Marriage and War

January 21, 2011 at 11:22 am | Posted in Romans | 12 Comments
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Romans Chapter 7 addresses the Christian’s relationship to the Law of God. On the opposite end of the spectrum from those who thought that grace created a free license to sin, were those who thought that grace created an obligation to follow the letter of the Law in such a way that the spirit of the Law was negated. This is one area of the Bible that people will point to when they want to condemn “legalists.”

Here are some common misconceptions about legalism. In other words, here is a list of things that many people mistakenly use to label someone a legalist:

1. You dress up for church or encourage others to dress up for church.

2. You carry your Bible anywhere besides church.

3. You think there ought to be some restrictions for ministries in church.

4. You won’t do certain things so you can avoid temptation.

5. You recommend to people whom you love that they should or shouldn’t do certain things (such as use the King James Version of the Bible or come to church on Wednesday nights.)

None of these things make someone a legalist in and of themselves. Technically, a legalist is someone who thinks that keeping the Law of God is the way to earn God’s favor so that God owes them a debt for their self-righteousness. There is also a sense in which a legalist is someone who believes that keeping rules makes him more spiritual than other Christians.

In Romans Chapter 7 we find the illustration of a marriage to explain the believer’s relationship to the Law. A husband and wife are one flesh. They come under the “law” of marriage as long as they live. If the wife marries somebody else, she’s a bigamist, but also an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free to remarry. The law of marriage did not die, and the wife did not die, but it’s as if, when her husband dies, she is now dead to that law and that law is now dead to her. The only way to get back into a marriage relationship with her deceased husband would be a type of re-birth or resurrection. Christians are the bride of Christ, resurrected with Him in a new relationship.

Remember, a main function of the Law is to show up the unbeliever, to point out his sin, to make sin abound, to point the way to salvation.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Romans 7:7

Coveting is usually considered among the least of sins to men, but, from God’s viewpoint, it is the sin that leads to other sins.

But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

Romans 7:8

An “occasion” is a foothold, or an enemy camp inside walls which had been designed to keep an enemy out. Concupiscence is like lust, but carries a connotation of being more determined, more scheming, like a combination of coveting and lust. From it, we get the word “Cupid.” Sin, using the Law as an “occasion,” can kill – both physically and spiritually.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

Romans 7:11

One of the dangers of misunderstanding the Law is that we begin to compare ourselves with those we perceive as holy. We have to remember that our faith is not in a pastor or anyone else – but in God. Our role model is Jesus, not another godly person.

The Law is holy and good.

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Romans 7:12

But it is good because it shows the sinfulness of sin. This is true for the unbeliever, obviously. When we believe, neither sin, nor the Law, have dominion over us. So, how do we wind up in the same condition as Paul:

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Romans 7:13

When sin uses that which is holy and good (the Law) to work death in me, then I’m in big trouble. But at least I’m not alone. We call the Apostle Paul “St. Paul,” but he was a also a wretched man.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Romans 7:24

There is a war going on between two natures. This is a description of our sin nature:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

The carnal man – the “old” man – is too long accustomed to the old ways, and it has the advantage of maturity over the new man – the new nature. What’s going to give my new nature a fighting chance? The truth that my new nature is not really “my” nature. It should be the Holy Spirit living inside me. The Holy Spirit of God is not some floating, amorphous, fickle entity. My condition is not that one day He might “fall” on me, and the next day He might not. He’s a Person. He’s God. He’s going to win the war.

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Romans 7:23

The Law pointed out my sin and showed me the way to salvation, but it is not my motivation for living a holy life. I can force my kids to obey (sometimes…maybe), but do I really want them to be motivated by laws and rules, or do I want them to obey me because they love me?

In the battle of the sin nature versus the new nature, the nature that wins the war in the “wretched man” when he’s weary from battle is the nature that’s been fed the most and the nature that is yielded to the Spirit that gives it power.

12 Comments »

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  1. […] Himself puts a stop to it. In the mortal bodies of Christians, the flesh-man and the Spirit-man war, as well. The flesh may be, to some extent, disciplined, controlled, and even mortified (Romans […]

  2. It is through the Son though not after Him that He is what He is the Father who generates. In God too there are representations and images of His future acts -that is to say His counsel from all eternity which is ever unchangeable.

  3. Thanks for commenting, but I’m afraid you lost me in those first couple of sentences. I do agree that God’s counsel from all eternity is unchangeable.

  4. […] himself a “wretched” man, he means “wretched” in the sense of someone who has been in a battle and is worn out and worn down. No matter how hard we struggle in the battle, we will wind up […]

  5. […] You may have heard Christian testimonies which go to one of two extremes. On the one hand some Christians almost seem to be bragging when they talk about how “bad” or how “tough” or how “lecherous” they were before they were saved. They seem almost nostalgic as they go into too much detail about what prolific and skillful sinners they were. Sometimes, this is defended by the testifier as necessary so that his or her lost listeners can better “identify” with the testimony, and so that they won’t feel like the person giving the testimony is trying to be “holier than thou” now that they are saved. The other extreme, of course, are the testimonies which overly minimize the pre-salvation sin of the Christian – possibly out of shame for past behavior and possibly out of a failure to recognize the true “sinfulness” of sin. […]

  6. […] Misconception #2: Those who have personal convictions are “legalists.” […]

  7. […] Right Reckoning 10. Free FROM Sin, Not Free TO Sin 11. The Reckoning 12. Failure To Yield 13. Marriage and War 14. Destined for Victory 15. Fitted by God 14. Ignoring the Obvious 15. Bold Mouths, Beautiful […]

  8. […] of ways our society treats addiction deals more with treating the symptoms than eradicating the source, and I am afraid we are fighting a losing battle. A true addiction can only be cured by a changed […]

  9. […] Third, marriage illustrates Christ and His relationship with individual believers. […]

  10. […] the New Testament clearly refutes the false belief that keeping God’s law can […]

  11. […] to be a Christian. There were those in the early Church – including ascetics, gnostics, and legalists – who wanted to add their beliefs to Scripture’s teaching about God’s preceptive […]

  12. […] of sin’s constant presence. In fact, as New Testament Christians, it would be good if we were even more conscious of, and afraid of, sin than the Old Testament Israelites […]


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