Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Law of Sin and The Law of God

by Michele Rayburn

I've heard many Christians over the years say that they, not Paul, were really the chief of sinners, which is a direct contradiction to the inspired word of God.

It seems like everybody wants to be a Chief (of sinners), but nobody wants to be an Indian (a saint)!

There is Pauline theology, and then there is "Christine" theology, that is "Christine O'Donnell theology", which says "I am you!"

"I am you", "Christine theology" works when speaking on a worldly level: "I'm an average American, and so are you."

But "I am you", "Christine theology", doesn't work when speaking on a spiritual level about Christians, once they are born again, and are new creations in Christ. Now it's, "Praise God! I am no longer you!"

What I am in my new regenerate spirit is who I really am. When I sin, it is not me (that is, in my new spirit), it is "sin in me", as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:17:

"But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

And Romans 7:18 goes on to say, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells...".

Someone may ask,
But certainly you are not suggesting that these things are no longer sins if we do them just because we are Christians?

It doesn't mean that when I sin, it is not sin. It simply means that it is not me, but it is "sin in me", in my flesh doing the sinning, and it is my flesh warring against the new me, warring against my new regenerate spirit. (Romans 7:17)

You ask, "How are we different from a murderer?"

We are different in our spirit.

To the extent that we acknowledge, understand, reckon, and appropriate our new identity in Christ as born again new creations, alive to God and dead to sin (Romans 6), and now saints, we will have the strength in our new spirit to walk by the spirit, as the Apostle Paul so often instructs us to do.

That's the reason for making the distinction that "I am not a murderer".

But to the extent that we instead focus on "our old man" who "was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with" (Romans 6:6), and call ourselves something that we are not, "sinners" (defined as one who practices sin as an ongoing lifestyle), to that extent we will live somewhat defeated lives, struggling with sin more than we should have to, like the double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways.

I know that I am not what I used to be before I was radically saved 31 years ago.

And the murderer, if he comes to know the Lord five minutes before he dies, like the thief on the cross, will find himself with Christ in great glory in Heaven.

And at that point, the point at which the murderer should trust in the Lord, I can then say that the murderer is now just like me.

You may ask,"When I sin, it is not me"?

So, then, what do we do with this verse in Romans 7:17?:

"But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

Paul clarifies it, to answer your question, with this next verse in Romans 7:18:

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells...".

Paul is making a distinction between "I" ("the one who wills to do good" Rom.7:21) and "my flesh" ("in me, that is, in my flesh" Rom.7:18.)

You will say,
Paul later says: "So then, I *myself* serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

Exactly. "I *myself* serve the law of God with my mind..."

but

"...with *my flesh* I serve the law of sin." (Rom.7:25)

Not only does Paul say, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Romans 7:17, "But now it is *no longer I who do it*, but *sin* that dwells in me."...

...but Paul goes on to say again in Romans 7:20:

"Now if I do what I will not to do, it is *no longer I who do it*, but *sin* that dwells in me."

Now, there are two "I"'s here:

1) "I do what I will not to do"

and

2) "it is no longer I who do it"

Go back to #1:

1) I (my flesh) do what I ("the one who wills to do good") will not to do.

and

Go back to #2:

2) ...it is no longer I ("the one who wills to do good") who do it.

Then who, or what, "in the flesh" is doing the things I will not to do? (Rom.7:20)

Paul gives us the answer twice:

Romans 7:17 and 7:20 "...it is no longer I who do it, but *sin* that dwells in me."

Paul then reveals to us some of the mystery behind this. He gives us the reason for this:

Romans 7:21, "I find then *a law*, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good."

And then Paul presents the conflict once again, of the "flesh warring against our mind":

Romans 7:22, "For I delight in the law of God according to *the inward man*..."

Romans 7:23, "...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*."

Paul then makes this conclusion in Romans 7:25:

"So then, *with the mind* I myself [my new regenerated self] serve the law of God, but *with the flesh* [still unchanged] the law of sin."

So, as we see in Romans 7:23, there is a war between "the law of my mind" and "the law of sin which is in my members [my flesh]".

There is a war between "I", "the one who wills to do good" [the one whose spirit is regenerated], and "my flesh" [which is still as yet unchanged].


In Conclusion: The Law of Sin vs. The Law of God

1) The Law of Sin

Paul says in Rom.7:17,20 "sin...dwells in me", and in Rom.7:18 "in my flesh, nothing good dwells", and in Rom.7:21 "evil is present *with* me".

Paul wraps it up by saying in Rom.7:25 "with the flesh [I serve] the law of sin." ("I" in this verse does not refer to "the one who wills to do good" but to that part of me which is unchanged, unrenewed, unregenerated, that is, "my flesh")

2) The Law of God

Paul says in Rom.7:12 "the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good".

And he says in Rom.7:14 "the law [of God] is spiritual".

In Rom.7:22, he says, "I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." ("the inward man", as opposed to "the [outward] flesh")

And in Rom.7:23, Paul refers to "the law of my mind".

Paul wraps it up in Rom.7:25 by saying, "with the mind I myself serve the law of God."

As opposed to the flesh, which cannot be "renewed", the Scriptures say that we can be "transformed by the renewing of our mind". And it is with our mind that we "serve the law of God".

It is with our flesh that we serve the law of sin. (Rom.7:25)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent points. Thanks for sharing this.

Michele Rayburn said...

Thank You, Anonymous!

paul dohse said...

Good stuff. I think I will reblog this.

paul dohse said...

Hey look, exactly one year later. cool.

Michele Rayburn said...

Thank You, Paul.

One year to the day seems providential, doesn't it?! :)

c-d said...

I am pondering a hypothesis here. I think maybe we run into error by stopping at Romans 7. Chapter divisions after all are not inspired. I'll have to continue studying the following concept, but I think Romans 6, 7 & 8 are one unit.

THe thanks be to God at the end of chapter 7 is a word of encouragement but not the final word. Chapter 8 has the law of the Spirit or the law of Christ and also mentions our hearts, the struggle and the true Jew one who has a heart that is circumcised.

THe end of chapter 7 still leaves us without an answer. our flesh is sinning, our mind is legally oriented perhaps? It is only in the spirit which counts us dead to sin as you have mentioned Michele, but my tortured mind can't be righteous and obviously the flesh can't be spiritual. So, hypothesis: the Spirit is the answer. No big surprise and anything that gets me more of the Spirit is what I should be setting my mind on. And my saintly self can never hear that enough. Amen?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michele - I was reading Rom 7:25 and wondered what the difference between the Law of God and the Law of sin was - I copied, pasted and printed your answer soooooo I am off to read! Thank you! ann

Joseph Martinez said...

Paul said he was the chief meaning he was the first