Romans six teaches us: those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, and his work on the cross, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. You see, just as all were originally born in Adam and are therefore sinners, those of us who have been born again have been born into Christ and made righteous. In other words, the cross is the means by which God transfers us from the first Adam to the last.
Human beings have never been independent we have always been in union with another spirit. For instance we are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. Notice we are always a slave and never our own master. The good news is in Christ our old boss is out and our new one is in. This is what Paul means with his frequent use of the term “Christ in you” and “In Christ.”
As we move from Romans six into Romans seven we read about a wife who simply cannot please her husband and needs to be separated from him, but the law won’t allow it. You see unless he dies, she has to remain married to him and the truth is he simply will not die. This is a picture of our relationship with the Law/sin meaning the Law isn’t going to die, and it is the means by which sin gets its power, so she/we are in a quandary. How will she/we get away from her old husband if he won’t die? God has a solution.
You see God has always known the husband wouldn’t die, but His plan involves the wife/us dying instead. If God crucifies us with Christ and raised us back up with him there would be legal grounds for divorce from the old husband, and we could then be joined to a new one, namely Christ himself. That’s exactly what He did.
The reason Paul uses a wife here as an illustration is because God is looking to produce fruit through His people but like a wife we have to have Him to do it. Just as a wife needs a husband to produce children we too have to have God in order to produce fruit for God. This analogy is teaching us that there is absolutely no way for us to produce fruit for God by way of the Law. Us attempting to produce fruit for God by the Law is the same as a wife trying to have a baby without her husband. It just simply cannot happen. The fruit bearing process requires the husband. Just as a wife has to become one flesh with her husband we must be one spirit with the Lord.
Essentially Romans six and the first part of seven is telling us we have died to sin by being severed from our union in Adam. Through the cross, and our being co-crucified, dead, buried and risen with Christ we walk in newness of life. Now that we are in union with Christ He can produce His fruit through our lives.
I had quite the shock at the last small group Bible study in jail. The guys walked in, and I noticed there were a few more than usual. One of the new guys sat down right next to me and we looked at each other and pretty quickly realized we were old classmates. We stood up, shook hands and hugged each other. While we were both glad to see one another obviously this wasn’t the way we would have chosen. We had a few minutes of small talk and jumped right into the lesson.
We have been working our way through Romans and this night we found ourselves in chapter seven. For those of you that know your Bible’s you probably know this is quite the chapter. This is the chapter in which Paul walks us through what it looks like when someone attempts to please God in the flesh. When it comes to the term flesh there are many various ideas and definitions among great Bible teachers and scholars which generally leads to disagreements about this chapter. For me I have come to the conclusion the word “flesh”, as used here, is simply defined as “humanity operating as if independent of the Spirit of God.”
With this definition in place we can begin to see what the Apostle Paul is really trying to tell us here. While some Bible translations use the term “sinful nature” in place of the word “flesh.” I have come to believe that is not a good translation. If you look in Ephesians 2 you will read we “were by nature (by birth) the children of wrath.” We were indeed born a sinner, with a sinful nature, only because we were born with the wrong spirit within us. This of course is the reason Christ tells us we “must be born again.” In other words, we need to be born of God’s Spirit which will give us a new nature. We cannot have two nature’s at the same time. We are either a child of the devil or a child of God we can’t be both.
Romans seven starts with an illustration of a man and woman in marriage. We read where the only way the woman could get out of her union, or marriage, to her husband, is if he died but we also discover he simply will not die, so she’s in a quandary. The good news is God has provided a way for the woman, who is actually us in this illustration, to be removed from the old union by having her (we) to die by being co-crucified with Christ. Now that we, by faith, have died with Christ our old marriage union is severed, and we are free to be joined to our new husband Christ. Now whereas we, in our old union, could only produce fruit unto death we are now joined to Christ in order to produce fruit for God.
Essentially Romans seven is Paul showing us what it’s like for the wife attempting to bear fruit for God through her own so-called independent, flesh efforts. It would be like a woman deciding to get pregnant and claiming all along she can and she doesn’t have any need of a man to do it. Paul says, “The thing I want to do I don’t do and the very thing I don’t want to do I keep doing.” The reason is because he has been deceived, like all the rest of us, into thinking God’s law is something we can keep rather than something God gave us to show us we can’t. This would be the equivalent God saying to the woman “produce fruit for me” as a commandment. The woman hears the command and sets out to get pregnant. She tries and tries saying, “I want to get pregnant. There’s the desire in me to produce fruit for God but for some reason there seems to be no way for me to do it.” Who will deliver me from this endless cycle of trying and failing? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. I know! I’ll trust in him to produce the fruit God is looking for through me. After all apart from him I can do nothing.
While my old classmate and I didn’t expect to see one another, and especially in jail, I know he heard the truth that night. The truth of how human beings were designed, or created, to be a vessel, temple, wife and branch in which God’s Spirit lives. As a vessel and temple we learn how we are meant to be the container rather than the contents. As a vessel and temple we understand we are distinct from God’s Spirit within; but as a wife and branch we start to see there is a union between our spirit and His. While the illustration of us being a temple teaches us we never become like the deity housed within, the wife and branch, on the other hand, tells us there is a joining of our spirit with God’s that makes us one with him. Just as a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife to become one flesh with her “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
The pathway to understanding our union, or oneness with Christ, only comes through our own Romans seven experience. Once we truly see ourselves as dead to sin in Romans six we must move on to seeing ourselves as dead to the Law in Romans seven before moving on into life in the Spirit which we read in Romans eight but let’s not get ahead of ourselves that’s for next week.
In Romans six we discover all people are slaves. We are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness but either way we are still a slave. This means we are never acting independently as if we are just ourselves operating from our own supply or power source. Jesus said, “you are the branches.” Being a branch means we can’t live or produce fruit of any kind without another. In this case it’s Jesus who said he was the true vine. Could this imply the presence of a false one?
In the first few verses of Romans seven we discover we are likened unto a wife. Paul uses a wife and husband to illustrate this same thing. The wife can never produce children apart from her husband. Without a man a woman will not be able to become pregnant and give birth. Chapter seven is revealing to us that the first husband is impossible to please and this marriage will only bear fruit unto death. The problem is much deeper than that though because the only way for her to be removed from the marriage is if the husband dies. Guess what? He won’t die. The good news is God’s plan provided a way for the woman (we) to die with Christ, but thank God death didn’t have the final word. We rose again and now we are joined to our new husband, Jesus, and he will produce fruit for God through us. You see without Christ himself producing the life he wants from us it can never happen. Apart from him we can do nothing.
As we look a little further in Romans seven we read “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want , I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Here we discover “sin” is the real culprit not me. Of course this doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible if we commit sin, but it means once again we are a slave, branch and wife and not the originator. This works in the opposite way too. In Galatians two we read, “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” So the truth is we are not the originator of sin or righteousness rather we are a slave, branch or wife of the one who is. Either we are a slave to sin (Satan) or a slave to righteousness (Christ). Either way we do not and cannot produce the fruit of either of them on our own.
Coming to grips with the fact that one is not an independent being is difficult at first–especially for men. Men are taught from an early age to be your own man! Of course what being a man usually means in this context is something like “suck it up! Men don’t cry and you have to learn how to deal with it” whatever “it” is, right? I mean a man isn’t supposed to cry you know. The old adage is men never look for directions or ask for help. This of course is because you don’t want to look like you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. That wouldn’t be very manly now would it? The independent man—My Hero!
Women, on the other hand, seem a little quicker to reach out for assistance. They don’t have the same pressure placed on them to take care of things. In fact they may grow up expecting a man to take care of them. Therefore they tend to come to grips with their need sooner. Hence the reason churches are usually full of women rather than men. I’m speaking in generalizations of course.
Speaking of men and women and their differences has been going on for ages but when it comes to the Bible there is something we need to know. God is Spirit, and we humans, who are also spirit, have to be joined to another. God made us to be joined in union with another and we simply can’t go it alone.
While most either don’t know this or maybe just don’t agree; I for one believe our human spirits are always in union with another spirit. In Ephesians 2 we read as a lost person we were joined to “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience…” Whoa! We used to have the spirit of the prince of the power of the air joined to us. I looked into the meaning of the words prince, power and air in this verse and came away with this. When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit he took in the air (breath) of this world. In other words he took in the spirit of the prince of this world, and I don’t think I have to spell out who that is. Once Adam joined himself, even if it was somewhat unknowingly, to Satan he became separated from God. This is what it meant when God told him “the day you eat of it you will surely die.” Death means separation from God. The problem is we humans may have been separated from God but we were then joined to another because we cannot operate independently.
So being born again really means “born from above” and that means the life, or Spirit of God, regains his proper place in us. The Bible says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” This of course is the real union God is after and the marriage union is the picture. Paul wrote about this in Ephesians 5 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
Now back to the beginning let me just say without a man a woman cannot become pregnant but without a woman a man cannot bear children. Isn’t it amazing how God does things? In the spirit it is rather similar but there is one big difference. In the spirit union God is the man, and all of us humans are the wife. I know the men readers don’t want to hear that but it’s true. Without God placing his seed, which is Christ, in us we will not bear fruit. Just as a woman cannot have children without a man we too cannot produce anything for God without his Spirit. In fact it is all by way of his Spirit. We just have to be the willing recipient. Jesus said “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit…” “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Fruit bearing is impossible if we continue to live in the lie of independence. My advice to you men is to pull over and ask for directions!
Written by Louie