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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 4-8

Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: No More Sinning


Rom 6:1,2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?


The Gospel and being a Christian is a very practical thing. If someone becomes a Christian but you see no changes taking place in them, then it is legitimate to question what has taken place in them. In Chapter 5 Paul has been spelling out the wonder of God's grace that is revealed when we are justified, grace that is able to cope with however many people turn to Him. The work of Jesus on the Cross is sufficient for the whole world. Having laid the theological base for what has happened, Paul now starts to move into practical living, the outworking of that justification.


Having just said how God's grace is revealed more and more after the Law was given and transgressions became even more obvious, he uses that thought to undermine any thinking that says that I can carry on doing what I want. In this chapter he very much uses a question and answer approach and supposes someone saying, well, if Israel 's ongoing sin revealed God's grace even more, isn't it all right for us to carry on sinning so God's grace will be revealed in us even more.


Now we need to be careful in all of this to ensure we understand what is being said and what isn't. To counter that possible suggestion he simply replies, “No, you died to sin, so of course you won't go on continuing to sin.” What does he mean? Well he's going to spell it out in a moment but put most simply, to be able to be born again we first had to die. We gave up our old life as we surrendered to God and accepted what Jesus had done for us. When we surrendered to God, we ‘died' to our old life - “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone , the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) - and we ‘died' to the life of sin that we had previously lived. Now we reject that old self centred and godless way of living and the doing wrong that went with it. That whole way of living is now ‘dead' and has no influence on us; we have left it behind and it has utterly gone. So if that is true – and it is – sin has no place in our lives any longer.


Now here's where we need to be careful. When Paul says, “how can we live in it any longer,” note that he is speaking about a life that is based on sin, which is now gone. The entire nature of our lives has changed. Previously it was self-centred and godless, and therefore so much of what we thought, said or did was unrighteous and even sin, i.e. it was wrong because it was wrongly motivated and wrongly directed. Now though, our lives are God energised and God-directed and Spirit-led. But we are still human beings and so sometimes we may still get it wrong. The apostle John understood this when he wrote, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1) In other words sin should not be there but if we inadvertently get it wrong, then as we confess it, Jesus will forgive us again. The difference is a life based on sin and a life where occasionally we inadvertently get it wrong.


This is so important that we need to reiterate it. Elsewhere Paul will speak of sin that used to “reign” in us. We were stuck with the sinful lifestyle. Any lifestyle that is godless and self-centred (as against surrendered to God and receiving Jesus' salvation), is a lifestyle where sins are regularly observed by the spiritually alert. Wrong things are said and done as habit and as a society we tolerate them and even expect them – that is what people are like. Such people are under the sway of Satan and he is able to prompt and lead them. The apostle John contrasting these two lifestyles declared to his Christian readers, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19). That is the truth we don't like to say because it upsets people, but it is the truth. And as we noted at the end of the previous meditation that is the sort of life we used to live when Paul spoke of our past lives: “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” (Eph 2:1,2)


We cannot emphasise enough this total change of lifestyle. The apostle Paul declared, “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13) We used to live in the ‘dominion of darkness' but now, by the work of Christ on the Cross and by God's justifying work when we surrendered to Him, we live in Jesus' kingdom and under his rule and all he does is based on love and goodness and truth. Can sin have any space in this kingdom? Definitely not! So how do we sometimes get it wrong? We take our eyes off Him and stop listening to the prompting of His Spirit and listen to Satan (perhaps without realising it). This is why, again and again, we need reminding of these things. Perhaps this is something the church of the twenty first century needs to hear loud and clear as it stands against the deception that is rife in the world today.







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 4-8

Meditation No. 17


Meditation Title: Baptised into Death


Rom 6:3,4 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.


The apostle Peter once wrote of Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand,” (2 Pet 3:16) and I think that would apply to these present verses. When the wording is difficult the immature give up and the mature pray for revelation and insight. So let's take this bit by bit and see what we can see.


When he starts the sentence, “Or don't you know…..” he is flowing on from “We died to sin,” in verse 2, and so what is now going to follow expands on that simple sentence. We did cover it in large measure in the previous meditation but let's see Paul's argument or explanation now. His primary point that follows is that we “were baptized into Christ Jesus.”


Now there are several baptisms referred to in the New Testament. First of all there is baptism in water which John the Baptist did (e.g. Mt 3:6) and then Jesus and his followers did and the Church has continued to do since. Then there is being baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). But then Jesus also used baptism to simply refer to entering into the same experience as him – “Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (Mt 10:38) Yet again there is also Paul's reference to being baptized into Christ: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:26,27) or being baptized into Christ's ‘body': “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” (1 Cor 12:13)


The Greek word for ‘baptise' was used when referring to something being immersed in something (e.g. a cloth in dye), or being submerged in (as with a sinking ship). The concept of baptism when used as an analogy simply means to be put into something, so in the examples above we are put into water, put into the Holy Spirit and put into the body of Christ, the church.


The difficult bit of our verses above then follows: “ were baptized into his death.” What Paul is saying is that if we were put into Christ we were put into a body or Being that has already experienced death. The head of this body (Christ - Col 1:18) knows death because it has been through death. Christ knows that the way to life for mankind was by giving his life, i.e. his death. This body works on the principle of giving up the old life to release new life.


Then Paul comes up with another declaration that needs some thought: “ We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.” When we were physically baptized, it was a sign of what had already happened – we had died to our old life. Thus baptism by immersion (which it was in the New Testament period and still is in churches wishing to maintain the Biblical imagery) is a picture of being buried – the old life dead and gone (as you go down under the water) - and of being raised from the dead to new life by Christ (as the pastor lifts you up from under the water.)


But to take another of the baptism pictures – of being baptized into Christ's body – you only became part of that body by dying to self and to the old life, and surrendering to God, letting Him raise a new life in you as you are born again by His Spirit. The qualification for the kingdom of God is death to self and surrender to God, accounting the old life as worthless, dead and gone.


Even within what we have just said, we have covered Paul's closing words in these verses. Baptism portrays two things: death and resurrection. Every time someone is baptized in this way they are indirectly declaring Christ's death and resurrection and then, secondly, their own death and resurrection.


Remember this is all part of Paul slowly working in to the thoughts about the nature of the lives we now live. In chapter 5 he had declared that God's grace was big enough to bring change to every single person who came to Him and now, here in chapter 6 he is pointing out that the doorway to this new life and the power that goes with it is pictured in baptism – our own water baptism and being baptized into Christ. If all this is true – and it is – then there is no room for sin to prevail in our lives, for our old sin lives are dead and buried and the lives we are now living are empowered by God's own Holy Spirit. This is going to come through Paul's teaching again and again in the next three chapters, but we need to hear it again and again, until we take in the wonder of what has happened.






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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: Freed from Sin


Rom 6:5-7 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.


My experience is that many Christians go silent when it comes to talking about us being sin-free, because none of us feels we are sin free. I know this will be covering ground we have recently covered but we really do need to cover it. Paul's ongoing argument (and, yes, it is highly repetitious) is that if, as we saw in the previous meditation, we have been baptised into Christ and are linked in to the memory of Christ's death, so now we are also linked in to his resurrection. But it isn't just in the memory of the head of the body, Christ; it has become part of the very experience of the body. We each one identify with Christ's death in that we have died to our old life when we came to God. Paul's point now is that we also identify with his resurrection because in the same way as the Father raised Jesus up (Acts 2:24) so He is raising us up to new life by putting His own Holy Spirit within us when we came to Him and were justified, His Spirit who now gives life to us.


I suspect these verses have caused anguish to many a commentator because Paul was definitely in theological high-brow mode when he wrote these things which, as we've commented before, even the apostle Peter found difficult. So when he says now “that our old self was crucified with him,” it surely has to mean that when God's Spirit convicted us, our old self, our old life, was killed off; we gave it to God, surrendering our lives to Him so that He could give us new ones.


It is vital that we struggle through to understand this. Becoming a Christian isn't just turning over a new leaf, it is totally surrendering our life to God in the awareness that that old life was self-centred and godless and helpless and hopeless. We were aware that we were in a mess. We suddenly saw that we had no relationship with God and we had a problem with our sin and therefore with God's judgement – and we ourselves could do nothing about it. We had struggled to ‘be good' but ultimately we failed and all the while we knew deep down, we were still self-centred and godless, and because we were that, we kept on getting it wrong – we were unrighteous! That was our plight and when the Holy Spirit convicted us, we became aware of some or all of that. However much or little we understood, we understood that we needed God's forgiveness, but we couldn't see why He would grant us that, until we heard of Jesus.


That was what was going on in the convicting period of our lives, but along with this, we realised it all hinged on the quality of our lives. It wasn't a case of our existing life needing a few odds and ends of changes, a little tinkering in the works to make it run more smoothly. No, we realised that the fundamental basis of our lives was wrong. The “self-centred and godless” approach to life that we had lived with could no longer go on. We had failed on that basis. No, we need a new basis for living, one that included God in it. That new concept of God being in our lives and leading them was the exact opposite to how our old lives had been. There was no way that we could merge the two for they were diametrically opposites. No, the old way had to go. It had failed and we couldn't carry on any longer with it. That brought us to the point of crisis when we surrendered to God, asked for His forgiveness and asked for Him to come into our lives and lead them. The old HAD to go. To put it in picture language we had to nail it to the wall and walk away and leave it, i.e. it was crucified. In reality it was dead and buried – gone! Now if you are not clear on this, please reread these last two paragraphs, because understanding this is vital to understand all else that Paul; is going on to teach.


In that old life, Sin (the predisposition to be self-centred, godless and getting it wrong) ruled over us. That predisposition was what energised everything we did. We did nothing without it and so we committed sins as a result. The power of Sin in us made us commit sins. (note the capital S and small s – one is the prevailing disposition, the other is the individual actions). That old life was energised by Sin as we've just described it.


So then, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we crucified it – put it to death – totally rejected it and gave it up to God to dispose of, to be replaced by a Spirit-energised life. Because the old life was energised by Sin, we were slaves to sin. The energising force was what drove us. It was part of us and we couldn't get away from it. But once that old life was ‘crucified' that Sin power was no longer there, which is why Paul can then say that “ we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Why? Because the lives that once were, that were Sin energized, are gone. They are dead.


Quick final question. Here on the floor is a dead body. Can it sin? No, of course not! Thus Paul can say, “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Our old Sin-energized lives are dead and gone and the life we are left with is therefore free from Sin. More wonderfully it is energized by the Spirit and we'll see more of that in the pages to come.







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Meditation No. 19

Meditation Title: The Focus of Life


Rom 6:8-10 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.


Have you ever seen professional crime photographers at work? They move round the body in a murder case and take pictures of it from every possible angle so they don't miss any aspect of it. That's how it seems to me that Paul writes; he is covering every possible aspect of salvation. Initially he pointed out that both Jew and Gentile had need of salvation, then that it had been provided by God through Jesus and that justification was received by faith and not by works, just as it had been by Abraham, and then he contrasted trespass and grace pointing out how God's grace is big enough for the whole world. Then he start moving towards practical living but he does it by using baptism as a picture and comparing it to what had happened to Christ, now being applied into our lives, to explain why he no longer have to sin. But here, it seems, the camera is flashing in ever small detail.


When he starts these verses with, “Now if we died with Christ,” it is in order to contrast it with living with Christ and is based on what has gone before. The ‘death' references in this chapter are numerous: “Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (v.3) “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.” (v.4a) If we have been united with him like this in his death (v.5a), For we know that our old self was crucified with him (v.6a)

And when he carries on, “we believe that we will also live with him ,” we find that that is a repeat of the resurrection references that followed the previous ‘death' references : “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life ”.(v.4b) “we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (v.5b)


So we have this parallel writing – Christ died, and we died. Christ rose from the dead, and so we rise to new life. Paul keeps on repeating it as if to say, are you getting the message yet? The language of these verses is pure argumentative or logic language: “Now if for we know…” It's like Paul creates building blocks and once he has established one, he then takes us on to something that relies on it and follows from it. So he takes the last building block – “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead” and draws an obvious conclusion from it: “he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” Christ having being raised by the power of God now lives in heaven and will never again be subject to death.


Now comes the theological tricky conclusion that follows that: “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (v.10) Let's take the first part of that. In life Christ, as a human being, battled against sin but, the writer to the Hebrews tells us, never fell to temptation: “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.” (Heb 4:15) When he hung on the Cross all the sins of the world were heaped upon him, but once he died he was impervious to Sin and to sins. He was no longer in a place where he had to battle against temptations and he passed on from the place where he had carried the sins of the world.


After death the Father raised him from the dead (Acts 2:24) and his life now in heaven is fully God-centred and God-conscious. So, before death – sin aware, after death – God aware. That was Christ. in the style of all that has gone before, Paul then applies to same logic to our lives, and we will examine it more fully in the next meditation: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (v.11)


That is the outworking or end game of all this. We now have to see ourselves as having died, and having been raised by God, and so in the new life Sin has no place and no power over us because a) that belonged to the old life which is dead and buried and b) because now we are God-aware and in His presence there is no room for sin. It's been a long and heavy theological path in this chapter, but that is the end of it (although Paul will yet add more aspects) and it is that our new lives are lives where Sin has no power over us and therefore, as we focus on God, we will not be sinning. Sinning is to be an occasional, inadvertent exception, a rarity in our lives. THAT is the truth that Paul is expounding here and which the apostle John also wrote about when he wrote: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning,” (1 Jn 3:6), and “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 Jn 3:9) It's the same message. Believe it!







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Meditation No. 20

Meditation Title: The Basis for Living


Rom 6:11-13 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.


There is theory and there is practice. There is doctrine and there is practical outworking. In much of Paul's writings we find this is the order. He explains doctrine but then always ends up with practical living. There is no point being theologically sound if our daily life is a mess. No, the theory is to lead on to the practice. The theology should lead to the practical outworking. If this had been a lesser apostle he might simply have said, “Just live good lives and don't do wrong,” but Paul isn't a lesser apostle, he is an intellect and he has thought through, or received the revelation, and wants to explain what has happened, how that impacts us today, and then how that can be seen in practical outworking. We are at the pivotal point in all this, where theory turns into practice.


On the basis of all that has gone before – we died and rose again to new life in the Spirit – Paul places these two contrasts before us that we started considering in the previous meditation: On one side, negatively, we are to count ourselves dead to sin . In other words because of what has happened to us and where we now are (in Christ) we are to settle firmly in our minds that sin has no place in our lives and have no power over us. Perhaps we need to reiterate why that is. It is because when we surrendered to God we ‘died' to our old life and so it is dead, buried and gone, and yet more than that it is because today we live as part of Christ's body on earth and he is the head of the body, and we live in communion with him. For these two reasons sin has no part in our lives AND no power over us. Perhaps we need to learn and declare that phrase daily.


But, as we've already noted, we're not just dead to sin (the negative), but we are alive to God (the positive). Because His Holy Spirit lives within us now (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19) we have become God-aware, or God-sensitive. Whereas, before we came to Christ, God seemed a million miles away, now He is as close as it is possible to be.


But this isn't just to remain academic knowledge. We are unique human beings with free will and God wants us to exercise that will. It is our will that makes us significant. Without exercise of will we just get swept along with the tide of unthinking humanity, but self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) and something we are to be working at, adding to our lives (2 Pet 1:6). Thus when it comes to theory and practice, self-control or an act of the will is the thing that ties them together. We have the theory and so now make an act of will and put it into practice. We understand the theology and now have to determine to apply it. Jesus' famous closing words in Matthew's Gospel include “ teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20) They had the teaching, the instructions, from Jesus. Now they had to do them and teach others to do them likewise.


So, now comes Paul's practical exhortation: “do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (v.12) i.e. you make the decision and you make the effort to not let Sin come back into your lives. You've heard the theory – you died to sin – now live like that! Then, even as the theory has two parts, a negative and a positive, now the practice has two parts: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God.” (v.13a) Why does he mention “the parts of your body”? It is because when we sin it is with our body. With our body we DO whatever it is. So don't let human desires prompt your body into wrong actions – e.g. wrong excessive eating or drinking or taking illicit drugs, or having illicit sex, or hurting or harming another or taking or damaging or destroying the property of another. We only do those things when our thinking is wrong.

Wrong thinking leads to wrong actions. So we are to control both and not let Sin in. Instead we are to offer ourselves to God, i.e. we are to be completely God-focused and even as at the very beginning of our spiritual lives we surrendered to God, let that be how we approach every day and every situation. Give it to Him and ask Him to take you and use you to His glory. When we do that we will give no room for sin. The positive side of this, that we've just said, is that we are to “offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” We're not in a neutral position; it is one thing or the other and we are to choose the other – to be righteous. May it be so!







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Meditation No. 21

Meditation Title: Slaves to what?


Rom 6:14-16 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?


It's difficult to know where to divide up these meditations because really the passage is one continuous flow of logic. Hence we start verse 14 with the word ‘For' which is a link word. We thus need to remind ourselves of what has just gone before: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” This was an instruction from Paul what to do with our lives (our bodies). We can either give ourselves over to sin or to God. Those are the ONLY two options. If we haven't given ourselves to God, then we have given ourselves to sin. It is that simple, because sin involves rejection or ignoring of God. Once we become aware of God we realise His greatness and holiness and our smallness and unrighteousness. At conversion we turned from the old life of self-centred godlessness and unrighteousness and turned to God in surrender. Now if that was the starting point then it also needs to be the continuation. If it is not the continuation, then the start is under question.


So, says Paul, to put it another way now, sin can't be your master today and can't continue in your life (implied) because you aren't under the law any more, not living lives that focus on right and wrong rules of behaviour, but living lives that are grace-based. We've seen what that means in the past in Romans – living by God's goodness and mercy with the enabling of His Spirit. Well, OK, he imagines someone saying, if we're not worrying about right or wrong behaviour, then surely we can do what we like. If God takes us purely on the basis of believing in Jesus, then surely how we live doesn't matter.


Now we may think that Paul is being overly intellectual in all of this arguing, but the truth is that often Christians do think just like this – God loves me unconditionally so it doesn't matter how I live. He understands my little failings so it will be all right. Well, actually no. He does understand and He does love us just like we are but He also loves us so much that He doesn't want us to stay like we are and, even more, the logic of what Paul is saying denies we should even be thinking like this.


Look, he goes on, “when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey.” Now there is nothing complex it that, it is just common sense. We don't often talk about slaves today so let's put it more simply. Quite simply, if you give yourself to someone you submit yourself to that someone. If you give yourself in marriage, you give yourself to your partner. If you join the army you give yourself to the army. When you join a firm, you give yourself to the rules and expectations of that firm. When you give yourself to someone or some organization, it has consequences for your behaviour. Your behaviour will conform to the person or organization. It is that simple.


Right, says Paul, the options that we have been considering are “whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, OR to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” You used to be a slave to sin and that was leading to death – that's how you used to live, but now, since you surrendered to God when you came to Christ, obedience to God is the basis for your life and that obedience means you will be living righteously.


So, to apply this to us personally, put aside all the “God loves me” language, as true as it is, and think what has happened to you. You came to Christ – you surrendered to God. If you didn't surrender to God you didn't come to Christ for the two things are inextricably bound together. Sometimes people speak of Jesus being both Lord and Saviour. If you only grabbed for him like a lifebelt, as your Saviour, without surrendering your life to him, then you simply didn't realise the impossibility of what you were doing and asking, for Jesus cannot save you unless you put yourself entirely in his hands. He has come to save you out of sinful behaviour, not merely to avoid the judgment of God.


If you are willfully sinning, and you know that what you are doing in life is wrong (you know it because you know what others would say and you make excuses for it) you have stepped away from the act of surrender and have taken back the rule of your life. But you need to realise that you are not in the place of obedience leading to righteousness, but in the place of sin that leads to death. This teaching of Paul has very practical outworkings and we should think it through seriously.









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Meditation No. 22

Meditation Title: Obedience


Rom 6:17,18 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.


I have a picture of Paul going round the coffin of our old lives nailing the lid on, one nail at a time. The message that he is surely conveying to these Christians in Rome – and they are Christians – is a confirmation of what has happened in their lives, an explanation, now in practical terms, of the reality of what has taken place in order to strengthen them in the future, for what will take place. In this chapter he nails down the coffin of our old lives, and then in chapter 7 shows the impossibility of living the new life in your own strength so that, in chapter 8 he can get to explaining the power source or basis for the new life. Of course we cover all these things in our reflections as we go along, but Paul will eyeball each situation in each chapter.


So far in this chapter you might have been forgiven for thinking that he was speaking to seekers rather than believers because so much of it is looking backwards, but that is because he is seeking to make this point so clearly: when you came to Christ, you died to your old life and so today you must consider that life dead and buried; it is gone and it has no power over you. The previous verses have been somewhat heavy speaking about law and grace and slavery, and so now he lightens the tone. If we might reorder and rephrase these verses to shed light on them, it is as if he is saying, “Yes, you used to be those slaves to sin in your old life, but I thank God now that when the Gospel teaching came to you, you responded to it and obeyed the call to come to Christ and have been set free from sin and are now instead, slaves to righteousness.” It's a nice acknowledgement, if you like, that he does recognise the work of God in them and that they are Christians.


I know it has come up before but I'd like to just pause over this phrase, “slaves to righteousness.” As we said previously, slaves are not today part of our usual experience in the West at least and we perhaps just have images of Charlton Heston or some other Hollywood great being unjustly put into a slave galley. No, the picture of slavery isn't a familiar one or a happy one, and yet Paul says we Christians ARE slaves. Now why does he do that? I suggest it is because it is a vivid and memorable picture and it does convey a certain truth about the reality of our lives as Christians.


As he has said, before we became Christians we were slaves, but then we were slaves to sin. A slave is dominated by a slave master and in Hollywood films such a slave master usually had a big whip to encourage you, the slave, to do what he demanded. Sin – that self-centred, godless disposition – demands that you live your life on that basis and that you do what your senses or desires demand, regardless of anyone else. While Sin is the basis of your life, that is how you WILL live, but when in your desperation you found the Holy Spirit drawing you to God (although you didn't realise that that was what was happening), as He convicted you of your state, you would have done anything to be free and so you gladly surrendered your life to Him. At that point He placed His own Holy Spirit within you.


Now to try to convey something of this in different terms, I would suggest that His presence within you (although you didn't realise it) was a strong as an anchor chain and that chain has, for the rest of your life, being drawing you more and more into experience the love and goodness of God. That chain has been drawing you into a life than can only be described as righteous. When the enemy whispers tempting thoughts into your ear, the Holy Spirit is there pointing out the folly of that and convicting you of its wrongness.

If you do foolishly listen to the enemy, who may try to stir up afresh your old desires, and give way and say or do something wrong, then the Holy Spirit, that strong chain, will be there convicting you and drawing you back to God. Although He does it so gently you hardly realise what is happening, you are in fact, a slave to righteousness because He is righteous and everything He seeks to lead you into is righteous and both He and His purposes are constantly impressing on you, or drawing you, into the path of righteousness. You cannot escape it – indeed you should not want to escape it – but He is there constantly working to lead you on into this life of righteousness, living rightly in God's sight, living with the wisdom of God so that love and goodness prevail. This is the sort of ‘slavery' that we are ‘prisoner to today. Good isn't it! Hallelujah!









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Meditation No. 23

Meditation Title: Righteousness and Holiness


Rom 6:19,20 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.


I think Paul wins a prize for saying the same thing again and again but in different ways, but here he explains why he is doing it. He's using this baptism, death, resurrection, life, slavery language because those are concepts that we can understand and he feels we need to have it put in simple terms because, he says, “you are weak in your natural selves .” Now I don't think he was having a go at the Romans in particular, but that generally, of our old natural selves, we're not very clever. When he says they are weak I believe he means weak intellectually.


It's like he goes on to say, I mean, look, “you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,” which wasn't a very smart thing to do. Yes, I know the “Just” at the beginning of that verse indicates that that quote is the first half of a logic instruction but coming where it does, it does seem to back up what he's just said.


Of course to say to the unregenerate person that they aren't very bright, is very upsetting for them because they pride themselves in their self-centred wisdom, but my interpretation of what he is saying is accurate of the human race. We are pretty stupid! Come on, anyone who turns their back on God's incredible love and goodness to live a messed up, self-centred and godless life, has to be pretty stupid, but then Sin blinds and so it is not surprising that we're like that.


OK, he continues, enough of that old life, now offer your lives “in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” He's covered the slavery imagery already but he covers it again in a different way: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” (v.20) i.e. you used to be slaves to sin and because they are opposites, righteousness had no place in your lives. What good did that do you? Come on, think about it, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” (v.21a) Look back to how you used to live and yes, I know you are now ashamed of those lives (which is good), but what did living like that do for you? Answer? “Those things result in death!” (v.21b) Yes, we've seen that in his earlier writing, spiritual death and eventually physical death, separation from God and then separation from your human body. That's all that sort of living brought you.

But, the good news is, things have changed, “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” (v.22a) You have changed masters, and consequently, “the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v.22b) Yes, these new lives develop holiness in you, that unique God quality that is utterly different to anything else, and that will continue to develop throughout your live and on afterwards because it is in fact an eternal life, a life with no end.


OK, he concludes, (implied), have you got the message? “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.23) That is what this is all about. If you live with Sin as the main motivating force in your life, it will result in death but now God has provided an alternative, the gift of eternal life that comes through the wonderful work of our Lord Jesus Christ.


We need to recap this chapter before we finish with it. Leading us to think about living out the Christian life Paul started out by asking, “Shall we go on sinning?” (v.1) and answered himself, no we can't because “We died to sin” (v.2). He then explained what that meant by reference to the picture of baptism: “all of us …were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” (v.3) and, to follow the picture through, “as Christ was raised from the dead … we too may live a new life.” (v.4) Later he adds, “anyone who has died has been freed from sin ,” (v.7) and following the resurrection picture, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God .” (v.11)


If that is the truth then we have an obligation to “not let sin reign in your mortal body.” (v.12). Then comes a number of comparisons starting with, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God” (v.13) because “you are not under law, but under grace.” (v.14) This was followed by the comparison with slavery: “though you used to be slaves to sin…. you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (v.17,18). The things of the old life “result in death” (v.21) but now in the new life, “the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v.22) To conclude: ”the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.23). You wonder how to live as a Christian? There's no doubt – staying away from sin and living righteously. Got it? Got it!











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Meditation No. 24

Meditation Title: Lawkeepers


Rom 7:1 Do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to men who know the law--that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?


Paul was a law-keeper, an ex-Pharisee, just like so many of us are. If we are honest we'd much rather have a set of rules to follow, but the Christian life isn't like that. Indeed Paul will go on to show us that if we do try to live by the rules, we'll be doomed to failure and with failure comes a sense of guilt and condemnation. No, those are no longer to be parts of our lives and so Paul is going to move on to speak more about the role of the Law in our lives today.


Verses 1 to 3 are theory that will culminate in the conclusion in verse 4 – “So, my brothers, you also died to the law.” i.e. the law no longer has an impact in your life. But that is the conclusion and so before we get there he starts out in verse 1 with a statement which he then illustrates in verses 2 and 3.


Paul is clearly speaking to Jewish Christians in Rome because of the insert into the declaration: “ for I am speaking to men who know the law.” They, more than us, would have been law-conscious, because the Law given through Moses had been given to Israel to keep, and that requirement was still as much with them as when it had first been given. But it is the statement or declaration that he makes which is the important issue: “Do you not know, brothers that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?” That's pretty obvious really, isn't it? Once you die you are no longer able to do anything, especially keep rules! But that is a vital piece of understanding in all that Paul is trying to convey in the pictures he uses.


In chapter 6 Paul had gone to some lengths to explain that we, when we came to Christ, died to Sin. That was what all the talk about death and baptism was all about. The point he was making there again and again, was a) that we had died when we came to Christ and b) having died Sin no longer had any power over us. The only power over us was that of God's Spirit in us leading us into righteousness.


Now he is rerunning the same concept but it is in respect of the Law because he knew that the presence of the Law has a similar effect on them as Sin had done – to make them failures, guilty and condemned failures, and he wants to show them that they have been delivered from that. So he starts out with that strangely simple comment that dead men don't keep rules.


But being Paul he's not going to leave it there; he's going to illustrate it to drum the point home: “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” (v.2) There you are, an applied example of the statement he started with. It's a pretty universal law. You may get married and thus have legal obligations towards one another, but if one of the couple dies, the other one no longer has any obligations towards the dead spouse.


He hasn't finished. He's going to bang home the point even more: “So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” (v.3) i.e. part of the marriage contract is that you are bound to that one man and only one man. If you have a relationship with another man while still married, you are committing adultery, but if your husband dies, it is then quite legitimate to marry someone else now. Because of the death, the legal requirements of the first marriage are no longer effective.


So then we come again to the conclusion of this short argument: “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” (v.4) Now you see why Paul was using marriage as an illustration. When we died, the law that bound us to rule-keeping was lost to us, and then when we were raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit (implied and covered by Paul in the previous chapter as the second part of the death and resurrection illustration) we were tied into (or married to) the one who raised us from the dead, God. He raised us and we belong to Him now and the lives we now live are an expression or fruit of the Holy Spirit living in and through us.


It is Him and not the Law that will be energizing and guiding and directing us from now on. We only use the Law as a fall-back when, on odd occasions, we foolishly stop listening to Him. Then the rules will apply, but otherwise, as Paul will go on to show us later, the life we now live we live by the power and direction of the Spirit. Hallelujah!









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Meditation No. 25

Meditation Title: A New Way


Rom 7:5,6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.


For those who know Romans 7, you will see words in these verses that will trigger memories of what is to come. The crucial words that Paul is going on to expound are, “the sinful passions aroused by the law.” He is looking backwards yet again to the time before we knew Christ when the motivating force within us was that self-centred and godless disposition at the heart of Sin, which in itself was subject to the pressures of human desires – to eat, drink, have sex, get one's own way – more and more. We were driven by these things. What made it worse was that if we were challenged and someone quoted moral laws at us, we got all defensive and made excuses why we did what we did because, deep down, we knew we'd prefer not to be like that, but however hard we tried we found we couldn't keep the rules, even ones we set for ourselves.


This old lifestyle sometimes made great hopeful flourishes – turning over a new leaf, making New Year resolutions, or doing a self-help course, but after a while, after the initial enthusiasm had died down, we were back where we started. It was a deadly existence. We hoped for new life and none came. Again and again we faced the rules as we set ourselves fresh targets. We knew what people expected of ‘nice' people, of successful people and so on, and so there were these expectations leering at us, challenging us to struggle to meet them, knowing all the while we never would. Whatever we did was self-centred and we had no time for God, and it seemed we just didn't have the resources to bring change to our tired lives. Spiritually we were dead on our feet. God seemed a million miles away. Some of us made a pretence of spirituality but whatever we did was still self-centred, and we were the ones we were trying to escape from. We were the walking dead and nothing seemed able to help us.


But then we came to a crisis point in life and although we didn't realise what was happening, God's Holy Spirit started convicting us of our need, showing us our plight as we'd never seen it before. Suddenly we started feeling disconcerted with what we saw of ourselves and we recognised that we didn't like what we saw. We wanted to be free from it but we knew, if this was just another set of expectations, we were still helpless to change. But in our yearning and openness we were ready to hear about Jesus Christ. Suddenly what we were told about him was like a straw to a drowning man and we grabbed for it. Nothing else mattered. The old life, we recognised, had been a waste of time and we gladly turned our back on it as we knelt before God. We surrendered our lives to Him, willing for Him to do whatever He wanted to do with us; we died to the old and with longing held our arms out to Him in surrender.


And with that death to our old selves came death to all the striving to meet the expectations that had been laid on us, the ‘Law' from the world around us. We had strived for those expectations and failed and given them up. It was a waste of time striving to meet all the expectations that we and others laid on us. Any moral rules, ethical standards, self imposed hopes, all went into the dustbin at the point we surrendered to God. They died in our thinking and as we turned from them to God, they lost their power to inflict a sense of failure and guilt upon us. No longer were these ‘rules', these ‘laws', these ‘expectations' leering at us any longer for we saw them for what they were – unobtainable goals. When we came to God, He seemed to be merely asking us to believe in His Son and follow him as he would lead us by his Spirit. No longer were we led by the world's expectations, but by a man, the Son of God.


Yes, as his Spirit came into us, we felt different, we were born again, and we were filled with joy. Something wonderful had happened. We didn't understand it but we knew it had happened. Suddenly we started having new thoughts, new ideas, a new purpose in life. The Bible started coming alive to us and we found a new purpose and new direction emerging and as it went on, we learnt that it was God by His Spirit now leading us, now motivating us, and it was wonderful! Hallelujah!












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Meditation No. 26

Meditation Title: Realising Sin


Rom 7:7,8 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.


One thing I have observed over the years is that if I have a preaching series in front of me, I start out with what is a fairly complex assertion to be preached but as I proceed I go more and more to make it more and more simple, to focus on small points within the big issue. There is a sense in which this is exactly what Paul does.


Right back in chapter 5 he declares at one point, The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (5:20) and then went on, “so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord .” (5:21). Sin existed, but then the Law came and made sin even more obvious and, by implication, made us even more aware of our need of salvation, help from God to be delivered from Sin. But that was still in the general section on salvation on justification through faith.

Then in chapter 6 we saw him working through the idea of what happened to Sin: when we died to our old life we died to sin and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us were made alive to God. The result or outworking of this is that sin no longer has power over us.


But then, here in chapter 7, it is like Paul backtracks on the subject, realizing that most of the new believers in the faith were Jews and they were Law-conscious, and so he has to cover similar ground except in respect of the Law instead of Sin itself. What he is now expanding on is that relationship between Sin and the Law, building on that original verse we picked out showing that the Law came to highlight the presence of Sin. Now he returns to that idea.


He starts as a good rabbinical teacher of his day by asking a question: “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin?” (v.7a) He asks this because of what he said earlier: “when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies.” (v.5) i.e. the law seemed to make us sin, so was the Law wrong? It is now he returns to his earlier assessment of it as he now says, “Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” (v.7b) i.e. the Law reveals the presence of Sin. Remember there is a distinction in Scripture between Sin and sins. Sin is the predisposition to do wrong; sins are the individual acts of wrong. The Law, therefore, reveals the presence of this predisposition.


He goes on to give an example of this: “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet.” (v.7c) i.e. he wouldn't have given any thought to it before but as soon as the Law said, “Don't covet,” he found something strange happening (as we all do!) and so, “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.” (v.8a) That predisposition within me, being challenged by the Law, seems to rise up within me and I find I have desires to covet. So, “apart from law, sin is dead.” (v.8b) i.e. Sin lies there dormant within us and it takes an instruction to do or not to do, for it to be stirred like and angry sleeping dragon to come to wakefulness and rise up.


But this awakening of the sleeping dragon had another effect: “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (v.9) Now when Paul says he ‘died' he didn't mean literally; he had to mean ethically and spiritually. Whereas he had once thought himself ‘someone', suddenly he realises he is no one, the same as everyone else, a sinner. That realization also ‘killed off' any spiritual aspirations he might have had, for exactly the same reasoning.


Thus he explains, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” (v.10) So, he might have thought previously, the point of God's Law was to bring him in line with God's design for humanity, and thus bring life and blessing from God, but when it came to it, the awareness of what the Law said, simply made him dwell on that issue and he found an inner yearning to reject it, and so, “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.” (v.11) Confronted by the commands of the Law, instead of feeling good, he found he was struggling and feeling bad and put all his aspirations to death.


But then when he thinks about it, he realises that it comes from God and so, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good,” (v.12) but he looks at the end result and ponders, “Did that which is good, then, become death to me?” (v.13a) His conclusion? “By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” (v.13b) Until the Law arrived I might have thought I was a good and spiritual sort of person, but when I am confronted by the requirements of the Law, I find I struggle with them and realise that I'm not quite so good as I thought I was. More than that, I realise I am not good at all; there is something inside me that wants to do wrong. I am contaminated by this predisposition called Sin, and I realise that it is indeed very ‘sinful'; there is no escaping it!


So to jump a bit, what's the point of the Law if trying to obey it makes me feel a failure? Exactly that; it helps you realise that you are a sinner with a need, and just keeping the rules only makes it worse. There must be another way!











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Meditation No. 27

Meditation Title: Conflicting Lives


Rom 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.


Paul is a thorough teacher. He has been driving home this point that we cannot be saved by keeping the Law and so now he gives what are almost personal examples of the struggles that he finds going on in himself. There are those who consider these verses describe Paul's past life, what went on before he was saved, but I suggest that he is dealing with the whole of life – before and after salvation. We still, as Christians, have these struggles and it is still Jesus and his Holy Spirit who helps us overcome – and that is a daily battle. Yes, it does become less when we have surrendered to God but the old nature is still lurking there in the background and so dying to sin and dying to the law and being alive to God is both something that happens at a one off crisis point of life AND an ongoing process. Do you remember when Paul said to Timothy, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim 1:15)? Note the tense – I AM the worst. Yes, he is redeemed but he knows what he is and he knows that on a daily basis he needs the saving work of Jesus Christ.


So let's see what he now says. He starts this new paragraph concluding what he has just been saying: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” (v.14) It's not that the Law is wrong because it originates with God and it is God's design for human beings – Israel . No, the Law is spiritual; the problem is in me, because it makes me realise that I am unspiritual and I am a salve to sin. There is no way I can get free from this slavery. Wherever I turn I am made aware of it! Indeed, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (v.15) I don't know about this life of mine.

On one hand I want to be good but all the time I realise I fall short and even the best of my intentions are self-centred. I want to do good, but I can't. But it gets worse for I know things about myself that I hate. I can be utterly selfish and utterly unconcerned for God and for others. It's not what I want to be, but I realise that's what I am like. I desperately need help because I can't change this on my own.


I don't know if you have ever come to this point of realization about yourself; it's a humbling thing and it's the one thing that drives us into the arms of Jesus. If you think you are a good person at heart, you really don't know yourself. If you really want to risk your peace of mind, ask the Lord to show you yourself as you really are. It's not a pretty sight! But it does make us realise why we need Jesus.


  He goes on, And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” (v.16). It's like he says, there is this conflict within me, for I know I do things I don't want to do but at the same time I've been brought up to know that the Law from God is good –yet I still can't keep it perfectly and nothing less than perfection in keeping it makes me a righteous rule-keeper (implied). He realises the truth of his state: “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” (v.17) If my mind says this is how you ought to behave, but I find myself acting contrary to that, I realise that it is this predisposition within me, this thing called Sin, this commitment to self that I have been born with, that makes me act as I do. The truth is that, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” (v.18a) There is this inner me that is in conflict with the rational me, an inner me that wants to do its own thing, the inner me that is godless and self-centred, the inner me that leads me to think, say and do wrong things.


You want to know the reality of these things – even in you as a Christian today? So somebody in church starts malicious rumours about you and everyone in the church believes them. How do you react? Yes, it is unjust and unfair. Do you approach the elders calmly or do you find a defensive hostility rising within you against that person? Have you labelled them as your enemy and, if so, have you failed to pray for them? (Mt 5:44) Less than a perfect Christ-like response indicates the presence of ‘the old nature', and we need the grace of Christ to overcome. Yes, Paul speaks for us when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out .” (v.18b) I would love to always be loving, caring, accepting, compassionate and full of grace, but there are times when I feel far from that.


He reiterates what he has already said, to drive home the point: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” (v.19) If I could live by pure will power it might be all right, yet my will says one thing but my actions are something else. This is the dilemma of the human race. We struggle with it and we try to reject it by one means or another, but this IS the truth about us – every one of us – and so every one of us need Christ's deliverance.

His conclusion? “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (v.20) There is a power within me that needs breaking, that needs overcoming by a greater power. This ‘Sin' within me seems so powerful there seems no way that I can overcome it because as much as I would like to be different, I cannot be that. He keeps on reiterating this in the next few verses: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (v.21-23) His mind, his reason, his logic, his desired will, says one thing but it is like there is another him at odds with all that, that does its own thing, so although in his mind he delights in God's law, when it comes to obeying it, that's something completely different.


He feels in desperation: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” ( v.24) He can't do it; he needs outside help. Who is there? Of course the Gospel answer comes back: “Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v.25) God has done through Jesus what I can't do. Hallelujah!


You may think that these meditations – and indeed Paul in chapter 7 – have laboured these things but until we see the reality of them. We will never fully appreciate our need and the work of Christ on our behalf. If you still don't fully see it, pray and ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart and understanding.