A Quest for Consistency
For me, consistency with things is a daily pursuit, and inconsistency is a constant frustration. Whether it’s a date night with Andree or structuring discipline and consequences for my kids, relational consistency is high on my list of priorities. Add to that the physical consistency of getting enough exercise and eating right, it takes a great amount of focus and determination to meet the goals.
As we begin our study of Romans 7 this weekend, I am once again confronted with our (“my own”) need for the consistency of the Apostle Paul’s reminders. Taking two chapters, 6 and 7, as a parenthetical pause to explain some possible misconceptions, the apostle uses chapter 7 to teach us about the current function and limits of the law. Our minds need this doctrine if our behavior, directed by the Spirit, is ever to follow through.
In Romans 7 we will confront two sides of the proverbial log. We are prone to fall off one side or the other. In the matter of our relationship to the law, it still has a function that is right and good. It shows us our need for a Savior. The side of the log that we can come off of here is the notion that the law no longer serves any function. If that were the case, we would not see deeply into the destructive power of sin, and our way of living would not matter. This is called an “antinomian” (no law) lifestyle, and the apostle gives a strong warning against it.
On the other side of the log is the matter of the limitations of the law. Paul is equally concerned about the false notion that justification is by grace, but sanctification is accomplished through the law. To fall off this side of the log will rob the believer of their assurance of salvation. The law, says Paul, can show us our need for a Savior, but it does not possess the power to sanctify. Like the commercials on TV, the law can monitor your conduct for sinful behavior, but it can’t do anything about it. It’s a “Security Monitor” we could say.
Having been justified by grace through faith, Paul informs us that we must not put ourselves back under the law after we have trusted the work of Christ to begin with. It is by the life of Christ, where we find our identity as well as our position, that we are transformed into Christlikeness—not by the law. With that being so, we are invited into a relationship with the Holy Spirit--not the law--Who continues by grace to fit us with holiness.
The gospel is the answer to both of these dilemmas. Jesus came to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law (He is the only one who ever could!) to prove that He was the Messiah. To be the “messiah” is to be the answer for the ultimate question: “What are we to do about the guilty condition the law says that we are under?” The answer is “We have good news!” and it is the power of God not only for our justification but also our sanctification. Don’t ever forget it.