In the last sharing we noted the teaching in Galatians regarding ‘the law cannot save us’ and ‘salvation is by grace through faith’ is complemented and elaborated in Romans 3, and also by Paul’s reference to the Old Testament on the faith of Abraham which granted him ‘righteous’ before God.
In the closing chapters of Galatians (chapters 5 and 6), Paul went on to consider the freedom we have in the true gospel, life by the Spirit, and doing good to all, and the importance of sowing to please the Spirit rather than sowing to please the sinful nature (the flesh) – all these are manifestations of love and the new creation in Christ in the community (the church). Paul had earlier elaborated that those who have been born again (been crucified with Christ) have crucified the flesh and its passions, as well as have the ‘world crucified’ to them.
Here again, it is interesting to see Paul covering the same subject and implications for those who are saved by faith in the book of Romans:
We are to be holy because we died with Christ. His death was a proxy death for us; we were with HIm on the cross (been crucified with Him), with Him in the tomb, and with Him in the resurrection (vv 3-4). When Christ died for sin, we died to sin. However sin did not die, rather our physical body which sin used as its instrument was taken out of gear (vs6); conversely we have been raised with Christ by a new life (vv4,5,6)(‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” Gal.2:20b).
Up to this point, Paul was elaborating on ‘justification by faith’ in which we have no contribution at all (no works or the keeping of the law, but is only by grace, received through faith).
But subsequently, both in Galatians and Romans, Paul went on to a number of ‘orders’ and exhortations.
The first is attitudinal: We are to see ourselves as God sees us; i.e. we are dead to sin and alive to God and we do not let sin reign over us (Rom. 6:12). In Galatians, Paul rebutted the accusation of the Judaizers that not keeping the law for salvation would mean a life of sin and lawlessness by insisting that freedom in Christ does not mean licence to sin.
Although we live in a relationship not ruled by observing law or earning merit, we live in an unconditional, undeserved relationship of grace. The key to holiness is to recognise our solidarity (union) with Christ and to stop sinning. As we resist temptations, God will help us to resist and to put to death the sinful nature (by the ministry and enabling of the Holy Spirit cf ‘life in the Spirit’ in Galatians).
In Galatians, we are told about the ‘battle’ between the flesh and the Spirit, Here in Romans 6:16, Paul speaks of the two ‘Masters’; sin or obedience; sin leads to life in the flesh, disobedience to God, and the wage of death, whereas obedience leads to life by the Spirit, and brings about the benefit of eternal life. The former gives rise to the works of the flesh while the latter to the fruit of the Spirit (cf Galatians).
So why go back to the master ‘sin’; we owe him nothing, and he pays us the wage of death, causing us shame with it? (Rom. 6:21).Union with Christ, in death and resurrection, set us free from the power and penalty of sin, and enslaved us to a new Master, obedience to Christ and righteousness in God and the Spirit (Rom. 6:18).
We love the law and we do so because it represents the will of God and because Christ kept it. The law is holy and good (Rom.7:13), though it will not save us (cf Galatians). The problem is not the law but our sin (vv.8-9,11). The law’s role is to identify sin (vv 7-8) and to show us our condemnation as sinners (vv 9-11 or Romans 7).
Going back to the image of our solidarity (union) with Christ – we died, we were buried and we were raised with Him. Death frees a person from the binding of the law and the example in Romans 7 is that death legitimately terminates marriage. By dying to the law the believer is legitimately free from the obligations of the law and he or she now serves in the way of the Spirit (vv4-6). This compares favourably with ‘freedom’ and ‘life by the Spirit’ expounded by Paul in Galatians 5 and 6. Because the Spirit is the Spirit of love, the believer can now fulfil the requirements of the law by walking in love and in the Spirit and this is seen clearly in the community of love (the church).