Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Okay

We must beware of believing that what we do stacks up before God, even if we do not go so far as claiming  freedom from all intentional sin. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul speaks of not having attained it, but pressing on to follow Christ. We are closest to perfection when we realize we are not perfect. Paul says he does not even judge himself, but leaves the ultimate judgment to God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5). We are told that Lot (2 Peter 2:7,8) and Samson (Hebrews 11:32) were believers despite their lifestyles. Even Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20) and David (2 Samuel 11) had serious failings.

In Romans 7 the question Paul is answering is, Why do we need to die to the Law (Romans 7:1-6)? Is there something wrong with the Law (7:7)? No, the Law is good, but we cannot keep it (Romans 7:12-14). This is in the present tense because not only did we need to saved from our sins in the past, but we still only stand before God on the basis of grace (Romans 5:1,2). Now Paul is not saying he cannot do anything to obey God, but his best efforts fall short of his desires (7:15-23). And his conclusion is that he is still involved in the conflict, though Christ has delivered him from the penalty of sin and will totally deliver him in the future (7:25). But in spite of this, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and the Holy Spirit works in them to change them (Romans 8:1-5). This applies to all those who belong to Him, who He will give life to in the last day (8:9-11). Paul uses the Greek present continual tense here to show the customary direction of the lives of those who trust in Christ.This is not as an antidote to Romans 7, but a balancing perspective. We see the same conflict in Galatians 5:16,17, with the admonition to conduct ourselves based on what the Spirit is doing in us.

Now there is a result in our lives if we have genuine faith in Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). There is a place for saying that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but these were people who were cheating their laborers, while going out of their way to curry favor with the rich. And there is a place for saying that those who went out from us are not of us (1 John 2:19), but these were clear false teachers (1 John 2:22,23), who claimed they were without sin (1 John 1:8-10), while demanding the right to live however they wanted (1 John 2:4). (Again, the present continual tense is used to contrast those who customarily obey God and those who customarily live in sin.) Certainly there is a place for admonishing people to examine themselves if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). But we need to be careful of raising the bar so high we create either discouragement or complacency.

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