“For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:5-6 (NKJV)
The passage shows that two deaths result in the abundant life. The life is stated in the words “so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
For servants of God the word “serve” brings the thought of fullness of life. Let a group from the church have a ministry of service where there is a real need and they leave that place of ministry with the joy of a fulfilled life.
The words “not in the oldness of the letter” mean that Paul’s service was not in trying to keep the law of the old covenant or trying to get others to keep it. In the old covenant that God gave the Israelites, the arrangement was for God to give the rules and the Israelites to keep them.
In Romans 8:3, Paul says that the law arrangement was between the commands of God and the flesh of man. Most of us have a very clear memory of preaching or teaching on some command in the Bible and then encouraging our listeners to obey that command. We did not know that we were placing them in the life of the old covenant.
The person who encourages other believers to keep a command of the Bible without telling them how God will enable them to do so, puts them in the [condition of] flesh. Any service we do in self-effort is law-living. The flesh is like an unseen person living in the life of the believer. In Romans 7:15, Paul says that he could not do what he wanted to do and he did things he hated. He says in verse 17 that his life of failure was the result of sin–his flesh–that dwells in him.
Paul testifies in Romans 7:5 that when a person lives in the flesh by trying to keep the law, the flesh stirs sinful desires in his body. The desires lead to sins. The flesh is the enemy of God (Romans 8:7). Therefore, when a person commits himself to keep even one particular command, his flesh fills him with the desire to do the opposite. Paul says in Romans 7:7-8 that when he tried not to covet, he was filled with covetousness.
When we encourage people to keep the law and they try to do so, we put them in the flesh, we put them in a lifestyle of failure. The result of such a lifestyle for a God-loving believer is a state of mind that Paul calls death [Rom. 8:6a].
It is in this state of death that the God-loving believer turns to God for deliverance. In Romans 5:20-21 Paul says: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In his state of desperation in the first death, the believer is ready for a divine revelation of something he has never known of before. God takes him to the sixth chapter of Romans and reveals to him that when he received Jesus as Lord and Savior, he was spiritually crucified, buried and resurrected.
The believer still in the state of the first death then understands that he is not actually experiencing what is true of him. By divine revelation, he sees that living out the five statements of guidance in Romans 6:11-13 is the way to experiencing [appropriating] his crucifixion, burial and resurrection [the second “death” identified in this article’s context].
When he begins to obey the five statements of guidance, he begins to experience his spiritual crucifixion, burial and resurrection. One aspect of his experience is the crucifixion of his flesh (Galatians 5:24). Since trying to keep the law is living in the flesh, when one experiences the crucifixion of the flesh, he ceases to live by law. A believer experiencing the crucifixion of the flesh is also filled by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
The Holy Spirit came into our lives to take over. The flesh that wants to stay in control rejects the takeover of the Spirit. But when one experiences the crucifixion [radical denial] of the flesh, the Holy Spirit has no opposition and takes over–He fills the life of the person. Romans 6:14, the next verse after the list of the five statements leading to the abundant life, says: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” The first word of Romans 6:14, “for,” can be translated “then.” In this case it should be so translated. When one obeys the five statements leading to his spiritual crucifixion, burial and resurrection, sin will not reign over him for he is not under law but under grace.
When we are under grace, we are walking and serving in the Spirit. This is the abundant life. When one receives the filling of the Spirit, he receives the filling of the fruit of the Spirit and all other things the Spirit does in the life of a believer. He ministers to others in the Spirit.
Therefore, through experiencing two deaths, God has brought his child to the abundant life of serving Him and others in the Spirit. He has moved him from darkness to light. He has moved him from serving in his own wisdom and strength to living out of the resources of God Himself.
We all know the stories of those serving God and others in the flesh. We know that there is sin of some type in their lives. We know that they are not really joyful in their walk with God. We know they need to understand and live out their spiritual crucifixion, burial and resurrection. We know their needs but what can we do to help them? The first thing we can do is pray for them. We know that they must have a revelation of their sin nature [flesh]. We can pray that the failures they experience in their morals and in their service will bring them to the first death [Gal. 2:20]. This is when they are ready to respond to their need of the second death [freedom from the law]. We can pray that God will lead them to the Scriptures in Romans 6:3-14 and reveal to them how they can experience the second death that leads to life. When the Lord leads us, we can show them these verses that will bring them to LIFE.
In Christ newsletter, Vol 10 #2 David Kuykendall Ministries www.livingbygrace.org. David’s audio testimony is at http://gfiworld.sermon.net/main/main/10549579. Bracketed items added by GN editor.