Faith that Works: Romans 6 – 7 Read With the Spirit

We kind of started on Romans 6 but found it inscrutable without a background in the Spirit. You can say the words, but you can’t really understand phrases like “die to sin” without an understanding of the Spirit’s power.

(Rom 6:1-2 ESV)  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

When did we die to sin? When we were baptized. Did we promise to try harder? Absolutely. Is that enough to die to sin? Not even close.

No, we don’t die to sin except by having our hearts circumcised by the Spirit. It’s only when God puts new flesh on these dry bones, waters a thirsty land, and “renews a right spirit within me” that any sort of real victory has been won over sin. We just, plain can’t do it alone.

We receive the Spirit at baptism. Paul doesn’t explicitly say this, but it’s an obvious conclusion from Romans 6, read with Romans 8:9-11. And it’s obvious if you’re listening closely to what Paul says in Romans 6.

(Rom 6:6-7 ESV)  6 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.  7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Yes, there is a mystical joining of the Christian into Christ’s crucifixion that redeems us, but it’s much more than a legal transaction. We’re forgiven, but we also die. We participate in the death of Jesus.

What on earth does that mean other than that we’re forgiven and promise to try harder (circumcise our own hearts)? It means that God is active in our baptism to change us. It is God — through the Spirit — who removes our slavery to sin.

Paul uses the imagery of slavery — and death will indeed free you from slavery! But it’s a metaphor for a changed heart.

(Rom 6:14 ESV)  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Really? I won’t sin? No, I’ll sin, but it won’t own me. I won’t be its slave because I’ll be able to say “no” — well enough. Not perfectly, but my heart will be changed — by God, through his Spirit.

(Rom 6:15 ESV)  15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

Again! Paul keeps asking this question, realizing that he’s struggling to make his point — in part because we’ve not yet gotten to chapter 8, which deals more explicitly with the Spirit. Here, Paul’s emphasis is on grace and the work of Jesus.

(Rom 6:17-18 ESV) 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,  18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

“Obedient from the heart” is a plain allusion to Jeremiah 31:33 and Deuteronomy 30:10 (which follows Deu. 30:6, of course).

(Rom 6:19a ESV) 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations.

Exactly. Paul is not yet ready to explicitly return to the Spirit’s work, because this presentation is based on baptism and the metaphor of slavery. He’ll offer another explanation soon.

Chapter 7

(Rom 7:4-6 ESV)  4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.  5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Again, Paul uses the metaphor of dying (in baptism) and becoming owned by (enslaved to) Jesus. He says that before our baptisms, we were bearing fruit for death. It’s Ezekiel — except death comes from the law — because we cannot sufficiently obey it to be saved (v. 6). Indeed, both Paul’s and Ezekiel’s points are that disobedience kills and only God can give life — and only through the Spirit.

What releases us from the law? Baptism? Co-crucifixion with Jesus? Enslavement to Jesus? Yes, but now Paul introduces: “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Our resurrection with Jesus, our enslavement to Jesus, our new life is all about a “new way” of service in the Spirit. Which means what? Well, obedience, but an obedience empowered by God’s transforming work in our hearts.

The new contrast — which is not different from what he said before but which deepens the thought, making it less human and less limited — is the Spirit vs. the law as “written code.”

In 7:6, Paul sneaks a peak ahead to chapter 8. He then looks back — at the problem of how to obey when we fail to obey despite our best intentions —

(Rom 7:20-24 ESV)  20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  23 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.  24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

This is the problem of self-circumcision of the heart. As much as we might want to get our hearts right on our own, we just can’t.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Faith That Works, Grace, Romans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Faith that Works: Romans 6 – 7 Read With the Spirit

  1. Jerry says:

    The promise is “you may live”! This parallels Paul’s many references to “life” and “living” throughout Romans. How do we, as God’s restored people, now live and not die? By the power of the resurrection, of course, but also by the power of God’s indwelling Spirit.

    The Spirit that dwells in us, is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That is one reason I love this text:

    For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23, Emphasis added.)

    God’s power in us (i.e., the Spirit) is the same power by which He raised Jesus from the dead. Now, Why do we always insist that we are weak and helpless when God’s resurrection power is within us?

  2. Jerry says:

    Rom 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

    This speaks of our new life in Jesus NOW, not of our resurrection in the eschaton

  3. laymond says:

    The law of Moses dealt with the flesh trying to change the spirit.
    through physical punishment, did not work. Yes they physically feared God so they obeyed the law, but they hated it, and feared the one who imposed it upon them. God saw the law did not change souls, only actions, so he drafted another covenant.

    The law of Jesus deals with the spirit to change the flesh.
    through first changing the heart/core of man, through love, instead of punishment, when you see a person doing good things with their hands, and happily doing so, we think Jesus has gotten through to this person. But really only God can see the heart. I guess we will see if the “New covenant” works better than the “Old” only God and time will tell.

    Rom 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

    It is not easy, as Paul said, but we have got to get both body and soul obeying the law of Jesus. A righteous Soul has to control a sinful body, not the other way around.

    Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

  4. charles mclean says:

    Laymond said, “It is not easy, as Paul said, but we have got to get both body and soul obeying the law of Jesus.”
    The real question seems to be: how exactly is this accomplished, and by whose ability?

  5. Ray Downen says:

    Peter gives light on the new birth by saying that those who believe in Jesus must repent and be baptized. Repentance is turning away from sin and turning to Jesus as Lord with full rights to direct our path. So others ways of describing repentance may help us understand repentance but it’s still consciously turning away from sin and toward Jesus as director of our choices which puts us, and keeps us, on the right path. Paul doesn’t change this at all by his descriptions of repentance. And it’s all linked to our dying to sin prior to being raised into new life with Christ. And then keeping on His way.

  6. Skip says:

    The dying to sin is relatively easy when I am in love with the Lord and relatively hard when I merely am in love obedience.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Paul speaks of the Spirit of God and also “a spirit” of humility and confidence which should be ours because of loving Jesus and trusting Jesus. Why did translators capitalize “spirit” when the inspired writers merely wrote “spirit”? Paul was filled with the Spirit, and still felt torn between flesh and spirit. He was not torn between flesh and Spirit. Yet that is what translators often have him writing. I observe that each time in apostolic writings we read of conflict between flesh and spirit, the word “spirit” should NOT be capitalized.

  8. skip says:

    Saying “God saw the law could not change souls… So he drafted another plan” is suggesting that God did not foresee the failure of man and came up with a backup plan. God is omniscient. He knew before creation that man could not keep the law and he knew before creation that Jesus would come and be our savior. Galatians says the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. This was always his plan.

  9. Ray Downen says:

    Skip is surely reading the texts correctly. God doesn’t surprise easily or ever. He plans for the real world and knows as the plan is made how things will work and how new plans will be put in place by His power.

  10. laymond says:

    skip, or Ray, can you tell me why God spent time on plans that he knew would not work.When you give someone free will to do as they please, by definition you don’t know what they will do.

  11. Skip says:

    Laymond, So you are saying that the infinite, omniscient, immutable creator of the entire universe somehow doesn’t know the future? God has always had the perfect plan before creation and that perfect plan included using the law to lead us to Christ. Makes perfect sense to me and it does not require God being surprised by our behavior and having to change his mind and make up new plans. Again, God instituted the law to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Sounds like a consistent plan to me.

    Perhaps these scriptures might help:
    Numbers 23:19 (“God is not a man, that he should lie, a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act?”),
    1 Samuel 15:29 (“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”),
    Psalm 110:4 (“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind”).

  12. Skip says:

    Laymond, Part II. “When you give someone free will to do as they please, by definition you don’t know what they will do.” We humans don’t know what people will do but God is omniscient. He knows exactly what people will do from the beginning of time or God is not God. You are anthropomorphizing God.

    Psalm 94:11 “The LORD knows the thoughts of man; He knows that they are futile.”

  13. Ray Downen says:

    God made Adam and Eve and knew even then that some day His Son would have to die to provide eternal life for sinning humans. Free will for us doesn’t mean that God does not know what we will do. It means that we are free to decide for ourselves what we will do but God already knew the choices we would make. He gives us freedom. Is it because He wants the friendship and worship of ones who CHOSE to belong to Him? He already had creatures (angels) who were not given choice. He chose to create this cosmos and put humans in it. He knows why He did so. He calls humans to become His sons and daughters. Some will choose wisely.

  14. laymond says:

    Skip let me know how many it takes to trumph your three , I have plenty more.

    1Ch 21:15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

    Psa 90:13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy
    Psa 106:45 And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
    Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
    Exd 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

    1Sa 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death:
    nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
    Amo 7:3 The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.
    Amo 7:6 The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.
    Jon 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.

  15. Skip says:

    I appreciate your scriptures and know them. So the question is how to reconcile the scriptures where God doesn’t change his mind with the scriptures where God withholds punishment because of his mercy. Your scriptures prove the later. I refuted your earlier point that God did not foresee we would fail and then resorted to sending Jesus. Jesus’ coming is prophesied and typed many times in the OT before the law was even instituted. Jesus was always in God’s plan from the beginning. That is my point. So you don’t believe God is omniscient and knows even the decisions we make with our free will? I don’t want to engage in a spitting contest with you. Or in “the last scripture quoted wins”. We could do scripture badminton all day but that seems pointless.

  16. laymond says:

    Skip, I just can’t see why anyone, especially God would attempt anything that they know will end in failure. Yes God knows what will happen if, certain things happen, or certain things do not happen. If we obey God good things happen, if we disobey God bad things happen. But I can’t see god knowing that a baby at birth is going to hell and continue to try and reach that person to change, yes God knows most are not going to make it, and I know it from what Jesus said “few will enter” . And unless you walk that narrow path to that narrow gate you will not enter the kingdom of God, plain and simple. So why is God continuing to let this world stand, because he knows a few, maybe 10,000 years from now are saved? God knows what is knowable, but the future is not knowable even to God. The bible says God has changed his mind many times, and you don’t know God well enough to say he won’t change it again, you Skip, cannot make that decision for him.

  17. Skip says:

    Please forget your logic about what you think is fair and about what you think God can and cannot do. Basically you are saying that our infinite omniscient almighty God cannot know mankind’s complete future. This of course means he is not omniscient. And you are also saying that if God knows the complete future then he is not fair. Psalm 139:16 says,
    “All the days ordained for me
    were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.”
    God already knows all my days before they start. Or he would not be omniscient.
    Never mind that before the law, right after Adam and Eve fell, he prophesied about the coming of Jesus (Genesis 3:15). Never mind that, before the law, when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his one and only son and laid him on the wood as an offering that he was showing us a type of sacrifice that Jesus would make as he is laid on the cross. Never mind that the Ark story is also before the law and foretells the meaning of Christian baptism. I know and believe that God is omniscient and that his ways are beyond my reason and my intelligence. I believe God is loving and just and at judgement it will all make perfect sense. It doesn’t have to fit in my little brain. Please remember that Isaiah 55:8,9 says God doesn’t think like us.
    8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the LORD.
    9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    This may not make any difference to you but I believe God is loving, just, and fair AND that he completely knew that the old system under the law would fail and has always known every path each and everyone of us will take throughout our lives. This gives me great comfort and assurance.

  18. Skip says:

    David consults God, God tells him the future:
    When David knew that Saul plotted evil against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord God of Israel, your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. “Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will deliver you.” So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition (2 Samuel 23:9-13).

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    You said, “But I can’t see God knowing that a baby at birth is going to hell and continue to try and reach that person to change”. This presented a challenge to me to research that concept. Some of these scriptures that had given me a different conclusion. I was amazed at the amount of text that I thought was relevant to prove that God has many times documented his knowing a man prior to his birth, or even conception. I had to condense this to present only this much of it. I would suggest that you search on womb and take a look at what is stated that I have left out.

    (Gen 25:23 KJV) And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
    (Gen 25:24 KJV) And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

    (Judg 13:5 KJV) For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
    David’s comments;
    (Psa 22:9 NIV) Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.
    (Psa 22:10 NIV) From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
    (Psa 139:13 NIV) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    (Psa 139:14 NIV) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

    (Isa 44:2 NIV) This is what the LORD says– he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

    (Isa 44:24 NIV) “This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,
    (Isa 44:25 NIV) who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense,
    (Continue reading beyond verse 25 for more of what God said)

    (Isa 46:3 NIV) “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.
    (Isa 48:5 NIV) Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’

    (I believe that this scripture is speaking prophesy of Christ, but notice the message about prior to birth)
    (Isa 49:1 NIV) Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.
    (Isa 49:5 NIV) And now the LORD says– he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength–
    (Isa 49:6 NIV) he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
    (God speaking to Jeremiah)
    (Jer 1:5 NIV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
    (Jer 1:6 NIV) “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
    (Jer 1:7 NIV) But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.

    There are many places in scripture where God states that he knew that who was going to be rebellious prior to their birth.

  20. laymond says:

    “Basically you are saying that our infinite omniscient almighty God cannot know mankind’s complete future.”
    Skip, that is not what I am saying at all, Yes God knows the future of “mankind” how do I know this? because he told us the future of “Mankind” but not the individual “man”, we decide our future by, what we believe, and they way we show what we believe, our actions.

  21. laymond says:

    “I know and believe that God is omniscient and that his ways are beyond my reason and my intelligence.”
    That is what leaves room for you and I to have differing views, you believe Jesus was sent to save individuals, I believe Jesus was sent to save “God’s Creation”. Noah, saved “God’s creation” those who followed Noah on to the boat were saved. Moses saved “God’s Creation” those who followed Moses out of the desert, were saved. If it were not for Noah, and Moses, Jesus would have nothing to save, Yes Noah, and Moses saved the physical, Jesus came to save the spiritual. Yes I know God said he wanted no one to be lost, but I don’t believe that was his goal, time and again he saved only remnants, I believe that will happen again. “few will enter” His goal, IMO is to save his creation. Not to follow each and every individual and judge them daily, but to judge at the end of time. Yes God will know what we have done, how else could he judge us.

  22. Skip says:

    Laymond, You are apparently an open theist. So now I understand your position although I fully disagree with it. Hey I don’t believe our salvation hinges on whether we believe that God knows the future of every individual. Although I have quoted numerous scriptures that say as much this still ain’t going to determine our salvation. God exists outside of time because he created time. Time started with creation. “In the beginning…” Since God is outside of time then he knows all events throughout time including all my future decisions. Numerous articles have been written refuting open theism.

    Isaiah 46:9,10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.

  23. Skip says:

    Laymond, BTW, I don’t know what you mean by “Moses saved God’s creation”. Moses rescued the Jewish race from Egypt but he did not rescue creation (planets, animals, stars, etc…). Many people stayed behind and lived plus numerous races existed in the world at that time whom Moses did not rescue. Moses helped preserve a single nation through which a savior would be born. But God knew this before hand because he is omniscient.

  24. laymond says:

    Did God not create a chosen race?

  25. laymond says:

    Skip,said, Moses did not rescue creation (planets, animals, stars, etc…). none of the three I mentioned could do that (I didn’t realize the the planets, and stars needed saving) Noah did rescue the animals, so the story goes, Noah was to rescue “mankind” Moses was to rescue the “chosen” Jesus was to rescue the spiritual. one and all, God’s creation.

    2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up
    No one can keep you from this event, except God, creator of all mankind.

  26. Royce Ogle says:

    I do agree though that God’s intention is to restore all of creation to his original design. “God was in Christ reconciling the world (cosmos) to himself.

    We have agreed on something again, that’s twice I think in how many years. lol

    Hope you are enjoying a beautiful day.

  27. Skip says:

    Laymond, Hey, I was only using your words. You said, that I believe Jesus was sent to save individuals and you believe instead Noah, Moses, and Jesus were sent to save “creation”. Pardon my confusion. I took you literally. Creation in the Bible goes way beyond people so I was confused by your terminology.

    This, however, side steps the core of our discussion. I believe God created time and is therefore beyond time. God knows the beginning and end of all things because God is omniscient. Therefore he knows apriori what paths all individuals take throughout history. I previously quoted many scriptures showing God’s knowledge of peoples behavior in advance. Here is another example:

    Isaiah 44:28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I
    please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its
    foundations be laid.”’

    God knew in advance decisions Cyrus would make and specifically what Cyrus would decree yet Cyrus still had freewill.

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