What Christian has not experienced the nearly overwhelming conflict expressed by the Apostle Paul in 7:15-24? Such a depth of spiritual darkness that makes you wonder – am I even a Christian? Perhaps you have gone so far as to say: If I consider my present condition, my feeble attempts at holiness nearly hidden in the mass of stupid sinful choices I make, what hope do I have? There is no way I’m ever going to do or be what I ought, I’m trapped in this spiral of sinfulness with no prospect of relief.
Paul in his discourse accurately expresses the perspective of one who is focused nearly exclusively on experience, present conditons, and emotions. Certainly, we cannot escape experience, circumstances, or emotions; but, our perspective must not have those as its sole foundation. We must, like Paul, determinedly turn our attention to objective truth, that which is revealed to us in the pages of Scripture.
What do we find there? None other than the conquering Hero, the mighty Commander of the Lord’s army who has gone out to defeat his foes and capture his saints. In his conquest he delivers those whom he has redeemed from the tyranny of sin, brings them into his own kingdom making them his subjects, and is committed to ultimately bringing them to perfection. It is this mighty Warrior, the Lion of Judah, the slain Lamb worthy to receive honor, our Lord Jesus himself who will deliver us, to whom Paul turned his attention. When we do the same, we see that we have a possession, a perspective and a position unique to the objects of God’s grace.
A. A Unique Possession v. 1-4
1. a sentence replaced by pardon
our sentence of condemnation was nailed to the cross Col 2:14
This does not mean there is nothing to condemn in us; far from that. Rather it means that sin has no power to condemn us since Christ has in our place answered all of the law’s demands.
2. freedom from the law of sin and death
our new freedom is still within boundaries: Christ.
We are free in Christ; only those who are in Christ experience true freedom – If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:36 It is in our union with him that we find freedom from the tyranny of sin. Union with him as viewed by God: in Christ, in Adam Rom 5:18-19; union with him as members of his body Eph 1:22-23 Eph 4:15-16; union with him by faith Gal 3:26-29
3. given to us by God
because the law and our obedience to it was unable to accomplish our pardon
Remember, salvation is of the Lord!!
Because of our natural sinfulness, we are unable to meet the righteous requirements of the law and thus save ourselves. Those requirements must be met by another and given to us as our own.
Regardless of his subjective self-evaluation in light of present circumstances, the objective truth remains that the one who is in Christ is no longer under condemnation. The occasional practice of sin does not equate to being under the domination of sin. The present work of God in us to accomplish our salvation is a process by which we are being made holy, a process which will be completed in glory.
B. A Unique Perspective v. 5-11
1. according to the flesh or according to the Spirit
Freed from the tyranny of sin we have the ability to live and view life from a different perspective – according to the Spirit. We can still be tempted by and attracted to the world’s way of thinking, but it is no longer our only option.
Of a Christian weanedness from the world, and of heavenly-mindedness, that they tend to holy practice. — And I speak of the two together, for they are very much the same thing, expressed negatively and positively. Not to be weaned from the world, is the same thing as to be worldly-minded; and, on the other hand, to have a truly Christian weanedness from the world, is to be not worldly, but heavenly-minded. And this grace, like all the others mentioned, tends to holy practice. If the heart be taken off from the world, it will tend to take off the pursuits from the world; and if the heart be set on heavenly things, which are things not of the world, it will tend to lead us to pursue the things that are heavenly. He that has his heart loose from the world, will not practically keep the world close in his grasp, as being exceeding loath to part with any of it. Jonathan Edwards, Charity & Its Fruits
2. no longer hostile to God
Paul declares the objective truth that the one whose mind-set is governed by the flesh is hostile toward God and unable to please him. The fleshly mindset is both unwilling and unable to submit itself to God’s law. The fact that Paul desires to be obedient to God, that he is greatly exercised when he fails to do so is objective evidence that he is, in fact, in Christ.
3. has the ultimate redemption of the body in view
Remember Paul’s question: Who will deliver me from this body of death? His immediate response was, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Here is another piece of the answer: the Triune God is committed to the salvation, the deliverance, of those who are in Christ. It’s not only Father and Son who together effect our salvation, the Spirit also is an essential life-giver to both our souls and bodies.
C. A Unique Position v. 12-17
1. status of sons
God both transcends his creation and is present in it; it is his immanence that is emphasized in the Father-child relationship. God relates to his creation as a whole, to the redeemed collectively in the church; but he relates in personal terms to individuals within the collective whole. “He who is infinitely high is intimately nigh.” Believers’ Bible Commentary We must avoid the error of extremes, of being so kingdom-focused we forget individuals; Christ is advancing his kingdom, one individual at a time.
How do we know if we are a child of God? Are we led by the Spirit of God? That is, do we willingly submit to the commands and directions of the Word of God as illuminated and applied to us by the Spirit of God? In addition to the objective evidence we may find in ourselves that we are in fact led by the Spirit, God graciously gives us immediate (without anything intervening) assurance that we are truly his children.
2. the Spirit of adoption
We have received not merely adoption – what a great treasure that would be in itself; we have received the Holy Spirit himself, indwelling us to sanctify us and serve as God’s pledge of our future and complete redemption. God has not only given us gifts – every good gift and every perfect gift is from above Jas 1:17 redemption through his blood, forgiveness of sins, the riches of his grace Eph 2:7 – he has given us the greatest gift, Himself.
3. a limitless inheritance
As the first-born Christ inherits the greater blessing; but our text states that we are joint-heirs with him, joint participants in his inheritance. In Eph 1:3 Paul tells us that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. This is the inheritance of a child, not a servant; true, we have been adopted, but we still have a share in God’s limitless treasure.
However, we must not get so focused on the gifts that we lose sight of the greatest gift. May we not be satisfied with anything less than God himself; gifts are wonderful, a limitless inheritance exceeds our comprehension, but nothing can compare with our Heavenly Father. As wonderful as heaven will be, reunion with those who have gone on before, freedom from sin and sweat, our frustrations in this life must make us long for more than heaven. Our greatest desire must be for God himself, knowing him to the fullest extent of our ability, praising and thanking him for giving himself for us and to us.