ADVENT DEVOTIONAL, 2017
REIGNING WITH CHRIST
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.
Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7;12-20
Is this passage describing Paul before he met Christ or afterward? There is a controversy about this, but my grandfather sees the answer in the experience of most Christians. We understand that we have been saved by the undeserved initiative that God took in Jesus Christ, but we tend to want to live on the basis of meeting requirements and expectations.
FJ HUEGEL: . . . There is an overflowing tendency for the Christian to turn from grace to law. To do so is to do violence to the glorious position which is his in Christ.
We see it in Paul, great as he was. In this, too, our Lord Jesus Christ showed forth in him all longsuffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life eternal (1 Timothy 1:16). We have the proof in Romans 7 where we have Paul under law and what a time of it he had! The more he struggled the worse off he seemed to be. The divine injunction had lashed him into a frenzy until at last he comes to the end of himself with the cry of despair: Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Then he comes into a position of rest. With immeasurable gratitude he comes back to his center, Christ Jesus the Lord, and finds a glorious release in the fact that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free from the law of sin and death. And now as never before it is with Paul the apostle: “Not I but Christ!”
Now this excruciating process ending in a great discovery is indeed the divine “pattern” for all Christians. Not that there need be such an agonizing frustration, for from the moment they received Christ as Savior and Lord, they were free from law. But they are forever being dragged back. Their own “flesh” drags them back. Satan draws them back. They feel that they must be anchored in law lest sin be their master. They fear so great a freedom cut loose from law. But they discover through grief untold that law, far from fortifying their position as victors, only enhances the power of sin. They should have believed what is written; namely that the very strength of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56)
PRAYER: Dear God, forgive me for thinking that I could conquer evil in my life by meeting the expectations and requirements of my church, of my family, or my culture, and of my own pride. These requirements have not defeated evil but given it greater strength. Have mercy on me! Show me a better way. In Jesus’s name. Amen.