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News for Thursday, January 2, 2014
Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
Jan. 5: A Fight You Can’t Win by Yourself
By Josh Moore
Focal Passage: Romans 7:14 – 8:2
Rocky is one of my all-time favorite movies. Rocky Balboa stands in the ring and, against all odds, goes toe-to-toe with the mighty Apollo Creed, fighting the match to a draw. Alone in the ring, Balboa astonishes crowd and commentator alike with his ability to meet the heavily favored champion head-on.
In the ring of life Christians often feel they can go it alone in hand-to-hand combat against the enemy and come out victorious. However, Romans 7 teaches us that we cannot prevail over sin by ourselves. Even after our justification in Christ Jesus, the battle with sin rages on. The war against the flesh is a fight you cannot win by yourself. Christians must reassert their dependence upon the grace and strength of the Lord each day to win the victory over sin.
Believers Face a Continual Struggle (7:14-23). Romans 7 illustrates the startling fact that even Paul the Apostle continued to fight against sin throughout his life. The candor through which he shares his personal struggle helps us understand the universal scope of this battle. We all face a continual war against the flesh. Some scholars view Romans 7 as a look back to Paul’s pre-conversion experience with sin. However, this view cannot be supported by the context and flow of the epistle. Chapter 6 stresses that Christians are no longer slaves of sin, but are slaves of God and righteousness. Nonetheless, Paul emphasizes in Romans 7 that our slavery to God does not lead to an automatic victory over sin. Instead, our conversion implies a lifetime battle. As William Barclay said, we are “walking civil wars.” Our post-conversion struggle with sin can be extremely frustrating. Paul sums it up by saying, “For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it” (v. 18). Even though the law is spiritual and good, we cannot keep it in our own strength, because we are made of flesh (v. 14). Here, flesh is defined as the total self, mind and body, in hostility to God. We know what we should do, but fail so often. Our fleshly nature does not respond to what our spirit knows is right. When you wake up in the morning and realize your arm has fallen asleep, you know how to move your hand and fingers, but they do not respond. Frustratingly, you fight against the numbness, but can do nothing until the life giving flow of blood is restored. Likewise, we know what is right, but so often willingly do what is wrong, necessitating a fresh, daily working of the Gospel in our lives.
Christ Provides a Powerful Victory (7:24 – 8:2). In the midst of Paul’s struggle, it is Christ who rescues him from the weakness of the flesh to fight against sin. It is important to note the label with which Paul identifies himself at the end of Romans 7. He declares himself a wretched man, even after his conversion and justification from sin (7:24)! This demonstrates a powerful image of sanctification. Even after our salvation experience, we daily need the grace of God found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Although I am not a fan of professional wrestling, the “tag team” match provides a great picture of our sanctification in Christ. While sin inevitably has us in a deadly sleeper hold, we reach out to tag Christ into the match, who rescues us to win the victory. We know through Jesus Christ our Lord there is now no condemnation (no defeat) because he frees us from the law of sin and death (8:1-2).
— Moore is the director of church relations at Union University in Jackson. He also serves as minister of education at First Baptist Church, Dresden
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