As we begin our study of Romans together, we need some vocabulary lessons. Some words we have used since childhood have very special meanings in this letter. Unless we understand those words we will miss the meaning of the entire letter.
In modern usage, we live by laws. We obey speed laws, pay taxes, and respect the property, life and privacy of others because the law requires it. Unless we break the law, we have kept the law.
In biblical language, the law goes much deeper. Every regulation has its root in two laws, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
That law changes the very nature of living by the law. In the bible, it is not enough that we keep the law, but our law keeping must flow from a supreme love for God and neighbor. We must not only worship God, but we must worship him because we love him. We must not only respect the life and property of our neighbor but we must do so because we love him.
If we refuse to steal something, but in our hearts we really wanted to, then we have broken the law. If we refuse to commit adultery when we want to, we have sinned. In short, if keeping the law makes you feel bad you are breaking it.
But by the same rule, if keeping the law makes you feel good you are breaking it. If you refuse to gossip, and feel really good about yourself because you are not the kind of person who gossips, then you kept the law out of love for yourself not out of love for God or your neighbor. You sinned by keeping the law.
Unless your heart is pure, and your actions flow from a free and overwhelming love of God then you are a lawbreaker.
Your only hope is in dying with Christ. In Christ, the law has demanded its payment. By faith we died with Christ. The law demands your death, and by his sacrificial death the law has been satisfied. If you are in Christ, the law is dead to you. Your life after Christ you live by faith. He empowers you with a new spirit, enabling you to keep the law from your heart. Now you may freely love the Lord with no regard to the debts or condemnation of the law.
Ricky Jones has spent the past two years as a church planter and pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before that, he was a campus minister with Reformed University...