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Liberated from Legalism

One of the passages which is widely misunderstood and misused, it Romans 7:14-20.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Rom 7:14-20)

What exactly is the apostle Paul saying in Romans chapter 7? There can be no question that the person Paul describes in this passage is in a most miserable condition. He declares that he is carnal (having a strong internal inclination to sin), that he is in fact, a slave to sin and that he is incapable of doing the right things. Those who have accepted the idea that the Christian life is a constant struggle with sin, with frequent defeats, love to quote this passage. In their understanding Paul is here speaking of his own experience as a Christian and is describing the normal Christian life in this passage – a life where sin constantly dominates and defeats the Christian.

Is this interpretation correct? Is Paul saying, “I am a wretched man, a slave to sin, living under continual defeat” – in a condition where whenever he tries to do good, he constantly finds himself doing evil? This unquestionably is the condition of the man described here, in Romans chapter 7. It is incredible to me that anybody who understands the victory which is in Jesus Christ could believe that this refers to the condition of a surrendered Christian!

Each time I look at this passage I am mystified and disturbed that any Christian should confess that this is his condition. I will never have such a defeated lifestyle imposed on me and I utterly reject that false suggestion! Why do they so completely ignore what Paul says in Romans chapter 8? Why do they divorce it from the statements made in chapter 7? I encourage all wretched, miserable, defeated Christians who are reading this article to carefully consider the following statements by the apostle Paul and know that you can be delivered here and now from that wretched state.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:5-10)

I have been told that the reason why I take a different view of Paul’s statement in Romans 7, is because I am an extremist, and that I need to take the “middle ground.” In other words, to accept that the Christian life is not a life of victory over sin, but to embrace the teaching that constant defeat by sin, is normal to our experience. This supposed “middle ground” which makes salvation so ambiguous and uncertain that people can feel no assurance of victory is plainly of the devil. This is why many can never rise above the label and the mindset of “Laodicea.” It is a people who are constantly doomed to identify themselves as being, “wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked,” constantly repenting, endlessly bemoaning their miserable state and yet, by their very tragic theology, never seeing the possibility of rising above it! By their very definition they are doomed to be forever wretched and miserable, poor blind and naked. By the very condition that they embrace they confess that it is impossible for them to see or to be clothed!

A person is naked because he does not possess Christ’s righteousness. Let me challenge you with a question: do you possess the righteousness of Christ? This is the solution to the nakedness of Laodicea! It is a solution to the wretched condition in which many love to confess themselves as being. Do you possess this righteousness? I cannot any longer refer to myself as being that “O wretched man!” Described by Paul in Romans 7. Why should I deny the grace of God? Why should I allow insipid false modesty to make me deny the truth that the salvation in Jesus Christ has delivered me from the law of sin and death? When a man has been delivered and he confesses that he still a slave he is a liar and he is dishonoring the one who has delivered him!

Some have tried to suggest that I am taking glory to myself because I no longer confess to being a wretched sinner. For some strange reason they have chosen to interpret this to mean that I am suggesting that by my own works I have become victorious over sin. This is a strange conclusion because there has not been even the slightest hint in anything I have suggested which should have led to that conclusion. This conclusion is the consequence of a bias and a mindset which predisposes them to object to everything which does not fit into their paradigm.

I confess that I am free to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and my Father God! Where have I stated that this is due to my effort, to my law keeping or to my ability? I have endeavored to glorify and to give thanks to Jesus for what I am! In truth and in fact, it is those who are objecting who are bringing dishonor to the Lord because they are measuring people by their performance rather than viewing them through the lens of what God has done in Jesus Christ! But this is natural because legalism can never accept victory! When measured by the law who can say I am righteous? None of us, not a single one! But with their law-oriented view of salvation there never is a single day that they can ever say, “I have been victorious”! This is not possible when a person measures himself by his deeds because with the law-focused view of righteousness, it is a sin to forget, It is a sin to lick one’s fingers between meals, it is a sin to raise your voice, it is a sin if your mind drifts to an inappropriate thought! You can never fulfil all the specifications and so until the Lord returns, you are doomed to the, “O wretched man that I am” religion.

How can you ever escape Laodicea if you perpetually confess that you are Laodicea? When will the repenting end and the victory be claimed? The answer is, never! This twisted way of thinking is so self-destructive that if those who embrace it ever profess to have been delivered from their blindness, their nakedness, their wretched state, then they will naturally begin to condemn themselves for daring to think that they can be victorious!

(Source: Restoration Ministry)

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