Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 7:6a “But now we are delivered from the law, that
being dead wherein we were held;”
Or even more literally, “We are discharged from the Law. We have died to that (the Law) which once held us.”
Every man is bound by the Law before conversion. He feels himself under its bondage, clinging to it for salvation while at the same time dreading it for its possible condemnation.
Believers, however, are discharged from its bondage. At the moment of conversion, we were reckoned as having part in the crucifixion of Christ. God accounts us as dead to sin and the Law. The result is a discharge from what we deserve from Law, a discharge from trying to earn salvation by Law, and a discharge from fearing condemnation due to the Law.
The Law is like an enchanter that casts a spell over men. We become enchanted with it, thinking it alone can give us life. The only escape from its spell is to be willing to die to it,and that is painfully dangerous. One has to renounce what is well-known and comfortable for that which is unknown. j But it must be done.
The Law holds sinners as a master does his slaves; Justice does condemned criminals in jail; an army does a soldier; and Death does a corpse.
However, the moment God reckons one as dead to sin and the Law, that person is immediately “discharged” from the Law. He is counted as released from slavery, Justice, enlistment, and Death, because He is reckoned as dead to these things. A Master has no control over a dead slave; Justice cannot control a dead criminal; an army cannot control a dead soldier; Death cannot control one who is dead to sin, and has received eternal life.
Conversion means “discharge” from all these things. Everything is replaced by a world of grace, and the old world cannot condemn us. A discharged soldier has absolutely no fear of even the most tyrannizing drill-sergeant. A discharged criminal passes by prison guards with absolutely no fear of being subject to them. Even so, a Christian is “discharged” from the Law. He can walk by it without fearing that he must obey it to be saved, and also without fearing that it may someday condemn him.
But, lest we misunderstand, Paul presses on to remind us that being discharged from Law does not mean we have no standard for living. We are still under subjection. There is service to be rendered, but it is quite different from that which we rendered in our first marriage.
Romans 7:6b “. . .that we should serve in newness of spirit,
and not in the oldness of the letter.”
Because we have a new husband, we should expect to live in a new way. Certain adjustments are essential.
“Newness of Spirit” refers to a new way of living which only the Holy Spirit can animate. “Oldness of the Letter” refers to trying to live only by that which is transcribed, written down.
Anyone who tries to live from power generated by that which is written will quickly meet frustration. Law cannot provide power for victory. Law can only taunt us by revealing the seriousness of our condition without being able to cure us. It makes us miserable by making us see how far short we fall of what we ought to be, and yet offers no remedy.
It appeals to the carnal pride of man to try to live in the oldness of the letter. Men want to think they are good enough to save themselves. They cling to the belief that they are keeping enough of the Law to merit salvation.
The result is a deadly Pharisaism. The Pharisee of Luke 18 was extremely self-satisfied. This is the attitude that gives the lost man away. He is self-sufficient. He senses no need of redemption and salvation.
Self-interest is his motivating factor, and it dictates moral prudence. The lost man tries to maintain at least some semblance of decency, just in case there actually is a God. Unbelievers also usually feel quite smug about their lives. They always view themselves “as good enough to get by.”
How pathetic! To live for God only to “get by.” To think of morality only in terms of saving one’s own scalp, rather than in terms of pleasing God. The believer lives to glorify God. Lost men, even the best of them, know nothing of such motivations. They are not concerned about God, per se.
There are radical differences between lost men and believers. In oldness of the letter, men think of service to God reluctantly and see it is drudgery. In newness of the Spirit, men think of it as delightful. In oldness of the letter, men view God as a taskmaster. In newness of the Spirit, men view Him as Father and Friend and Husband. In oldness of the letter, men act from fear of punishment or hope of reward. In newness of Spirit, men do not try to earn salvation or avoid Hell, but rather live in gratitude to the one who has already delivered them from death. We live the Christian life because it gives us opportunity to show our love and gratitude for God. It is a living thanksgiving. Because of what He has done for us, we want to please Him. Our lives are a response to His love. In oldness of the letter, men worry about externals. In newness of Spirit, men are also concerned about the inner commotions of sin. In oldness of the letter, men become satisfied with themselves. In newness of Spirit, the believer is never satisfied with his own personal self. He is ever conscious of inner weakness and shortcomings. In oldness of the letter, men have no ample source of strength for right living. In newness of Spirit, men have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who alone can provide the strength men need.
On the morning of the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson told his men, “England expects that every man this day will do his duty.” What a motivation! They were not fighting that day to become Englishmen, nor to retain their citizenship; but rather because they had already received benefits from their motherland. It was viewed as normal that Nelson expected them to return service in gratitude.
In the same way, service to God is not “above and beyond the call of duty.” It is a very reasonable expectation.
God could rightfully say to us, “I am your husband, and have done good for you. Remember that, and gladly do your duty for Me in return as a loving wife.” He should expect no less from us.