Completed by the Spirit Part 10: The Law of the Spirit of Life Has Set You Free

This is the 10th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. In Romans 8, Paul pro­vides the solu­tion to the wretched state of the chap­ter 7 man, as he joy­fully pro­claims, “[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:1–2). But that does not mean that the law is now harm­less to the regen­er­ate man who nev­er­the­less still has remain­ing sin – and as we noted above – will con­tinue to have remain­ing sin in his flesh until glory. Paul issues this stern warning: [5] For those who live accord­ing to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live accord­ing to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hos­tile to God, for it does not sub­mit to God’s law; indeed, it can­not. [8] Those who are in the flesh can­not please God. (Romans 8:5–8) Sim­i­larly, in 1 Corinthi­ans, Paul reminds us, “[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the vic­tory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:56–57). To focus on the law in our regen­er­ate state is to set our minds on the very thing that pro­vokes sin in the flesh and to set our minds on the very thing that gives sin its power over our flesh.… Read More

Read More

Share

Uphold the law by looking away from it and to Christ

“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”  -Romans 3:31, ESV Romans 3:31 is a proof text and pillar for Covenant Theology’s (CT) insistence for the ‘third use’ of the Law.[1] On the face of it, and within the framework of CT, it is not difficult to see how this verse lends itself to such an understanding. Confessedly, I once saw this verse as a reason to refute the claims of NCT’s view of Mosaic Law. However, three considerations make clear that CT’s view of this verse erroneous. 1. Romans 3:31 cannot oppose what Paul writes elsewhere concerning Mosaic Law & the Christian (e.g. Romans 6-8; 10:4; 2 Cor. 3; Galatians 3-5, Ephesians 2:14-15; Col. 2:14). This is to say nothing of the clear testimony of Hebrews 8-10. To pit Romans 3:31 against the weight and clear teaching of the rest of Scripture is unsound theological method. Paul would not assert one thing in Galatians (namely, freedom from the entire Mosaic legislation) only to contradict himself later in Romans. A high view of Scripture guards against such absurdity since God, the Author of Scripture, is a God of truth. Therefore, since truth by definition is non-contradictory, Paul is not at odds with himself. Romans 3:31 cannot undermine, or fly in the face of, what the apostle writes elsewhere. The veracity of Scripture as a whole is at stake here. 2. The immediate context does not support CT’s confidence. A few verses earlier, in Romans 3:21, Paul states that although justifying righteousness has been manifested apart from the law, the “Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.” The next phrase makes it clear; faith in Christ for righteousness is that to which “the Law and Prophets” bear witness. Therefore,… Read More

Read More

Share

Escape from Passivity: Galatians 6:7-10

Introduction: The believing church in America has been burdened by passivity, that grand art of doing nothing. There are various causes for this passivity, such as overreaction to liberal, salvation by works theology, or of the desire for freedom from hardship and work in helping. But we will not discuss such things today. Instead, let us concentrate on our responsibility to be doers of good. Let us ask ourselves, why should we be doing good? What encourages us to do good? How can we do good?       Exposition I. Two solemn principles (7-8) A. The character of God: he cannot be mocked. 1. This speaks of your attitude; you cannot successfully turn your nose up at God. He will justly act to display his surpassing worth. 2. Some people think they can treat God with contempt by living their own way. Something like, “God really does not care how I live, as long as I believe in Christ.” What this actually shows is a heart still in rebellion against God and his ways. Those who change their mind about God and sin, trust themselves to Christ, who only can save them from their sin. B. The law of harvest: you reap what you sow. 1. This is true in a natural sense; everything produces according to its own kind. Illustration: Consider Sharon’s friendship garden that some have worked so hard to keep it going. Whatever is there, whether lilies, irises, roses, produces after its own kind. 2. It is also true in the spiritual sense. a. Whatever is done for the flesh will only produce corruption; whatever is done for the Spirit will yield eternal life. “Corruption” speaks of all that is miserable to human existence: spiritual, physical, eternal suffering, anguish, pain and grief. “Eternal life” speaks of the… Read More

Read More

Share

Completed by the Spirit Part 9: ‘It Cannot Justify, It Cannot Sanctify’

This is the ninth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. As we saw in our pre­vi­ous three installments, there are three ways the man of Romans 7 may be identified. 1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the pre­vi­ous installment. 2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law. 3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Christian. But as we closed part 8, we asked, “Does it mat­ter to us as an appli­ca­tion of Romans 7 which of the three men Paul is describing?” Whichever of the three views one might hold, two of the same con­clu­sions can be drawn from Romans 7. First: the law can­not save us or sanc­tify us. Sec­ond: the regen­er­ate man is not, and must not live as, a slave to the law. Given those two propo­si­tions, how can it fol­low that the regen­er­ate man should use what enslaved him and what caused him to sin as some­thing to sanc­tify him? As Lloyd-Jones writes: The Apos­tle is not describ­ing his own expe­ri­ence here; but, as I have con­tin­ued to repeat, he is con­cerned to tell us a num­ber of things about the Law, and to show us that the Law can­not save in any respect; it can­not jus­tify, it can­not sanc­tify. That is his one object in the whole of the pas­sage. His inter­est is in the Law. In verse 5 he says that the Law makes us sin more than ever; in verse 13 he says “the law kills me.” He knew he would be crit­i­cized and mis­un­der­stood over this, so he answers the objec­tions. That is all he is doing;… Read More

Read More

Share

With Joy! – Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians 1:1-11 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: (2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (6) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (7) It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (8) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (9) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (10) so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (ESV) 1. Introduction As we consider this passage my primary focus will be Paul’s telling words in verse 4 (read in context). (3) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. “Joy”, the possession of it, or the scarcity of it, or even the… Read More

Read More

Share

Completed by the Spirit Part 8: Paul, Redeemed but Struggling

This is the eighth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. As we visited in our previous two installments, Douglas Moo describes three different ways in which the man Paul describes in Romans 7 can be identified: 1. Paul describes his experience as an unconverted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the previous installment. 2. Paul describes his experience, perhaps shortly after his conversion, as he sought sanctification through the law. 3. Paul describes his experience as a mature Christian.[1] Sinclair Ferguson advocates for the third view, a post-regenerate Paul (or generic regenerate man) in Romans 7, and sees the apostle as using this pericope to join chapter 6 with chapter 8 and to describe the struggle that the believer has between his remaining corrupt flesh and his new nature: [T]hese statements simply underline Paul’s sense of the inherent contradiction of being one in whom sin continues to dwell when he or she is not under the dominion of the flesh but in the Spirit. For the one who has realized that the synchronous indwelling of the Spirit of Christ and of sin presents an appalling contradiction – not merely a paradox – is bound to express it in terms that verge on, and perhaps are, contradictory.[2] Stephen Westerholm also makes an argument for the third position, and in doing so gives us a warning about the danger of using the law as an agent of sanctification: To seek to define whether he has in mind the Christian or the pre-Christian struggle with sin is probably to ask a question he did not intend to answer; indeed, his account seems to mix elements from both. Most of what he says clearly reflects… Read More

Read More

Share

How to Help Others: Galatians 6:3-6

Introduction: Paul is giving solid instruction on a practical level about how to get the church of Galatia back together. The individual members of the church must become the menders of the church. As the physical body strives to put itself back together after a physical injury, so the body of Christ should seek to heal itself by the means which the Lord has appointed. Every believer is to be active in restoring and healing the body, which is the church. Menders must have a proper attitude. The NIV unhappily has not translated the connecting particle, “for”. Paul is emphasizing that you must have a proper view of self, if you would be a helper of others.     Exposition: I. The problem a wrong view of self creates (6:3) A. The essence of a wrong view of self (cf. Rm 12:3). 1. A sense of self-importance is based on self-ignorance. If you really know who you are, you cannot be conceited (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 15:9-10). There is something wrong with the idea of a “conceited Christian”. How can anyone who owes all to God’s grace be proud? 2. One who has an inflated view of himself cannot think of stooping to help the lowly. Actually, this kind of person is failing to see his unity in the Spirit with all who follow Christ; together we are spiritual brothers and sisters. B. The dreadful deception such a view causes. 1. The person is living in the realm of fantasy. He or she is like a child who is playing “super heroes”. There are no super heroes in the church, but there is one Almighty Lord—Jesus Christ! 2. The darker side of this tragedy is that the person does not know he has been taken in by his conceit. And therefore,… Read More

Read More

Share

Completed by the Spirit Part 7: Paul, the Unconverted Jew

This is the sev­enth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.       In the pre­vi­ous install­ment in this series, we saw that the­olo­gian Dou­glas Moo describes three dif­fer­ent ways in which the man Paul describes in Romans 7 can be identified: 1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law. 2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law. 3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Chris­t­ian.[1] Moo advo­cates for the first position: As Paul has taught at some length in Romans 6, every believer, united with Christ in death and res­ur­rec­tion, has been “set free from sin” (see 6:6, 14, 18, 22). And Romans 8:2 makes it clear that the Spirit sets every believer free from the law of sin and death. For me, then, the deci­sive point is sim­ply put: the asser­tions made in verses 14–25 can­not be true of a believer, and thus can­not be refer­ring to Paul. That is why I think that Paul is describ­ing what it was like to live as an unre­gen­er­ate Jew under the law.[2] Sys­tem­atic the­olo­gian Robert L. Rey­mond con­curs with Moo: It is both this last point – the “utter sin­ful­ness” of his sin­ful nature – and the impo­tency of the law in the strug­gle against sin – that Paul devel­ops in 7:14–25, argu­ing that even when as the con­victed Phar­isee he wanted to do the good and obey God, his sin­ful nature would not let him and the law did not help him; to the con­trary, the sin­ful nature “waged war against the law of his mind [the desire to do good] and made him a pris­oner of the law of sin at… Read More

Read More

Share

Helping One Another: Galatians 6:1-2

Exposition: This world is a place of continually needed repair. Oh, that everything would stay in a “brand new” condition! But cars, clothes, furniture, appliances and homes all require ongoing repair work. People, yes, Christian people, need restoration, too. And as a faithful servant of God, the apostle sought to mend the broken church of Galatia. John Flavel said the following well; And indeed it is not so much the expense of our labors, as the loss of them, that kills us. It is not with us, as with other laborers: they find their work as they leave it, so do not we [sic]. Sin and Satan unravel almost all we do, the impressions we make on our people’s souls in one sermon, vanish before the next. How many truths have we to study! How many wiles of Satan, and mysteries of corruption, to detect! How many cases of conscience to resolve! Yea, we must fight in defence [sic] of the truths we preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them unto faintness: but welcome all, if we can but approve ourselves Christ’s faithful servants. In pursuit of this goal, Paul gives some positive, practical steps that every congregation of believers must take, as it seeks to keep in step with the Spirit. Let us remember before we consider these verses that all is based on Christ and the gospel. Exposition: Three features of a Christian who mends other Christians I.            The gentle restorer (6:1a) – The atmosphere in the Galatian church had been that of “law keeping for acceptance by God and one another”. This mood produces a harsh and judgmental attitude among people. However, we are not under law, but under grace (Rm 6:14). Praise God! When we realize what sin is—rejecting God, refusing to… Read More

Read More

Share

Keep In Step With The Spirit: Galatians 5:24-26

Introduction: Paul has had to write the Galatians to correct them because of the false teaching that had arisen among them. The false doctrine dishonored God, led people away from Christ and grace, and put the salvation of many in danger. The false teaching had also helped problems connected with remaining sin gain strength in them and disrupted their fellowship. If we do not know how to live godly in Christ Jesus, doing so becomes very difficult.  So then, the apostle needed to reestablish the way of true Christian living among the Galatians. People do not just drift into the right way of doing things. They must be taught. Illustration: A person needs to be taught how to cast with a fishing rod. Exposition: I. Life under the Spirit’s leadership begins with a decisive break with sin. (5:24) A. This radical separation is true of all who belong to Christ 1. The statement is indicative; it is a fact, not a command or a possibility. It is basic to new life in Christ. Paul is writing about what is true of all who believe and are saved. 2. This break with the ruling power of sin has happened to all Christians— “those of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 15:23; cf. 1 Pt 2:9-10). It is part of the initial event of salvation, and does not occur through some supposed later second blessing or transforming experience (Rm 6:1-7; 8:9-10; Col 2:11-12). You do not have to learn some supposed “secret”; you do not have to walk an aisle to pray through or to re/dedicate yourself to God. This has happened to all who belong to Christ—to those who are in Christ. B. The nature of this break is crucifixion. When did you crucify the flesh? You did it when you believed in Christ crucified for… Read More

Read More

Share

The Law of Christ: 1 Corinthians 9:21

Opening Remarks: ‘In the wake of Galatians’ is how I would describe where we are as a church. And that’s an awesome place to be. We’ve learned so much in the past two or so years. We’ve learned that Christ has set us free from the law. Believers are released from the Mosaic Covenant ‘in toto.’ Believers do not need the guardianship of the law because Christ, the very substance of the law, the one to whom the law pointed, dwells in them by His Spirit.  We’ve seen that the law was a temporary covenant; it was put in force some 400 years after the Abrahamic. And it ended with the work of Christ on the cross.  For freedom Christ has set us free. For freedom Christ lived on the earth and died upon the tree. Christians are free from the Law of Moses; they are not under it; it does not hover over them as some weighty, unattainable standard. It doesn’t command us with its commands. It doesn’t taunt or burden us with its curses. The apostle has made it abundantly clear: believers in Christ are not under the law. Believers live in a new age. Believers live post-cross.  Believers are completely unshackled from the chains of that covenant summarily defined as the ten commandments. To live otherwise is to do so dangerously. Remember what Paul says in Galatians 5:3. He says that anyone who subjects himself to part of the law is obligated to keep all of it. “I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” It’s an all or nothing deal. You can’t just pick and choose. You can’t just slice and dice the law according to your preference and keep part of it (as if you could). Do… Read More

Read More

Share

The Other Great Exchange: Trading One Moral Code for Another

There’s good news and then there’s bad news.  First, the good news: Jesus bore the punishment due me for my sin.  He was crushed for my sin and His body nailed to a tree for my transgressions (Isaiah 53:5).  This isn’t just good news, this is GREAT news!  Jesus bore the punishment for my sin that I deserved so that I wouldn’t have to (Isaiah 53:6).  An exchange took  place on the cross that many call the great exchange.  In the great exchange, Jesus took my sin and the wrath of God that I deserve upon himself and in exchange, I get his perfect righteousness dumped freely into my account, so that when God sees me, he sees Jesus in me and Jesus’ perfect life and payment for my sin on the cross makes me unconditionally accepted by God forever and always.  Paul put it this way, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) The great exchange is the good news of the gospel: what I couldn’t do, God did for me apart from anything I do (Romans 3:21-25).  That’s grace and that’s great news! Now, the bad news. Once we come to Christ in faith and repentance, we can start to forget our deep need for the ongoing power of the gospel to live our lives day be day.  We tend to think of the gospel as what gets us into the kingdom – that which starts us off in the Christian life – and then we move beyond it and immerse ourselves in the “deeper” things of God, as though there was something deeper than the gospel.   Elyse Fitzpatrick captures this perfectly in a blog entitled Grace for Regretful… Read More

Read More

Share

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part Two): Galatians 5:22-23

Introduction Recently, I began our study on these verses with the following words, which are worth repeating. “The Christian way of life is based on the good news of Jesus, and it develops through that same good news. Christ died and rose again to set us free, and by the Holy Spirit he continues to set us free. What Jesus Christ does for us is good; in fact when compared with the works of the flesh, it is tremendously, beautifully, overwhelmingly, surpassingly, stunningly good.” Verses like these show the excellence of what our Lord continues to do in us. It is necessary to start with Christ and the gospel, because of two perspectives that form the true Christian way of life. The perspective of grace – We do not live for Jesus Christ in the realm of the law or the flesh (human effort). The true Christian happens because we’re united to Christ by grace through faith, and not by works. Being joined to Christ means we are in his spiritual realm and are changed by his almighty power by the Holy Spirit. The perspective of worship – We live for Jesus Christ in response to the grace we have received in him. Think of what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rm 12:1-2). In the previous message we saw first that the Holy Spirit starts the production of his fruit in a Christian’s… Read More

Read More

Share

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part One): Galatians 5:22-23

Introduction The Christian way of life is based on the good news of Jesus, and it develops through that same good news. Christ died and rose again to set us free, and by the Holy Spirit he continues to set us free. What Jesus Christ does for us is good; in fact when compared with the works of the flesh, it is tremendously, beautifully, overwhelmingly, surpassingly, stunningly good. “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way.” Yes, it is glory begun to share in the Lord’s character now. What better thing can there be for us than to be like him? Savor the excellence of the excellent fruit spoken of here. Yet, why do we have so much trouble with what Christ is doing in us by the Spirit? We used the illustration last week that the Spirit is Christ’s resident remodeling contractor in his people. Why do we show such resistance when he starts to rip the moldy, cracked lath and plaster (remaining sin) out of our lives? Why are we so reluctant to see likeness to him as attractive, pleasant, and refreshing in our lives? I trust that this study will bring a new delight and desire for conformity to Jesus Christ in each one of us. Exposition I.            The Holy Spirit starts the production of his fruit in a Christian’s life at the time of regeneration. A.            The Spirit brings new spiritual life in the inner person of the believer. 1.            A radical change occurs as the Spirit unites us with Christ. The old self is put off and the new self is put on (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10). We have new desires for holiness and righteousness. 2.            As the old inner self had a… Read More

Read More

Share