Romans 7:1-6

最近用英文写讲道稿,因为Al和Linda从前自己用google翻译做的翻译,很多地方完全不靠谱。要找一个同工来翻译,又会限制我写稿的时间,因为至少需要提前两天提交中文原稿才行。于是干脆用英文写,畅泳说这样还需要翻译吗?是的,讲道还是中文。

因为中文和英文字数不同,我最近有点抓不住时间,这次写了4千多英文单词,按照我的翻译习惯(1:1.8),是要超长了。果然,到13:20才结束了礼拜,呜呼!

音频:罗马书7:1-6

讲道从24:30开始。

1 弟兄们,我现在对明白律法的人说,你们岂不晓得律法管人是在活着的时候么?
1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?
1 Ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε, ἀδελφοί, γινώσκουσιν γὰρ νόμον λαλῶ, ὅτι ὁ νόμος κυριεύει τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ;
2 就如女人有了丈夫,丈夫还活着,就被律法约束;丈夫若死了,就脱离了丈夫的律法。
2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
2 ἡ γὰρ ὕπανδρος γυνὴ τῷ ζῶντι ἀνδρὶ δέδεται νόμῳ• ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ ὁ ἀνήρ, κατήργηται ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ἀνδρός.
3 所以丈夫活着,他若归于别人,便叫淫妇;丈夫若死了,他就脱离了丈夫的律法,虽然归于别人,也不是淫妇。
3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
3 ἄρα οὖν ζῶντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς μοιχαλὶς χρηματίσει ἐὰν γένηται ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ• ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ ὁ ἀνήρ, ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, τοῦ μὴ εἶναι αὐτὴν μοιχαλίδα γενομένην ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ.
4 我的弟兄们,这样说来,你们藉着基督的身体,在律法上也是死了,叫你们归于别人,就是归于那从死里复活的,叫我们结果子给神。
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
4 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐθανατώθητε τῷ νόμῳ διὰ τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς ἑτέρῳ, τῷ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγερθέντι ἵνα καρποφορήσωμεν τῷ θεῷ.
5 因为我们属肉体的时候,那因律法而生的恶慾就在我们肢体中发动,以致结成死亡的果子。
5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
5 ὅτε γὰρ ἦμεν ἐν τῇ σαρκί, τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τὰ διὰ τοῦ νόμου ἐνηργεῖτο ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν εἰς τὸ καρποφορῆσαι τῷ θανάτῳ•
6 但我们既然在捆我们的律法上死了,现今就脱离了律法,叫我们服事主,要按着心灵(心灵:或作圣灵)的新样,不按着仪文的旧样。
6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
6 νυνὶ δὲ κατηργήθημεν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, ἀποθανόντες ἐν ᾧ κατειχόμεθα, ὥστε δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος καὶ οὐ παλαιότητι γράμματος.

This is the word of God.

Introduction

Last week, I attended a pastors’ retreat in Virginia. The actual address is on the border of Virginia and North Carolina. In the woods, we got signal from North Carolina or we did not get any signal at all.

This is a ministry by an organization called Mill (新里程). It offers the full-time pastors of Chinese churches from North and South Carolina for 3 days rest and good food. And the retreat does not have an agenda, just rest and relax. So I had a chance to meet with more than half of the full-time pastors in Carolinas, guess how many of them? 2 from South Carolina, 5 from North Carolina. Maybe there are several more active pastors and several more retired pastors, and that’s all. I was a little bit surprised about how few full-time Chinese pastors we had in Carolinas, as well as how sad the situation of the churches will out a pastor.

The good news is that there are more than half of the pastors have Ph.D. in other fields. One of the Pastors who has his Ph.D. in Geographics and his passion is to share Gospel to those who have intensive training on rational thoughts. His point is that we use to think faith and rational thoughts are controversial with each other. But that should not be the truth as they both are created by God. Actually, Faith is controversial with irrational thoughts. Then he would extend his argument for 15 minutes and I guarantee you that if you are not a Ph.D., you may not be able to follow his rationale.

Anyway, with such tiresome conversation, and as I slept on a sofa bed between Lisa and Angla to prevent them from kicking each other (so they kicked me a lot), I did not really have good rest. Only on Wednesday morning, I had some time to walk on the lakeside and pray, and I was able to read the passage of Romans 7:1-6.

And I realized I was on one of the most difficult passages in the whole bible because this passage is apparently irrational.

Verses 1-3 say that

that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.
律法管人是在活着的时候.

Then it gives a strong illustration of marriage:

2 就如女人有了丈夫,丈夫还活着,就被律法约束;丈夫若死了,就脱离了丈夫的律法。
2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
3 所以丈夫活着,他若归于别人,便叫淫妇;丈夫若死了,他就脱离了丈夫的律法,虽然归于别人,也不是淫妇。
3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Naturally, we will think “Ok, so now the law dies, and we are free to follow Jesus.”

But no, verses 4-6 say:

4 我的弟兄们,这样说来,你们藉着基督的身体,在律法上也是死了,叫你们归于别人,就是归于那从死里复活的,叫我们结果子给神。
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

What?! You have died to the law, not the law died to you. And as you have died to the law, so that you may belong to another.

I was totally confused (彻底凌乱了)。So I checked a few commentaries and found out others’ opinions:

1) Paul’s logic was so bad, he did not know how to make an argument.
2) Paul blended two motifs together. One is a wife is free when her husband dies; another is that we die to the law, so we can belong to others.
3) We don’t care what he says, for whatever the main message of this passage is clear.

So this is a notoriously difficult passage in the bible. Is there any rationale here? Or we have to accept it as is according to our “faith”?

Luckily, I have a professor called Dr. John Harvey who is the academical dean at CIU Seminary and Dr. Harvey’s Ph.D. advisor, Richard Longenecker who is an expert on Romans and wrote a commentary on Romans.

He points out one key term in this passage: “Brothers”.

We call this an addressor. For example, in a WeChat group, I want to say something to one individual, I will use “@” to address this person. If I get the attention of the person, our conversation will continue without another addressor. When a biblical author uses “Brothers”, usually it marks a new section of discussion.

Romans has 16 chapters and only 10 times of “Brothers”, and here in these 6 verses, it appears twice and the second time is even more intensive, “My Brothers”. Kind of Paul wants to say two different things and both are very important.

That’s why we want to view these short passage as two:

  1. Relationship: We are not under the law but free to follow Jesus. (1-3)
  2. Service: The right relationship will bring us a new way to serve the Lord. (4-6)

MP1. Relationship

As Paul uses slavery as his illustration to answer the question:

6:15 我们在恩典之下,不在律法之下,就可以犯罪么?
Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?

He may feel the readers in Rome is offend. So here he adds another illustration from marriage to say the same thing:

1 弟兄们,我现在对明白律法的人说,你们岂不晓得律法管人是在活着的时候么?
1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?
2 就如女人有了丈夫,丈夫还活着,就被律法约束;丈夫若死了,就脱离了丈夫的律法。
2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
3 所以丈夫活着,他若归于别人,便叫淫妇;丈夫若死了,他就脱离了丈夫的律法,虽然归于别人,也不是淫妇。
3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

I remember we spent some time discussing the principles to understand the illustrations in the Bible. Any illustration or parable should have only on point—the connection between a worldly thing and a spiritual truth. So here the illustration is not about the general marital relationship or even the law of adulteress or the law of remarriage.

Here, the point is about our relationship with the law: we are no longer under the Mosaic law. There is no need to explain more about the issue. The Law is the means of salvation before the New Covenant. Those who under the law must obey each tiny items of the Law as well as follow the principle of the law.

The law does not automatically change an evil person into a good person, but it functions as the tool to reveal our deepest sin and call us to put our faith onto Jesus.

In fact, many times the law will promote crimes in a worse way and make it more severe. Any of you have read the news about 4 old women tried to take an 11-month baby publicly in Beijing when baby’s mother was present? When they were arrested, they said it was by mistake that they thought the baby was their grandchild. So they were put into jail for only 5 days and could come back to take other babies.

The law which should prevent such crimes actually gives the excuse for their crime and helped them to escape the punishment. With whatever law, we may have a safer society but never a kingdom of Heaven.

That’s why the Bible teaches us that the law cannot save us but we must be freed from the Law so that we can put our faith on God, not ourselves.

Basically, this is a relationship issue or positional issue. But it will influence our destiny:

4 我的弟兄们,这样说来,你们藉着基督的身体,在律法上也是死了,叫你们归于别人,就是归于那从死里复活的,叫我们结果子给神。
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
5 因为我们属肉体的时候,那因律法而生的恶慾就在我们肢体中发动,以致结成死亡的果子。
5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

When we have the freedom, we can choose to belong to the Lord. When we belong to the Lord, we will have the right fruits.

Under this new freedom, death is not always a bad thing. For through the death and resurrection of Christ, we also have died to the law and have a brand new relationship with Christ.

When I was a little child, one of my favorite novels is “The Count of Monte Cristo”. A young sailor, Edmond Dantès was set up by his enemies and put into death prison. Only dead one could leave the prison on a small island on the Mediterranean. Luckily, he met his mentor Faria in the prison who told him who set him up and left him a big fortune in a cave on the island of Monte Cristo. And he was able to escape because his mentor died. He pretended to be the corpse and was thrown into the sea. Literately the young Dantes died and no longer existed, and the Count of Monte Cristo raised from the dead and avenged his enemies and repaid the people who helped him.

I have read this novel many times and always amazed by the story, never thought about the role his mentor played until recently. But now I see that the revenge is not the point of the book but the salvation through the death and the renewing of the life.

MP2

4 我的弟兄们,这样说来,你们藉着基督的身体,在律法上也是死了,叫你们归于别人,就是归于那从死里复活的,叫我们结果子给神。
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

So likewise, my brothers and sisters, we also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that according to God’s will and His merciful plan, we may belong to him who has been raised from the dead. (passive tense).

If we do not die to the law, we will be like this:

5 因为我们属肉体的时候,那因律法而生的恶慾就在我们肢体中发动,以致结成死亡的果子。
5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

In my personal experience, I did have the sinful passions aroused by the law. When I came to CIU for my theology study, I went to talk with my school which I was a professor there. I knew I would not go back in the future, for I would be a Church planter in another country. But anyway, I studied the police of the school and found out that I could choose to study overseas with my personal fund, not supported by the school. The problem was that the school supported me to get my Ph.D. and I signed a contract with the school that I would serve the school for some 10 years.

But with the law, the sinful passions aroused, and my explanation of the police and the contract was like this:

  1. I had the right to study overseas with my own fund. No problem.
  2. I had a contract with the school to serve it for the next 10 years. So the school did not have the right to fire me. It must hire me for at least 10 years.
  3. I had no intention to go back to the school after graduation from seminary. But it’s good to reserve a professor position at a university.

You should know the end of the story. After one year, the school fired me and at that time I did know a little bit more about the Gospel and did not sue the school according to the police and the contract.

Law cannot save me but only stimulate my sinful nature and bear some really bad fruits. And I did not see anyone who was righteous before God. As the Scripture says:

10 就如经上所记:没有义人,连一个也没有。
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 没有明白的;没有寻求神的;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 都是偏离正路,一同变为无用。没有行善的,连一个也没有。
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

A little bit summary: here Gospel is a relationship issue. Our relationship with God and our relationship with the law must be adjusted according to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s just like that the marriage is primarily a relationship issue. You must have a right relationship with your spouse and a good relationship with your spouse to serve each other.

Only when we have the right relationship with God, only after we truly belong to the one who died for us and was raised from death for us, we may bear fruit for God.

On this relationship foundation,

6 但我们既然在捆我们的律法上死了,现今就脱离了律法,叫我们服事主,要按着心灵(心灵:或作圣灵)的新样,不按着仪文的旧样。
6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

There is nothing less than serving the Lord. Do I have a refresh thought on the service?

As human beings, we are very good at creating written code. Some churches in China will encourage people to get up 5 AM in the morning to pray. When I visited Korean churches in Seoul, I attended such a prayer meeting. Almost everybody in the church was there, and there were many young children, sitting there falling sleep even when we were singing worship songs. Later I realized that they had such kind of prayer meeting every day. It may be a very good thing. But I want you to think it from a culture perspective. If you are not a morning person and prefer to work lately, what you suppose to do? If a night person wakes up at 4 am and goes to the prayer meeting every morning, it would destroy his/her life and job. But if you did not go, other people may say that you were not a good Christian.

In the professional world is like the same. Some companies have a culture of work-over-time. So you are not supposed to leave at 5 o’clock. If you leave work on time, people will say you are not a good worker. So many people will play games or refresh their WeChat at the normal time and begin to work after 5 o’clock.

We are just too good to create all kinds of code to follow, explicit or implicit ones.

When we come to serve the Lord, the tendency does not change. I used to follow every instruction from my pastor and did not spend a second to think. If anyone in my church dared to say to the pastor, “I need to pray before I follow your order,” the pastor would burst into anger and said, “your spiritual life is not as good as mine. I have prayed for the decision. You don’t need to pray anymore, just obey my order and the Holy Spirit will let you know the reason later.” But I followed that orders and the Spirit did not give me more understanding and I still felt I was doing some very stupid things.

There is something deeper than we thought. If we serve our God according to some or any written code, our religion is no better than any other religions. If we think the service we offer to the children of God is only a few things doing on Sunday, we are missing the most important part of our faith: the Spirit.

As a church, we are doing many things to the world. Why we have so little impact on the world? Is that because our service is not according to the Spirit?

Applications

So, how should we do? I have taken a class called “the Holy Spirit” last year. It’s not a theology class which teaches you the person and function of the Holy Spirit, but a ministry class teaches you how to serve the world with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Almost every Christian will struggle on the journey of following Jesus. They will try to find the answer to the question: “How can I serve in the new way of the Spirit?”

I feel a book is really helpful to me to understand this.

It has a chapter about the holy spirit and was required for me to read in the class. Basically, the Holy Spirit is a mystery and we cannot control it with our will. But it does not mean that we cannot ask His help and follow His guides.

The best way to think about the Holy Spirit and growth is to think about a moment-by-moment relationship of dependency on him. We depend on him to guide us, lead us, talk to us, reveal truth to us, empower us to do what we can’t do, give us gifts to be able to give to others what they need, and many other things. But all this happens in an “abiding” sort of way. We yield to him and follow. We open up our hearts and beings to be “filled” with him. We ask him to invade all that we are and to work in us. In a sense, we give ourselves to him as we live out the life of growth.

The old way of trying to “do it right” by ourselves is over. Now we live a life of faith with him inside us. But we are still the ones who have to live this life and be accountable for it.

Illustration of practicing spirit-filling life (most of the time, illustration is for application, not for clarification/explanation):
Julie had been struggling with eating for several months as her life had gotten more and more stressful. She had prayed about it and confessed her overeating again and again. She felt bad about herself and was getting discouraged. Then she read a piece on how the Holy Spirit could empower her to do what was difficult. So she decided to put that to the test.
Julie’s two most difficult tasks were turning from food and bringing people into her struggle. She had been reading about how breaking patterns of behavior had to do with confessing to God and to others and also finding out the root causes driving the behavior. One night she found herself at home alone and wanting to eat ice cream that she knew she did not need. She had just finished a healthy dinner an hour or so before.
She remembered what her growth partners had told her. When you feel tempted, ask God to empower you through his Spirit to do two things: to turn from what is destructive and to turn to what is good, the things he says to do . So, in her craving she stopped and prayed. She asked the Holy Spirit to help her. She prayed for his strength. She sat there with him, and then she asked him to show her what she was feeling. When she did not eat, her feelings of loneliness and stress became clearer to her; then she asked him to help her open up to someone. The name of a friend came to mind. She called the friend, who helped her move past the struggle.
This was a whole new world for Julie. For the first time she didn’t have to fight the battle alone. She learned to depend on the Spirit’s strength to do what she needed to do, and she yielded to the answers he provided. Before that, she had been alone in fighting temptation and not depending on him and his strength. She also depended on him for help through the support he provided in her friend. She was both dependent and active. He helped, she yielded to his help, and she took steps to follow him by reaching out to the person he made available.
I encourage you to read the book, at least the chapter about the Holy Spirit, so that you will not only have the knowledge about God but will have a true relationship with Him and can serve Him in a new way in the Holy Spirit.

But as for today, we should know that we are no longer under the law but have died to the law, so that we need a understand the new relationship with the Lord and serve Him in a new way—in the Holy Spirit, and we can bear good fruit in the Lord.

Let’s Pray!

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