Feb 19 2023 Paul and the Proper Use of Pronouns

Romans 7:15 For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.

20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched one that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

How many of you have said, He is talking about me?!

You might notice that I have the word *I* highlighted – used 22 times in this passage! Trying to be clever, which I never should – I titled this – Paul, and the proper use of Pronouns! I don’t mean to make a commentary on the use of pronouns in this world – but the Book of Romans is BUILT on pronouns. It is crucial to what Paul is doing!

It is BRILLIANT! It is GENIUS! And it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is so simple, and yet so profound, that it is relevant to every people throughout history! There is not a people or a time in history where what Paul does did not speak directly to their lives.

Paul and the Proper Use of Pronouns

  1. They/Them Romans 1:18-32 – Every people group has had a they and them – people who are NOT US – who are the OTHER – and usually, they are the BAD ONES – the ones we don’t want to be like – the ones we are NOT! (Not that that’s right!)
  2. You/You All Romans 2:1-10 (And then he says, You and you all – because he is pointing out their issues)
  3. We/Us Romans 5:1-11 (We and us – people in Rome were divided over issues – the pandemic was like a playground for Christianity – where children are choosing sides. Anyone in ministry – that was their experience – and Paul was saying – You are all on the same side! There are serious disagreements about issues, but you are on the same side! Jesus’!
  4. I/Me Romans 7:15-23 (He has come full circle – the resources I have been reading all – every one of them has said – that this passage is the most disputed passage in Romans in the biblical scholarly world! What? There are passages about same sex relationships, capital punishment and more! How can that be?

15 For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…

Paul gets me!

19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.

We have all been there at times. If you have never been there – more power to you and this sermon will be really boring to you!

What is the dispute among scholars? Is Paul writing about his pre-conversion life? There is an entire side that says this is NOT about born again Christians – and it is a good argument – with some holes.

But others say it is after Christ – but there are holes.

There is a third option – and it is not this side, that side, or both – but NO! Meaning Paul is not talking about any of that – meaning he is not talking about himself! Wait a minute – he says I 22 times!

Many say Paul was using a rhetorical device – speech in character – the writer takes on the character of someone else – whether real or fictional who represents a people group.

This is not a small belief that this is what Paul is doing here.

1 Cor. 13 – How does it begin? IF I speak with the tongues of men and angels… is that what HE is doing? No, he is referring to a group of people.

What he is saying – anyone who wants to live under the Law – in order to be justified and made right with God BY Torah – this will always be their experience – whether you are a believer or not – anytime we place ourselves under Torah – we have the experience that Paul is talking about. We cannot get away from that. This also applies to those who try to get others to live under the Law. And they are getting the exact opposite results.

If we are doing it to others – how difficult that is to make happen!

So, we have to look at this in context:

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law)

The context is about the weak and strong – those who know the law – the weak…

, that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

Then he gives and illustration:

2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.

This is an illustration – not a teaching on divorce…

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Paul brings out here the two realms – the two ways of life – there are just two ways of life – either the way of the Law of sin and death – and the way of the Law of the Christ and grace and justification.

Because we have died – like that woman’s husband – we have died to sin and we are completely free to live for God to serve in the newness of the Spirit – not in the letter – not according to the Laws – but according to serve according to the Spirit.

7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

So, Paul goes on again – there is nothing wrong with the Torah – that is not the issue – the issue is sin. So, Paul is telling us HIS difficult thing – but it is much more subtle than this. On to my two minutes of Bible Geek – there are those who told me they enjoy this.

9 And I was once alive apart from the Law;

Was Paul ever apart from the Law? No! Read what he says in Philippians – I followed the Law more than everyone else – every little detail.

What Paul is doing – this is another Creation narrative. Paul is going back to Genesis!

but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

So, the key – verse 11 – the word deceived me is only used a few times in the New Testament – but it shows up in the Greek version of the Old Testament – Genesis 3:13 – the serpent deceived me and I ate of it!

11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.

But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2Co 11:3 NAS)

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. (1Ti 2:14 NAS)

Here is the Creation story in chapter 2 and 3 – God creates Adam in Chapter 2 – he creates human – Adam. And He plants a garden in Eden. Third – He puts the human in the garden to cultivate it – so there is this period of time where humanity had no law. We don’t know how long that period of time was – it may have been really short.

Do you know what happens right after God puts Adam in the Garden? He gives the command of the Two Trees – in the center of the Garden – and right after that – we break the command.

Sin is inevitable. It was always inevitable. We are human. It is what we do.

Back to my thesis – my opinion on this – if anyone is trying to be right with God through Torah – this will be their experience.

Torah is a holy and good standard. But its function is to reveal and point out sin – to convict and condemn sin. It, however, is unable to empower us to live righteous, just, faithful lives. Wholly unable to empower us to not sin.

We watched the granddaughters – and we were driving on 71. Think about the speed limit signs. What power do they have there?

Really all the Law does is – don’t think about a pink elephant.

It is like telling a jr. high kid – don’t do… it is bad for you.

That is what the Law is like…

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

So, practical – how do we today live under the Law and what does it look like for us?

Certainly not like it was for them. But we as Christians find our ways to live under the Law.

When we believe – trust in our moral record to gain God’s favor and blessings – we are living under the Law.

Tim Keller – the Prodigal God – a great explanation about the elder son in the prodigal son story. The younger son lives this sinful life – but the older son may be worse! What does he do? He doesn’t go into the party – I never disobeyed a command of yours! Paul – I never disobeyed a command.

I’ve slaved for you here on this farm and you never threw me a party.

The older son was every bit as lost as the younger son – but he was lost because of his moral goodness.

If obedience or service feels like duty and slavery – we are under the Law.

Nouwen – we live as if we are God’s employees – performance-based compensation with God! Instead of living as a beloved child whose status and position is not based on performance but relationship.

So with the grandkids – the girls – they love dancing - and grandpa is not a dancer – actually though – the little one likes that the best because I do silly things when I try to dance.

We were dancing to the “Just can’t wait to be King” – Simba – because he was the son – would become the king. Any other reason? None. Just because he was the son. And we need to see ourselves that way.

Second – stop seeking victory over sin – start seeking God.

That sounds nuanced – but the goal is Jesus, not victory. When you find Jesus, you find victory

That sounds simple – but it is a trap to be overly focused on victory – it takes our attention off of Jesus.

You are dead to sin IN JESUS – not in your actions or hard work -but in Jesus.

Third – briefly – if you find yourself with resentment toward others who aren’t doing enough but are still blessed – and feel like it is unfair – you are probably living under the Law.

I had Marianne stop at vs. 24:

24 Wretched one that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

That is the ONLY answer to this dilemma.

25b So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8:1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

None. How much? Zero. What things – we need to learn to live without judgment and without condemning ourselves. What things do you condemn yourself for? Maybe it is a specific sin – or a besetting sin – how much condemnation should you have for yourself? Zero.

Past failures – not sin, necessarily – for example – parenting failures – how much do we condemn ourselves? All of us, I’m sure, who are parents. Regret and condemnation seem to be connected.

How about decision failures? SO much regret. Not like we were doing anything evil – just an awful decision that would cause all kinds of issues.

No guilt – no judgment – no condemnation from God.

Failure to act decisively.

Failure because of overreaction to decisiveness!

Failure to say something.

Failure to say too much something!

IN this battle – the Law of sin and death and the life in Christ – the outcome has been determined – the victory has been won – and next week we will look at Chapter 8 on how to maintain that victory consistently.

Let’s pray…

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