“Preparing To Go Serve”
Service to the Lord must be done in the newness of the Spirit.
Released From Law
Bearers of Fruit
Delivered to Newness
Released From Law
Romans 7:1-3, NKJV
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
In order to effectively serve another person or deal with a situation the first thing that needs to be done is to be sure who is being addressed and what is happening. In the passage of Scripture above, Apostle Paul is discussing the law with people who are familiar with law. It is pointless to attempt to use an illustration with those who are unfamiliar with what is being talked about. Paul is using the civil law of marriage as an example of the eternal law of God to help the believers in Rome understand they are no longer bound by the law established by God in the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the marriage covenant between one man and one woman which God established in the beginning of creation a man leaves his father and mother and becomes one with his wife till they are parted in death (Genesis 2:21-25; Mark 10:5-9). Before the fall they were both physically naked and mentally as well as emotionally open with one another as husband and wife. Mankind’s rebellion brought clothing to cover their physical bodies, but also separation between themselves and God (Genesis 3:16-24).
The desire of God is to have people seek Him out to know and worship Him as their Creator, but in their groping about through life they made idols to satisfy their need and desire to worship (Isaiah 44:6-20; Acts 17:24-27; Romans 1:22-27). Therefore, God made a people for Himself from the offspring of Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). After many centuries when His people had become a great nation within the confines of Egypt, the Lord called them out of their slavery to Mt. Sinai where He gave them the law by which they were to live (Exodus 2:23, 20:1-20).
The book of Leviticus as well as the latter portion of the book of Exodus records the majority of the religious and civil laws for God’s people. These laws set God’s people apart from the rest of the nations, taught them God’s character, and spoke of the work of the Messiah who would come to fulfill the law of God (Psalm 119:9-16; Romans 7:7-12; Galatians 3:19-20). The people were held accountable to these laws that governed all religious and social aspects of the community for God’s people. They were clear, precise, and breaking of the laws carried swift and quick judgment.
Jesus made it clear that the Law of God and the teaching of the Prophets would remain until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). Nothing could change by popular vote, amendments, or reinterpretation. There had been many things the people of God tried to make the laws of God easier or more comfortable for them to follow. Jesus addressed these misunderstandings about His laws over time in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27; Luke 6:20-49). Jesus made the statement repeatedly, “You have heard that it was said to those of old...But I say to you that...” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).
Jesus was providing the intended interpretation of these laws since they had been distorted over time to mean things they did not mean to allow the leaders of God’s people to take advantage of them. There were not laws added or changed by Jesus in clarifying the laws God gave to His people. This would lead many to question why do we as Christian live under the law if it was unchangeable?
The religious requirements of God’s laws were all fulfilled in the life of Christ. Atonement was made for the law breakers because God’s wrath was satisfied in the death of the blameless Son of God who bore all the sins of mankind upon Himself. Those who will accept that Christ died on their behalf to provide reconciliation with God the Father has died along with Him spiritually and therefore is dead to the law (Galatians 2:19-21). Those in Christ are no longer who they used to be, but have been made alive in Christ (Matthew 12:49-50; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Those who trust in Christ are freed from the bondage of sin, death, the grave, and the wrath of God meaning that there is no longer any condemnation left for those who are in Christ (John 6:34-36).
Those who have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord are under His grace rather than the requirements of the law. The only requirements that were placed on the Gentiles was to abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29). The grace of God is much different from the law in that it conforms the heart of a person to be in agreement with the heart of God. Obedience to the law was often out of fear of punishment. Obedience to grace is out of a desire to please God and reflect His glory rather than attempting to avoid loss and discipline.
God the Father can now be approached personally through the covering of Jesus’ blood (Luke 23:44-48; John 16:26-27). Christ is the High Priest for all those who trust in Him for salvation and has made them presentable before the Father who interacts personally with His adopted children (Hebrews 4:14-16). This is possible because they are now dead to the law by being in Christ. They are no longer bound by sin, but live by faith in the grace of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. God did not change or amend His law to accommodate His people, but satisfied the requirements of the law through bringing the just punishment of people’s sins upon His Son.
Grace is different and far more compelling than law. Jesus demonstrated the true power of God the Father by coming into the world full of grace and truth. He satisfied the requirements of the law for the sake of redeeming mankind from the wrath of His Father so they might experience the joy, peace, and strength that only comes to those who submit to their Creator. God’s people who are in Christ are no longer under the law but under the grace by which they were saved from the wrath the law revealed. This ought to have a great impact on the day to day life of God’s children.
The law regimented every part of the people’s lives through harsh punishment for those who were disobedient. Grace also regiments every part of a person’s life out of joy and the knowledge that they are loved, cared for, and equipped to do what it is impossible for them to do. An example of this is the cheering of a parent for their toddler after they do something they want them to repeat and lovingly disciplines them for behavior that is unacceptable. The Holy Spirit indwelling the lives of God’s people is doing this same kind of thing through the grace of God revealed through Christ’s work of redemption. The one who belongs to Christ knows they are loved and tries to please the Father. They know God loves them the same even when they fall out of fellowship with Him when they have sin they have not repented of in their life which encourages them to confess their sin and receive restoration of that fellowship they once enjoyed.
The results of life are drastically different in fellowship with God as opposed to being out of fellowship with God. Those who are submitting to the will of God produce the spiritual fruit of the Spirit which there is no law against and supplies fulfillment in life that is unobtainable in any other way.
Bearers of Fruit
Romans 7:4-5, NKJV
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
The changing of behavior is a heart issue more than a practice issue. Most people believe if they simply do something long enough and are determined enough they will be able to change their attitude, actions, speech and anything else they do not particularly like about themselves. The majority of people discover too late that there is little that can be done to change anything about our lives unless there is a change of heart that takes place in a person’s life. Apostle Paul is explaining that this freedom received through dying with Christ has allowed people to be united with something other than the sinful desires of their fallen nature.
Life that is lived in sin merely brings about death (Romans 6:20-23). There is some truth to the statement, “I just could not help myself” made by those who are not in Christ. In many cases sin’s control is that great they cannot resist it. The nation recoils at the mass shootings, senseless violence, and fraud that takes place throughout the world that is reported on in the news broadcasts each day. Those who refuse to recognize Christ as the sovereign Lord over their life will find it irresistible to deny the influence of the sinful desires. Even those who have given their lives over to the control of God’s Spirit within them find the sinful nature is still powerful to resist (Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:16-18).
The desires of sin are opposite of the fruit of the Spirit so it is no wonder they are constantly at war for control in the life of the child of God. The sinful nature is determined to separate, destroy, and divide to create disunity. The Spirit of God within His child strives for unity with the Father and one another, restoration of what has been broken, and revealing truth to those who have been deceived by lies (Galatians 5:19-26). The struggle to obey God and deny the sinfulness of the heart from having control over life is real. The spiritual war that is being fought on a daily basis is only realized by those who have taken up a position against truth and the living God who created them see all those who trust in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior as enemies that must be destroyed at all costs.
Those who have received salvation from God’s wrath through the forgiveness of their sins by grace will view those who attack them as individuals Christ died to save like them, but have believed a lie. These attackers are people who must be reached out to with the truth and shown the love of God which they have personally received through grace (Matthew 9:35-38; Philippians 1:3-2:8; 1 John 3:16-19). The hatred of Christians by those in the world is due to the conviction of sin the Holy Spirit brings upon the world. It must be responded to in love by understanding it is not flesh and blood that is the real enemy (John 16:7-11; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 6:12-13).
There are many good things that are done in the world by people who want nothing to do with God at all. They are often times more efficient at doing these things than the church is on many occasions. The true difference between what is done in the world without Christ and that which is done in the bearing of spiritual fruit of the child of God is in who receives the glory and permanent changes of life for all involved.
Serving the Lord is something that is done while serving others rather than directly doing something for the Lord. God is self-sufficient and would not seek out His creation to be able to fulfill a need He would have (Psalm 50:12-15; Hebrews 13:15-17). It is important to understand that serving God means to serve others within the body of Christ (Matthew 25:31-40). It is also important to serve Christ by proclaiming the message of salvation to all who are under the bondage of sin (Luke 24:46-48). Bearing fruit that leads to life rather than death is revealed by the way others are treated and conflict is dealt with in life.
Living in step with the Spirit will cause problems with the world due to the drastic lifestyle differences from those living in accordance to their sinful desires (John 15:18-16:4). Those who are living according to the Spirit will be encouraged and spurred on by those they worship and fellowship with in the presence of God together. God’s people will always be in the minority in the world in spite of the evangelistic efforts of the Church (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:22-24; Revelation 16:8-9). God’s children must have a realistic understanding about their efforts to proclaim the Gospel Message to the world.
The people of God are to live by their faith, trust God for the results, and submit themselves to the will of God in both blessing and hardship. God has never made the Church responsible for providing the increase to the kingdom of God. The responsibility of the people of God is to plant and water the seeds of the Word of God in people’s lives and God supplies the increase and redemption of souls (1 Corinthians 3:5-17). The child of God should be focused on living in a manner that reveals the character of Christ living in them which will cause others to question their lifestyle to which they deserve a response from God’s people (1 Peter 3:13-17).
Freedom from the law to living under grace releases the child of God from the burdens of the requirements of the law to experience the joy of living in submission to the loving Master who desires to show His people the fullness of His presence. The responsibility of sharing Christ with others is something that should be the passion of every child of God. It is as the person who found the pearl of great price and went and sold everything in order to purchase it (Matthew 13:45-46). Witnessing is something that comes out of the joy present in the life of God’s child rather than the pressure of obligation to obey the call of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Testifying about Christ in life is compatible only with the new life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
Delivered to Newness
Romans 7:4-5, NKJV
But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
The reason for most of the apprehension within the hearts of those who claim Christ as their Savior and Lord is realizing they are no longer who they used to be. The person who accepts the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins still has the same physical appearance as before. Their history remains the same with all the scars and injuries that were there before turning to faith in the Son of God. Yet, they are a new creation and no longer the same person spiritually as they once were for they have passed from death to life (John 5:24; Romans 8:8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
The oppression of the law which reveals sin has been satisfied by Christ’s death. The newness of the Spirit Apostle Paul speaks of here means being made new rather than simply renewed. The complete change that takes place in the life of the person who comes to Christ confessing sins and receiving His grace is something that takes a lifetime to comprehend through the daily study of God’s Word, communion with the Spirit through prayer, and fellowship with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-25). In doing these things a person can come to terms with who they are in Christ as they submit to His will over their personal desires day by day.
It is a slow dying to self over time which is much more realistic than believing there will be the instantaneous drastic change in behavior. The law is not compatible with the moving of the Spirit in the life of God’s adopted child. There is no longer the same motivations that were once there for they have been replaced with a new joyful set of motivations which spring from the peace that Christ gives to those who are trusting in His name. Jesus described this when speaking of sewing a piece of new material onto an old garment to repair it and the mistake of placing new wine into old wine skins (Mark 2:18-22).
Walking by faith keeping in step with the Spirit in the grace of God is much different than holding to the legislation. Those who adhere to the letter of the law will become legalistic in their lifestyle which refuses to acknowledge grace and embraces that which is critical. This was what Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes for doing in their zeal to follow the ordinances of God.
In Matthew 23:1-36 Jesus proclaims some harsh words in saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers...They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by me, ‘ Rabbi, Rabbi’...you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in...you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith...you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence...you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness...Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:4, 6, 13, 23, 25, 28, 33, NKJV).
These are harsh words for the ones who were considered by many and themselves to be the favored of God because of their outward practice. The traditions and practices developed over the years distorted the Word of God rather then held to an authentic following of God’s Word in obedience to His commands. This has taken place in the church over the centuries because more weight has been given to the comfort of people rather than the importance of conforming to the Word of God and being shaped by the Spirit of God.
The only way to remain true to God’s Word and imitating Christ faithfully in any culture or circumstance is to humbly confess sin and seek the face of the Lord. This is the prescription God gave to Solomon for the people of God to do when they find themselves far from where they ought to be in relation to Him (2 Chronicles 7:12-14). Those who are in Christ are not bound by the religious laws which dominated the Jews, but have been delivered to newness of life that which is no longer lived in fear but in the peace and joy Christ gives through His Spirit.
The life of those who are in Christ must conform to His lifestyle rather than keeping laws and legislation which needs to be guarded and policed against lawbreakers. The desire of those on whose heart God has written His law is one of longing to obey, please, and give their full attention to in all things. There is no need for policing the child of God to make sure they are living up to the letter of the law. Those in Christ should only need others to hold them accountable to encourage them to remain faithful, celebrate with one another in the triumphs, and console one another through the trials.
Most of those who are washed in the blood of Christ are living as though they are still under the law of God instead of in the joy of the Lord. The way to change this dynamic in the church is to have God’s people focus more on being like Christ rather than treating the call of God to disciple all nations as some type of legislation Jesus gave to His Church. Making disciples of people comes naturally out of imitating Jesus’ character. Witnessing is achieved by being in love with God more than anyone else in life. People cannot seem to stop talking about things they love and are excited about. Yet, the church in first world countries has to train and teach them how to witness for Christ and rebuke people for not fulfilling the call to make disciples of all nations. It is a lack of love for God the church is suffering from rather than a lack of ability or equipping.
The Holy Spirit living within believers is all the equipping and teaching a person needs in order to be a witness to Christ Jesus. It is up to God to change the heart of people and bring them to salvation. Those who are in Christ have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to reflect the character of Christ in their lives and be the witness to the entire world of truth and God’s power as they submit to His will day by day.
Living in the newness of Scripture is simply to understand what it means to bear the fruit of the Spirit in life instead of checking off a cosmic “to do list” for God. It is realizing that the law no longer has a bearing on the life of God’s child since they have died to it and now live in Christ. Serving God was never meant to be stressful, but simply to be lived in harmony and unity with Him in thought, word, and deed.