“Why are you feeding the dead?”
Biblical background – The book of Romans is broken into several sections.
A quick overview in chapter 1:1-18, Paul introduces the generosity of servant hood. He then gives a “diagnosis – The knowledge of God and the sinful fall of humanity” (1:19-3:20). He moves to his 1st prognosis – Justified by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-8:17). He gives the 2nd prognosis – subjected to futility (uselessness), subject to hope (8:18-11:36), here he talks about the glorious freedom of the Children of God, whom God justifies he also glorifies, the mercy of God and the riches of His glory toward all, he then gives his prescription: faithful servants in action (12:1-15:13) he talks about sacrificial worship, humble use of gifts within the body, loving acts of service and hospitality, loving one’s neighbor, living as in the day and not in darkness. Then he gives his conclusion, (15:14-16:27) his purpose for writing so boldly and his final greetings, warnings, and doxology.
The book of Romans is said to be one of the most powerful of Paul’s writings, three historical figures attribute their salvation to the book of Romans, Augustine, Martin Luther and John Wesley. Paul writes this letter to give the people the good news (the gospel). Paul gives the good news because the bad news is so bad, and people are in desperate need of the good news (isn’t that true today). What is the bad news? The bad news Paul expresses is that all people are cut off from God and subject to eternal judgment because of their built-in tendency to ignore who they really are and their refusal to turn away from “self”.
Paul starts this letter off talking about the people of his day. They had an idea of God because they could see the beauty and splendor of God’s hand in nature, but instead of seeking this God, the creator of everything, they worship nature itself. They were indifferent to the God who liberates people from their bondage to evil, pagan rituals, homosexual practices, to sexual immorality and the like. Their minds were warped and their moral compasses were spinning wildly. Murder, malice, deceit, and heartless cruelty prevail. But Paul goes on the say that this bad news isn’t just for the idol worshippers, murderers, and sexual offenders, but he says in verse 3:19 that every mouth is silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Compared to a holy and righteous God, the morally religious person is no better off than the immoral criminal.
All were alike, Jew and Gentile are without hope, because all alike have sinned. This is the stage that Paul letters sets when he gives the diagnosis of man’s plight. He could have been writing to us today. In our day, we are aware of God, we see his splendor in the earth, but there are still those that decide to worship the created instead of the creator. And one of those created things, is ourselves. So we worship “self” instead of the one that created man. Men and women today are still indifferent to a God that will liberate from the bondage of evil, from rituals to “self” and other false beliefs, from bondage to homosexuality and bondage to sexual sin and the like. Our minds today are also warped. And not only is our moral compasses spinning wildly, I think sometimes we have thrown them out the window to the ideas of “what works for me, is good because it works for me” We have thrown away the moral standards of God for the ideas of relativism, how does it relate to me. Murder, malice, deceit and heartless cruelty still prevail today.
So Paul gives the prognosis or cure of what can change man’s standing before God. It is still the same cure you and I need today. He tells his audience that there is hope, hope in Jesus Christ. Christ alone opens up the way for man to be in a right standing with God. This is where we will stop for a moment.
Let us look at the scripture:
Romans 7:15-25 – “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good things: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
There are different beliefs about whom Paul was speaking about. Some believe Paul is speaking about the struggles of the unsaved man. Some believe it is the struggle going on within the saved man, but that Paul is not speaking personally. There is also the belief that it is Paul speaking about himself, using himself as an example. I have no problem believing this is Paul speaking about his own struggles. I do not believe it is the unsaved, because they have not yet been changed so there is no good thing yet inside to struggle against, for the unsaved man is still filled with unrighteousness, yet we know that the Holy Spirit is working to draw the unsaved to the place where they can either accept or reject Christ. But, as of now the unsaved is still hostile towards God. And here Paul talks about the struggle against that which is good, and that which is sinful.
He is also addressing some of the popular believes of his time, for example that the soul struggle is essentially against a specific sin or habit, that human nature is essentially good, that sanctification is by means of the law, and that if one will only determine to do the right, he will be able to do it in his own power. These are some of the misconceptions Paul is addressing with this letter. These are some of the same misconceptions of our time. We believe that our problems will go away if we can only get rid of a particular habit or sin and we are going to be forever without struggles, that we have this inward good that we need to only tap into, and that if we are good upstanding people we will be sanctified, blessed or made holy and righteous because of our ability to want to do good and do it. We believe those “New Age” philosophies of we have the power to become God with our only wanting it to be so.
Reading other letters written by Paul we can know that Paul has no problem with using himself as an example to explain the truths of God. And if you know anything from listening to those that preach, that is how God does. He gives the preacher the message first so that when he or she comes to give it to the people, it is more than just words written on a piece of paper, but words that God has made real within their life. So let’s look a little deeper at one of the messages here in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
1. THE WAR INSIDE
What is dictating our actions?
The “Sin” inside –When we were sinners, we had no control over the sin inside we were in bondage to it, and we were lead by it. When Christ saved us, we were set free from the bondage of this sin. Yet we still have to deal with the flesh. When we were changed, our flesh did not disappear. We will contend with it as long as we are here on this side of heaven. What do we mean when we say flesh? The Flesh – is marked by no control over self or pursuit of self fulfilling things and lusts, it is self-sovereign (it’s own god), and it worships a false trinity of “Me, Myself and I” and it battles against…
The “Good” inside – God’s spirit was made alive in us through salvation. God imparted to us his Spirit so that we could live righteously before him. Now the Spirit in us – desires to do what is right before God, the spirit within wants us to flee evil, the Spirit wants control over the flesh, and the Spirit worships the true trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
Paul asks the question, “Who can save me from this body of death” – the answer is, Jesus Alone. Paul is acknowledging that he does not have the power in himself to fight the war going on inside. Let me just say this, if I say nothing else, we could learn a valuable lesson from Paul in these verses. If Paul the great Apostle was aware that he was fighting a battle he could not win, why do we keep trying to change stuff ourselves? Why do we think we can work it out, figure it out in ourselves? Scripture tells us not to lean to our own understanding, and that is because our understanding is fleshly motivated and not spiritual and it will only mess things up really bad. You know you are using your understanding because ever sentence you say starts with “I”. That is you working from that false trinity of “me, myself and I”
You say things like I am going to do… I want to do… I won’t do…. What I need…and the list is endless. Instead we need to realize that if we are to be successful in this walk it will be us releasing our selves into God’s hand. We have to move our speech from “I” to saying things like, “God direct me…” “God lead me…” “God give your wisdom in this matter…” When we do we understand what Paul was saying, that Jesus alone will do it. Paul warns us not to think we can achieve through our own works. You or I cannot do enough to get this walk right. Us getting this walk right is based solely on you and I submitting completely to God and from that place we work out our salvation. This was one of those false beliefs I just mentioned that Paul was trying to show as a lie. We cannot just will it so; we must count completely on the Spirit of God in us, to be able to do what is right before God.
Check the Williams Innovative Network website, http://home.comcast.net/~inhisword/site/
for the second installment of this message.