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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Friday, November 10, 2006
Romans Seven...
On his blog, in this post, Bugblaster remarks about the Apostle Paul:
Alrighty then. Even the most famous Christian to ever live regularly fell to sin, ...
I was going to answer that in the meta, but it got a little long, so I am posting it here.

Doesn't Paul ask at the end of Romans seven who is going to set him free from the body of sin and death?

Follow my logic here. Who needs to be set free from the body of sin and death? Those who are enslaved to sin, or those who are freed from sin? Those who are enslaved - right? If I follow your logic, you are insinuating that Paul was actually still enslaved to sin when he wrote this yes. If you say that he fell into sin regularly, you are saying that he was never actually set free from sin - or alternately you are suggesting that freedom from sin necessarily includes a partial enslavement to sin - a thought that is a little self defeating to what Paul is on about -no?

Whom does scripture teach us is enslaved to sin? Those who obey sin - right? Regularly falling into sin means regularly obeying sin - no?

Who obeys sin? Those who have not been set free from sin - right? I want to understand this right. You are saying that Paul had not really been set free from sin, or at least that he had not completely been set free from sin, or possibly that freedom from sin was partial at best correct?

Consider the way in which scripture teaches "how" it is that we have been set free from sin - it says that the body of sin is made powerless because it was taken on the cross with Christ (Romans 6:6).

So in order to hold to the idea that Paul fell regularly into sin, we have to say that sin was not powerless in Paul's experience, and therefore we conclude that Paul had not actually been placed into Christ, or alternately that being in Christ was not forensic, but something we do - so that we can pop in and out at our leisure.

The trouble with the latter is that we do not place ourselves into Christ - scripture tells us that God places us there. So if God places us there, we can reject the popping in and out in our own strength idea - we are either in or out, and if I follow your logic, you are implying that Paul was out. No?

Follow my reasoning, and correct me if after some reflection you still think that I am off:

The whole point of being crucified with Christ is to make sin powerless to rule over us - that is, to set us free from sin's dominion - so that we are free to obey God.

That was the point that Paul was in the middle of making. What I understand you to be saying is that while Paul was in the middle of making this point:

...Christianity doesn't produce lawlessness because Christians have been put into Christ, and this through this union they have literally been crucified, died, and resurrected with Christ. What had previously enslaved them was not dead and by virtue of its death there on Calvary, the Christian is freed from it - so that instead of being enslaved to sin and thereby breaking the law, they are instead freed from sin, and are the only ones who can actually keep the law...

He suddenly, in chapter seven, flip flopped and said - no wait, I am enslaved to sin still.

The chronology of Paul's argument then, according to that interpretation is:

Romans six - we are freed from sin that is why we don't sin anymore.

Romans seven - my body is not dead, I still sin living in obedience to sin, that is I still live according to the flesh

Romans eight: If you live according to the flesh the spirit of God is not in you, you are not Christ's and you will die because of it.

Clearly, the reason so many have trouble understanding this passage is because Paul is apparently schizophrenic. First he says you don't sin if you are a Christian because you have died to it - then he says he is a great sinner who is still enslaved to sin, then he says anyone who obeys sin isn't in Christ, and will die - which presumably includes himself.

If I take Romans seven the way you have, I have a very confusing time of it.

But if I take Romans seven in the context of Paul's apologetic - consider how it flows:

Follow me on this: Paul begins Romans six in the middle of an apologetic for the way in which Christianity works. He is anticipating the ongoing Jewish criticism leveled against him (recall the charge against Paul in Acts 21:28, "This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and [the temple]) they were basically saying that Paul was teaching lawlessness, and Romans six, seven, and eight are all part of his defense against that misunderstanding - a defense that articulates more clearly than any other passage in scripture - exactly what Christianity is supposed to look like (and why!)

Paul taught in this same epistle that the law did not cause sin - that really, men had been sinning since before the law came - a fact that demonstrated that lawlessness is a reflection of sin and not the other way around. Paul makes the point earlier in Romans that the law shows men that they are all guilty before God. He articulates the same thought elsewhere when he calls the law a school master that brings us to Christ. It's purpose was to show us that are sinners who need a Savior.

So When we come into Romans six, Paul is explaining that Christianity is not lawless - since Christians are dead to the sin that produces the lawlessness they were so sure Christianity would produce.

He explains how it works - we are dead to sin because we were put into Christ, and Christ was crucified, died, and resurrected. That is why we are dead to sin.


Most people make the mistake of taking this as some sort of metaphor for what happened on the cross. It isn't. It is as literal as literal can get. God wasn't directing His wrath at Christ on the cross - He was directing it at those who were in Christ. Christ became sin for us - He took our sin into Himself by taking -us- into Himself. We were -in- Christ and when God poured out His wrath He wasn't all confused and punishing Jesus instead of us - He was punishing us - but Jesus willingly intercepted that same wrath on our behalf - sacrificing His own life to do so, and the death that was poured out on us, was instead received by the innocent Lamb of God - our Savior and God's Christ - Jesus.

Because God dealt the death blow to us in Christ, we really died there with Christ, and because God raised Christ, we really are no longer under condemnation - but what happened there had a benefit that Paul was expounding in the text - by virtue of our death in Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin - that is why Christians do not practice lawlessness - because they are in Christ.

That was the point that Paul was trying to make with the example of of the widow. While her husband lived if she had been remarried she would have been an adulterer, but when her husband died she was no longer under the law and was free to remarry. The widow is Israel, and her husband was the Mosaic system. Israel was bound to the Mosaic system for the "life" of the Mosaic system, but when the Mosaic system "died" Israel was freed from it, and could be married again this time to Christ and she was no adulterous for doing so.

It becomes a confusing metaphor because Paul is talking about the law with regard to the widow, and THE LAW which the husband represented, but when this is seen, it becomes an easily understood metaphor.

The whole tangent that Paul begins in Romans seven jumps off of this line:

"For when we were in the flesh..."

Paul associates himself with the reader - when "we" (Christians) were in the flesh we did such and such - but now we do it differently the old way looked like this but God be praised, I have been set free from that and there is no condemnation to me, because I am in Christ Jesus.

When I read that part of Romans seven, I see a parenthetical that makes perfect sense in the argument Paul is laying out - we were slaves of sin, when we were in the flesh this is how we acted - thank God I am delivered from this body of sin and death, that is, thank God I have been saved from the way I formerly was.

Thus Romans seven describes a carnal attempt to be obedient - and Paul says, I used to be like that when I was in the flesh, but thank God, I am in the Spirit and am no longer like that.

You see - that is what Christ died to set us free from. That is Paul's point - how can we who have been set free from sin continue in it.

Let me know if this is confusing.
posted by Daniel @ 5:06 PM  
  • At 10:38 PM, November 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Dan,
    I fear for my health, debating Romans with you. Be gentle with me? ;)

    Do you think Paul sinned after conversion? Ever? Once a year? Monthly? Daily? More than once a day?

    My Pastor once told me that he sinned many times each and every day. He was not a “carnal” Christian, should such a thing actually exist. To the best of my knowledge, and I knew him well, he was a man of God. He was humble and dependent upon God. His realistic assessment of his thoughts and actions and his tender conscience revealed to him that he was a frequent lawbreaker.

    I used probably an unfortunate phrasing when I said “regularly fell into sin”. What I meant, was that Paul was saying in Romans 7:18-24 that he sinned many times, and in ways that frustrated and perhaps surprised this very humble man. I understand that it was said in the context of broader points, but it was said. Paul uses his own frailties as an example in the discourse. Paul says in pretty plain language that he did fail, and did sin, and far too often. I believe that he did sin and was not fully sanctified while here on earth, and so when he says his flesh betrayed him again and again I believe him.

    His mind was set on God, but his body in the here and now failed him. He sinned. He sinned regularly, unless I misread it entirely. The man who says “O wretched man that I am” is speaking anguish. His conscience is testifying to his breaking of the law.

    The reason I used this example in my post was to make the point that all of us are carnal, in the sense that we are still in these bodies, and in the sense that sanctification lags justification, and in the sense that we will not be fully sanctified while still in these bodies. Thus, we are all susceptible to temptation all of our days, just like Paul. I was trying to show that opportunistic sins appealing to our carnal flesh can take the legs out from anyone, including the most sanctified Christians. It’s not an enslavement. It's not living according to the flesh. It’s an unforeseen stumbling.

    What do you think?

  • At 10:20 AM, November 11, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Clearly, I am incapable of brevity. I have answered you in the latest post here

    Be gentle with me, I am hopelessly passionate about this topic.

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