Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3
Thesis: There is a fundamental mismatch between men and the Law.
Introduction: As Paul moved into chapter seven, he gradually stripped the layers from the "problem" so that he could finally expose its core. The first layer was his contention that those who knew the Law were supposed to know that it was limited in its impact to those who were alive. It ceases to have any ability to dominate a person once that person dies. This meant, on the surface level, that those who would live effectively were to understand clearly that the only way to do that was to "die".
The second layer was his contention that the "problem" is not a flaw in the Law. The Law is a most holy, righteous, and good reality. It was only by deception that Sin was able to snuff out the life that Paul had. This "deception" has, fundamentally, to do with the attitude one takes toward the revelation of our sin. Most people react to the revelation of their sins in angry rejection because they are committed to seeing themselves as "right" -- without guilt. God did not give the Law to pound us for being "sinners", but to make sure that we know we are so that we might seek His solution.
The third layer is the focus of our present study. This layer actually reaches the core. The essence of this core is that Sin is the dominating reality of our present makeup. There is no escaping this reality. No matter where we turn we see a problem that is so great that it cannot be solved apart from the destruction of our physical makeup. When the Bible tells us that a man who was filled by the Spirit from his mother's womb was so "unworthy" in the presence of Jesus that he felt that he could not even untie the thongs of His sandals, we are being told that, apart from the message of the Law, there is no solution to our condition.
That raises this question: what is the message of the Law? Tonight we are going to turn our attention to this question.
March 27, 2007
- I. The Message in Terms of Its Root.
- A. Paul's claim is that the Law is "spiritual".
- 1. The meaning of his term is illustrated by two texts.
- a. Romans 15:27 puts "spiritual" in contrast with "fleshly" at the level of "provision" for the needs of men.
- 1) Those provisions that meet the needs of the body are called "fleshly".
- 2) Those provisions that meet the needs of the spirit are called "spiritual".
- 3) This means that "spiritual" means that something is focused upon the realm and requirements of the "spirit".
- b. 1 Corinthians 9:11 is a very similar text and context.
- 2. The impact of his use of this term to describe the Law is significant.
- a. His claim is that the Law is fundamentally designed for the realm of spirit and its requirements.
- 1) This is a natural theological premise since God is spirit, the angels are spirits, and man has a spiritual aspect to his being.
- 2) Since the Law is a statement from God about Himself, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Law is going to be "spiritual" -- i.e., focused on the issues of "spirit".
- b. His claim is that the Law can only be properly appreciated by those who are "spiritual" as it is.
- 1) In 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul identifies "spirituality" as a matter of a certain level of mature understanding.
- 2) In 1 Corinthians 3:4 Paul identifies "carnality" as a matter of illegitimate commitments that undercut legitimate ones -- strongly implying that "spirituality" is a matter of knowing the difference and focusing upon the proper objectives and methods.
- 3) In our context, 7:11 deliberately says that it is only by deception that Sin uses the Law against us.
- c. About the only conclusion that we can come to, then, is that the Law is only of help when it is applied to the realm of the spirit and that that is no small difficulty.
- B. Paul's claim is that it is the "spirituality" of the Law that makes it "holy, righteous, and good".
- II. The Message in Terms of Its Contrast With Paul.
- A. Paul's claim is that he is "carnal".
- 1. This claim, at its root, focuses upon the physical makeup of man.
- 2. If we adhere to 1 Corinthians 3:1 and 4, this claim is that Paul is not free from the problems of the immature exaltation of the less important over the more important.
- B. Paul's claim is, however, explained by his self-description of being "sold under Sin".
- 1. Everywhere in the New Testament but here, the word "sold" is used of the exchange of material property for money so that other material property may be acquired.
- 2. Paul is evidently using the word as a metaphor to indicate a parallelism between the exchange of material things and an exchange that happened to him.
- a. The implication is that he is addressing the "sale" by Adam of his physical health in order to re-acquire something he considered lost to him: Eve.
- b. The problem, according to chapter five, is that Adam did not just sell his own body in order to possess Eve's body, but he sold all of ours also.
- C. Paul's meaning seems inescapable: when Adam ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, he set in motion a situation in which all of his offspring would be helplessly committed to the appetites of the body over the needs of the spirit.
- 1. There is every indication that this was fundamentally genetic: Adam cannot pass on his heritage except by procreation.
- 2. That Hebrews tells us pointedly that men are kept in bondage all of their lives by the fear of death simply declares that Paul's point is true: men are slaves of Sin in their bodies.
- a. Google News claimed this morning that Americans spend 10 billion dollars a year on pornography.
- b. The Bible invariably links the absence of spiritual life to sexual perversion.
- c. The two combine to tell us that men are enslaved to Sin's insistence that they put their physical well-being above all else.
- III. The Message in Terms of Its Clearest Statement.
- A. When one takes the whole of the Law and looks at it for an overview of its "message", there is one thing that stands out above all else.
- 1. The Law centered upon the Tabernacle.
- 2. The Tabernacles was all about two things...
- a. One was the actual localized presence of God.
- b. The other was the absolute necessity of sacrifices to keep God from destroying the nation in the midst of which He dwelt.
- 3. The one issue, then, is that there is no access to a "spiritual" God without death.
- B. The message of the Law, then, is this: In order to live, you must die.
- IV. The Mismatch.
- A. On the one hand you have a Law that declares without qualification that there is no Life for men without Death to them.
- B. On the other hand you have men who are absolutely fixated upon the preservation of their physical lives.