Monday, October 5, 2009

Understanding Paul

I've written a few posts now about Christianity without much mention of scripture, so here it is. My favorite book in the Bible, being Romans, is often difficult to understand, but I have found it extremely enjoyable to reread over and over again. Every time I'm exposed to a new philosophy I go back and find it even more compelling than the last time.

First, let me provide a couple definitions - "the law" - the moral system passed down in the Jewish tradition - "sin" - error as a result of man's inherent naivete/hubris

In Romans 7: 7-11, Paul captures the points I've been making about the failure of morality:

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire."

Paul is stating that the focus on the law took his eyes off of understanding what is beneficial and instead focused it on the law itself. The moral law itself was leading him to do that which is not beneficial. He continues...

"For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death."

He goes on in verses 14-24 to speak how he struggles in a tug of war between the good that he can see and sense, but he is bound by the slavery to the law.

14 "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. 16For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good." [He struggles to do the good that he can sense]...18.."For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

23 "but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." [He can see what is beneficial, but morality works against that.]

and finally, in verses 24 through 8:1-4, he begins to show us the way out.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [no longer bound by morality], because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit"

The law, or morality, is no longer necessary because Christ has demostrated that everything the law has tried to manipulate us into doing could be done without it. Perfect goodness, doesn't need morality, only humility.

No comments: