Romans 7:1 | When in Rome

There is an idiom “when in Rome” that means when you visit or travel to a location that you should try, adopt, or live with the norms of that society. While you are in a country be it your own or one you visit you must follow the laws of that country. Americans when they travel abroad sometimes have a bad reputation because they do not respect the local cultures and rules. I know I appreciate when someone who is visiting my community goes out of their way to understand and acknowledge how we do things.

Paul in his letter to the church in Rome uses this when in Rome idea to make a life changing point about how God works out salvation and restoration of human kind.

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? Romans 7:1 ESV

We all know the law it is written in our hearts and God makes it concreate with the Ten Commandments. Do not lie, do not murder, and so on. While you live on this planet you are bound to the law. When in Rome… The law written in your heart, your conscience, condemns when we fail to meet its expectations. Paul writing to a group that knows Jewish law very well then goes into detail about a specific law regarding adultery.

3 Accordingly, [a woman] 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. Romans 7:3 ESV

Divorce, unfortunately, is common in American culture so much so that many people refuse to even get married because of the pain of the situation. Paul using this as an example shows that when two people are married that they are bound under the law for a life time. Only death of one partner frees the other to remarry. The law is binding as long as we live on this planet. Jesus spoke about this issue when a group questioned him asking if a man had married multiple times over the course of life what wife would he be with in Heaven.

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:29-32 ESV

The laws that make the standard for life on earth and the rules of life on this earth do not apply after death. Death ends the hold of the law on people both in the positive way, marriage, and in the negative way, adultery. In eternity the law will no longer be our master and no longer will we be slaves to the passion it brings up in our hearts.

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. 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. Romans 7:5-6 ESV

We are married to the law of sin and apart from God. The law points out our sinful passions and inflames them even more. And as long as we live, we are bound to the law of sin and unable to be with God. So, God in his grace and love kills us to free us from the law sin. This is the message of the gospel. We die to ourselves. We are buried with Christ. And we are raised to a new life. A new life bound and now remarried to the Spirit.

4 We were buried therefore with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 ESV

Mind or Body?

spirit

YOLO or You only live once. One might hear this called out as encouragement to someone about to do something bold, crazy, extreme, or stupid usually to gain a rush of adrenaline and excitement from the act. “You only live once” is good natured and intended to remind everyone to live life to the fullest while one can. The term however has a major shortcoming as it fails to recognize that while we live in this corrupted sin slaved body we also have an eternal spiritual nature that lives for eternity. The fact is we outlive this temporary physical body so no we do not just live once.

It is hard for contemporary society living in a material obsessed world to remember that there is also a spiritual world. The god of Science and Atheism has infiltrated every aspect of culture and life to the point that God is denied and if dwelt on a realization that if this is all just a material being then one is simply just the sum of chemical reactions. A machine that will one day stop working resulting in death and then nothingness. Paul rejected this YOLO way of thinking and highlighted in his letter to the Romans how the physical and the spiritual interact.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:14-15 ESV

The law is morality, truth, right and wrong, and accountability to the Creator. The commandment do not murder seems to be focused on governing the actions of the flesh but it is really more than that. It is a moral standard, a spiritual standard that God holds up as truth.

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 ESV

The law is spiritual because it deals with desire and intent not simply just what actions were manifest in the material world. John the Disciple of Christ is saying that hate for someone else may not manifest into a physical altercation that ends in murder but that hate is still the intent and thus corrupts the spiritual nature of the person that has such evil thoughts. Jesus highlights this when it comes to sex. If you have ever looked at another person and imagined them sexually. If you have viewed or continue to view pornographic images, writing, or simply lustful material then according to Jesus your spirit has broken the law because the law is spiritual.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 ESV

Now Paul acknowledged to the Romans that we have a serious problem with the Law. We know what is right and wrong but we do not have the ability to consistently carry it out. The physical desires of this body and the cravings and appetites of the world get in the way.

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18 ESV

There are two mistaken ways to go forward because of this war between the spirit and the flesh. First is to deny the spiritual aspect of oneself and say “oh well I was born this way”. Another “this is who I am”. Better yet people were made to enjoy these pleasures so YOLO and go for it to the extreme. The second extreme is to deny the flesh and physical altogether and focus solely on the spiritual side of oneself. Monks for example move way a remote location to cut themselves off from the physical pleasures of the world and attempt to live above the selfish evil desires of the flesh. The unhappy secret here is that even in the monastery one still must deal with the selfishness of the flesh. The problem with either way of living is that it will ultimately be unsatisfying. Life is more than pleasure and life is more than denial of physical. One cannot deny the spiritual side of things any more than they can truly deny the physical side.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 ESV

The sin of our physical desires must be put to death and we must be born again into a spirit filled life where the physical is controlled and enjoyed by the spiritual. It is in Christ that the Spirit gives us a new heart and a new desire for the things that are valued by God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:6-7 ESV