Sunday, March 08, 2015

"For we know that the law is spiritual..." Do we?

Since today's sermon was a rehash of an earlier sermon given three years ago in which the Ten Commandments were revised to mean the Ten Freedoms, I will focus on the portion of Paul's letter to the Romans that was read aloud at church this Sunday, and in particular the verse I have highlighted below.

"Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin." Romans 7:13-25
I am only going to focus on verse 14,
 "For we know that the law is spiritual..." 
Do we?

I wonder how many people in the U.S. today actually believe this to be true. A generation has been raised in public schools where Government and Civics classes teach that laws are made by Congress and signed by the President, but do they ever really learn the basis of where man made laws come from? Paul got it, but I suspect people of this day and age tend to ignore the fact that God might in any way be involved.

Can modern Americans imagine that there is something greater than what they learned in school, and that it just might be something called the Law of God? No, that has been removed from both the schoolhouse and the courthouse.

Also, in an age of moral relativism, how many people believe that there might be a firm basis for morality, and that this basis comes from God and has been transmitted to us through the Bible?

"...but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin."

I would guess that most of us would agree that we are of the flesh, but we also think that is the best of all possible worlds.
I have to question whether or not people would agree with the second half of Paul's statement. Ever since the 60's when the blame for our troubles was shifted away from sin to "repressions", "hang ups", and "the man" it is increasingly rare to hear people talk this way, and who ever hears a sermon at an Episcopal church these days where you are left with a deep sense of your having been sold into slavery under sin?
"I do not understand my own actions."
Finally something all of us can agree upon.

Well, most of us.

Okay, some of us.

All right, a few of us after a night of heavy drinking.

Final word goes to Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) who wrote in his Commentaries,
"Compared with the holy rule of conduct in the law of God, the apostle found himself so very far short of perfection, that he seemed to be carnal; like a man who is sold against his will to a hated master, from whom he cannot set himself at liberty. A real Christian unwillingly serves this hated master, yet cannot shake off the galling chain, till his powerful and gracious Friend above, rescues him. The remaining evil of his heart is a real and humbling hinderance to his serving God as angels do and the spirits of just made perfect. This strong language was the result of St. Paul's great advance in holiness, and the depth of his self-abasement and hatred of sin. If we do not understand this language, it is because we are so far beneath him in holiness, knowledge of the spirituality of God's law, and the evil of our own hearts, and hatred of moral evil." Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
Today I am afraid that mankind denies the spirituality of God's law, the evil in our hearts, and has come to twist things that used to be considered moral evils to now be morally acceptable "as long as nobody gets hurt". 


  1. There's was a book, I believe it's "The Man in the Mirror," which is based on the Book of James, ch 1 v23 -
    " Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."

    They have forsaken the mirror. They don't have any idea what they look like.

  2. Living under the law is perfect freedom, it just isn't the freedom to do everything that bubbles up from the well spring of human desire. When desires become justified bychanges in the laws of man, then we really have forsaked the mirror a new one that shows us the face we want.