Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dead to the Law of Moses (Romans № 18)

This tree is dead; it no longer can be a thriving tree because this hollow log is forever dead.

This is Paul's point to help Jewish Christians who may be struggling to understand that their obligation to Torah (the Law of Moses) is over.

We begin chapter seven of Romans with Paul explaining that, for Jewish believers in Christ, their days of being under Torah are over. Faith in Christ (and the indwelling of the Spirit) have supplanted Torah. Let's look at Paul's argument:

"Or do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." (Rom 7.1-3 ESV)

Paul begins his persuasion with an analogy. If a wife's husband dies then she is free to marry again because the death voided the marriage covenant. She can't be considered unfaithful to her husband because his death ended the obligation. She can't be married to one that is dead.

Paul continues:

"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death."
(Rom 7.4-5 ESV)

This continues on his theme which we examined recently.

Christ died = we died in him
Christ was buried = we were buried in him
Christ was resurrected = we were resurrected in him

In other words, as Christians "in Christ" we are members of the Elect Son of God. What happened to him has happened to us in a spiritual sense.

Paul says, "Jewish Christians, you are dead to Torah; therefore, you are released from it. You are now in a New Covenant—you belong to Christ, not Torah."

Concerning the phrase "the body of Christ" John Wesley adds in his Explanatory Notes:

"Offered up; that is, by the merits of his death, that law expiring with him."

According to Wesley, Christ fulfilled Torah and, thus, rendered it dead.

In fact, the apostle makes the point that Torah caused the unregenerate soul to want to disobey it. (There's a weird quirk in sinners; if they know a law or ordinance a part of them wants to rebel against it.) Torah marked out the parameters of right and wrong—but couldn't enable anyone to obey it.

For Paul, though, the answer is the Holy Spirit:

"But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." (Rom 7.6 ESV)

This is central to Pauline thought; he makes great emphasis of a Torah/Spirit dichotomy. Read Paul's admonition to the Galatians:

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'?" (Gal 3.1-6 ESV)

Do you see the significance? If you want to live under Torah you have to do so without the Holy Spirit's powerful presence in your life—and you will fail. Torah never saved anyone. It has always been by faith. In this New Covenant we have an embarrassment of riches in Christ.

To attempt to hold on to Torah is not only foolish but it's spiritually disastrous.

Torah or the Holy Spirit of Christ. What is your choice of the two?