Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
Thesis: The disease of the flesh makes the maintenance of "submission from the heart" a very difficult issue.
Introduction: We have been considering Paul's concepts of freedom and bondage within the context of his attempt to block the idea that how we live is not important because we are "free from the Law" and "under grace." Men tend to ride pendulums and run to extremes rather than pursue the holiness of balance. Since it is an integral aspect of Paul's "grace" doctrine that God has absolutely dismissed the power of the Law to condemn, men have jumped on the "logic" of "freedom from condemnation" and have run it out to the conclusion that "since we cannot be condemned, we can do anything we please." Since Paul is the one who insisted upon God's absolute dismissal of the power of the Law, he must also be the one who brings the required balance of wisdom into the mix. This is what he is doing in Romans 6. There is a potent imbalance in the thinking of men who fixate only upon whether they will be cast into the Lake of Fire or not. That is a huge issue, but, in spite of men who want to make it the issue, in reality it is a side-bar issue. The Lake of Fire is a final "depository" for created personalities who have hardened beyond repentance in their aggression against God. The issue is not where we end up, but what we have finally become. So, the issues of what, and how, we become what we shall be are the critical issues; not the destination.
In Romans 6:15-23 Paul is dealing with two things. First, he is dealing with the quality of experience that is ours in this world on the basis of the choices we make and the actions we take -- the servitude to which we commit. And, second, he is dealing with the quality of the experience that will be ours in the servant-Kingdom because of the choices we have made and the actions we have taken in this world. Both of these issues are determined by what we are becoming by grace in freedom from the condemnation of the Law. If we abuse grace in our "freedom from condemnation", we will participate in two consequences: first, we will find that our present experience is far less than that for which we had hoped; and second, we will find that our future experience is far less than that for which we had hoped. Life requires a responsible response to grace.
So, this evening we are going to look into Paul's attempt to foster a continuation of the "submission of the heart" that had originally taken place in the lives of the Romans.
November 28, 2006
- I. The Key Issues of the Context.
- A. The "God forbid" of Romans 6:15.
- B. The "God be thanked" of Romans 6:17.
- C. The "I speak after the manner of men" of Romans 6:19..."as you did, do now do...".
- II. The Problem.
- A. The "manner of men" speech.
- 1. Paul interrupts his own flow of thought to interject the idea that he had to "speak after the manner of men" because, for some reason, he apparently believed that the "infirmity" of the Romans would make it difficult for them to understand him.
- a. In Romans 3:5 he used a similar expression when he introduced an outlandish idea and discounted it as a foolish "man" idea. There are "men-speak" things that are so contrary to reality that they serve as a background of contrast to the truth.
- b. In Galatians 3:15 he used a similar expression when he pulled a "human practice" into his argument to make a point. Thus, there are "men-speak" things that are shadows of "God-speak" things that help to make it possible for men to understand God.
- c. It seems that in this Romans context he is doing the same thing he did in Galatians 3 -- he is using a "human practice" to illustrate what they need to do.
- 2. What was it that required him to insert the idea that he was speaking after the manner of men?
- a. He had referred to a "submission from the heart" -- an issue over which men have little, to no, control. The heart is a maze of complications and "deceitfulness" runs a close race to be the most descriptive term of its reality (Jeremiah 17:9). This reality means that men simply run aground when it comes to doing righteousness "from the heart" unless God is powerfully involved in the process. [Note Jesus' comment to Peter in Matthew 16:17 in the context of a 24/7 discipleship lifestyle.]
- b. He sought a continuation of that "heart-submission" even though he knew that it was "beyond" them for the most part. Thus, he falls back upon a "human illustration" to attempt to get them a "method" for that continuation.
- B. The infirmity of the flesh.
- 1. What constitutes this enormously complex "infirmity" that makes "submission from the heart" so difficult?
- 2. His terminology includes the idea of a "diseased flesh".
- a. The "flesh" in Paul's theology.
- 1) For Paul, the "flesh" refers to the "mechanical" universe -- the mechanisms of physical reality. Jesus was "of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3), which refers to the on-going "mechanical" connection of humanity through egg/sperm combinations through generations (also Romans 4:1). Circumcision had a "fleshly" reality in the cutting away of the skin and a non-fleshly reality in the alteration of the loves of the heart.
- 2) The "disease of the flesh" has primarily to do with the fixation upon "pleasure" that makes a deliberate choice to suffer very difficult. As a metaphor that extends from the body, the "flesh" is a figure that refers to man's value/belief system that puts him at the center of the universe as God. In the confusion of this "system", there is a great deal of conflict between various "values" and "beliefs" that set the "person" up as "conflicted" -- i.e., having to deal with the mutually exclusive demands of a value/belief system that has no integrated unity. The "body" is always screaming, "Don't hurt me", the "soul" is always whimpering, "Don't threaten me", and the "spirit" is always demanding, "Don't humiliate me." This kind of three-way opposition makes for a "diseased" flesh.
- 3. What was Paul's "human" expression that compensated for the "diseased flesh"?
- a. What did he say?
- 1) Did he mean his comment to be a parenthesis in his argument so that both the preceding context and the following context was his "human" speech? Apparently.
- a) His preceding context was a statement about how they had become the servants of righteousness.
- b) His following context is a statement about how they need to practice their new servitude.
- 1) He said that there was a "parallelism" that could be "applied": just as...so in the same manner.
- 2) He said that there was a unity that could be understood: You presented...you present (the verb is used as an historical indicative and then it is used as an imperative). He makes the "presentation" a matter of the "decision making process" by which a person decides what he will do.
- b. How did that compensate for the "flesh"?
- 1) It forced a "singularity" of objective that forces the fragmented aspects of man's reality to fall in line under that singularity: the body submits to pain, the soul submits to threat, the spirit submits to humiliation if the commitment to "sanctification" requires it. No longer are any of the three inner tyrants to be free to demand anything. Instead, "sanctification" is the touch-stone by which all decisions will be made.
- 2) Clearly, the "compensation" is "flawed" in that this is a "human-speak" concept.
- a) What would Paul have said in "God-speak" if there were no "diseased flesh"? From Jesus' comment to Peter in Matthew 16:17, the "revelation" that comes from God sets up "reality" in such a way that it is seen as "dominating reality". In other words, without a "disease", the "flesh" would naturally operate with divine insight and wisdom in respect to what is important and what is true and there would be no need for a "presentation" of the members to "specially selected objectives."
- b) But with the diseased flesh, men have to "choose" between competing agendas and "force" ungodliness to submit to godliness. The "problem" with this is that men cannot force this submission. Without the Spirit of God, there is no power to force the submission. But, in "human-speak", if a man will embrace the Spirit and make his choices, the "process" will "work".