September 13, 2010 David Balzer

Romans 7:1-8:17: Two Marriages, Two Husbands

My favourite TV show at the moment is MODERN FAMILY. It’s a comedy, with a difference. It’s a MOCKUMENTARY, which means it’s set up like a documentary. The camera follows the families around. And the characters will often cast a knowing look at the camera, as if they’re self-conscious about the intrusion. And there are interviews at different times where the characters sit on a couch, and explain why they behaved in a certain way.

You feel like you’re a fly on the wall eavesdropping on the inside workings of a marriage. A peculiar, hilarious, often excruciating MODERN FAMILY.

Fortunately, I think, there AREN’T hidden cameras around showing the inside workings of our marriages. But if you actually COULD have a hidden camera within many marriages, I think you’d get a big surprise It seems to me that the funny thing about marriages is that THEY’RE OFTEN NOT WHAT THEY SEEM. Most marriages can look alike from THE OUTSIDE. But they’re often something different FROM THE INSIDE.

Perhaps you’ve been at a dinner party where one couple has had a big fight. And a whole lot of information came out on the inside workings of their marriage that you really didn’t want to know.

Two marriages, two husbands.

And what we’ve got here in Romans 7 and 8 are the inside workings of TWO MARRIAGES. One woman married, at different times, to two different husbands.

Two marriages that look pretty similar on THE OUTSIDE, but when you have a look at what’s going ON THE INSIDE, you can see they’re completely different.

I was talking to a Christian woman this week. She’s not from our church. I’ll call her Kelly. She’s divorced and re-married. And very happy. NOW.

Both her husband and her ex-husband are Christian. But she says the two marriages are like chalk and cheese. Her FIRST marriage LOOKED fine. From the outside. But there were things going on that she didn’t elaborate on. But she ended up having to leave for her safety.

And now she says she shares a real PARTNERSHIP with her second husband. The way marriage SHOULD be.

They looked the same from the OUTSIDE. Fine, respectable Christian marriages. But FROM THE INSIDE, it was a different story.

Now, I’m not making any point at all about divorce and re-marriage. About wrong and right. Other than that Kelly’s situation is like the one of the woman we’ve got described here at the start of ch 7.

V2 and 3. A woman is married. But he FIRST husband DIES. And she’s RELEASED from her obligations to HIM. She’s FREE to marry AGAIN.

And Paul’s point is that’s what it was like for his Jewish brothers. You can tell he’s talking to Jews because of v1. BROTHERS – I’m speaking to MEN WHO KNOW THE LAW. Now, jump down in v4.

4 So, my brothers, YOU ALSO died to THE LAW through the body of Christ, THAT YOU MIGHT BELONG TO ANOTHER, to him who was raised from the dead,

These are Jewish Christians. Husband number one was THE LAW. BEFORE they became Christians. Husband number two was JESUS.

Two marriages that might have looked similar FROM THE OUTSIDE. Jew and Christian. Fine, moral, nice law-abiding people. But when you take a look at what’s happening ON THE INSIDE, it’s a very different story.

V5 summarises the FIRST marriage. BEFORE they became Christians. V6 the SECOND. AFTER.

5 For when we were CONTROLLED BY THE SINFUL NATURE (that’s looking BACK- and Paul includes himself in that), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we BORE FRUIT FOR DEATH. 6 BUT NOW, by dying to what once bound us, we have been RELEASED from the law so that we SERVE IN THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT, and not in the old way of the written code.

One marriage. Then a death. Then a re-marriage. That’s the thumbnail sketch. The summary. What Paul goes on to do from v7 is flesh those out in detail.

Your first marriage (7:5)

FIRST UP. Married to the LAW. He’s said in v5 that the law just arouses sinful passions. And that it leads to DEATH. That’s a big statement for a Jew to make. SHOCKING for a Jew to HEAR. Because the Law is God’s Word. That reflects his perfect holiness. And so Paul has to answer the question that there’s something wrong with the law.

There’s nothing wrong with THE LAW. The problem is with WHAT IT PRODUCES in SINFUL PEOPLE. V7

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what COVETING really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”  8 BUT SIN, SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY AFFORDED BY THE COMMANDMENT, PRODUCED IN ME EVERY KIND OF COVETOUS DESIRE.

Paul’s talking as a Jew. The Jewish law points out all the things that are sinful. Like COVETING. Wanting something that’s not yours. But the problem is as soon as a law says “Don’t covet that new car”, the new car is all I can THINK about.

I was reading an article in the Travel section of the paper last week. About all the places on the tourist trail where you’re not allowed to take photos. And the author was saying that the NATURAL INSTINCT when you see a sign like that… is to try to sneak as many photos as you can. He probably wouldn’t even have THOUGHT about taking photos of the boring building – except for the sign. The law arouses the unlawful desire.

Someone else I know of was talking about working in a MICROBIOLOGY LAB. With all sorts of precautions against spreading infection. And one of them is a big sign that says “Caution. Don’t lick your lips.” Because it increases the risk of ingesting airborne pathogens, I guess. And he said the same thing. You didn’t even THINK about licking your lips until you saw the sign, and then, by the end of the day, you’ve licked your lips so much, you’ve got CRACKED LIPS!

And it’s the same with THE LAW. It AROUSES all sorts of sinful passions just by telling you what you CAN’T DO. Look there in v10.

10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For SIN, SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY AFFORDED BY THE COMMANDMENT, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

God GAVE the law to Israel for them to OBEY it and LIVE. But it actually brought the punishment of DEATH instead. Because the sinful nature REJECTED the rule. And the end result is that it just became MORE obvious what sin WAS.

And then from v14, Paul goes into MORE detail of how that works. How a GOOD LAW, can produce SIN and DEATH, instead of OBEDIENCE AND LIFE.

He’s still speaking as if it’s HIM. But I think he’s just playing the part. He’s put on the voice of the Jews as they ask the rhetorical questions, and now he just keeps speaking in that voice.

The law is GOOD, it’s just that it AROUSES sin to produce what’s BAD. Here’s the problem for the Jew. V14.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do I do not do, but what I HATE I do.

The good Jew WANTS to keep God’s law, and sometimes he DOES. But he just keeps FAILING. Jump down to halfway through v18,

For I have the DESIRE to do what is good, but I CANNOT CARRY IT OUT. 19 For what I do is not the good I WANT to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-THIS I keep on doing.

Or down a bit further to v22. The good Jew LOVES God’s law. And he genuinely wants to keep it. But there’s A CIVIL WAR going on inside him that he can’t win.

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, WAGING WAR against the law of my MIND and making me A PRISONER OF THE LAW OF SIN at work within my MEMBERS.

That’s the sort of marriage the Jew USED to be under. Why would you want to stay in THAT? V24. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

What’s the solution to being in a body of death? A mind that wants ONE thing, but a BODY that naturally does THE OPPOSITE?


25 Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord! (That’s who’ll rescue me!)

And then sums it up. Finishing his investigation of the inner workings of the FIRST marriage.

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Your second marriage (7:6)

And so we come to Ch 8, the inner workings of the SECOND MARRIAGE. Remember it’s A CONTRAST. He’s expanding on v6 of ch 7. Jump back there for a minute.

(You USED TO be controlled by the sinful nature) 6 But NOW, by DYING to what once bound us, we have been RELEASED from the law so that we serve in the NEW way of the SPIRIT, and not in the old way of the written code.

The OLD body of death could never KEEP the law the way the mind WANTED to. But the solution is God’s Spirit. When you become a Christian, he gives you a NEW HEART, and by his Spirit you’re actually SET FREE from the old body. Jump back over to ch 8 v1. Where Paul explains how THAT works. The inner workings of the SECOND marriage.

8:1 Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus,  2 because through Christ Jesus THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE SET ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.

In the OLD marriage, all that law did was CONDEMN. Guilty, guilty, guilty! Failure, failure, failure. But there’s none of that in the NEW marriage. For those in Christ Jesus. And how did that happen? V3.

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

The law could never make us right with God, because our sinful nature couldn’t KEEP it. But GOD did it when he sent Jesus to die. Jesus KEPT the law. Jesus TOOK the law’s punishment for breaking it.

And so, instead of THE LAW condemning US. God condemns SIN in us (there at the end of v3). And then look at what that means about us. V4 is extraordinary!

he condemned sin in sinful man,  4 IN ORDER THAT THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULLY MET IN US, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

I think we expect to see “that the righteous requirements of the law are fully met IN JESUS”. But it says they’re FULLY MET IN US.

What’s THAT mean? There’s a couple of things Paul’s probably thinking of. First, because Jesus took the law’s punishment, and met its requirements. And because he’s our representative, and we’re joined to him, then WE also meet those perfect requirements. God declares us RIGHTEOUS. That’s JUSTIFICATION.

But there’s also ANOTHER aspect. To do with SANCTIFICATION. The OLD way of the law could never produce obedience, because of our body of death. But now, God’s given us his Spirit, and we’re actually ABLE to obey the law’s requirements. We can actually do what God desires. And I think it’s THAT aspect Paul’s getting at here. Look at how he describes those people in whom the righteous requirements of the law are met (v4).


It’s in OUR LIVING that we meet the righteous requirements of the law. It actually says those who WALK according to the Spirit. As you walk through life, you make decisions based on what pleases God’s Spirit. You make them with his help and strength and guidance.

And Paul goes on to describe what it LOOKS LIKE to walk according to the Spirit. There’s a PARTNERSHIP involved. Look at v5 and 6, and see if you can see what WE’RE to do, and what GOD does. V5.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit HAVE THEIR MINDS SET ON WHAT THE SPIRIT DESIRES. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but THE MIND CONTROLLED BY THE SPIRIT is life and peace;

We are to SET OUR MINDS on the things the Spirit desires. Make a conscious decision to fix your attention on ONE sort of thing. And not on another. Make it A POSITIVE CHOICE. Don’t just try NOT to do a WRONG thing. Make the choice to do the GOOD thing. Turn off the TV. Bin the catalogues, throw out the DVDs and the magazines. Get off the couch, and go to Home Group instead. Or catch up with someone from church.

Walk away from the conversation, think before you speak. Pray before you respond. Choose to forgive, rather than grumble. To get involved, rather than criticise. Be part of the solution, rather than the problem. SET YOUR MINDS ON THE THINGS THE SPIRIT DESIRES.

Get excited by ETERNAL things, not seasonal things. By treasure in heaven, not treasure that rusts, gets stolen, breaks down, or disappoints.

Subscribe to a Christian magazine, visit Koorong, buy a basket of books, and actually READ them. Podcast some sermons, and actually LISTEN to them. Support a missionary, and a tually READ THEIR NEWSLETTER. Get excited by what they’re doing. And actually pray for them.


Fill your mind with God’s Word – listen to sermons, Christian songs, Bible on CD. Read your Bible on the train, with someone else one-to-one. Prepare your Home Group study BEFORE THE NIGHT.

That’s YOUR part.

And God’s part is that his Spirit CONTROLS YOUR MIND (v6). How does THAT work?

I think it’s as simple as letting God’s WORD affect you. Eph 6 tells us to put on the full armour of God, including the SWORD OF THE Spirit, which is … the Word of God.

It’s the Bible that God’s Spirit uses to do his thing. To control you. To strengthen, guide, change, correct, rebuke, mature you. All the things that are to be part of the NEW YOU. The NEW MARRIAGE. Part of the fruit you’ve been set free to bear to God.

So, make God’s Word the CENTRE of all those things you do above. Make it the focus of the time you spend with people. Make it the focus of your prayer. Of your family time. That’s how you allow yourself to be controlled by God’s Spirit. How you’re able to meet the righteous requirements of the law.

And this sort of victory. It’s not just reserved for THE SPECIAL FEW. Some elite Christian commandos. While EVERYONE ELSE plods along back in the slavery to the law.

If you’re a Christian, then you’ve got God’s Spirit. He’s the key to living the life God intends. The life that genuinely is ABLE to keep God’s law. This picture DESCRIBES YOU. Look at v9.

9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. AND IF ANYONE DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE DOES NOT BELONG TO CHRIST.

And that means resurrection power for EVERY CHRISTIAN. Not just life for eternity, but life NOW.

10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

It’s there. God wants you to be LIVING in it.

So what? (8:12-17)

And so we come to the “So what?” v12.

Is this just some irrelevant argument from the history pages? Nothing to do with our life today? After all, we’re NOT Jews.

We may not have been dead in a first marriage in EXACTLY the same way the Jews were married to the law. But we were STILL DEAD. Still incapable of pleasing God.

And yet now, if we’re joined to Jesus, then we have an OBLIGATION to our new husband. There’s lots of BLESSINGS in being married, but there’s also obligations. And it’s no different when you’re joined to Christ. V12

12 Therefore, brothers, we have AN OBLIGATION-but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if BY THE SPIRIT you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

That’s our obligation. To put to death the misdeeds of the body. To set your mind on what the Spirit desires.

And the difference between THIS sort of living, and the slavery of Ch 7. Is that we actually have the POWER to DO it. Because of God’s Spirit.

It won’t always be EASY (which we’ll see in next week’s passage), but it will always be POSSIBLE. I’ll say that again. Obedience – fully meeting the righteous requirements of the law – won’t always be easy, but it WILL be possible. So you have an OBLIGATION, not an excuse.

And rather than SLAVES, God calls us SONS and DAUGHTERS. V14.

14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are SONS of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of SONSHIP. And by him we cry, “Abba, FATHER.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN.

God’s Spirit doesn’t just help us to live the life of obedience that pleases God, but he also assures us that we’re God’s children.

There’s a big difference between slaves and sons. You’ve been set FREE from being a slave. And now you’re a SON or DAUGHTER.

What does it mean to be SET FREE? It means you’re free from CONDEMNATION. There’s nothing to ACCUSE you of. Which means you’re set free from GUILT. Set free from DOUBT. Set free from FAILURE, from DEATH. From FRUSTRATION.

And instead, you’re FREE. A son or daughter. Set free to bear fruit. To fully meet the requirements of the law. To actually PLEASE you’re heavenly Father. As a son or daughter, you have joy and purpose and perspective and fulfilment.

Go into this week as a FREE person. As a SON OR DAUGHTER, not a SLAVE.

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be TO GOD, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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