Since January I have been on The Marathon of Biblical Proportions; not a running marathon, but reading through the Bible, on a schedule with a group.
Just as in a running marathon, we soon scattered into a flock. Some, like Paul, my beloved over-achiever, are ahead of schedule; and others, like me, are trailing behind in turtle fashion, stopping to admire the view along the journey. The main thing is that we all stay the course!
To read through the whole Bible, cover to cover in a year, means reading an average of three chapters a day and our schedule has us reading them consecutively. This gives a perspective you don’t get when reading chapters separately. Now I’m reading the historical books of the Old Testament and enjoying the grander flow of story, but the same principle holds true for the letters of the New Testament, in which a thought develops over several chapters. Meditating on a few verses at a time holds blessings of its own, but reading in context helps to ensure integrity of intent and understanding.
So I found myself reading Romans chapters 6-8 and seeing a beautiful truth:
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did.
What exactly was the law powerless to do, I wondered? The answer would be obvious to someone who had just read the preceding chapter.
Romans 7: 14-17:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
The law was powerless to transform human nature. Its purpose was to establish a benchmark, but in doing so it demonstrated the woeful gap between the law and our lives.
Romans 7 is where I have been stuck. I always read it in the past as though the apostle Paul was describing a present reality for himself and I don’t think I’m alone. It’s an easy mistake, especially when it so closely mirrors our own experience. But reading the span of Romans 6-8 gives a different picture.
Romans 8:3 says that “what the law was powerless to do,” “God did.”
What did God do? The verse before says that: …the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. I will have more to say on this next time, meanwhile , take heart dear friends; our present reality is that we are free! Yes, we really are free from the law of sin and death.
More on this wonderful reality will follow on Wednesday.