Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 5/21/04
"...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2).
Down through the ages, adultery has been the subject of many a sermon. In the church I grew up in, the folks who went down front to be "restored to their first love" (a phrase not found in scripture), usually had committed some sort of sex sin. It was never confessed before the congregation, of course, but I heard it being whispered about in phone conversations that I wasn't supposed to hear. It led my eager young mind to conclude that sex sin must be the worst one of all. Horrors, how could anyone do that and worse yet, how could they have the courage to go down front and confess that they had sinned? Though I was unclear what sex sin was, the thought of having to confess it left me shuddering.
Now that I have your attention, I think it's a good time to leave the "heaving bosoms and throbbing thighs" behind, and move right along to our topic. The aforementioned description of hot, passionate sex can be found in Romance novels, which some Christian women I know read, all the while, protesting how much they hate it. The fact that sex sells and Christians who would never do the sin, still like to read and watch movies about the sin, shows why the Law does not keep us pure.
How many times have we seen kids who were warned, lectured, and threatened, about a particular activity, go out and do it to see what the hubbub was all about? Been there, done that, and that's all I will say about my sins, for they are nailed to the cross, erased from the mind of God, and thanks to the life giving Spirit, which set me free from the law of sin and death, I'm also free from the guilt as well. The Apostle Paul affirmed that "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56). When I first read that, it amazed me because the Law was what made the Israelites so different from the nations round about them, or it would have made them different had they been able to keep it. No one could keep it but Jesus, and He said of Himself that He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it (Mt. 5:17-18). Therein lies the crux of the problem of understanding the place of Law in our lives today.
After last week's lesson, entitled, "Our Kinsman Redeemer, the Law Fulfilled" (See link at end), I had an e-mail from a brother who was fussing because he thought I said the Law was to be scrapped. I didn't say that, but in fact, the Hebrew writer did: "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (Heb. 8:13). Most Christians will at least, give lip service to the fact that we no longer live by Law, but we've noticed that the Law is still there to some degree in all of us. Some are more aware of it than others. The Lord has given me numerous lessons to share on the difference between religion (law or soul power) and life in the Spirit (grace or Spirit power). I've heard people talk about achieving a balance between Law and grace. One woman told me her preacher said we should not be legalistic about everything, because there are only a few things we really have to do.
If there is even one thing, one Law you must keep to please God, then you are required to keep the entire Law. "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10). What has this to do with spiritual adultery? In Romans 7:1, we find two liberating truths: "Do you not know, brothers, for I am speaking to men who know the law, that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?" The passage which follows, which we'll get to momentarily, has been used to prove that the Old Testament Law against adultery is still in effect in the New Covenant, but in fact, Paul, speaking to those who knew the Law, is using the Law against committing adultery to teach a far greater lesson to us today. Don't worry, I won't end up saying it's OK to commit adultery, but instead, I hope to convey some of what Lenny has been saying about the entire 7th chapter of Romans for decades now. Every mystic needs a scribe, and I'll try to perform that function with the Holy Spirit's help.
The first truth is that Paul is NOT talking about adultery, but instead, is using it as a metaphor for the Law.
The second remarkable truth in Rom. 7:1, is that "the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives." In other words, the Law was limited to the physical, not the spiritual. Under Law, "...a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man" (Rom. 7:2-3). Why is this such a crucial point? To understand it, we have to go back to the previous chapter and understand what it means to be in Christ: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom. 6:6-7). I've written many times before that dead men in Christ do not lust, or envy, or steal, or murder, or bear false witness. It was the very verse which freed me from the guilt about my sin. Paul says about himself, "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (7:9). This is his illustration of how SIN is the strength of the Law. The Law was given to reveal sin.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The man or woman under Law, whose spouse is alive, commits adultery if he or she marries another. The church has taken this verse at face value and declared that those of us, like Lenny and me, who have a living spouse, are CONTINUOUSLY committing adultery. That would be true ONLY if we are seeking justification by keeping the Law, rather than depending on the blood of Christ. It is not the point which the Apostle of Grace is making here. He declares that because we are dead to the Law in Christ, we belong to Him (V. 4). He explains what this means for us: "For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 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" (Vs. 5-6). Lenny reminded me of the King James Version of Verse 5: "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." We are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
If we have been buried with Christ in baptism, and risen to walk with Him in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), we are dead to the Law and now married to Christ. Therefore, if we go back to justification by works of the Law, make no mistake, we are committing SPIRITUAL ADULTERY! I don't think I'm doing disservice to this passage by using Jesus' admonition: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mt. 6:24). I would suggest it is equally true that you cannot serve Law and grace in your life anymore than you can have two husbands or two wives at the same time.
Paul makes the point with passion that "the law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Vs. 12), and YET, he says, "Apart from the law, sin lies dead" (Vs. 8). The truth about this verse can be observed in regional differences as to what is considered sin. People here in the "bible belt" have a stricter interpretation of what is sin than people do in California, for example. People in the United States have a different slant on sin than do most Europeans, and neither of these can hold a candle to what is considered sin in Islam. We can all sit and point fingers at each other, as to who is more holy, who obeys God more consistently, and who is closer to the truth, but in the final analysis, rules never did cut it and they certainly won't cut in today's mixed up, divided world. There's not much difference between a devout, legalistic Muslim and a devout, legalistic Christian. They are both dead spiritually, because the letter kills and only the Spirit makes alive (2 Cor. 3:6).
To recap and review, the Law was based on human response to God's commandments (all except for the Jubilee, which is the only example I can find in the Law's provisions of a blessing which rests solely upon God). The Jubilee was unconditional, and applied to all of Israel, whether they were saints or sinners.
Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Law is worthless in it's benefit to us, because no human being (except Jesus) has ever kept it. We do not live by that which was written on tablets of stone, but by that which is written upon our hearts. Trying to live by Law after receiving Christ is as pointless and difficult to understand as a woman who has the opportunity to marry a warm and loving man, who will cherish and protect her, but instead, keeps running back to a man who abuses her and beats her and makes her feel like trash.
The Hebrew writer says that the Law made nothing perfect, but we have a better hope (Heb. 7:19). "For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near" (Heb 10:1). This is why Christ had to come and die for our sins. Did you know that there is no provision under Law for the forgiveness of sins? They could only be rolled forward, not taken away, for "it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).
The blessings of God did not begin with the Law delivered to Moses on Sinai. Gal. 3:17-18, makes it clear that these blessings for all nations began with God's Promise to Abraham, a promise given 430 years BEFORE the law! All roads lead back to Abraham, to whom God gave a unilateral promise that in his seed (Christ, Gal. 3:16), would all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8).
Perhaps it might be said that the more law abiding a person is, the more difficult it becomes to give up the Law. Those of us who have sinned grievously understand grace. We cling to it like a drowning man clings to a bit of wood on a heaving sea. Sin is black and ugly and an abomination before God, but it really makes us appreciate what Christ did for us, and NO, I am NOT saying that we should sin that grace may abound. When we cannot stand upon our own laurels, we must depend upon His, which are spotless and eternal.
On one of our walks, Lenny and I were fellowshipping in the Lord, as we usually do, and saying that God is a master at taking nothing and making something glorious out of it, or as Paul said, He "calls things that are not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17). Abraham knew this, even though his credentials were not sparkling. Paul says of him, "Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Rom. 4:20-21). Abraham made mistakes, some of which are plaguing his offspring today in the Middle East, but God looked upon his heart and knew what He had planned, and deposited faith in Abraham's heart to believe in the promise. This is the key to understanding the plan of God for the ages. None of it depends on man, really. In the short haul, He uses our puny efforts, but in the long haul, it is all about what was written before the foundation of the world.
Lenny and I were talking about the Heroes of faith and their flaws. We noted that Abraham was an idol worshipper when God called him. Add to that flaw in his character, lying and cowardice. Isaac did so little, I sometimes refer to him as a "sperm donor." Jacob was cunning and conniving; he and his mom were thieves and liars. Of his 12 sons, only Joseph had noble character. Moses was good until he was bad, and his disobedience cost him the right to enter Canaan. Aaron was a spineless wonder, who enabled the Israelites to commit idolatry, and yet, God made him High Priest of Israel. In the New Testament, John had a temper; Peter was a coward; Paul was a murderer and James was a legalist. In spite of their flaws, God did what He had planned to do through them. That's grace on the hoof, my friends, and it is as far above the Law as the sun is above the earth.
We've already looked at Heb. 8:13, the scripture which indicates that the Law itself is growing old and ready to vanish away. The Hebrew writer was addressing Jewish Christians, and the dire warnings in the book of Hebrews are not to sinners outside the pale, but to Christians who are trying to add Law to the gospel of Christ. Anyone who does that has committed spiritual adultery, but take heart, the same blood which covers physical adultery also covers spiritual adultery. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1-2). Hallelujah for the matchless grace of our Father who has set us free.
Father, we worship You for delivering us from the body of death where we once lived, and for translating us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light in Your dear Son. Now unto him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jan and Lenny Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Letting go of the Law"
"Our Kinsman Redeemer, the Law Fulfilled"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 5/19/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.