Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3
Thesis: We are under obligation.
Introduction: In our study last week we looked into the nature of Paul's promise that the Spirit of God will give life to our dead/subject-to-death bodies. He puts his focus upon the Spirit's indwelling presence so that we might understand that he is not primarily promising a future, literal, physical resurrection from the dead. Rather, his promise is that the Spirit of Life is willing to impart Life to us while we exist in dying bodies. Since "death" was tied, in 8:10, to "sin" and "the Spirit" was tied to "righteousness" and since the issue of 8:4 is the fulfillment of the righteousness of the Law, it is not a big "jump" to the conclusion that Paul is telling his readers that the willingness of the Spirit to impart Life to us is a willingness to produce both the motivation for, and the performance of, true righteousness in a cause/effect way. Life automatically arises out of righteousness. Thus, for the Spirit to impart life to us He must produce righteousness in and through us.
This raises this question: by what methods does the Spirit produce a legitimate motivation? There are two answers. On one side of the issue, there is a direct working of the Spirit which is, as far as I know, unexplained, though revealed in Scripture. In this chapter of Romans Paul points to this reality: he says, "The Spirit Himself bears witness together with our spirit that we are 'children of God'" (8:16).
1 John 3:24 may well be another reference to this reality, though John, like Paul, does not go into any kind of explanation. On the other side of the issue, there is the teaching ministry of the Spirit which deals with biblical revelation and its impact upon our minds, our hearts, our motivations, our choices, and our actual activities. Since we can assume without further explanation that the first part of our answer is a given, we will focus upon the second part: what the text of biblical revelation has to say about how the Spirit produces legitimate motivation.
August 14, 2007
- I. Into the Mix Comes a Sense of Obligation.
- A. There are a host of biblical details that have to do with how God produces motivation in us by the things He reveals to us as Truth.
- B. In the text before us is one of those details: the concept of "obligation".
- 1. The word used by Paul is one used to signal a "sense of ought" coupled with a "sense of necessity".
- a. We do not need to look far to find the "sense of necessity".
- 1) Before the text before us, Paul clearly brought up the "death" issue.
- a) In 8:6 he told us that the flesh produces death.
- b) In 8:7 he told us that the flesh is at war with God in a struggle it cannot win.
- c) In 8:8 he told us that "pleasing God" was an issue -- strongly implying that Life involves pleasing God and Death involves displeasing Him.
- 2) After the text before us, Paul pointedly said: "If you live after the flesh, you will die."
- 3) Clearly, then, the "necessity" is rooted in one thing: whether we have any interest in "living".
- a) There are those who are "too far gone" in their hatred and antagonism to have any inclination to seek life.
- b) Therefore, the "motivation" to respond to the sense of necessity is directly proportional to the inclination to live.
- b. Under the "sense of necessity" lies Paul's "sense of ought".
- 1) There is no escape from the principles of divine operation.
- 2) The absence of "escape" signals how profound is the sense of "ought".
- a) Even with a desire to live, there will be a corruption to the degree that the delusion of self-direction continues to thrive.
- i. It is only when a person who wishes to live understands that living requires an understanding of the inescapable principles of divine control that any motivation arises to meet the required "obligation".
- ii. When that understanding is coupled to the willingness to cease resisting obvious Truth, "faith" rises to the "obligation" and the Spirit responds with the production of motivation and production.
- b) When one finally comes to the realization that God only speaks to inform men of the principles by which He dispenses Life, the sense of "ought" gains a kind of supremacy that drives the life.
- 2. The particular focus of the "obligation".
- a. Paul only states it negatively.
- 1) He tells us where we are not obligated: "...not to the flesh...".
- 2) He never does get around to telling us where we are obligated: "...to the Spirit...".
- b. His point is that it is crucial that we begin to understand that there is no realm of the flesh where "Life" can be found.
- 1) The delusions are many, but they have only three roots (1 John 2:16).
- 2) It is a profound difficulty, even for God, to get the fallen creation to yield its firmly held conviction that there is Life in at least some areas of the flesh and that "I know which ones they are".
- II. The Problem With the Sense of Obligation.
- A. The further into the practices of Death a person goes without experiencing the reality of Death, the harder it is to recover any sense of responsibility.
- 1. This is the heart of the reason that the gradual disintegration of Life occurs over time.
- a. Where there is a lessening of the imposition of Death upon those fulfilling a false sense of obligation to the flesh, there is a gradual growth of confidence in the fruitfulness of the flesh.
- b. The lessening of the imposition is required for each generation to have any in it that survive, so Death incrementally increases its hold upon humanity.
- 2. This is the reason that I have often repeated the warning that "self-indulgence is not a good seed-bed for Truth."
- B. Without "faith in the face of contradiction", the sense of obligation goes by the way.