Today’s Reading: Jer 31:1–40, Rom 6:15–7:6, Prov 21:1–12
Today’s Theme: Slaves to God
Libertarian freedom is a stubbornly persistent illusion, the reality of our existence is that none of us are Lord and Master over ourselves. We need to choose a master and serve him, there literally can be no sitting on the fence. Paul paints this in vivid terms stating that man is either a slave to sin outside Christ or a slave to righteousness in Christ.
We are freed from the law of sin and death and are therefore free only to be bound again eternally to God, in a type of matrimony or marriage.
So Yes we are slaves to God. We should not try to sanitise this reality by calling ourselves servants, only because the connotation with servant is of one paid for their services, not one who is owned (He is Lord [owner] and brought us with a price) and in a dependant and devoted relationship to their master like us.
the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3, ESV)
God’s love for His people is an everlasting love. This is why God keeps covenant and is faithful to us, not because we deserve it or the law demands it, but because of His love.
In His love He has saved us and will save Israel.
The chief and elect nation
For thus says the Lord: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ (Jeremiah 31:7, ESV)
Israel is the chief, most elect among the nations. Our egalitarian (everyone is equal) driven culture reels at such a sentiment but that means nothing, it is still true.
The Lord has always saved a remnant of Israel. This is true both physically and spiritually. There have always been a Jewish people and community since the days of Abraham and more importantly in the OT, there was always a remnant of spiritually faithful Jews and in the NT, all the first Christians were Jews, the first missionaries were all Jews and the early church was full of Jews, even today we have Messianic (Christian) Jews who accept Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah.
So Yes we rejoice, God in His love and faithfulness always keeps a remnant.
The Shepherd of Israel
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jeremiah 31:10, ESV)
God is the Shepherd and Father to Israel. This carries over to the church too, as God’s chosen people, because He is our Great Shepherd and Father also.
The slaughter of the innocents
Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15, ESV)
This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born, it was the slaughter of the innocents by Herod which we remember at this season of Christmas.
A secure future
There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country. (Jeremiah 31:17, ESV)
Israel has a future in God and so does the body of Christ. In God we can have assurance as we trust His promises, ways and person.
God’s heart yearns
Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20, ESV)
When God is in relationship with a people as with Ephraim, it is not just technical, God’s heart yearns for reconciliation. God’s heart yearns to be reconciled to you today. Don’t allow your relationship with Him to grow cold.
But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:30, ESV)
We are each responsible for our own sin. Our current culture is so enamoured with self and the central place of man as a good and free being, that personal responsibility has been largely discarded. We instead say there is always a reason for someone’s evil, crime or sin and that they just need to be understood.
This is wrong, we should not withdraw from man his God given responsibility for his own conduct, we should not diminish the responsibility of man unless his responsibility through mental impairment is actually diminished.
By taking the responsibility from man for his own sin, we have given mankind a licence to sin in the name of being a victim of environment, culture, history or parents.
God is clear, everyone will die for their own sin, not for someone else’s.
This is picked up in the NT today, the wages sin pays is death. This is why the gospel message and solution is so radical, Jesus vicariously died in our place for our sin.
The New Testament prophesied
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (Jeremiah 31:31, ESV)
The new testament was not an invention of Paul and his friends, it was foretold by God. God said the old covenant would be superseded by a new and better covenant. The new and better covenant is the one made though the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as proclaimed in the gospel of God.
Regeneration of the Holy Spirit
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33, ESV)
This speaks of regeneration by the Holy Spirit and is fulfilled in the New Testament church where God’s people have changed natures, and as both Jews and Gentiles, form God’s own people.
A day will come when this will be more fully realised for the actual nation of Israel too.
The indwelling Holy Spirit
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34, ESV)
This is a further indication that we are talking about the NT experience of being born again by the Spirit of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The remembrance of sin no more, speaks of the redemption and forgiveness through the cross of Christ.
Guaranteed against the cosmos
“If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:36, ESV)
Israel’s nationhood is guaranteed against the cosmos. The nation will never be exterminated, despite the threats and evil work of Nazi’s and Islamist’s.
Choose your master
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, ESV)
We are Slaves regardless, we only get to choose our master. So will you serve sin under the power of the enemy, or righteousness under the power of Christ?
We are not free to do whatever we want, we are instead influenced, driven and moved by the master we are aligned with. This is why we so often find ourselves doing things we had no real intention of doing, either in the bondage of sin or the compulsion by the Spirit, in righteousness, to forgo a natural and sinful reaction for example.
Obey the teaching of the Gospel
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (Romans 6:17, ESV)
It is crucial that our obedience is sincere and from the heart.
Without the teaching of the gospel what would we be called to obey? The great commission is to teach the nations the way of Christ.
This is why the bible is so important alongside the ministry of our Pastors and teachers, to proclaim and teach the truth with all authority.
If we just tell people that Jesus loves them and don’t disciple them, how will they know what to obey? Teaching the gospel is essential to the gospel of God.
Our faith is not only composed of a spiritual or mystical element, it very much has a cognitive or thinking element, where the minds of its adherents must be engaged and activated to agree with the teaching of the Gospel of God.
This obedience in faith, to the teaching of the gospel of God, is one of the main themes of the letter.
Make righteousness your master
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19, ESV)
We should make righteousness our master, this will lead to our sanctification. Paul is quite clear that we need to make a conscious decision to use our bodies righteously, which is part of our call to sanctification and holiness.
God’s free gift
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, ESV)
This verse is a great summary of the gospel.
Sin will pay wages but the antithesis to this is not anti-sin paying the wages of life, because Paul has already made the case that our righteousness will never do. The gospel breaks the mould of everything being based on good or bad works and the resulting wages, instead we are presented with a totally free gift.
A works based gospel would be the work of righteousness measured against the work of sin, but the Gospel of God is God’s free and unearned gift of eternal life, over and against the earned wages of death in sin. They are not parallel, the free gift of eternal life far supersedes the wages of death for sin.
Union with Christ
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. (Romans 7:4, ESV)
Our union with Christ precludes that we are actually dead to sin and its law. This is not a fleeting thing but a sure, solid and permanent state.
There is an important point about us bearing fruit unto God, through our union with Christ, as opposed to the fruit of death.
Jesus Himself said He is the vine and we are just branches. If we are in union with Him, then we are connected to life itself, He is the very source of life and of the renewed life in particular, so it follows that being connected to Him, we will bear fruit.
We are dead to, so free from sin (or sin is dead and we are free), so that we can belong to another. Consider the word ‘belong’, it speaks of ownership and deep devotion, which is where the biblical concept of being God’s Joyful Slaves is formed.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5, ESV)
Lord, we know there are areas here where we really need to improve, please help us to be diligent and disciplined.
Quarrelling is not good
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9, ESV)
Living with someone who likes to quarrel can be a real drain on energy and difficult to bear, so pray for grace if this is your situation, or give thanks if it is not.
Also ask yourself an honest question…are you quarrelsome? If you are make an effort by the Spirit to seek peace.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
Desiring God on Romans 7