Sep 10 2008


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The Epistle to the Romans

(Part 3)

Part I (Chapters 1 – 8)

The Case of Man’s Justification


4- Faithful union between God and His Church:

This section was divided into four headings:

1-     The Fruits of Righteousness in Christ (Ch. 5)

2-     The Relation Between Sin and Man Before the Era of Grace and Under Grace (Ch. 5, 6)

3-     The Law and the Christian Man (Ch. 6, 7)

4-     Life in Christ through the Holy Spirit (Ch. 8)

1- The Fruits of Righteousness in Christ (Ch. 5)

This was discussed in the previous SNOB (part 2).

2- The Relation Between Sin and Man Before the Era of Grace and Under Grace (Ch. 5, 6)

1.      From Adam until the age of the law Sin reigned (took hold) on man (Ro. 5:13-14)

2.      Advent of the law revealing sin as disobedience of God (Ro. 5:20, 7:7-8)

3.      The law could not liberate man from the reign (domination) of sin

4.      Sin survived and man died (Ro. 7:9)

5.      In Christ we became justified by his blood, and were made free from the death sentence

Does this mean that sin was abolished?

No, because sin resides in the flesh. However, by grace, it has no power over the believer who walks in obedience to Christ. Therefore, sin has no power on man even if it resides in him. In baptism, we are buried with Christ and we are raised with Him as a new person born from God, as a new creation. The power of sin on the new man is restrained by the work of grace, the struggle of man, and his abiding in Christ. We believe that if we have died with Christ in baptism, we will live also with Him.

What then if we sin and we are under grace?

St. John answers this question saying, “My children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the (continuous) propitiation for I our sins … (1John 2:1,2). There is a renewed repentance and forgiveness for every sin in the blood of Christ if we confess it with a true repentance. Therefore, sin has no power on the children of God, but is restrained by the work of the Holy Spirit. But, if man becomes negligent in his spiritual struggle, sin is freed to reign on his senses. St. Paul says in this respect “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from dead …” (Ro. 6:13). He also says “Thanks to God that you were slaves to sin … But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Ro. 6:22). As the wage of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3- The Law and the Christian Man (Ch. 6, 7)

In Chapters 6 and 7, St. Paul discusses the status of the law concerning the Christian and presents to us 3 questions that define the relation of the law with man in the Era of Grace:

Q1: How were Christians separated from the law?

Q2: Why was the law originally given?

Q3: Why did the law fail?

First: How were the Christians separated from the law?

1.      Christ, in whom we are present through His incarnation, fulfilled the law in His life and accepted the judgment of the law in His body through death.

2.      Christ, and us in Him, died for our sins, and by His death we died too with Him through baptism. Therefore, the law has no dominion over the believer, because it has no dominion over a dead person (Ro. 7:1).

3.      Christ, and us in Him, has risen from the dead, and we have risen with Him in baptism and live with Him the eternal life. As St. Paul says “Do you not know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (through immersion in the baptismal water and through our faith in His death for us). We were also raised with Him, by His resurrection, and were born of the Holy Spirit into a new man created in the image of God. This is followed by a Christian conduct in the new life “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection … our old man (who was before baptism) was crucified with Him, … that we shall no longer be slaves of sin ” (Ro. 6:3-6).

Does this mean that by the death of the old man (the body of sin), sin was abolished?

No, but a transformation occurs in the nature of man through baptism and faith and a new man – son of grace – is created. This has the power to defeat the sin that is in his flesh, and he is not subdued by it: “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body …” (Ro. 6:11-12). The believer is no more a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness and holiness. Slavery to righteousness differs from slavery to sin. The latter is slavery to death and the former is for eternal life. It is no more a slavery but a sacrifice of love, obedience to God, and life in Christ. As we are freed from the law through the death of the old man in baptism, we become a new creation over which sin has no dominion.

Does this mean that the law is sin?

No, the law and the commandments are holy. But with the death of the old man in us, sin died and our bondage to the law has died also.

Second: Why was the law originally provided? (Ro. 7:7–13)

The law was given to reveal sin. God gave the law to Moses to let the people know what sin is. He gave with the law, very stringent punishment, to make the people hate sin. Man without the law was living according to the flesh but was spiritually dead. So, when the law came, and sin was identified, man realized what sin is and realized that sin leads to death. Man then realized that he is condemned to death. That is what St. Paul meant by saying that sin lived in me after it was dead for me, and I became dead by sin after I was living without it. Sin in itself was not dead, but was dead in the knowledge and awareness of man.

Third: Why did the law fail? The will, the act, and the work of the law

It is good for man to have the will to do the good things, but the will in itself is not sufficient. Man under the law knew sin and desired holiness. So, he looked to the law for help. However, the law could not help him, since sin dominated over him, but increased his suffering through the conviction of his conscience. Here, St. Paul describes the status of internal conflict in man. Since, man desires to do well, but sin attracts him to it, he finds himself doing what he detests, and does not want to do. Hence, he falls under the law and the conviction of his conscience, which is the voice of God in him. St. Paul says that the will is present in me, but in the time of struggle against sin, it is not available. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the new man who is born of God, as the Holy Spirit helps him doing what is in agreement with the good will. Therefore, the will got transformed from just a thought and knowledge to an act and life.

(To be continued in the next Short Notes)

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