Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5
January 23, 2007
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.
- I. Serving In Newness of Spirit.
- A. The terminology.
- 1. Newness of spirit is contrasted with oldness of the letter.
- a. It is critical that we understand what "newness of spirit" and "oldness of letter" mean.
- 1) Since the illustration is of a "new" husband as a replacement of an "old" husband, the issue swirls around the inner complexity that Paul has addressed by means of his illustration of marriage/death/remarriage.
- 2) If we are to serve by means of a "marriage" to a new husband, the "newness of spirit" indicates that "spirit" and the new husband are connected terms.
- 3) If our "old" problem was a "husband" that was producing corrupt fruit, and "sin" is identified as the "problem", the "old man" and the "oldness of letter" have to be related.
- 4) Since it is the Law that enables Sin to accomplish its objectives through us, the "oldness of letter" is likely related to "Law" as an "unprovisioned demand" in which requirement is laid down, penalty is assigned, but no special provision is given. In this light, "the letter" is the equivalent of a "requirement" that is seen to be "met" as soon as the "external" issues are fulfilled with no willingness to examine the underlying reasons for meeting those external issues. On the other hand, "newness of spirit" brings those underlying reasons into play so that the requirements of the Law are met for reasons other than "demand/penalty". The single ingredient of "difference" is love. When a person meets demands out of a fear of the consequences for failure, he is meeting the "letter" of the Law. When a person meets demands out of the delight of love, he is meeting the "spirit" of the Law.
- 5) Conclusion: "Newness of Spirit" refers to the actual presence of a new "spirit" whose fundamental motivation is love; "Oldness of Letter" refers to the obedience that is rendered by an "old" spirit as a self-preservation tactic in light of the penalty that is built into the Law for failure.
- b. It is also critical that we understand the mechanics that Paul has declared.
- 1) It is, apparently, impossible to remove the issue of self-preservation from the mix in this interim period in which we are "removing Law", but not "Sin", from the table. What I mean is that "Law" is not really the problem; Sin is really the problem. But that is not removed; it is simply "crippled" by the removal of Law. Since, while we are in this pre-resurrection state of physical reality, Sin is not eliminated, there are only a certain number of "stop-gap" things that can be done. One of those is the removal of Law. The other is the provision for self-preservation. If we cannot get rid of Sin as of yet, we can, at least, remove the Law from the mix. If we cannot get rid of self-preservation as of yet, we can, at least, remove the dangers of loss. Thus, Paul "compromises" on "love" by making "love" not cost so much. If love will not kill us, we can love; but, if the reality is that "love" will kill us, self-preservation kicks in and love is kicked out. Thus, the promises of God are designed to guarantee that "love" will not kill us.
- 2) There is, then, a strong necessity for "faith" in the promises. At every point in which the "appearance" is that "love" will kill us, we are to "believe" in the Life-Eternal promises of God. The purity of love is, thus, compromised, but it is only so until the fulness of redemption. The "new" Spirit, in the meantime, is always at work, pushing the boundaries of self-preservation further from the core of our decision-making processes. The more I trust in the promises, the more free I am to be motivated by things other than self-preservation. Since we know that our physical identities are consigned to corruption without release (except for those in the "Rapture" generation), we will be trapped in self-preservation until we "believe" in our inevitable resurrection from physical death.