Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Sunday
Today’s Bible reading is Romans 7–8. If you’re reading this post and you’ve never read Romans before, take the time to read the prior chapters of this letter. To understand the slavery, conflict, and freedom of these chapters, you must first comprehend the plight of each of us before God without the grace that is only found through faith alone in Christ Jesus.
Remember Romans 1:16–17 gives us the theme and the map of Paul’s letter:
Paul begins Romans by writing that the whole world is under the wrath of God. There is none righteous, not even one; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We cannot save ourselves from God’s wrath for none of us can justify ourself before God. The good news of the gospel is:
Francis Schaeffer writes,
“When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are justified…God declares our guilt is gone on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. But our salvation is much wider than justification.
“Salvation includes three tenses: past, present, and future. Romans 1–8 covers all three tenses of salvation. Chapters 1–4 deal with the past act of salvation for the Christian, which is justification. Romans 5:1 through 8:17 deals with salvation’s present aspect, which is sanctification. Then, in a brief, but very striking way, 8:18–39 speaks of the future aspect of salvation, which is glorification.”1
R. C. Sproul states (his emphasis),
“There is a sense in which we are saved, we are being saved and we shall be saved, because the full complex of salvation covers the whole of the Christian experience. Justification occurs the moment I believe, and at that point I am brought into a state of salvation; but my salvation is still to be finalized, stll to be consummated, still to be fully realized through my sanctification and glorification. I don’t receive my ultimate salvation until I am inn heaven. If I am justified, I will certainly receive that ultimate salvation in heaven.”2
I’ve also heard our salvation explained as we are saved from the penalty of sin (justification), we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and we shall be saved from the presence of sin (glorification).
In his division of Romans Sproul includes chapter 5 in the section on justification, because “Paul spells out for us in brief, the great fruits of justification.”3 As I quoted above, Schaeffer includes chapter 5 in the section on sanctification. Schaeffer explains,
“We were dead (1–4) and now we’re alive (4–8). Having been dead and now being alive…we can bring forth that which is life and not death. So, Paul begins this next section :
“…How can the Christian life be a reality, not just a theoretical thing, for us and our fellow Christians?
“The key to answering this question about sanctification is given in those first two verses of chapter 5: “Therefore being justified by faith [in the past], we have peace with God [in the present] through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we [in the present] have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” We are justified by faith. That’s something that has already happened, in the past. But now, in the present, by this same faith, we have access to God’s grace. Once you see that, you have the key to the Christian life…
“We know that our justification rested completely upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus, and not in any way upon our own ablities or goodness. What about our sanctification? It, like our justification, rests completely upon Christ’s work, not on ours.
“…When Paul said, in his theme verses (Rom. 1:16–17), that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” he was including salvation in all three of its aspects. For salvation is a running stream, not static. The gospel is the power of God for salvation from our guilt in justification. But it is also the salvation in our present battles for our sanctification and for our salvation in the redemption of our bodies in glorification. There is a tendency for Christians to talk a great deal about the need to develop Christian character, as though, having accepted Christ as our Savior, we can now begin operating on the basis of our own qualities of character. But if we are expecting to become strong enough on our own to win the battle, we’re never going to win the battle. It’s too much for us.
“…Whether we are talking about the past, present, or future aspect of salvation, the basis is always the finished work of Christ, and the instrument whereby we lay hold of Christ’s finished work is always faith.”4
Romans 6 begins with Paul anticipating a question, Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? He answers with May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? He goes on to explain that Christians have been united with Christ in His death and life. John Murray writes,
“Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment of the finished work of Christ…This can readily be seen if we remember that brief expression which is so common in the New Testament, namely, “in Christ.”…
“It is in Christ that the people of God are created anew. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). Here Paul is insisting upon the great truth that by grace, not works, we are saved.
“…It is in Christ that Christian life and behavior are conducted (Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 1:4, 5; cf. 1 Cor. 6:15–17).
“…Finally, it is in Christ that the people of God will be resurrected and glorified. It is in Christ they will be made alive when the last trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:22. It is with Christ they will be glorified (Rom. 8:17).”5
In Christ we have died to sin. In Christ we are alive to God.
We have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection so that we might now walk in the newness of life. We are now freed from slavery to sin and enslaved to God. In Romans 6 Paul commands:
The very reason sin shall not be our master is that we are now under grace!
In Romans 6:14 Paul again asks and answers anticipated questions, What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! He contrasts our former obedience to sin, a slavery leading to death, with our present obedience to righteousness, and now being enslaved to God, leading to sanctification, and in the end, eternal life.
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul uses marriage to describe for believers in Christ their relationship to the Law. Even as a woman whose husband has died is released from marital law, and can remarry, through Christ we have died to the Law, and we are released from it to be free to joined to Christ. In verse 6, there’s a key point:
In Romans 7:7-13, Paul reiterates that the Law is good, and that it was sin taking opportunity through the commandment that produced in him coveting of every kind, deceived him, and killed him. Do not do this—being sinners, we do it. Do this—being sinners, we refuse. If we see a sign saying, don’t touch the wet paint—we doubt the sign or defy it, and we want to touch the wet paint. Our sin doesn’t make the Law wrong—the Law reveals God’s standard of righteousness, and it reveals our rebellion against God.
Paul wrote to the Galatians:
Francis Schaeffer writes (emphasis added):
“The law is spiritual. It has a good purpose. I am free from the law when I accept Jesus as my Savior, in the sense that it no longer binds me (7:1-4). I am no longer condemned by the law. Still, however, the law sets before me the character of God. The law sets before me what it means to love God. And as I look at the law, I realize that “I am carnal, sold under sin.” The problem is not the law. The problem is me.
“Beginning with verse 15, Paul describes his own ongoing struggle with sin even after becoming a Christian.”6
Read Romans 7:14–23 to understand Paul’s cry in 7:24–25:
In introducing Romans 8, Schaeffer writes (emphasis added):
“…the law is not enough to save us, and it is not enough to sustain us after we have been saved. Both before and after we become Christians we need the power of Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. In chapter 8, Paul introduces us to the Holy Spirit specifically as the agent of Christ’s power in our lives.”7
Paul has clearly shown us two things about ourselves: as sinners we have no righteousness of our own that can save us, we must have Christ’s; as believers we have no righteousness of our own that can sustain us, we must have Christ’s.
Have you realized that not only must you have Christ to be righteous before God, but you must have Christ to live righteously before God? Have you understood your inability to walk and live rightly before God? For those who cry out with Paul, Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? we can also cry out with Paul, Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul opens Romans 8 with one of the most wonderful declarations in Scripture:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Decalogue parchment by Jekuthiel Sofer 1768: Public Domain.
1,4,6,7Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 23; 118, 121–122; 182; 183.
2,3R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans (Christian Focus Publications, Ltd; Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, United Kingdom: 2011) 121,8.
5John Murray, “Union with Christ,” Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1955) 161, 163–164.
*I will have additional posts on Romans 8.
I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.
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