Dead to the Law - Part 2

Romans 7:1-6

Tom Pennington  •  November 19, 2017
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Romans Dead to the Law (Part 2) Romans 7:1-6 November 19, 2017 Tom Pennington, Pasto Countryside Bible Church

Paul taught us last week that a basic tenet of law is that a man cannot be prosecuted and condemned for a crime after his death. Now that is a general legal principle that is almost universally held, but I was reading this week, and in one of the strangest moments in history, it actually happened. It was back in the year 1660, actually in May of 1660, that Oliver Cromwell and his associates were convicted and executed "for the horrid and execrable murder of Charles I." But they had actually died years before their trial began.

How did that happen? Well, Charles II wanted to secure a sort of symbolic conviction of his father's killers, so he convinced Parliament to pass what was called the "Act of Attainder". The Act of Attainder is simply a bill that allows someone to be convicted of a crime without actually standing trial for that crime. With that bill in hand, Charles II was able to exhume the bodies, the corpses of Cromwell and his associates. He then hung their dead bodies in chains; and after they were through a sort of process declared to be guilty, he had them publicly executed. He severed their heads from their decaying bodies. That's how a bizarre posthumous conviction and execution found its way into our history books.

But the rule really highlights the exception because the rule is, as Paul is teaching us in Romans 7, that the Law's jurisdiction always ends with death. The law's jurisdiction always ends with death, and that factors into our daily spiritual lives in a profound way. That's what we're seeing in Romans 7.

Now, Paul's teaching in Romans 7 really grows out of a remarkable comment that he made in the previous chapter. If you look back in Romans 6:14, Paul says this, we "are not under law but under grace." You are not under law but under grace. In Romans 7 he explains what that remarkable and yet controversial statement actually means. In Romans 7 he describes the believer's new relationship to the law; that we are, in fact, not under law as we once were.

Now clearly, law is the theme of chapter 7. In fact, the word itself occurs 27 times starting in 7:1 and running through verse 4 of chapter 8. This section outlines the purpose and function of the law for both believers and unbelievers; and in so doing (and this is part of what this section is about), it's the main thing that the section is about; it strengthens our understanding of our security in Jesus Christ.

Now last week, we began the first paragraph in this section, 7:1 - 6, and we called it our death to the law. Let's read it again, Romans 7. I'll begin reading in verse 1, you follow along.

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Now, the main point of those verses (as we discovered last week), is that all believers have died with Christ to God's Law. If you are a Christian here this morning, this passage is describing something that has already happened to you. You died at the moment of salvation with Christ to the law.

Now, as he unfolds what that means, Paul begins by reminding us of a basic legal principle in the first three verses. This isn't the application; this is the principle from which the application comes. Notice verse 1, here's the principle: the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives. And then in verses 2 and 3, Paul uses marriage simply to illustrate that principle. If a woman has a living husband, and she is joined to another husband, then the law calls her guilty of adultery. She is an adulteress. If, on the other hand, her husband dies, although she had been previously bound to the law and to that husband, if her husband dies and she marries another, then death ended the law's boundary; in her case, the binding to the law of marriage, and she's free, she's free to marry another. That's a basic legal principle that he uses marriage to illustrate. Death ends the law's jurisdiction. Now that's simply the basic principle.

In verse 4, he comes to the theological application. He says, "Let me tell you why that matters when it comes to Christian life and experience." He begins with what has happened to you. He says, "In light of that reality, in light of the legal principle that law's jurisdiction ends with death," here's what's happened to you. Verse 4, "Therefore, my brethren, you (believers) also were made to die to the Law." It's a strange expression, as we noted last time, you "were made," means God Himself made you to die to the law. In the words of 6:14, Christian, you are no longer under law.

Now, what law exactly are we dead to? Well, we saw in the context of Romans 7 last week that Paul is talking here about the moral law of God. The moral law of God as incorporated into the Mosaic legislation at Sinai, the Mosaic Law as outlined in the 10 Commandments and those moral principles that are commanded and reaffirmed for us in the New Testament as well. That's what he's talking about.

Now, in what sense then have we died to the moral law, and this is key? If you weren't here last week, this is foundational for you to understand. When Paul says we died to God's moral law, he means two things and only these two things.

Number one, he means that we no longer seek to be made right with God by keeping the law. We are not seeking to keep the law in an attempt to earn a right-standing with God, to earn God's favor, to earn our place in heaven, to earn righteousness. We're not doing that. We realize we can never do that because "Cursed is everyone," Galatian's says, "who does not abide by all things written in the law to perform them." So, we can never ever earn our way to God by our own keeping of God's Law. So, we died to the moral law with Christ in that sense.

Secondly, we have died in this sense, we are no longer under the condemnation and prescribed punishment of the law because Jesus met the demands of the law; He took the punishment for our violations in Himself. And so, "Therefore," Romans 8:1 "Therefore there is now (What?) no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." How did this happen? Well, verse 4 goes on to say we died, or were made to die, "to the Law through the body of Christ." It was through the death of Jesus Christ and our death with Him that we were freed from the law's condemnation and punishment.

Why did it happen? Well, verse 4 goes on to say there was an immediate purpose, "so that you might be joined to another, (and specifically) to Him who was raised," to Jesus Christ. He's playing off of the illustration of marriage in the first three verses, and he says, "You have died to the Law so that you could be married to someone else, so that you could be married to Jesus Christ, you could be part of the bride of Christ." That's not the ultimate purpose.

In verse 4, he ends by saying this, "in order that we might bear fruit for God." Do you understand, Christian, the purpose of your union with Jesus Christ? In the ultimate sense, the purpose of your salvation is not just to give you a sort of "get out of hell free" card for your pocket and you can use it at the proper time. No, it was in order that you might bear fruit for God, holiness, righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit, even good works. God prepared us beforehand for good works, Ephesians 2 says. So, there's the theological application, this is what has happened to us.

This morning, I want us to consider verses 5 and 6 and what we'll call the practical application. We've seen the theology, what in the largest sense has happened to believers. In verses 5 and 6, Paul brings that home in a very practical way to our lives. Let's look at them together. Let me we read them for you, verses 5 and 6:

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Those are two remarkable verses that factor into your daily Christian life and experience.

Let's look at them together.

Now I want you to see, first of all, the intentional contrast. Notice verse 5, when "we [as Christians] were [past tense] in the flesh, when we were in the flesh," verse 6, "But now…." You see, Paul is again, as he did so often in chapter 6, underscoring the radical change that is salvation.

Listen, salvation isn't just about some decision for Christ. Salvation, if it's genuine salvation, is about a radical change in the person that you are. It's called regeneration. You were, if you're in Christ, you were this, but now there's a new reality. We understand this in a historical sense, right? I mean, the coming of Jesus Christ in the incarnation, which we're about to celebrate in the Christmas season, that radically altered life on this planet. So much so that Christians have divided all of human history into two great epics, BC, before Christ; and AD, anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. In exactly the same way, the coming of Jesus Christ into each of our lives in salvation radically changed us in many different ways. And Paul addresses one of those radical changes here. In verse 5 he deals with your relationship to the law, BC, before Christ; and in verse 6, he deals with your relationship to the law, AD, after Christ came into your life and saved you.

So, let's look at these two great epics in your life: first of all, the law in you before, that is BC, before Christ, verse 5. Now when you look at verse 5 as I just read it to us a moment ago, you'll notice that there are three words there in verse 5 that characterize every life before Christ: law, sin, and death; law, sin, and death.

Before Christ, you were under the law, responsible to God's law which resulted in sin because you broke God's Law and that sin produced condemnation, a guilty verdict and death. Now, notice verse 5 begins with that important little word "for" which is a connector word. Paul is still dealing with the same theme that he was dealing with in verse 4, "you … were made to die to the Law;" but here in verses 5 and 6, he explains why it's necessary for us to be freed from the law and what are the practical consequences, what's the practical application of that?

Verse 5 then goes on to say, "For while we were in the flesh." Now we have to stop here because this is the first time Paul uses this word "flesh" in this particular sense in his letter to the Romans. He loves this word translated "flesh"; it's the Greek word "sarx"; it occurs 91 times in his letters, and he uses it in a variety of ways, a lot of different senses. For example, he uses this word "flesh" of the soft tissue on our bodies; he uses it to describe our entire physical body; he uses the word flesh to describe a human being, a man in his frailty and subject to death. He uses the word "'flesh" to describe all mankind generally, and he also uses it to describe man's fallen sinful nature.

Now, how do we know what he intends here? Well, just as with English words, context always determines which sense of the word the author means, and that's true here. You'll notice in verse 5 this word "flesh" describes what we were before salvation, but what we no longer are. So, it has to be describing the time before we confess Jesus as Lord, what we were before salvation. Now, Paul goes on to define this concept even more in chapter 8.

Look at 8:5, he says, "For those who are according to the flesh (This is similar wording but not quite the same wording; he's going to get there.) those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." He's simply saying that those who are of the flesh "set their minds". They completely focus their thinking on things that pertain to the fallen world, to fallen sinful human nature. He goes on to say in verse 6, "For the mind set on the flesh [a mind like that} is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it's not even able to do so."

Now in verse 8, in verses 8 and 9, Paul defines what he means by "in the flesh." Notice what he says, "those who are (Here it is!) in the flesh cannot please God." So, who are these people? Verse 9, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if … the Spirit of God dwells in you." So, you are in the Spirit if you have the Spirit, and you are in the flesh if you don't have the Spirit; and oh, by the way, verse 9 goes on to say, "if anyone doesn't have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." To be in the flesh means that your sinful human nature determines and controls the basic direction of your life. As Christians, we still have the flesh in us, but we are no longer in the flesh. Only unbelievers, according to the apostle Paul in Romans, verses 8 and 9, only unbelievers are in the flesh.

Now, go back to 7:5, and this will make sense, "For while we were in the flesh, (That is while we were unbelievers.) the sinful passions, (And I want you to skip the next phrase; we're going to come back to it, but let's read the sentence without it.) the sinful passions … were at work in the members of our body."

Now the Greek word translated "passions" is almost always used for sufferings in the New Testament; it's almost always translated that way. The only other time it's used like this is in Galatians 5:24, where it says, "the flesh with its passions and desires." So, this expression then, "the sinful passions," describes those internal affections, desires, emotions, feelings that lead to our sinful actions, the cravings that are in us as sinners, the things we want, the things we crave that lead to our sinful actions, these sinful passions. Paul says, "while we were in the flesh [That is while we were unbelievers, these] sinful passions, [Notice what he says.] … were at work," actively, powerfully, constantly, deceptively. Paul, what do you mean "they were at work?" Well, he's going to explain that in verses 7 - 13, and we're going to wait till he gets there to let him fill that out more.

But notice again in verse 5; where were these sinful passions at work? In the members of our body. Now, just as he did back in chapter 6, Paul isn't talking just about the limbs, your arms and legs and so forth; nor even about your organs, your liver and kidneys and so forth. When he says the members of your body, he means all the faculties of your physical body. Well, one of the faculties of your physical body, one of the members of your physical body is your brain. So, by the members of your body, he means all of that; he means every part of your physical body including your brain with its thinking, with its imagination, with its affections, the sinful passions. When you were an unbeliever, these sinful passions were actively at work in every part of you as a human being.

Now what was the relationship, why does he mention this? What was the relationship between our sinful passions and God's Law? Well, look again at verse 5 and let's read it with that phrase I left out, "For while we were in the flesh (when we were unbelievers) the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body." Literally he says, "The simple passions which were through the law," now that is a shocking statement by the apostle Paul. It's one that he's going to fully explain for us in verses 7 - 13; but for now, let's just make sure we have a basic understanding of what he means.

Let me go back and remind you of what Paul has said so far about God's Law in the book of Romans. In 3:20, he says that "the Law (gives us a) knowledge of (our) sin." You wouldn't have known what sin was if it weren't for God's law. Chapter 3:28, he says the Law can never justify. Chapter 4:15, he says, "the Law (actually) brings (invites God's) wrath" on us because we don't keep it. And then in 5:13 and 20, he says the Law, think about this, the Law actually brings greater condemnation on me. Once I know God's Law as revealed in His Word, I have a greater sense of condemnation, a greater guilt before God. Why? Because now my sin isn't just sin, it's active rebellion. I know what God wants, and I don't do it. And so, it actually exacerbates the guilt of our sin before God. So, Paul's had some pretty negative things to say about the law so far, but he's never gone as far as he goes here. In verse 5, notice what he says, God's moral law, when we were unbelievers, actually aroused, stoked, inflamed, our sinful passions. You say, "How in the world did it do that?"

Well, let's just look at it, verse 7:

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. (The law taught me what was sinful.) for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.

Paul says, "Listen, when I didn't know what God's Law said, I didn't know that that was an active command that I should obey. But when I read, "You shall not covet," and we'll talk more about that, Paul says, "It wasn't the Law's problem, but the sin in me was aroused by that law to more sin," to coveting of every kind. What he's saying is this. Before you came to Jesus Christ, before I came to Christ, we were in active rebellion against God. That's true of every unbeliever. But what happened was, when we learned of God's Law, it stoked our inherent rebellion against God into full flame. So that, when God said, "Don't do that." What happened? That's the very thing we wanted most of all; that was what we craved, the thing that God had forbidden, and we wanted to act on that desire.

Now, if you want to see this displayed in a sort of humorous way, let me suggest a little experiment. Tell a two-year-old not to touch something that until that moment he had completely ignored. I'm serious; try this; find a two-year-old; they're in a room playing; don't pay any attention to all the toys they like and enjoy. Instead, find something they've ignored and then go over that child and say, "You see this, (Go over and touch it yourself, point to it, say,) Do not touch this." And then leave the room and find a place where you can watch what happens next, because what happens next is astounding. That thing that held little or no interest before suddenly becomes the most interesting thing in the world. Why? Because, it's forbidden! The law, your law to that child, aroused that child's sinful passions.

That's exactly what happens with God's Law. The problem isn't the law. The problem is the fallen sinful heart that hears, "Thou shalt not," and says what? That's the problem. By the way, if you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you need to understand that this passage is explaining why you have so much trouble changing. You make rules for yourself, "I don't want to do that anymore. I want to do this because I ought to do this because it's right." And you struggle to change. Why? Because the law doesn't allow you the capacity to change. The only change possible is through the work of the Holy Spirit through the miracle of regeneration that only comes to those who are willing to come to God in and through Jesus Christ.

By the way, let me make another application to this point. Parents, this is why bringing up your children under a form of legalism where you just make a lot of rules and you try to make them little moralists, when if that's what you stress, if that's what you emphasize, that is dangerous. Because if you're not really teaching your children the gospel and you're just loading them up with rules to make them nice little "Christian kids," then you are stoking, inflaming, arousing their sinful passions. What you ought to be doing is teaching them, "Yes, this is what the Law says; yes, this is how you ought to live; yes, this is how you ought to be; but let me explain to you why, when I was an unbeliever, I couldn't do these things the way I should and why you can't and why you need the gospel of Jesus Christ, because only that will change your heart." This is part of human nature; this is part of our fallenness. We laugh at the little two-year-old touching the thing that was unimportant before, but then we do exactly the same thing. Just as that one tree in the garden that God had forbidden became the most interesting thing to Eve, the things that God has forbidden to us become the most interesting.

Let me give you an example. This is an example right out of the news, sadly, over the last several weeks. God's Law doesn't forbid the sexual relationship in marriage. In fact, it encourages it, says it's a good gift of God, something holy, right. It forbids sexual desires and acts outside of marriage. So how does God's good law affect fallen man's rebellious heart? He doesn't spend all of his time and energies pursuing sex within marriage. You don't find people spreading all over the internet the joys of a holy, pure sex in marriage. Instead, they pursue those sexual desires and acts that God has forbidden, and we see it plastered all over our news. This is what the Law always does.

Now, before Christ, where did those sinful passions that we then acted on, where did those things lead? Look again at verse 5, "For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death." The fruit of our sinful passions that were aroused by the law and the actions that we then committed in response to those passions, was what? Death! And again, Paul doesn't just mean physical death as he's showed us in chapter 5 and 6 and now again in 7. He means death in all of its manifestations. Spiritual death, yes; physical death and eternal death. Or as John the apostle calls it, "the second death".

Listen, sinful passions that a person has before Christ, outside of Christ, those sinful passions will always produce death, spiritual death. If you're here this morning as an unbeliever, you are spiritually dead. You have no connection to your Creator, and you likely know it. But physical death is coming. Every one of us in this room, if our Lord delays His coming; every one of us in this room will die as a result of sin and eternal death. If you don't, before the end of your life, come to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and have the forgiveness of your sins that can be found only in Him, then you will stand before God your Creator in judgment; He will condemn you for your rebellion and sins against Him, and Jesus Himself said He will sentence you to eternal punishment, death!

Now let me summarize verse 5. Paul says before Christ, when we were under Law, as he puts in chapter 6, when we were under the jurisdiction of the Law, verse 1 of chapter 7, when we were married to the Law, the verses 2 and 3 of chapter 7, God's moral law produced two results, verse 5 says. One, it aroused our sinful passions even further; and two, it produced death, spiritual, physical, eternal death. That was the Law in you BC.

In verse 6, Paul goes on to describe the Law and you now, AD, after Christ has come into your life and changed you. Notice verse 6 begins, "But now," don't you love that? "But now," verse 5, no longer true. Lloyd-Jones says, "If you're not moved by the 'but now' of verse 6, you need to ask whether or not you're even genuinely a Christian," but now. It describes the time since our salvation when we stopped being in the flesh. Verse 6 says, "But now we have been released from the Law." So, that's a powerful word. That word "released" is a familiar word. It's the word we saw last week in the early verses of chapter 7. We've seen it other times in Romans. It means "to nullify, to make void, to destroy". It's often translated "to do away with", and used in contexts like this one, it means to set free. One of the leading, in fact, the leading Greek Lexicon defines this word translated "released" here this way, "it means to cause someone to be released from an obligation so he has nothing more to do with it." In fact, in Galatians 5:4, this word is translated "severed". You, Christian, have been released from the Law. You are free from the Law; you have been severed from the Law's condemnation and from its power to arouse your sinful passions.

How did this happen? Verse 6, "But now, we have been released from the Law." Here's how it happened, "having died to that by which we were bound." Before we died with Christ, we were bound to the Law or to use the illustration the first couple verses, we were married to the Law. But then at the moment of our salvation and our union with Jesus Christ, His death was applied to us. Notice verse 4 again, we "were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ."

Christian, at the moment your salvation, your death with Christ on the cross was applied to you. You died with Christ to the Law. Why does it matter? Why is this important? Verse 6 goes on to say, "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that (Here's why it matters.) so that we serve." We are free from the Law, not to sin, but to serve. In fact, that word "serve", it's the verb form of "doulos", the word that means "slave". We have been enslaved to God, and we are bound to obey our new master.

But now we serve, we slave toward God in a different way. Notice verse 6, "we serve (now) in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." That is a remarkable statement, "in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."

Paul likes that expression. He uses it two other times in his writings. I want us to look at both of them because it will help us understand what he means here. Go back to chapter 2 of Romans 2:28. He says, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh." In other words, in the mind of God, your ethnic dissent doesn't matter when it comes to your spiritual relationship to God. Verse 29, "he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." What is Paul saying here? By the letter here in verse 29, he means the mere human external effort to obey God's command. The Jews followed the command, and externally they obeyed; they circumcised their children; "by the Spirit," in this context, means "obedience which comes from the work of the Spirit in the heart."

Now, turn over to the second time Paul uses this expression, and it adds a little more to our understanding. Go to 2 Corinthians 3, 2 Corinthians 3. Paul is talking about his ministry as a new covenant minister of the gospel, and he says in verse 6, God has "made us adequate as servants of a new covenant." If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a new covenant believer. While there are aspects of the New Covenant that have not yet been fulfilled and have to do with the ethnic descendants of Abraham (we'll talk a little more about that in a moment), we who are New Testament believers are under the New Covenant that God made; we're under its promises as Hebrews makes very clear.

But now watch what he says, He "made us adequate as servants of a New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." What's Paul talking about here? He's talking about a contrast between the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, and the New Covenant that we now are under as New Testament believers. What's the difference? Well, the letter is the old covenant. What does he mean by that? That's simply a reference, notice verse 7, to "letters engraved on stones."

Now if you're thinking that that means those two stone tablets on which God wrote with his own finger, the 10 Commandments, you would be right; that's what he's talking about. In other words, here the "letter" is referring to those stone tablets on which God wrote His revealed will, "letters engraved on stone." "But", there it is, external to us; we know what God demands, but it has no power to change us. It's external to us and simply says. "Thou shalt and thou shalt not." It just tells us what God demands. It's the letter.

Then he says, "The Spirit gives life." The Spirit moves in and regenerates and gives new life, and the Spirit doesn't just give new life, notice verse 18, "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image." As we see the glory of God and the glory of Christ in the Scripture, we're "being transformed into the same image from" one level of glory to another. How? By the Spirit! Do you see the contrast between the old covenant, letters engraved on stone, with no capacity to change you, just the capacity to tell you what you should and shouldn't do, versus the Spirit who comes and gives life to your dead heart and who uses that Word to transform you into the image of Christ Himself.

Now, with that understanding, go back to Romans 7, Romans 7, and notice what Paul says again. The same contrast between the letter and the Spirit occurs here. In Romans 7:6, "we serve [now] in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." Before Christ, when we were in the flesh, we tried to serve God by obeying His Word in the oldness of the letter. "Oldness" refers to "that which is obsolete"; the obsolete letter. That's referring back, as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 3:6, to those stone tablets on which the 10 Commandments were written. It pictures God's Word as a completely external revelation that provides us with what God's will is, but absolutely no empowering to live it, to keep it. In fact, it shows us our sin. It condemns us. It even arouses our sinful passions to rebel against it. It increases our sin. That's the oldness of the letter, those stone letters. But having come to Christ, Paul says, "we (now) serve (God, notice by obeying His Word) in (the) newness of the Spirit."

The Spirit has radically changed our hearts even when it comes to God's Law. These are the promises of the New Covenant; read them for yourself; Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, and Hebrews 8.

Let's go look at one of them. Go back to Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36. Here God makes the New Covenant promise. These promises will ultimately be fulfilled with what God does with the ethnic descendants of Abraham. There are aspects of the New Covenant that will be fulfilled only in the future as God redeems Israel. Romans 11 speaks of when all Israel will be saved. But these promises, the spiritual promises that are part of the New Covenant, are already ours. In fact, Hebrew says, "They were inaugurated by the death of Jesus Christ for us." So, let's look at the spiritual promises that are part of the New Covenant. Verse 25, this will happen to the people of Israel in the future; it's already happened to us. "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." This is spiritual cleansing; this is forgiveness; this is erasing your sin and making you acceptable to God. This is the water that Jesus talks about with Nicodemus in John 3:5. And then he says in verse 26, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart." This is regeneration, the Spirit changing us radically at the moment of conversion and putting a new Spirit that has to do with our mind, our thinking, putting a new Spirit within you. "I will remove (your stubborn, rebellious) heart of stone, (the heart of stone from your flesh,) and (I will) give you a (compliant heart, a pliable obedient heart,) a heart of flesh." And then he says in verse 27, "I will put My Spirit within you (Now watch this.) and cause you (through the work of the Spirit) to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances."

Listen, believer, we no longer serve God's Law in the oldness of the letter which told us God's will, but provided no power to obey it. We, instead, serve in the newness of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has written God's Law on our hearts, and He's empowered us to keep it. He is causing us to walk in His statutes. That's the miracle of the New Covenant; that's what God has done by freeing you from the law. He hasn't freed you from the law in the sense that it doesn't matter anymore, that you shouldn't seek to obey it; He has freed you from the demands of the law so that He can enable you to serve in the newness of the Spirit, so that you fulfill it in its intentions.

Now, Paul is going to come back to this important role of the Spirit in chapter 8, so we are going to see more of this. But as we finish our time today, let me just asked this question: What are the primary lessons that we learn from these verses that we've looked at today? There are three of them, and I hope you'll jot these down and think about them and meditate upon them.

Number one: your only hope is Jesus Christ and His gospel. You see, the gospel is a message of radical change. The gospel is not "make a decision for Christ," it's not something human; it's something miraculous and divine. The gospel is a promise of a radical change to the person you are. If you claim to be a Christian, but you've never experienced regeneration, you've never experienced what we just read in Ezekiel 36, then you're not really a Christian; you're a cultural social Christian. New Testament conversion is a radical Spirit-produced change in the heart; "you were, but now." This is the only way you can be made right with God. This is the only way you can be empowered to serve God.

If you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, listen, the only way that you can be right with God, the only way that you can obey what God has commanded is if the Holy Spirit produces a radical change in you. And how does that become yours? You have to believe the gospel; you have to believe the reality that God sent His only Son, His eternal Son into the world who took upon Him the same flesh that you have, Who took upon Him full and complete humanity, He lived for 33 years in this world perfectly. He perfectly obeyed the law of God as you should have, and then He died on the cross, not for His own sin but for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him, to satisfy the justice of God against those sins. And then He was buried to show that He truly died, and then God raised Him from the dead as the affirmation that He had accepted His sacrifice for sin. He ascended into heaven; He sits at the right hand of God, and one day He will return again for His own and to set all things right. And that reality, what Jesus accomplished on the cross, His work, purchasing forgiveness and justification and all the other spiritual blessings that you need, can only become yours if you're willing to do two things, repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ. And that's the only hope you have. My prayer is for you today that will become a reality

A second lesson is that: as Christians, we are slaves of God and still bound to obey His Word. You see, we were not released from God's Law so that we could be free to live as we please. No, we now serve God by obeying His Word through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. That's why Romans 8:3 and 4, says that, now "the requirement of the Law (is) fulfilled in us." The original intention of God's law, His moral requirements, are fulfilled in us who walk by the empowering of the Spirit.

One writer says. "Why do we serve? Not because the law is our master, and we have to, but because Christ is our husband, and we want to. Not because obedience to the law leads to salvation, but because salvation leads to obedience to the law. The law says, 'Do this and you will live.' The gospel says, 'You live, so do this.'"

Number three: as Christians, we are no longer under the condemnation and prescribed punishment of the law. I love this. Listen, Christian, our past violations can never condemn us. Do you believe that? The sins you have committed will never condemn you, and you will never be punished for them. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now (what?) no condemnation (no guilty verdict, no punishment that your sins deserve) to those who are in Christ Jesus." Do you find yourself living in guilt over sins in the past that you have confessed and repented of? Do those sins haunt you and hurt your spiritual progress? Listen, Paul wants you to know something; you were made to die to the law so that you could serve in the newness of the Spirit. The demands of the law have already been met for you. Jesus met them all. As we sang this morning, He paid the debt in full.

But there's another sort of strange way that we sort of put ourselves back under the law I think at times, at least I should speak for myself; I think all of us do this. When we sin, we can be easily tempted to think like Old Testament worshipers. You see, under the Old Testament, when you made a sacrifice for sin, what sins did that sacrifice cover? Only the past, right? And if you sinned in the future, what needed to happen? You needed to make another sacrifice; you needed to make more atonement. And I think sometimes, as New Testament believers, we think like that; we're tempted to think that when we've sinned, when we sin again, we see ourselves back under the law, back under condemnation, like needing atonement again. That's simply not true.

Go back to the passage we read together for our Scripture reading this morning, Hebrews 10; Hebrews 10. I want you to see something here; this is nothing new, I just want you to really see it. Hebrews 10, and notice verse 12, Christ "having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD." You get that, right? Jesus didn't need to make a lot of sacrifices; He didn't need to die often; He just needed to die once. And that was that one sacrifice was good for the sins for all time. That's the theological understanding, but I want you to see how practical and personal the writer of Hebrews gets with this.

Verse 14, "For by one offering [Jesus[ … has perfected [that is, He's given us a perfect standing before God] for all time [for] those who are sanctified." That's for each individual believer; in other words, think of it this way. When Jesus died, He didn't just die for your sins so far, and if you sin tomorrow, you're kind of back under the law, you feel the weight and the condemnation of that as though you need atonement again. No, when Jesus died, He died for all sins, once for all time, your sins past, present, and future. It was a perfect, complete, eternal sacrifice never needing to be done again.

Do you understand that Christian? Do you realize that Jesus has paid for every sin you ever have committed, every sin you committed already today and every sin you will ever commit in the future? Perfect, final, eternal atonement has been made. It is that once for all time sacrifice that perfectly atoned for all of our sins, past, present, and future, that is at the heart of our celebration of the Lord's Table. Take a moment and prepare your heart as the men come.

Our Father, how can we ever thank you enough for what you have done for us in Jesus Christ? Not only have you purchased in Him our full and complete forgiveness; not only in Him have you met the demands of the law, but we have been released from the law, from its condemnation, from the punishment our sins deserve. And for us there is therefore now no condemnation; now, tomorrow, next year, and forever.

Father, we love you. We are amazed at Your love and grace, and we come now to the Lord's Table to remember that once for all, once for all time sacrifice for sins. No more sacrifice needs be made, no atonement for our future sins, it's already done. Father, we love You and we are thrilled to commemorate that reality.

But Father, we want to do so in a way that honors our Lord, and so we come confessing our sin. Lord, we don't want to treasure some sin as something precious to us, something we're not willing to let go of while we celebrate Jesus's death for sin. And so we confess every sin of our hearts to you, individually, personally now, and we ask for your forgiveness and cleansing because of Christ. Thank you that we are made perfect before you forever through that sacrifice. Receive our worship now as we bring it.

We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.