Which one of these statements is true:
As Christians we are on conditional footing; meaning that we are both obligated to do some things and to not do some things in order to enter the kingdom of God.
As Christians we are on unconditional footing; meaning that we are neither obligated to do anything nor keep from doing anything in order to enter the kingdom of God.
I fear that many who call themselves Christian will espouse that eternal life is all of grace, but at the same time think that they are under obligation to keep the law.
For approximately one year now some friends and I have had an ongoing discussion about a particular passage of scripture, Romans 7:13-25. The question is this, is Paul talking about himself as a believer struggling with sin or as an unbeliever? I can see validity in both points of view; as a Christian I struggle with temptation and sin on a daily basis, on the other hand the man in this passage has no victory over sin at all. So is Paul talking about himself pre or post conversion?
Overall this has been a very fruitful discussion, not only has it caused us all to dive deeply into the scriptures, but has given us all much opportunity in sanctification, for growth in Christian love. I’m not going to paint you a picture of brothers sitting around linked in arms agreeing, this debate has been very heated at times, and has caused a great deal of tension among brothers who are not ashamed of the gospel, willing to go anywhere to proclaim it at anytime. The fact that we can so sharply disagree and still love one another is a testament to the fruit of the spirit.
For the past year I have read Romans chapters 6, 7, & 8 or portions of these on a nearly daily basis, as I wanted to know what God is saying to us in this deeply rich section of scripture. I’ve read multiple commentaries, listened to sermons, read books, but the greatest fruit has come from scripture alone.
Yes, I know, you are waiting for me to tell you which these I think are true. Is Paul talking about himself as a believer or as an unbeliever? What if I told you it doesn’t matter? I no longer care if Paul is talking about himself as a Christian struggling with sin or as an unbeliever having no victory over sin. I don’t care, because it doesn’t matter; it is not the point of the text. The point of the text is that the law cannot save from sin. And what did Jesus come to do? To save sinners! “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1Tim.1.15.NASB)
I no longer see this passage as I once did, about a Christian struggling with sin. I would read through it and say yep, we struggle with sin, and not even notice what is being said in the text. Of course Christians struggle with sin, it is an ongoing and continues battle throughout our lives, and the fact that you do struggle testifies of the new life God has given you in Christ. There are many passages throughout scripture that will attest to this, but that is not the purpose of this text. It is about man’s futile attempt to be righteous through keeping the law in his flesh. If you ever get this, it will BLOW YOUR MIND: “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter….Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans.7.6-7 & Romans.8.1-2.NASB) The intervening text is written with the intent of explaining this, and for no other reason.
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans.8.3-4.NASB) Friends, no one can fulfill the law in his flesh, you are not able, but if you walk according to the Spirit in Christ, that is by faith, the law is fulfilled in us who are in the Spirit.
It’s like this, through faith in Christ we have died to the law, because God condemned sin in the flesh through Christ, therefore we who are in Christ died with Christ, we are not bound to the law in anyway, the law only has jurisdiction upon a person so long as he lives. For example the law says; “Do not commit adultery” and Jesus said “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The man under the law walking by the flesh sees an attractive woman and says to himself; “Do not commit adultery”; sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produces lusts of every kind, the more this man tells himself “Do not commit adultery”, the more lustful thoughts he has; for apart from the Law sin is dead. Now take the man who walks by the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he sees an attractive woman, he is trusting in the righteousness of Christ not in his own flesh, he considers himself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Rather than saying “Do not commit adultery”, he neither resists the temptation nor gives in to the temptation; he knows he is not under law but under grace, he ignores the temptation, because he knows there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The man who walks by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has peace, because he knows there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He now, having been released from the law of sin and death is free to serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter. Christianity is not a do not religion, it is a do religion; do spend the life God has given you loving one another as Christ loved us.
A slave of Jesus Christ