Posts Tagged ‘Flesh’


Early in my Christian walk I heard about an old Indian story about the white wolf and black wolf that live in us. The white wolf represents the Spirit of God. The black wolf represents the old sinful nature we were born with. Supposedly, these two are continually fighting with each other for control of our thoughts and actions. The one who wins is the one we feed. It sounds reasonable. Sometime I do feel like a battle is raging within me. It seems to fit with what Paul wrote about the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh:

Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

This video of a dog eating a bone shows the stupidity of this lie that is taught in churches. Watch as this dog struggles to control his rear leg, which he believes is trying to steal the bone! This dumb dog is growling at his own leg! Is this how funny we look to God, when we try to defeat sin by feeding a supposed “white wolf” so a supposed “black wolf” won’t steal our Jesus ‘bone’? Am I going to be dumb like this dog, and imagine a black wolf always lurking around, trying to steal the “bone” of my Christian walk?

However, I do not believe this “split personality” concept of struggle against sin is truthful according to God’s word. I believe it is a lie which promotes our self-effort to struggle against sin. This lie perpetuates our “bondage” to sin and the flesh. It actually leads to walking in the “flesh.” This is an element of that “other gospel” that Paul wrote the Galatians about.

Paul wrote in Romans that we were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

The body of Jesus Christ died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. So what part of me died, because I still have my five senses! Paul says that our “old man” died!

Romans 6:6-7 We know that our old self (man) was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

He states further that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

In reality, we have died… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) We are a “new creation” in which God Himself dwells. How could God dwell in a “split personality” type situation?

Paul further states:  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

If born again Christians are “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17), and God dwells in us, why do we still sin? After all, if we say we do not sin, we make God a liar and His Word is not in us. (1 John 1:10). Paul struggled with this situation and wrote about it in Romans chapter 7. In fact, he wrote,  “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:14-15)

The Law of Sin

This led Paul to the discovery of a law that all physical men and women live under, the “Law of Sin.” This law of sin is present as long as we have a physical body, for it is inherent in this physical body which will one day be put into the grave. While we have only one nature as far as God sees us, because we have died in Christ, the law of sin is still in force. Our flesh is still under its influence.

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:23-25)

Law of the Spirit of Life

The cry of Paul was “who will deliver me” and the answer came from God, “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus provides the answer, the deliverance, not through our struggle against this law of sin (for we will always lose), but through a NEW LAW which we can live under because we have a NEW NATURE! Our new spiritual nature allows us to live under the “Law of the Spirit of Life!” This new law sets us free from the law of sin. This new law can only be followed by faith, not by self-effort.

Romans 8:2-4 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This new nature that we have been given as a result of our “new birth” is the nature of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us. We are His dwelling place. We are to have the “mindset” of Jesus (as described in Philippians 2:4-8). We are to die to what we want, even dying to our own self-effort, and live according to the Holy Spirit, who indwells us. This is the only way to freedom from the law of sin. This is the only way our flesh can be freed to serve Jesus Christ in victory over sin!

Romans 8:5-10 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

If we try to live the Christian life thinking that it is up to us to feed the white wolf, or else we will lose to the black wolf, we will walk in a continual up and down victory and defeat mode of which personality is in charge. We will be frustrated and defeated. We will burn out and feel that following Christ is pointless and powerless. Our faith will never grow. The only way the flesh is freed from the law of sin is not through self-effort, but through submission to God and walking dependant upon the Holy Spirit. That takes a growing faith to see Him in charge. That takes an attitude of rest in Him and the victory He has already won! That requires a trusting in His Word!

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the POWER of God!

This requires a true understanding and trusting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the death and burial of Jesus is the Power of God for our enjoying LIFE in Jesus Christ. But first we must die to self-effort and self-reliance! Our righteousness in Christ is revealed from faith to faith! His faith must be our faith! The righteous live by faith!

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So don’t think you must feed the white wolf to keep the black wolf at bay. The black wolf is dead! What you are seeing is a ghost! Let him go and set your mind upon the Holy Spirit. Walk in Him by faith! Don’t let the ghost keep you scared, keep you enslaved. Walk in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, for He sets us free from the law of sin and from those nasty ghosts of wrong teaching!

For More, read: Walking After the Spirit  and The Great Escape of Death


Paul was seemingly singing this song in Romans Seven. He was constantly reminded of the Law of God and how he failed to meet it. Similar to when we are pulled over by a policeman, who reminds us of our failure to obey the Law! Just like this man discovered:

A male driver is pulled over by a cop and the following conversation takes place:
Man: What’s the problem officer?
Cop: You were going at least 75 in a 55 zone.
Man: No sir, I was going 65.
Wife: Oh Harry. You were going 80.
(Man gives his wife a dirty look.)
Cop: I’m also going to give you a ticket for your broken tail light.
Man: Broken tail light? I didn’t know about a broken tail light!
Wife: Oh Harry, you’ve known about that tail light for weeks.
(Man gives his wife a dirty look.)
Cop: I’m also going to give you a citation for not wearing your seat belt.
Man: Oh, I just took it off when you were walking up to the car.
Wife: Oh  Harry, you never wear your seat belt.
Man: Shut your mouth, woman!
Cop: Ma’am, does your husband always talk to you this way?
Wife: No, only when he’s drunk.

Romans 6 deals with freedom from sin. Romans 7 deals with freedom from the law. Romans 6 – how to be delivered from sin. Romans 7 – deliverance from sin is not enough-we need deliverance from the Law. Paul reveals a new discovery in Romans 7: I am in the flesh (vs. 5) I am carnal (vs. 14) and in my flesh dwells no good (vs. 18)

The discovery is that when we are in the flesh, we cannot please God (Romans 8:8)

When we first come to the Lord as our Savior, and then we give ourselves to Him, we feel we must do something for the Lord. So we start out seeking to do his will. We start reading the Bible. We start having regular time of prayer and devotion. We perhaps start tithing. But as time goes by, we forget to read and pray. Money gets tight so we don’t tithe as much or maybe we stop. It seems the more we try to do the will of God, the more we fail. We may re-dedicate ourselves, or try something less intensive, but then we fail that as well.

We get to the point where we exclaim, this is just the way I am, no good thing dwells in me, I guess I just do the best with what I’ve got. And we feel frustrated, or we feel apathetic, or we feel despaired.

We find ourselves in Romans 7. We are despairing because we see there is no way we could please God the way we think He wants to be pleased.

The trouble is we do not know deliverance from the Law!

I. The Power of the Law:

A.The Law Dominates As Long As You Live

VS 1-3: Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Romans 7:1-3

The Law Does Not Apply to Dead People!

  • Dead men pay no taxes
  • Dead men can’t be incarcerated!
  • A wife is no longer married when her husband dies.

1. Christians are Dead to the Law

VS 4: Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4

The Law is not dead; the Law has not been done away with. But WE are dead to the Law! Our death has made us dead to the claims of the Law. The Law is not dead; it simply has no claims upon our lives because our old man is dead. The law has no jurisdiction, power, rule, authority, or dominion over the true believer. The believer is dead to the law and the law is dead to the believer. The law simply does not exist for the believer.

What a shocking truth, but that is exactly what Scripture is declaring! We are no longer under the law and its accusing finger, no longer under it’s…

  • Guilt and shame
  • Condemnation and punishment
  • Discouragement and frustration
  • Tension and pressure
  • Sense of failure and unworthiness
  • Sense of disappointment

The Law is Alive to those Walking in the Flesh

2.  We are Free to Marry Christ

VS 4(Phillips): you are free to give yourselves in marriage, so to speak, to another, the one who was raised from the dead, that you may be productive for God.

We are Free to be productive IN THE POWER OF CHRIST!

  • To bear righteousness (Romans 6:21-23; Phil. 1:11).
  • To bear converts (Romans 1:13; John 15:16).
  • To bear Christian character, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Col. 1:10).

None of these is done in the flesh; none of these is done by following a set of rules. Righteousness is of the Heart, of the inward man. People coming to Christ as Savior is dependent upon the working of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Fruit of the Spirit cannot be faked; it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit!

3. The Law is Alive to those “in the flesh”

VS 5: For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. NASB

“Motions KJV or passions” is pathēma, “an affection, a passion, impulse.” Vincent says, “Motions was used in earlier English for emotions or impulses. Thus Bacon: ‘He that standeth at a stay where others rise can hardly avoid motions of envy.’ “”Did work” is energeō, “to be operative, put forth power, be at work.”

The emotions or impulses of sin, stirred to activity by the law, were operative in the members of our bodies with the result of the production of fruit, this fruit being with respect to death, identified with death, thus, characterized by death. Wuest

We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 1 Timothy 1:9-10

The law not only points out sin, it actually arouses feelings and stirs the emotions to do the forbidden. Sinful feelings are actually “stimulated” (enērgeito) by the law in our members. When the law prohibits and forbids something, it actually creates within us…

• an interest •  an attraction •  an excitement •  an appeal •  a tug or pull •  a fascination •  a seduction •  an arousal

There is within man something that makes him want to do what he is forbidden to do. When he is restricted or fenced in, he wants to break through the restriction or fence.

We will see that as long as believer’s walk in the flesh, they will still be subject to these stirrings, these impulses, these motions of sins. James reveals this in writing to the fleshly Christians reading his letter:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15

B.We Follow a New Way When We are “Born Again”

VS 6: But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6

1. Believers are “delivered” (katērgēthēmen).

We have been discharged from the law. We stand clear of the law. All claims have been dissolved!

2. We Serve God through the Holy Spirit

Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

  • To live by rules is to live a dead religion. Death produces death.
  • To live by the power of the Holy Spirit is LIFE.
  • We do not serve God by following the letter of the law.

II. The Purpose of the Law

A.The Law Exposes our Sin

VS 7: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” Romans 7:7.

The Law is to make us aware that we are sinners. We need a Savior.

EXAMPLE:  The Law revealed that Paul had a problem with coveting. He never knew it to be so until he read the Law. When people know the Law, they know they are sinners. Guilt is though the law.

When I was pastoring in Edgerton, I went knocking on doors and if a person allowed, I would ask them a couple questions.

Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you? Have you ever looked lustfully at another person?

Most of the time they would answer yes to each of the questions. Then I would say, then by your own admission, you a liar, a thief and an adulterer? What do you think God thinks of that?

They would mumble, well I guess he doesn’t like it.

I would ask, if you are a liar, a thief and an adulterer, would God let you into His heaven when you die?

Most of the time they would answer, well, yes.

I would say why would he? They would say, because overall I’m a good guy or something to that effect.

Then I would say, but God’s word says that the man who sins will surely die! How could He let you into His heaven and be true to His own Word?

I’ll never forget this one Law student that I talked with. He came to this point where he was aware of God’s standard and he was aware of his violation of that standard, but he looked at me and said, “Aw, that doesn’t apply to me;” and then he said “I’ve got to go!” and he closed the door.

The Law is given so that men and women would see that they are lost. All we can do is hold that Law up, and pray the Holy Spirit convicts them to the point where they realize they need Jesus Christ!

B. The Law is the Revealing Standard

VS 8-9: But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; Romans 7:8-9.

1. The law reveals the fact of our sin

  • That men are not in a right relationship with God.
  • That men are not in a right relationship with other men.
  • That men are living selfishly, thereby dooming themselves.
  • That men are coveting and lusting, thereby destroying their world and their future.
  • That men are displeasing God and have become unacceptable to Him.
    • We will take that second helping of food.
    • We will try to keep up with the Jones.
    • We will go after the excitement and stimulation of the forbidden.
    • We will fulfill the lust of our flesh: “I know that is not how a Christian should behave by talking with his fists, but man can he fight!”
    • We will feed the lust of our eyes. Bachelorette – “I know Adultery to be wrong, but as I watch this TV show I find myself routing for this couple as they seem so right for each other, even made for each other!”
    • We will satisfy the pride of life. “I just have to have that car!” I just have to have that jewelry!

2.  The Law Reveals The Truth Of Our Condemnation And Death.

VS 10-11: and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. Romans 7:10-11

This is a major purpose of the law. By knowing the law the man becomes acutely aware of sin when he breaks the law. It is the law that gives him…

  • A painful awareness of sin.
  • A sense of guilt.
  • A sense of judgment to come.
  • A dread of punishment and of death.

During the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840) in early America, the Law was preached by Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Peter Cartwright, and Asahel Nettleton among others. Altar calls were being used then by people anxious about their souls. Finney used the term “Anxious Seat”. Sometimes the evangelist would not have an altar call, and people would be begging to be saved. They were concerned for their souls.

3. The Law Reveals the Way of God

VS 12-13 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. Romans 7:12-13

  1. The law is holy: set apart and full of purity, majesty, and glory—set apart in that it reveals God’s nature and will—set apart in that it exposes sin, all that is contrary to God’s nature and will.
  2. The law is righteous: just, fair, impartial, equitable, straight. The law treats a man exactly like he should be treated; it shows no partiality to anyone. It also reveals how a man should treat others. The law is just in that it reveals exactly how a man should live. It shows him how to live in relation to God and to his fellow man, and it judges him fairly and impartially.
  3. The law is good: it shows man how to live and tells him when he fails to live that way. It exposes his sin and demonstrates his desperate need for a Savior. The law tells man the truth about the nature of man in a most explicit way, and it points him toward the need for outside help in order to be saved.

The Law is a written expression of the Character of God: O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Psalms 119:97

The Law Does Not Mean Death, The Law Reveals the Sin!

Here in this dish lays Baking Soda (representing man in our natural state). It is still & quiet until another substance is added.

I will now pour Vinegar (representing the Law). It begins to smoke & burn up, but not from the fault of the vinegar, but from the nature of the Baking Soda which will not endure it. Illustrates that the Law is not at fault, but our evil & wicked nature is!

  • When you read “Wet Paint. Don’t touch” what do you immediately want to do? –
  • “No U-Turns”
  • “Keep off the Grass”.
  • In Maui as we snorkeled, “Don’t touch the Turtles”, but I just had to touch one!

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

No Excuses

There can be no finger pointing at God. You can’t say to God that “You made me do it, your Law made me rebel” You can’t say the Devil made me do it either. There are no excuses:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19

III. Paul’s Personal Testimony

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. Romans 7:14-20 (NASB)

1.  Paul’s Struggle

Here Paul confesses his personal struggle with sin that dwells in him. Paul is a Christian, and has been for several years now. He knows the truth of HIs new life in Jesus Christ. He knows that his old man was crucified with Jesus, freeing him from the power of sin. He has reckoned this truth so in his life. He counts on Jesus to deliver him from sin. He has presented his body to God.

But what has happened? Instead of the truth of God becoming REALITY in his life, he finds that sin still dwells in him. He does what he doesn’t want to do, and he doesn’t do what he should do.

Does this sound familiar? Anyone else identify with his struggles?

Paul reveals a truth here, while we are spiritual (born again, alive to God) we are still flesh. And this flesh loves to sin. The means to freedom has been secured on the cross, our old man is dead. We don’t have to sin, but there is something about this flesh that makes it powerless when it comes to the power of sin.

2. Paul’s Personal Discovery

a. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;

When it comes to serving God, when it comes to following Jesus, there is nothing good in us. Any effort we make in this flesh is tainted, is spoiled. There is nothing good in me.

On the one hand, this is good because when we are aware of the struggle, it reveals we are spiritually alive, that we are born again.

  • If you don’t have a struggle, if you don’t feel guilt, that probably indicates Christ does not live in you.
  • Inward conflicts show us we are spiritually alive!

b. There is a Law of Sin that Dominates his flesh

Just as there is a Law of Gravity dominating our flesh, there is also a Law of Sin that dominates our flesh. The choice we as Christians have is whether we accept this law and live with it, struggling against sin the best we can, or do we desire something more!

3. Paul’s Desperate Desire!

Paul is Desperate for MORE!

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25

IV. The Power of the New Law

Paul has realized that there is a way of deliverance. There is a Law that we can live under that dominates the Law of Sin. This Law is greater than the Law of Sin. And this Law is available to us through Jesus Christ!

This Law will be explored in Romans 8.

Our eyes must be opened to see that sin is not just conduct. When you lose your temper, it is not just you failing to control your temper. When you lose your temper it is the law of sin at work in you. The victory of sin is a law, just as our defeat is a law. If you view sin as simply a matter of conduct then your focus will be entirely on your own self-effort to resist or overcome that sin.

Do you have a problem with smoking? Do you want to quit? Then don’t see it as a habit to be resisted. Don’t see it as an urge to be controlled. See it as a law. A law that governs your life. And then see that you must live by a new Law that is greater than the Law of Sin.

We Need a New Law!

The Law of Sin is powerful. We cannot overcome it in our flesh. Our flesh is subject to its power. Anytime we struggle against sin with our flesh, we are doomed to fail. Just as you cannot escape the pull of gravity by flapping your arms, you cannot escape the law of sin by doing anything in your flesh.

Even mighty Paul made this discovery.

Paul discovered even though he tried, even though he willed it, he could not overcome sin’s power. He tried to be perfect, to not sin, but he failed. Paul discovered that the Law of Sin was mightier than his willpower. He willed and willed, but lost.

Paul came to the conclusion sin was a law that he could not overcome in his own strength.

He needed something else, he needed to learn to walk in a new Law, a Law which had authority over sin, a Law which could govern his life and deliver him from this constant feeling of defeat and failure.

Romans 7 is the revelation of a man who gives up trying in his own strength and realizes he needs JESUS CHRIST!

If you never come to this realization, that sin is a law that you cannot struggle against in with your flesh or your will, then you will always be a Romans 7 Christian. You will live your life in Romans 7.

You will be like the Laodicean’s, who thought they had no need.

Wretched man that I am – Just like John’s picture of the Laodicea church.

Rev.3:17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;”

Do you want to be a Romans 8 Christian? Then have your eyes opened to the truth that sin is a Law. Then plead with God to reveal to you the Law he wants you to live by, the law that has greater power than the law of sin. Plead with Him to open your eyes to the truth of the Law of the Holy Spirit in your life!

If you do not live your daily life by the Law of the Holy Spirit, we shall see in Rom 8, then you are doomed to a wretched Christian Life, a Romans 7 life-one of ups and downs, defeats and despairs, one of fleshly struggles, one of constant bouts of guilt, one of being tossed to and fro. That is the plight of Christians who walk in the flesh and struggle against the Law of Sin with their flesh.

Thanks be to God there is a Better Way!

Have you come to the place of wretchedness in your life? You’ve come to the place of realizing you have no power to overcome sin.

Then you are ready to live your life by the Law that will deliver you from sin, from fleshly struggles and defeats.

By walking in the New Law, You will experience the Righteousness of Jesus Christ and THROW OFF YOUR WRETCHEDNESS!

Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.


“The epistle to the Romans is the true masterpiece of the New Testament and the very purest gospel, which is well worth and deserving that a Christian man should not only learn it by heart, word for word, but also that he should daily deal with it as the daily bread of men’s souls. It can never be too much or too well read or studied, and the more it is handled the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes” (Martin Luther).

Paul wrote this letter about 56 A. D. when he was in the city of Corinth, before his trip to Jerusalem. Written to a church he hoped to visit soon. Paul had not yet visited the church in Rome. He wanted to go there and he prayed that God would make this visit possible (Rom. 1:10-12; 15:23-24). This makes the letter to the Romans unique. Most of Paul’s other letters were written to churches where he had personally ministered. But here was a church (the church at Rome) where Paul had not been and where Paul had not taught.

So the Book of Romans was preparation for when Paul would arrive in Rome.

Here in the book of Romans Paul gives a doctrinal preview of the content of his teaching ministry. What Paul unfolds in these 16 chapters is nothing less than a doctrinal masterpiece.

  • What is being a Christian all about?
  • What are the central truths of Christianity?
  • What is the gospel really?
  • What formed the foundation of Apostle Paul’s preaching wherever he went?

Influence of Romans

To find the answer to all these questions we turn to the greatest doctrinal book in the New Testament — the epistle of Paul to the Romans.

A group of scholars once made a list of the fifteen greatest books, books that were great based upon their beneficial influence upon humanity. Included in this list were John Wesley’sJournal, Luther’s 95 Theses, Augustine’s City of God and John Bunyan‘s Pilgrim’s Progress.

  • As his Journal reveals, Wesley was an unsaved preacher until he read the book of Romans and understood God’s way of salvation.
  • Luther, a Catholic monk, was greatly influenced by Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith,” which opened his eyes to the truth of justification by faith.
  • Augustine’s City of God was founded on his study of the Book of Romans.
  • Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was written after reading the Book of Romans in prison.  It became the best selling book of all time, next to the Bible.

Among the greatest books of the world, four which come near the top of the list were all directly influenced by the Book of Romans.

Has the Book of Romans changed your life? When was the last time you read through Romans?

Although Paul knows many of the people to whom he is writing, he did not found the church, and he has never been to Rome. So he has some work to do in the first 17 verses to introduce himself and his agenda. The “gospel” ties together Romans 1:1-17, and, indeed, the entire letter. In the introduction, Paul features both the content and the power of the gospel that unites Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome.

The object of the apostle in writing to this church was to explain to them the great doctrines of the gospel. His epistle was a “word in season.” Himself deeply impressed with a sense of the value of the doctrines of salvation, he opens up in a clear and connected form the whole system of the gospel in its relation both to Jew and Gentile.

Preparation for the Journey

Whenever I take a trip, I like to prepare myself so I can make the most of my time in the place I’m going. There are three things which you should study about your destination if you are to get the most of your time there:

  1. The Personality (of the people)
  2. The Places (what should we see)
  3. The Pillars (make it a desirable destination)

I. THE PERSONALITY OF ROMANS

The following terms must be understood if we are to understand the personality of Romans. Paul’s approach to these terms are nothing short of foundational to understanding the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am certain that most of us do not understand these terms the way Paul wants us to.

A. The LAW –  78x in 51 verses

  • For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Romans 2:13 (ESV)

The Law is not to be understood in terms of  “Thou shall and thou shall not’s“. We commonly think that laws are obeyed and satisfied by works, whether your heart is in it or not. But God’s Law makes its demands not on your works but on the depths of your heart and does not let the heart rest content in works.

God calls all of us liars in Ps 116:11, because none of us keep the law from the depths of our heart. We all have an aversion to good and a craving for that which is forbidden. If our heart does not freely desire righteousness, our heart has not set itself on God’s Law. Regardless of outward good works, the appearance of an honorable life, our heart is sinful and deserving of the wrath of Righteous Holy God.

Romans  Two is pointed at the Jews, who are proud of their outward holiness. But Paul says that they are all sinners, and that only does of the law are justified in the sight of God. He reveals that no matter their outward obedience, there is none that truly obey. On the contrary, he says to them, “You teach that one should not commit adultery, and you commit adultery. You judge another in a certain matter and condemn yourselves in that same matter, because you do the very same thing that you judged in another.”

  • You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. Romans 2:23 (ESV)

It is as if he were saying, “Outwardly you live quite properly in the works of the law and judge those who do not live the same way; you know how to teach everybody. You see the speck in another’s eye but do not notice the beam in your own.”

You keep the Law (selfish motivations) outwardly out of fear of punishment or love of reward. You do everything as though you are chained-without free desire and love of the Law. If the Law did not exist you would be relieved, you would rejoice. In fact, Paul says (in Romans 5) that the Law causes sin to increase. This is because a person becomes more and more and enemy of the Law the more it demands of him what he can’t possibly do.

In Romans Seven, Paul says the Law is “spiritual”. What he means is that it were physical, it could be satisfied by your works. Since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy the law unless everything you do springs from the depths of your heart. But no one can have such a heart except the Spirit of God, who gives us a New Heart which has a heartfelt longing for the law and does everything not through fear or coercion, but from a new free and willing heart!

Only by a new heart energized by the Holy Spirit can one fulfill the Spiritual Law. Otherwise we remain an enemy of the Law by nature.

You must get used to the idea that it is one thing to do the works of the law and quite another to fulfill it. The works of the law are everything that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless.

That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3 when he says, “No human being is justified before God through the works of the law.”

Fulfilling the Law of God

To fulfill the Law means to actively obey and do its work lovingly and freely, as if there was no Law. The Law is the expression of the character of God. The only way to fulfill the Law is through possessing the love and character of God in your heart and being!

Paul says that only the Holy Spirit can fill us with this Divine Love: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”. Romans 5:5 (ESV)  But the Spirit is given only in, with, and through faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul says in his introduction to Romans. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (ESV)

Faith alone makes the Love and Righteousness of God reality in our hearts. Faith alone fulfills the righteousness of the Law. Good works that proceed from faith alone are the only works that satisfy the demands of the Law.

The Law as Paul sees it: The Law is Spiritual – the revealed Character of Holy God.

B. SINS and SIN  – 48x – 41 verses

In Romans Paul deals with our sins, and then he deals with our sin. Sins refers to the external works of the body and soul. Sins of omission and commission. Sin refers to those forces within us that move us to do the sins. Sin is from the depth of our wicked heart with all its powers and inclinations.

The root and source of our sins is the sin nature that comes with being “in (the unbelief) of Adam”. The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root source of sins, and that is our sin nature, which is founded in unbelief in the depth of the heart.

Just as faith alone makes us just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works.

That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3). That is why unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will judge the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.”

  • Sin is the nature we possess that causes us to not believe.
  • Sins are what result as a result of our unbelieving sin nature.

In Romans, Paul will show us how God can deal with our sins, and also our sin!

C. Grace and Gifts – 21x – 18 verses

  • and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:24 (ESV)

Grace is the active force in our lives which makes us completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

By this, we understand chapter 7, where Paul portrays himself as still a sinner, while in chapter 8 he says that, because of the incomplete gifts and because of the Spirit, there is nothing damnable in those who are in Christ. Because our flesh has not been killed, we are still sinners, but because we believe in Christ and have the beginnings of the Spirit, God so shows us his favor and mercy, that he neither notices nor judges such sins.

God’s grace allows Him to deal with us according to our position in Christ until our flesh is completely redeemed.

  • Grace is the Loving Power of God displayed in our daily lives
  • Gifts are the pieces of God’s grace that we often reject or neglect, and can lead us to miss or refuse God’s Grace.

D. FAITH – 40x – 35 verses

  • Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (ESV)

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.” The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Faith places us IN CHRIST. Faith keeps us abiding in Christ. We live the exchanged life by THE FAITH of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.” Martin Luther

  • Faith is the living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace.

This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all that He does. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith.

Through faith a person becomes sinless and eager for God’s commands. Thus he gives God the honor due him and pays him what he owes him.

Faith comes only through the word of God, the Gospel, that preaches Christ: how he is both Son of God and man, how he died and rose for our sake. Paul says all this in chapters 3, 4 and 10.

That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith in God’s promises sees the Power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Faith opens our will and want to to do those ‘good works’ which God designed us for. Then good works proceed from faith itself. That is what Paul means in chapter 3 when, after he has thrown out the works of the law, he sounds as though the wants to abolish the law by faith. No, he says, we uphold the law through faith, i.e. we fulfill it through faith.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:28-31 (ESV)

  • Faith makes the Vitality and Power of God real in our daily living.

E. FLESH (CARNAL) 23x – 19 verses and SPIRITUAL (SPIRIT)

  • For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18 (ESV)

You must not understand flesh here as denoting only immorality or spirit as denoting only the inner heart. In Romans, Paul not only calls every human being ‘flesh’ but also everthing done by human beings in their own strength or in their own devices “fleshly”. Those living in the flesh can be sinners as well as saints. Anything done apart from the Spirit of God is walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. In Romans 8, Paul says that, through the flesh, the law is weakened. He says this, not of the immoral, but of all sins, most of all of unbelief, which is the most spiritual of sins. Unbelief destroys the SPIRITUAL life of any believer.

  • But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6 (KJV)

I have come to the conclusion that a true Jew is not the man who is merely a Jew outwardly, and a real circumcision is not just a matter of the body. The true Jew is one who belongs to God in heart, a man whose circumcision is not just an outward physical affair but is a God-made sign upon the heart and soul, and results in a life lived not for the approval of man, but for the approval of God. Romans 2:28 (Phillips NT)

A person is spiritual who has been born of the Holy Spirit, and lives in and by the Spirit. Outward righteousness is a result of the inward spirit of God producing the life and character of God.

  • So then, a person is “flesh” who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are of use to the flesh and to temporal existence.
  • A person is “spirit” who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are of use to the spirit and to the life to come.

F. Unbelief and Belief

The very foundation of sin coming upon man was unbelief. Adam and Eve believed the deception rather than the Word of God. If they had only believed what God had said, they would have lived in eternal bliss.

Jesus defined sin as unbelief. God defined sin as going your own way. It is unbelief that leads us to go our own way. Unbelief in Romans reaches far beyond simple belief in Jesus as your Savior. Essential for being born again, yes,  but belief is essential for your very LIFE as a son of God. Your belief in the Word of God is foundational to your LIFE here and now and for all eternity.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:8-11 (ESV)

Paul uses Old Testament illustrations to convey the Truth of Romans. He points out Abraham, who did not stumble at the promises of God by unbelief. His belief is what made him righteous before God. His believing the promises of God is what gave him LIFE here on earth and in all eternity.

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Romans 4:20-22 (KJV)

In Romans, Paul lays out the truth of the gospel of Christ, and that truth doesn’t end at the cross, it goes through the cross to affect not only our sins, but our sin nature. We are made righteous by our belief in the promises of God. That belief does not stop at the cross. It does not stop at being born again. Belief in the Promises of God’s Word is to be a daily thing whereby we are made righteous every day. We are given LIFE every day. Not life in the flesh, but life in the Holy Spirit of God!

  • UNBELIEF-anything -thought, person, thing that keeps the Power of God from your life.
  • BELIEF – is reflected in the daily manifestation of fruit in your heart and life.

Summary of the Personality of Romans

Romans is the richest possible teaching about what a Christian should know: the meaning of law, Gospel, sin, punishment, grace, faith, justice, Christ, God, good works, love, hope and the power of the cross. We learn how we are to act toward everyone, toward the saints and the sinners, toward the strong and the weak, friend and foe, and toward ourselves. Paul bases everything firmly on Scripture and proves his points with examples from his own experience and from the Prophets, so that nothing more could be desired. Therefore it seems that Paul, in writing this letter, wanted to compose a summary of the whole of Christian and evangelical teaching which would also be an introduction to the whole Old Testament. Whoever takes this letter to heart possesses the light and power of the Old Testament. Therefore each and every Christian should make this letter the habitual and constant object of his study.

II. THE PLACES OF ROMANS

1. The Gospel of Salvation

The introduction (1:1-17) delineates the theme of the book of Romans, which is the gospel of God. This is the content of the introduction. Our next tour will explore this Gospel which was so important to Paul.

  • Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, Romans 1:1-6 (ESV)
  • Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:25-27 (ESV)

2. Condemnation—the Need of Salvation

Following the introduction, we have the section on condemnation (1:18—3:20) that unveils to us the need of God’s salvation. We all are hopeless and helpless cases and are under God’s condemnation. We need God’s salvation.

3. Justification—The Accomplishment of Salvation

The third section, justification (3:21—5:11), reveals the accomplishment of God’s salvation. Related to this matter of justification we have three other items—propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. We will cover these terms when we come to chapter 3. At this point I will only say a brief word. God’s justification depends upon the redemption of Christ. Without the redemption of Christ, God has no way to justify sinners. Therefore, justification depends upon redemption, and redemption has one major aspect—propitiation. Propitiation is the major structure of redemption. Propitiation is the major part of the redemption of Christ because, as sinners, we owed God a great deal. We were held by God to pay this debt, and this caused a tremendous problem. That problem has been resolved by Christ as our propitiatory sacrifice. Since this propitiation has solved our problems with God, we have been redeemed. Based upon the redemption of Christ, God can easily and lawfully justify us. Thus, justification depends upon redemption, and the major part of redemption is propitiation. What, then, is reconciliation? Reconciliation is the issue of justification. God’s justification issues in reconciliation. All of this has been accomplished. Hallelujah! Although you may not be clear about all of these words at present, you can say to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t understand all these terms, but I praise You that everything has been accomplished.”

Justification brings us to God. In fact, it not only brings us to God, but also into God. Therefore, we may have the full enjoyment of God. The King James Version says, “We joy in God” (Rom. 5:11). We not only joy in God; we enjoy God. God is our enjoyment. This is justification.

4. Sanctification—the Life-process in Salvation

Following this, we have sanctification (5:12—8:13). How great it is to be in God and to enjoy God!  After being justified, we need to be sanctified.

What does it mean to be sanctified? We use the illustration of tea. If we put tea into a glass of plain water, the water will be “teaified.” At best, we are plain water, although we are actually not plain, but dirty. Even if we are plain water, we lack the tea flavor, the tea essence, and the tea color. We need the tea to come into our very being. Christ Himself is the heavenly tea. Christ is in us. Hallelujah!

God is progressively revealed throughout the book of Romans:

  • In chapter 1 He is God in CREATION,
  • In chapter 3 God in REDEMPTION,
  • In chapter 4 God in JUSTIFICATION,
  • In chapter 5 God in RECONCILIATION,
  • In chapter 6 God in IDENTIFICATION.
  • In chapter 8 God in US.

Christ is in us (Rom. 8:10)! He is no longer merely in creation, redemption, justification, reconciliation, and identification, but He is now within us, in our spirit. Christ is in us doing a transforming and sanctifying work, just as the tea, when put into the water, works the element of tea into it. Eventually, the water will be wholly “teaified.” It will have the appearance, the flavor, and the taste of real tea. If I serve you some of this beverage, I will be serving you tea, not plain water.

  • Have you been JUSTIFIED?

You should all reply, “Hallelujah! We have been justified because Christ has accomplished redemption. God has reconciled us and we are now enjoying Him.”

  • Have you been SANCTIFIED?

If some of you married men claim to be sanctified, what would your wives say? “He may be justified, but it is doubtful he is sanctified.” Or you might say”maybe a little bit… or maybe he is improved, but I do not think he is sanctified yet.” I am not talking about being improved, but being sanctified—that is to have the very character of Christ worked into our very being, just as the essence, flavor, and color of the tea are worked into the water. This is sanctification. And every born again Christian should learn that he indeed is sanctified.

5. Glorification—the Purpose of Salvation

The next section in the book of Romans is GLORIFICATION (Rom. 8:14-39), unveiling the purpose of God’s salvation. Following sanctification, there is the need of glorification. Our body needs to be glorified. Although a brother may be quite saintly, his body needs to be glorified because of its physical defects and limitations. When the Lord Jesus comes, we will be glorified. Presently, I must wear thick, peculiar eyeglasses, but when the Lord comes I will be glorified. We shall not only be justified and sanctified; we shall be glorified, that is, our body shall be redeemed. Glorification is the full redemption of our body.

This glorification reveals the purpose of God’s salvation. The purpose of God’s salvation is to produce many brothers to Christ. Originally, Christ was the only begotten Son of God. Now the only begotten Son has become the firstborn Son. We ourselves will be processed into the many brothers of Christ and the many sons of God. He is the firstborn Son, and we, the many sons, are His many brothers. This is the purpose of God’s salvation.

6. Selection—the Economy of Salvation

After glorification, we come to selection which reveals the economy of salvation (Rom. 9:1—11:36). God has a purpose and an economy. His economy is for the fulfillment of His purpose. God is very wise and He arranges everything for the fulfillment of His purpose. He knows what He is doing. He knows who are His chosen people and He knows when His chosen people should be called. In relation to God, selection is for the accomplishment of His purpose; in relation to us, selection is our destiny.

7. Transformation—the Life-practice in Salvation

After this, we have the section on transformation, unfolding the life-practice in salvation (Rom. 12:1—15:13). In this section we see the life-practice of all that has been produced by the life-process. Whatever is produced in the section on sanctification is practiced in the section on transformation. Eventually, sanctification becomes transformation. In one sense, we are in sanctification; in another sense, we are also in transformation. We are in the process of life and in the practice of life that we may have the Body life with a proper private life. Every aspect of the proper Christian life and church life is included in this section on transformation. While we are being sanctified, we are also being transformed from one form into another form and from one shape into another shape. Praise the Lord! We are all under the life-process of sanctification for the life-practice of transformation.

8. Conclusion—the Ultimate Consummation of Salvation

The last section of the book of Romans is the conclusion, indicating the ultimate consummation of salvation (Rom. 15:14—16:27). The ultimate consummation of God’s salvation is the churches—not just the Body, but the local churches as the expressions of the Body. Hallelujah! The book of Romans begins with the Gospel of God and concludes with the local churches. In Romans, we do not have the local church in doctrine but the local churches in practice.

III. THE PILLARS OF ROMANS

The major structures of the book of Romans are three— salvation, life, and building.

A. Salvation

The first major structure of Romans is salvation, revealed in 1:1—5:11 and 9:1—11:36. Salvation includes propitiation, redemption, justification, reconciliation, selection, and predestination. In eternity past God predestinated us. Then He called us, redeemed us, justified us, and reconciled us to Himself. Thus, we have full salvation.

We need to differentiate between redemption and salvation. Redemption is what Christ accomplished in the eyes of God. Salvation is what God has wrought upon us based upon the redemption of Christ. Redemption is objective, and salvation is subjective. When redemption becomes our experience, it becomes salvation.

B. Life

Salvation is for the life unfolded in 5:12—8:39. In this section the word life is used at least seven times and, according to chapter 8, this life is four-fold. This Eternal Life or Life with God, begins not when we die but when we are born again!

C. Building

In the last part of Romans, 12:1—16:27, we have the building, the Body with all of its expressions in the local churches. Salvation is for life, and life is for building. Thus, the three major structures of Romans are salvation, life, and building.

Finally:

Why is our Tour through Romans called Journey Through the Cross?

Paul is all about this New Life that is the result of the Power of the Gospel of Christ.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:13-15 (ESV)

Such is the Power of this New Life we have through the Gospel of Christ that Paul makes this BOLD declaration:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)

He boldly declares the power of the Cross of the Gospel in Romans 6. The Truth of Romans 6 is only experienced as we Journey Through the Cross:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:4-6 (ESV)

Our Journey through the Cross is a Journey into the New Life that is in Jesus Christ


Parable of Prodigal SonSome suggest we no longer call this the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but the Parable of the Lost Sons.

I suggest that we should call it the parable of the Lost Son and the Selfish Child.

Jesus said the Father had two SONS, using the Greek word “huios” for both. Then the younger SON (huios) left, declaring his freedom, and in that culture became DEAD to his Father. When his Father saw him afar off, he leaped from his chair and ran to meet him. Rejoicing, he told everyone that this SON (huios) of mine was DEAD and is ALIVE again. (has come to life again – anadzah’o)

The younger brother was his SON again. This the Father demonstrated with the ring, the robe and the sandals. They meant the Father had RESTORED his RELATIONSHIP with his SON! WHY? Because our Father is is the Father of LIFE, of HOPE, of LIVING RELATIONSHIPS.

God of the LivingJesus declared this when he answered the Sadducees  “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.Matthew 22:32. The Word further declares:

Not only is God the God of the Living, but Paul declared this to the Romans: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit(Rom. 15:13).

Peter further explained that this is a Living Hope by the Resurrection:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3).

The ResurrectionGod is the God of Hope by the Resurrection — in other words, by the triumph of Life over death. This means that in every dark situation, God never despairs and never gives up. For our Father knows the tremendous power of Resurrection, of Life.

Huios vs TeknonThe Father had two SONS, but only one knew the power of RESURRECTION. In fact, when the Elder Brother argued with the Father, the Father called him my CHILD (teknon). Calling him a child was like saying “I know you are mine by birth, but you are not my SON, because we don’t have a REAL RELATIONSHIP!”

Jesus was never referred to as TEKNON of God. He was always called the HUIOS of God. We, on the other hand, are called the TEKNON of God by John to indicate we are BORN into the family of God:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name.  John 1:12.

The Elder Brother Refused to Go In

Elder Brother Refuses to go in

Both Younger and Elder Brothers were the children of the Father, but as our Parable ends, only one was the SON of the Father. The Younger was the Son because he had come back to life and had come into a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with his Father.

The Elder Brother was a child of the Father, but there was no RELATIONSHIP.

The shocking truth of this Parable is that only the younger son reflected the character of the LIVING FATHER. The sinner was more like his Father than the righteous Elder Brother. WHY? Because the Younger Son was ALIVE, while the Elder Brother was DEAD in his self-righteousness.

Like Father Like SonMatthew 5:9 & 45 use the word huios and it refers to those who reflect the character of God. The Greek word for child or children is teknon. In contrast to huios, it means the fact of birth whereas huios stresses the dignity and character of the relationship. Another aspect of this Greek word, huios,  involves “likeness.” The New Testament contains the concept expressed in the proverb, “Like father, like son” (Matt. 5:45,48). It was typical Hebrew usage to employ the word “son” to express likeness. For instance, those who are peacemakers will be called God’s sons because they are like God (Matt. 5:9). God’s likeness, His image, will be “stamped” upon those who have been brought to maturity and adopted as sons (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:2-3).

One way to understand the difference between the Elder and Younger is to understand another use of HUIOS with the addition of thesia or “huiosthesia” – “adopted or placed as sons”. In the Roman world, the father adopted as a son his own child. Birth made him a child (teknon); adoption made him a son (huios). Between the period of birth and adoption, there were stages of growth, education and discipline, until the maturity was reached for adoption into sonship. With adoption the son was recognized as one who could faithfully represent the father. He had arrived at the point of maturity, where the father could entrust him with the responsibility of overseeing the family business. The son becomes the “heir” of his father’s inheritance. Birth gives one the right to the inheritance, but adoption gives one the participation in the inheritance.

Elder Brother Child Corinthians BabiesThe Elder Brother assumed upon the FATHER’S Stuff because of his natural birth, because he was the first born child. But what the Father was declaring was the SONSHIP of the younger brother because of the RESURRECTION and their restored RELATIONSHIP.

Paul referred to the Corinthians as babies, still on milk. They had been born into the family of God, but had never matured, even though they had been enriched in speech and in knowledge of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:6). In fact, he said they were not lacking in any spiritual gift. The Corinthians probably saw themselves as the Elder Brother saw himself – the Mature Ones. But the Father called him a child, and Paul called the Corinthains babies!

Secret of SonshipWhat makes the difference? How do we Elder Brother Types become SONS? Paul gives us the clue when he says “you are still of the flesh.” What does that mean to born again children of God?

It means we are still walking around in our stinking rotting corpses. And the flesh is abhorred by the Father.  Paul shouts the secret of SONSHIP to all Elder Brothers:

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NLT)

We have a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER of the LIVING, but it is only through the Holy Spirit! We must walk after the Holy Spirit to enjoy this Living Relationship with our Father. It is not on the basis of our works that we have this living relationship. It is on the basis of the Holy Spirit being allowed to LIVE in us!

The Father went outside and pleaded with his Elder Child. The word for plead is paraclete, the same word we use for the Holy Spirit! Picture the Holy Spirit pleading with all us EBT’s to reckon our flesh and works dead, and to FOLLOW HIM, to Walk in the LIFE of the Holy Spirit! This is the only way we will enjoy any RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER!

He is the FATHER of the LIVING, the FATHER of those who have died to the flesh, and now walk in the Living Relationship of the Holy Spirit within us! The younger brother experienced that death and so was welcomed to LIFE. The Elder Brother saw no need to die, and so found no LIFE.

Alive but actually dead to GodElder Brothers must realize they can be all righteous and moral but inwardly be walking corpses, dead to God!  Our morality is worthless without a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with our LIVING FATHER!

God is all about the RESURRECTION! He is all about LIFE! And ther can be no SONSHIP without the RELATIONSHIP! The Resurrection will bring all Elder Brothers (and younger) into RELATIONSHIP with the Father!

Most people who read and study The Parable of the Prodigal Son concentrate completely on the character of the younger son, his repentance, and the father’s forgiveness. And yet look at the text. It doesn’t end with the return of the prodigal. Almost half of the story is about the older son. The story is about two sons, who are both alienated from the father, who are both assaulting the unity of the family. Jesus wants us to compare and contrast them. The younger son is “lost”—that is easy to see. We see him shaming his father, ruining his family, sleeping with prostitutes, and we say, “yes, there’s someone who is spiritually lost.” But Jesus’ point is that the older son is lost too. Let’s learn from the text:

      1. A new understanding of Lostness,
      2. Signs of being an Elder Brother
      3. What we can do to join the Feast?.

1. A startling new understanding of LOSTNESS—verse 28.

  • The elder brother would have known that the day of the prodigal’s return was the greatest day in his father’s life.
  • The father has “killed the fattened calf”, an enormously expensive extravagance in a culture where even having meat at meals was considered a delicacy.
  • The older son realized his father was ecstatic with joy. Yet he refused to go into the biggest feast his father has ever put on. This was a remarkable, deliberate act of disrespect. It was his way of saying, “I won’t be part of this family nor respect your headship of it.
  • And the father had to “go out” to plead with him. Just as he went out to bring his alienated younger son into the family, now he had to do the same for the older brother.

Do you realize what Jesus is saying to his listeners, and to us? The Elder Brother is lost ! At the Very Least He is Missing out on Fellowship with His Father and Brother.

  • The father represents God himself, and the meal is the feast of salvation. In the end, then, the younger son, the immoral man, comes in and is saved, but the older son, the good son, refuses to go in and is lost
  • The Pharisees who were listening to this parable knew what that meant. It was a complete reversal of everything they believed. You can almost hear them gasp as the story ends.
  • And what is it that is keeping the elder brother out? It’s because: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed…” (v.29). The good son is not lost in spite of his good behavior, but because of his good behavior. So it is not his sin keeping him out, but his righteousness.
  • The gospel is neither religion nor is it irreligion; it is not morality nor is it immorality. This was completely astonishing and confusing to Jesus’ hearers at the time—and it may even be astonishing and confusing to you

Why is the older son lost?

New understanding of Lostnessa) There is No Relationship.
b) There is No Companionship.
c) There is Only a Selfish Child.

The Father Parakaleo – came along side, is a picture of the Holy Spirit, pleading! Come in, Fellowship with me!

The younger brother wanted the father’s wealth, but not the father. So how did he get what he wanted? He left home. He broke the moral rules. But it becomes evident by the end that the elder brother also wanted selfish control of the father’s wealth. He was very unhappy with the father’s use of the possessions—the robe, the ring, the calf. But while the younger brother got control by taking his stuff and running away, we see that the elder brother got control by staying home and being very good. He felt that now he has the right to tell the father what to do with his possessions because he had obeyed him perfectly.

So there are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord.

  • One is by breaking all the laws and being bad.
  • One is by keeping all the laws and being good.

If I can be so good that God has to answer my prayer, give me a good life, and take me to heaven, then in all I do I may be looking to Jesus to be my helper and my rewarder—but he isn’t my Savior. I am then my own Savior.

The difference between a religious person and a true Christian is that the religious person obeys God to get control over God, and things from God, but the Christian obeys just to get God, just to love and please and draw closer to him.

2. ARE YOU AN ELDER BROTHER TYPE?—verses 29-30.

Elder Brother TypesSome people are complete elder brothers. They go to church and obey the Bible—but out of expectation that then God owes them. They have never understood the Biblical gospel at all. But many Christians, who know the gospel, are nonetheless elder-brotherish. Despite the fact that they know the gospel of salvation by grace with their heads, their hearts go back to an elder-brotherish “default mode” of self-salvation.

Here is how to tell if you are infected with the Spirit of the ELDER BROTHER:

  • AN ANGRY SPIRIT (v.28—“became angry”).

But he was angry (ōrgisthē). First aorist (ingressive) passive indicative. But he became angry, he flew into a rage (orgē). This was the explosion as the result of long resentment towards the wayward brother and suspicion of the father’s partiality for the erring son.

If you believe God owes you a good life…
You will be angry…Why does my buddy have a better life…Why is all this going wrong…
Anger is a characteristic-frustrated, hostile
Elder brothers believe that God owes them a comfortable and good life if they try hard and live up to standards—and they have! So they say: “my life ought to be going really well!” and when it doesn’t they get angry. But they are forgetting Jesus. He lived a better life than any of us—but suffered terribly.

  • A Selfish SPIRIT (would not go in)

Would not go in (ouk ēthelen eiselthein). Imperfect tense (was not willing, refused) and aorist active (ingressive) infinitive. Selfish people are Fleshly People. They are Dead, but don’t realize it.

The Elder was dead and did not realize it. The Younger was dead, and realized it.

  • A SPIRIT OF Joyless and Dutiful Obedience (v.29—“I’ve been slaving for you”).

Duty without beauty.
Younger son – I’m not worthy, make me a slave, Father makes him a Son.
Elder son – I’m your obedient son, so he becomes the obedient slave.
You go to college to study to make money
In the world you spend money because it is beauty.
Totally results oriented, becomes a grind, a duty
Elder Brothers pray but not adoring God.
Prayer is a duty, not a beauty.
I obey and obey but I don’t get anything out of it.
Everything went wrong becasue he was faithful and obedient.

Elder brothers obey God as a means to an end—as a way to get the things they really love. Of course, obedience to God is sometimes extremely hard. But elder brothers find obedience virtually always a joyless,
mechanical, slavish thing as a result.

  • A SPIRIT OF Coldness to Younger Brother-types (v.30—“this son of yours”).

You Don’t Rejoice in what the Father Rejoices in. You have Religious and class superiority. If you ground your value in success or hard work, you have to look down your nose at the poor, the perceived lazy.  When you look at people of different races, classes, you look down at them or creeped out at them you are an elder brother.  The older son will not even “own” his brother. Elder brothers are too disdainful of others unlike themselves to be effective in evangelism. Elder brothers, who pride themselves on their doctrinal and moral purity, unavoidably feel superior to those who do not have these things. If you hate other cultural styles and customs, you are an elder brother.
You don’t grow in love in sweetness. Do evidences of the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus doesn’t lash out at them, condemn the Parisees, the ones who will kill him. You are alienated from the Father’s heart, my child, While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.
The Cross is the greatest challenge to us. We are so messed up that nothing short of the cross will save you. See the humiliation of the Cross, and the Affirmation of His Love for You.

  • A DOUBTING SPIRIT – Lacking Assurance of the Father’s Love (v.29—you never threw me a party).

As long as you are trying to earn your salvation by controlling God through your goodness, you will never be sure you have been good enough. What are the signs of this? Every time something goes wrong in your life you wonder if it’s a punishment. Another sign is irresolvable guilt. You can’t be sure you’ve repented deeply enough, so you beat yourself up over what you did. Lastly, there is a lack of any sense of intimacy with God in your prayer life. You may pray a lot of prayers asking for things, but not sense his love.

  • An Unforgiving, Judgmental Spirit.

The elder brother does not want the father to forgive the younger brother. It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel “I would never do anything that bad!” You have to be something of an elder brother to refuse to forgive.

3. What we can do about this spiritual condition?

How do we Go in to the FeastAnd he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ” Luke 15:31-32

First, we have to EXPERIENCE DEATH TO SELF

  • Jesus ends the parable with the lostness of the older brother in order to get across the point that it is a more dangerous spiritual condition. The younger brother knew he was alienated from the father, but the elder brother did not.
  • If you tell moral, religious people who are trying to be good, trying to obey the Bible so God will bless them—that they are alienated from God, they will just be offended. If you know you are sick you may go to a doctor; if you don’t know you’re sick you won’t—you’ll just die.
  • Moralistic religion works on the principle, “I obey, therefore God accepts me.” The gospel works on the principle, “I am accepted by God through Jesus Christ, therefore I obey.”
  • These are two radically different, even opposite, dynamics. Yet both sets of people sit in church together, both pray, both obey the Ten Commandments, but for radically different reasons. And because they do these things for radically different reasons, they produce radically different results—different kinds of character. One produces anger, joyless compliance, superiority, insecurity, and a condemning spirit. The other slowly but inevitably produces contentment, joy, humility, poise, and a forgiving spirit.
  • Unless a person and a congregation knows the difference between general religiosity and the true gospel, people will constantly fall into moralism and elder-brotherishness. And if you call younger brothers to receive Christ and live for him without making this distinction clear, they will automatically think you are inviting them to become elder brothers.
  • Must learn to see yourself through the eyes of the Younger Brother.

Second, we HAVE TO EXPERIENCE LIFE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The Father Entreated (parekalei). Imperfect tense, he kept on beseeching him. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit pleading for the Elder Brother to surrender to His Control, to allow Him to be in charge, and thereby experience the feasting of FULL FELLOWSHIP with the Father and the Son.

  • Remember, again, whom Jesus is speaking to (vv.1-2). Jesus is speaking to his mortal enemies, the men he knows will kill him. On the one hand, this is an astonishingly bold challenge to them. He’s talking to those who want to kill him and telling them that they are lost, that they fundamentally misunderstand God’s salvation and purpose in the world, and that they are trampling on the heart of God.
  • But at the same time, he is also being so loving and tender. When the father comes out to the older brother, that is Jesus pleading with his enemies. He is urging them to see their fatal error. Jesus does not scream at his enemies, or smite them, but lovingly urges them to repent and come into his love.

Climb the Ladder to HeavenAnd so we have a foreshadowing of that great moment on the cross when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This love toward his enemies made him vulnerable and cost him his life. On the cross, instead of blasting his enemies, he lovingly took the penalty of their sins on himself. While we were his enemies, Christ died for us (Rom 5:10).  Knowing what he did for us must drain us of our self-righteousness and our insecurity. We were so sinful he had to die for us. But we were so loved that he was glad to die for us. That takes away both the pride and the fear that makes us elder brothers.

We must stop trying to climb our own ladder to heaven. It is fruitless, it is hopeless. Only when we go to the cross and die to what we are and want and hope, and reach up and take the hand of Jesus – will we have the proper relationship with our Heavenly Father. We will be ALIVE, partakers of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


uzzah touiches arkElder Brothers are usually more responsible, more careful, and more critical when it comes to their jobs or tasks. I always wanted Elder Brother types to be managers or team leaders when I was in the business world. They usually took a personal ownership attitude toward their responsibilities. However, Elder Brother types usually don’t work well in church situations.  They tend to want to give God too much of a hand, and rely more on their own strength and not upon the Lord.

Classic example occurred when David was moving the Ark of the Covenant from the home of Abinadab to its rightful place. The two brothers Uzzah and Ahio were responsible for the move, driving the ox cart. Normally Uzzah, being the elder, would have driven, but he wanted to keep a close eye on the Ark, as he considered it his job to make sure it arrived in good order. So he let his younger brother drive. I’m sure Uzzah told him to keep away from the threshing floor of Nacon, but you know how those younger brothers are. He probably got lost in all the attention and failed to notice the oxen heading for the grain. I’m sure Uzzah had some harsh words for Ahio as the oxen left the road and rushed toward the grain of the threshing floor. The ground was getting more uneven, the oxen were getting faster, the Ark was rocking with the cart. Uzzah knew for sure that unless he steadied the Ark, it would continue to wobble until it fell off the cart. He couldn’t let that happen! What would God do if His Ark fell off the cart and broke? The Ark needed the steadying arm of Uzzah, so he did what any Elder Brother would do – he gave God a hand.

Uzzah Did Not Heed the LordYou know what happened. God didn’t want Uzzah’s help. In fact, God struck Uzzah dead on the spot.

Elder Brothers do not understand this story. Even David got mad at God. How could God do such a thing? All Uzzah was trying to do was help! Don’t you want us to take our jobs seriously, to always do our best?

God wants us to do whatever we do with all our hearts. But God wants things done His way and not our way. Paul put it this way when describing how slaves should work for their masters:

Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6:6-7

As an Elder Brother, Uzzah thought he was doing right. He was taking ownership of the Ark. He was doing his best to take care of it. But he was so wrong. God had prescribed precisely how the Ark was to be transported and touched. He expected His will to be followed to the letter. He did not need anyone revising His rules. He did not need a hand in transporting the Ark. He simply needed willing hands combined with willing hearts that were obedient to His Word.

Ive got this under control

Elder Brothers must guard against the attitude that “I know how to do this.” “I don’t need anyone telling me what to do.” “I’ve got this under control.” Getting to know the Father’s heart requires obedience, but not unless it is from a humble heart. You may be a skilled, talented Elder Brother Manager in the business world. Your bosses may love what you are doing. But that doesn’t work in God’s House. In God’s House those that walk after His Spirit are to be in charge. Those that walk after their flesh are not welcome.

Uzzah did what was right under normal conditions. Elder Brothers will normally do what is right. There is a way which seems right to man, but the end thereof is death.

God does not want us to be right. Anyone can do what is right. God wants our hearts to be dependent upon Him, and to obey Him! That means Elder Brothers must humble themselves before the Father, and set aside what they think is right. They must depend upon the Father for their very life! The younger brother learned this lesson and was saved. But Elder Brothers have a hard time with humility and depending upon someone else.

Father: Open my eyes to see You, and to see how wrong I am. Take my heart and teach me to depend totally upon You! May Your Word be the only light for my path.