Today’s Scripture reading continues to challenge us with theological terms that define the fundamental doctrines (i.e., teachings) of our faith in Christ Jesus. Once again, we find a chapter break obstructs the flow and substance Paul discussed in Romans 7. Describing the believer’s spiritual warfare between the flesh and spirit, Paul wrote, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24)
Paul’s spiritual warfare was not over; however, he knew victory over sin was promised and declared, writing: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (8:1). The apostle continued, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).
What did Paul mean when he wrote, those who are “in Christ Jesus” are “free from the law of sin and death?” (8:2)
We who believe Christ died paying the penalty of our sin, and rose from the dead, are free from the condemnation of the law (8:1). Yet, that does not mean we are free from the requirements of the law. We understand the law and commandments were not the means of salvation (8:3); however, they instruct sinners in God’s perfect standard for moral uprightness and holiness (Galatians 3:24).
Knowing a man’s desire reveals his spiritual character, we understand, a sinner by nature follows the sinful lusts and desires of the flesh (8:5a). Thus, the heart, mind, and affections of the natural (i.e., sinful) man are “enmity against God” (not only opposed, but hostile to Him, 8:7). Such a heart “cannot please God” (8:8).
What do you desire? What do your thoughts and passions reveal about your nature?
Romans 9 – Is God Fair?
We have learned that no man, Jew or Gentile, is justified in God’s sight by keeping the law; indeed, Paul declared, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
How might a sinner merit God’s favor and be justified and accepted in His sight?
Paul answered that important question, declaring salvation is not determined by physical lineage or good works (9:6-13). The Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were proud of their physical heritage and election as God’s chosen people. They were heirs of God’s covenant promises and stewards of His Law and commandments (Romans 9:4-5). However, they were not spiritual children (i.e., “children of God”) by lineage (9:6-10) or by keeping the law and good works (9:11-13).
A sinner becomes a child of God, not because he has kept God’s law and merited His favor, but because of God’s mercy (9:16). As an illustration of God’s sovereign will in the matter of salvation, Paul shared the example of God’s dealings with Pharaoh and Moses (9:17-18). Both men were sinners; however, Moses believed God and He bestowed His mercy on him. Pharaoh heard Moses’ declaration that the God of Israel was the One True God; however, the king of Egypt refused God’s Word, hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15, 19, 32), until God hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27).
What was the spiritual lesson from this passage? It was that God is sovereign over all men, Jew and Gentile. He is merciful and longsuffering toward sinners (2 Peter 3:9). As sovereign God, He is just and shows mercy to one sinner while hardening the heart of another (that fact does not remove human responsibility for one’s sins, but declares the sovereignty and wisdom of God). Man is, in God’s hands, like clay in a potter’s hands; as long as the clay is soft it is pliable and conforms to the will of the potter (9:20-21). Such is the heart of man; as long as a sinner’s heart is tender and not hardened by sin and rebellion, God is able to extend His mercy and grace. Reject God and you become the object of His wrath (9:22).
Closing thoughts – The promise of salvation and the forgiveness of sin is a matter of simple faith (9:30-33). We were born sinners and the nature of sin and rebellion is deeply rooted in our souls from conception (Romans 3:10, 19-20, 23). Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are subject to His wrath and judgment (Romans 6:23). Nevertheless, through faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, we become the objects of God’s grace and mercy (Romans 10:10).
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