Good intentions arent enough. Wanting to please God and live a clean life isnt enough. The incessant pressure we face is simply too much to withstand. Its like swimming against the tide. I may be able to hold on for a while, but sooner or later Ill grow weary and be carried along against my will. Unless we understand this and humbly accept our own weakness well never live victorious Christian lives. This is what Paul is trying to show us. He wants us to see its impossible to live godly lives without constantly receiving real, active help from God. So well understand why, he analyzes what happened to the human race when Adam sinned, and then he shows us what changes when we put our faith in Jesus
and what doesnt, that is, not yet. Knowing what does change and what doesnt change yet makes all the difference in the world. It explains why I fail and teaches me what I must do to succeed. Any Christian who has struggled with an addiction or been overwhelmed by compulsive emotions; any pastor or caregiver who has tried to help someone be released from bondage; anyone whos wondered why so many Christians fail to live the Christian life successfully will find the answer in these chapters (Ro 5-8). We and the entire church in the 21st century desperately need to understand them. Frankly, its life and death. People are trapped and miserable waiting for someone to teach them how to do what Paul says here.
Understanding key verses (Ro 5:12-21)
v18 - One act of deliberate rebellion by Adam brought condemnation and death to the entire human race. One righteous act by Jesus (the cross) provided the justification necessary for all humans to experience resurrection life. Adams sin has automatically passed on to every one of his descendants a broken relationship with God and a rebellious, independent, selfish spirit. However, Jesus one righteous act is unlike Adams unrighteous act in that it does not automatically and universally effect all humans. What Adam did seems to be passed on genetically to his physical descendants, but believers are not Jesus physical descendants. In order to receive the benefits of His ministry we must become His spiritual descendants by faith.
v19 - Here is an important distinction to keep in mind: God does not hold us morally responsible for the sins Adam committed, but as his physical descendants we have inherited from our forefather a separation from the intimate presence of God in which we were originally intended to live (Ge 3), and an innate tendency to be selfish and rebellious. In time each of us commits our own sins which bring us under judgment and eventually death.
v20 - Human guilt increased greatly after God revealed to Moses the things which are right and wrong and had him write them down in a book. Before this people had only their conscience and the witness of creation to show them what is right and wrong, so it was easy to do the wrong thing and not know it. But once the Law of Moses arrived those who heard it were forced to make a decision: would they obey the rules or not? No longer could they claim ignorance. Their new knowledge increased their moral accountability. Sin which had gone undetected before, now became obvious and sin which had been done ignorantly before now became deliberate. This was exactly the result God desired when He sent the Law in the first place. He wanted humans to see their lives from His perspective. He wanted us to see how much sin and rebellion is present, not to shame us but to show us how desperately we need His mercy.
What Adam did (Ro 5:12-19)
1) He caused us all to be born into a world without the glorious presence of the Holy Spirit (Shekinah). This has damaged the earth as well (Ro 8:18-22). 2) The intimate relationship with God was broken, so we became confused and lonely. 3) He passed his rebellious spirit to his children so each of us sins and becomes enslaved. 4) This rebellion has infected the very flesh of our bodies and so they die.
Three types of sin
1) Sin (hamartia) (vs12-13): the inward disposition of rebellion against God arising out of the exaltation of the self (C.K. Barrett, Romans, Harper and Row, 1957, p112). 2) Transgressions (parabasis) (v14): a willful violation of a known law. 3) Misstep (paraptoma) (v16): a false step, a blunder, lit: to fall beside, to step off the path.
What the Law did (Ro 5:20, 21)
1) It turns missteps (ignorant mistakes) into transgressions (deliberate disobedience) and thus increases my guilt. 2) It actually stirs rebellion: dont tell me no! (Ro 7:7, 8). 3) It exposes the rebellion (pride and selfishness) in my heart so I can recognize I need Gods grace.
How God made us (1Th 5:23)
We need to understand that Paul considers humans to be composed of three distinct interdependent elements:
1) The physical body. 2) The soul (which is the biological life which animates our bodies). 3) The human spirit (which is our immortal personality made in Gods imageGenesis 1:26, 27so that, like Him, we also have intellect, will and emotions).
What Jesus did and will do
What God has done by sentencing His Son to the cross and raising Him from the dead rescues us in each of these three areas:
1) Judicial: I am now found innocent in Gods court. I am forgiven for my past deeds and continue to be forgiven for my present ones. 2) Spiritual: I repent of my rebellion and my spirit submits to God. 3) Physical: Until the resurrection my body, which includes my old subconscious mind, remains rebellious and therefore must be continually subdued.
What Jesus passes on to us is judicial and spiritual and will, at the resurrection, be physical, but the transformation of the body does not take place yet. So our spirit loves God and wants to obey Him but our bodies remain rebellious and exert pressure on us thats too strong to resist.
By locating the source of Adams rebellious tendency in the flesh or body of a born-again believer, Paul is saying the Adamic rebellion is no longer present in our human spirit (2Co 5:17). So the new birth actually creates an internal conflict: the renewed human spirit wants to obey God, while the flesh of the body (and old mind) remains unsubmitted to Him or us (Ro 7:13-23; Gal 5:17).
Water Baptism (Ro 6:1-6)
Paul is explaining, particularly to Jewish elders in the churches in Rome, why his gospel of righteousness by faith will not produce lawlessness. Apparently those leaders feared that if the threat of punishment contained in the Law were removed the motivation to live holy lives would also be removed. Paul answers their concern by pointing to water baptism. He says the planting or burial which is expressed by the act of baptism goes beyond just seeing ourselves by faith included in His death, it means that like Him we chose to die to self (Lk 9:23, 24). It means we place on the cross with Jesus the old independent, rebellious, selfish person we used to be so he or she can die there with Him.
This profound act of rejecting our old Adamic nature has as its goal freedom from the sinful impulses that arise in the flesh of our bodies. Our spirit now wants to please God. The person who has died to sin (6:2) longs to be freed from slavery to the unhealthy impulses, appetites, emotions and attitudes that originate in the flesh of our bodies, not in our renewed spirit.
The war within (Gal 5:16, 17, 24)
In Galatians chapter 5 Paul shrinks three full chapters of Romans down to three verses: Galatians 5:24 (Ro 6) my spirit repents; Galatians 5:17 (Ro 7) my spirit tries to control my body and fails; Galatians 5:16 (Ro 8) my spirit learns to regularly turn to the Holy Spirit for help.
The truth Paul shows us is humbling and freeing. Its humbling to realize our best intentions are doomed to failure unless I learn to depend on God. It explains why Ive failed even when I tried so hard. Its freeing to know that my failure doesnt mean Im a hypocrite, it just proves Im helpless. And it points the way to success because sooner or later I discover theres more than enough help available. I just need to know how to access it.
What would Paul say to someone who said:
I promise I wont ever do that again.
My repeated failures must mean I dont really love Jesus. If I did, Id stop.
Ive sinned so many times God cant forgive me anymore.
Maybe I cant stop because I have a demon.
How can I be a Christian for so many years and still be struggling with this?
Ive begged God to take it away but for some reason He hasnt.
1) When you were water baptized did you understand what it meant? 2) Have you experienced the war within where your spirit wants to do one thing but your flesh wants to do another? Is there an example you would be comfortable sharing with us? 3) Name one thing you stopped or started doing because you knew Jesus wanted you to.