly – he is the new master for those who believe.
So how do we “serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”? Paul makes it clear that the Law has been abrogated because it is too low a level for Christian spirituality. We should definitely read the Law, but when we read it, we must not say to ourselves, “How can I obey this?” Instead, we should talk to Jesus and say, “Lord, how do you want me to go beyond all this that I am reading about in the Law of Moses?” Jesus will answer and lead you through His Spirit (see 8:1-17). If we fall in love with Jesus and walk in the Spirit deliberately, we will fulfill the Law accidentally. We do not need to be “under” the letter; we can serve in the Spirit. Godliness comes indirectly by faith, by Jesus, by the Spirit. The Law cannot produce the righteousness we want; only a direct relationship with Jesus can. It is not that duty and obedience are not important. They are! It is just a matter of one’s focus and motivation.
Many years ago, I went fishing in some very rough water with my great uncle and grandfather. My only goal was to earn some chest hair or at least not embarrass myself too much. Unfortunately, the water was so choppy that I was continually on the verge of “coughing my cookies.” I’m sure I looked more like a green bean than a manly man. Being an inexperienced sailor, the only thing I knew to do was to close my eyes. Yet this resulted in me feeling even worse. It was a sickening experience. Eventually, my grandfather approached me and asked, “John, are you feeling okay?” I wanted to answer him, but I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth (literally). So I just shook my head. He immediately recognized what was wrong and replied, “Don’t close your eyes; just look at the horizon.” As I began to look at the horizon and watch the setting sun, the sickness began to leave me and I was able to return to fishing.
What is your gaze fixed upon? My prayer is that it is fixed upon Jesus Christ alone. When we open our eyes to who Jesus is, we will experience true freedom and exhilaration. In the process, Jesus will also enable and empower us to live a victorious Christian life. Will you fall in love with Jesus and let Him live His life in and through you? Focus on the Ruler!
2 Corinthians 2:15-16
Hebrews 7:19, 22; 8:6
1. When did I die to the Law (Romans 7:1-3; cf. 6:1-14)? Did I understand the ramifications of my death to the Law when I first trusted in Christ? Why or why not? How have I come to understand the role that God’s grace plays in my Christian life?
2. How have I sought to cultivate a relationship with Jesus since my release from the Law (Romans 7:4)? In what areas of my life have I been able to “bear fruit for God?” Have I truly died to the demands of the Law in order to rest in the righteousness of Christ?
3. How did the Law increase sin in my life when I was an unbeliever (Romans 7:5)? Did the Law ever enable me to please God? What did it do for me? How does the Law expose sin in my life now that I’m a believer? What purpose(s) does the Law serve for believers?
4. What are the differences between bearing fruit for God and bearing fruit to death (Romans 7:4b-5)? Where do irreligious acts fall (e.g., community service)? Into how many realms of the believer’s life should bearing fruit for God extend? In what area of my life is it the most difficult to bear fruit?
5. In what specific ways is my Christian experience “new” and fresh (Romans 7:6)? Who has observed a difference in my life since I became a Christian? How can I avoid living under the law? How can I ensure I rely upon the Holy Spirit?