LIFE THROUGH JESUS
One of the responsibilities given to a pastor is to make sure that the people of God have a balanced diet. There are five basic food groups: Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Each of these contributes in a distinctive way to the overall health of the body. A balanced diet is one in which you absorb, take in proper proportion of the unique value of each food group. And it contributes accordingly to the health of your body.
What is true of the body is also true in relation to the soul. Jesus said,
“ .. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)
Whatever we doing, we always come from the word of God. Our diet is the Word of God, but the word of God has different parts, just as there are different food groups. Our spiritual health depends on us taking in the unique value of God’s Word in all of its different parts.
During last year we did a series on contentment. That series was on Christian character and its focus was on what Christians experience. Today we begin a new series on Christian doctrine – A Believer’s Life. Its focus is on what a Christians believes, and especially, what a Christians believes about law, grace, and the Christian life.
For this reason, please turn to the book of Romans and chapter seven. We will read the whole of this marvellous chapter in the three weeks that we have together, but our focus will be, not exclusively, but especially on the first six verses.
Now a good place to begin in a new series is always to set out some objectives of where we hope to go, and we have three aims in mind for this series over the next three weeks.
- To better grasp the doctrine of our union with Christ, which is central to the whole of the Christian life
This is our particular focus today and we will look at Romans 7:4, where we have this wonderful statement from Paul,
“Likewise, my brothers, that 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.” (Romans 7:4)
Question: How can I bear fruit for God? Answer: Through union with Jesus Christ by belonging to Him. That is what the apostle Paul said. Not only union with Christ, but the central theme with regards to living the Christian life that are so often misunderstood, or less understood truth for us, to better grasp it. That is the first objective.
- To better understand why Christianity is more than a sustained effort at living a moral life
Secondly, it is of great importance to understand that there is a vast difference between true Christianity as we find it in the Bible, and a simply sustained effort to live a moral life.
Could you clearly explain what the difference is? It is really important for many people don’t know that there is a difference at all. They have the idea that to be a Christian is that you commit yourself to pursue a good and moral life.
But an atheist can also make a sustained effort to live a moral life. You don’t need Jesus Christ to do that. Christians are committed to a moral life for sure, but there is nothing uniquely Christian about that. If all you have is a sustained effort to live a moral life, then you have not yet discovered the joy, the life, the love, the power, and the peace that Jesus Christ is able to bring into your life, to those who belong to Him! This is our second objective, and the third one flows from it.
- To taste and savour the freedom and joy of an authentic Christian life
Romans 7 is one of the most important but also one of the least understood chapters in the Bible. You must have heard some say that, “As a Christian, you have to get out of Romans 7 and get into Romans 8,” And if you have, you may be thinking, “What in the world are we doing in Romans7?”
Her is the answer: We are going to taste and savour the freedom and joy of an authentic Christian life right here in Romans chapter 7. This is the chapter in which Paul says,
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ….” (Romans 7:24-25)
Jesus Christ our Lord is all over this chapter and deals with this issue the law, grace, and the Christian life. If you feel discouraged or depressed after reading Romans 7, it is because you simply have not understood it. But if you find in Romans 7 a fresh joy in Jesus Christ, and a new energy for serving Him and for pursuing the Christian life, you have grasped what this chapter is all about.
With that introduction I hope we have our hearts, and our minds, and our Bible open to receive from the word of God as we find it in this chapter of the book of Romans in the first six verses.
Paul’s illustration from marriage
In the first two verses Paul is using an illustration of marriage. Every illustration has its limitations and if an illustration is pressed too far it becomes confusing. But a good illustration is a like a window that brings light to our understanding.
“Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” (Romans 7:1-2)
The point that Paul is seeking to illustrate with this marriage analogy is in verse one: “The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.” Think of your relationship to the law as being like a marriage. So, for the purpose of illustration, Paul is speaking of the law as if the law is a person. Let us give this person a name. We are going to call him or her ‘Nomos’ which is the Greek word for ‘law.’
What is it like for you to be married to Nomos (or as Paul says, “bound by law”)? The law makes endless demands. Nomos is never satisfied. However hard you try you can never live up to the expectations of the law. So, if you are married to Nomos, you do not have a happy marriage at all.
Think about what this is like. You can never get to the place where Nomos; the law, is pleased with you. Even when you have done your best, Nomos will always find something more for you to do. To be bound to the law is worse than an unhappy marriage. To be bound to the law is actually like being stuck in an abusive relationship.
The Law in Pilgrim’s Progress
John Bunyan gets at this in his marvellous book Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of the Christian life. It is a story in which a man called Christian leaves his home in the city of destruction and makes his way to a new home in the celestial city. The whole thing here is actually the picture of a Christian life.
At one point in his journey, Christian meets another believer whose name is Faithful and the two of them began to talk, as Christians do, about their battles with temptation and trails and how they got through.
Faithful tells Christian about how he came to the home of an old man called ‘Adam the first,’ who lived in a town that was called ‘Deceit.’ He lived in a luxurious home and he had three very beautiful daughters.
He said that if Faithful would come and work for him, he could marry any of the daughters, or he could marry all three if he wanted to! More than that, if you would stay and work for him, he would inherit the house and everything else that belonged to Adam the first.
Faithful says, “At first I was inclined to accept his offer. But then the thought came to me that this old man wanted me for his slave.” So faithful, coming to his senses said ‘no’ to what at first had attracted him. Then the old man became angry and turned on him. He said that he would send someone after Faithful who would “make his life miserable.”
When Faithful left the town of Deceit, sure enough someone came running after him. And when this man caught up with Faithful, he took a swipe at him – right in the stomach, doubling him up. When Faithful caught his breath, he looked up at the man and said, “Why did you do that?”
The man said, “Your first inclination was to go with Adam the first.” Then he hit Faithful again, and knocked him to the ground. Faithful realized that he was in trouble and begged for mercy. But the man said, “The law knows no mercy,” and he kicked him while he was still down on the ground.
At this point, Faithful knew that he was in serious trouble. So, he told Christian that he felt sure this man would kill him. But then a second man appeared, ordered the first man to stop, and he did.
Christian said to Faithful, “Do you know who that second man was? The one who saved you by commanding the first man to stop?”
“No” said Faithful, “But when He passed by, I saw that He had scars in His hands and His feet.”
Then Christian said, “Do you know who the first man was – the man who was beating you up? His name is Moses. The law spares no one and the law shows no mercy.”
If you reflect on this, it is a story that every Christian can personally relate to. The inclination to sin is within us all, so that even if by God’s grace we say ‘no’ to temptation, the law sneaks up on you and condemns you. It beats up on you because, even if you resisted a particular temptation, in your heart you were drawn to it, and your first inclination was towards it.
The law is always beating up on us, and if it was not for the Man with the scars in His hands and His side, on His feet, the law would surely leave us for dead.
So, to come back to Romans chapter seven, the person who is bound to the law, or to use Paul’s illustration as married to Nomos, is in a really bad and dangerous place. To be married to Nomos, would mean living with someone who makes constant demands, is impossible to please, and often beats up on you. So, as long as you are married to Nomos, you can never be at peace and you can never rest.
Till death do us part
Now for how long will you be bound to Nomos? How long will this miserable marriage last? “The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives” (Romans 7:1)! This marriage is ‘till death do us part.’ Your whole life, no relieve. There is no getting out of your obligation to the law of God. For as long as you live, you are bound to all the requirements, and all the demands, and all the penalties of the law of God.
There is no way that you can divorce Nomos. The only way Paul says that this marriage ever ends is through death, and Nomos never dies. Nomos was there long before you were born, and Nomos will last long after you are gone. The law will never pass away.
No longer bound to the law
So, there is only one way out of this miserable marriage, and that is that you should die, and that is where we come to the marvellous words of Romans chapter seven,
‘Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, …” Romans 7:4)
“Likewise, my brothers…” So here the apostle Paul is talking to Christian believers, and he is telling us what we need to know about ourselves. “…you also have died to the law.” What a marvellous statement. You are no longer bound to the law. You are no longer locked into this abusive relationship. You are no longer married to Nomos.
The reason is not that the law has died. Jesus said: The commandments of God stand forever,
“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)
The reason you are not bound to the law is not that the law has died, it is that you have died.
Union with Christ
Now how can that be?
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, …” (Romans 7:4)
Here we come to this marvellous truth of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ – that we are made one with Him in His death and in His resurrection. Paul says,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
When Jesus died, all who are made one with Him through the bond of faith died with Him: We died with Him in regards to sin (Romans 6) and we died with Him in relation to the law (Romans 7). When Jesus rose, all who are made one with Him through the bond of faith, by being born again, rose with Him! We rose to new life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus died, so that through His death we might also die, and so be released from this miserable marriage to Nomos, from which our death was the only way out. If it had not been for the Man with scars on His hands and His feet, Nomos would have been the end of us.
But God’s purpose for you is more than saving you from getting beaten up by Nomos; by the law. It is that you should enter into a second very wonderful marriage:
“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, …” (Romans 7:4)
The further purpose of God in delivering you from that miserable marriage to Nomos, is that you should enter a second marriage – a new and wonderful union with His Son Jesus Christ: “That you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead”
A sustained effort to live a moral life
I hope it is now absolutely clear to everyone. Do you see the difference between being a Christian and simply a sustained effort to live a moral life? A sustained effort to live a moral life is by definition a sustained attempt to please Nomos. And however hard you try you’re never going to succeed. Nomos is never satisfied!
To be a Christian is to be delivered from that miserable marriage and to be brought into a new and entirely different relationship with a Saviour who loves you. It is to be brought into a new relationship in which you are able to flourish!
Many of us are close to someone who made a bad choice and found herself in an abusive relationship. It was a miserable marriage and it lasted for some years. Then finally the marriage ended, and when it did, you were relieved.
But then something else might happen. Some years later, she met and married a man who really loved her, and since then her whole life has been different. There is a light and a joy and a peace and a contentment about her. She is a different person, and she is living a completely different life. That’s the illustration that Paul is using here, and it gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian and the transformation that this involves.
Because of what happened to Jesus
Here is what is at the heart of being a Christian and here is why it all revolves around Jesus Christ and why He is the centre of all our love, and joy, and praise, and all our hope; it is all about Him. All that has happened to us – being forgiven, dying to sin, getting free from that miserable marriage to Nomos – how did these things happen to us? They happened to us because of what happened to Him. This is at the core of Christian faith. Christ died so that we may die with Him: “You also have died to the law through the body of Christ.”
What else has happened to us? We have new life in Christ. We have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit with us always. We have new hope, we have a future of unclouded joy in the presence of God – how did these things happen to us? They happened to us because of what happened to Him. Christ rose and we have been raised to new life with Him.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it well, “We are not saved by teaching, we are not saved by ideas, or by theory: We are saved by the fact that the eternal Son of God came into this world… was born of the Virgin Mary, died upon a cross, was buried in a grave, conquered death… and ascended unto God, and is seated now at the right hand of God.”
All that has happened to us is because of all that happened to Him. That is why we will come to the Lord’s table this morning with a full heart of thankfulness, saying, Jesus paid it all! If it was not for the Man with His scars in His feet and in His hands, we all would have been dead and lost forever. It all becomes ours through this marvellous union with Christ. Paul says it is like a new, wonderful second marriage.
The fruit of this union with Christ
“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” (Romans 7:4)
Here is a very strange thought for those who are parents. If you had chosen a different spouse, you would have had different children. That is a very strange thought but it is true. Remember, Paul is using an illustration and we must not press this too far, but the general point is clear: Being married to the law brings out the worst fruit in us. We will look at this more fully next week, marriage to Nomos never produces good fruit.
If you’re married to Nomos, you might comply for the sake of peace, but you will not love Nomos, and Nomos cannot love you. But Paul says, “You have died to the law, so that you may belong to Christ who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4)
The good fruit of a life that is pleasing to God does not come from a sustained attempt at living a moral life. It comes from union with Jesus Christ who died and rose. It comes from the life of Jesus Christ in you. Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches, it is the very presence of Christ in you that gives the hope of good fruit coming out of a life like yours and mine.
What do you know about this in your life?
What do you know about all these things in your own life? Today we are all invited to the Lord’s Table. There may be some of us who feel that we should not take the bread and the juice because we are not really fit to come. You know your own sin and you feel condemned.
But remember this today: The voice that condemns you is the ugly voice of Nomos. Here’s what you need to know: When you are in Christ you are no longer bound to Nomos. The Man with the scars in His hands and His feet tells Nomos to stop!
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)
We don’t come to the table because we feel that we’ve lived a good enough life to merit coming, feeling that we are worthy of it.
This Jesus, the Son of God, offers Himself, and is ready to give Himself to all of us who will receive Him today. Over two-thousand years ago, on the cross, Jesus was asked the question, “Will You take sinners and be their Saviour.” And in the agony of His death, He said, “I will!”
I have today the great privilege of saying to each and every one of us, “Will you take Jesus Christ? Will you forsake all others and keep only to Him? Will you bind yourself to Him in the bond of a living union through faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you?”
If you will have Christ, then your sins, though they may be many, will be forgiven. If you will have Christ, you are released from the oppression and condemnation of that miserable marriage to Nomos. If you will have Christ, you are brought into the freedom and joy of this new and second marriage in which, by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ lives in you!
Sermon by Pastor Ben Hooman.