Paul has made three statements which were directly opposite to the Jewish interpretation of Scripture. The first was in 3:20, that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; the second in 3:30, that God would justify the Gertiles through faith without circumcision; and the third in 3:19 and 28, that salvation is given independently of the law. Paul proceeds, therefore, in chapter 4 to show that Scripture supports these propositions. He bases his argument mainly on Gen.15.
- Abraham, and David also, were men pre-eminently in the favour of God (cf e.g., Is. 41:8; Acts 13:22). On what basis, then, according to Scripture, was righteousness reckoned to them? See verses 1-8.
- At what time in Abraham’s life was his faith reckoned to hum as righteousness? How does this vitally affect the question at issue regarding the admission of Gentiles? See verses 9-12.
- Verses 1, 2, 9-11. What blessings does justification bring with it? List the things which are now ours to enjoy. Note how much is covered by these statements. What ought such awareness to make us do?
- Someone, however, may say: ‘But what of the sufferings attending the Christian life? Do they not detract from its blessedness?’ What is Paul’s answer to this? See verses 3-5. What is the value of suffering, and how can we be sure that our hopes are not mere wishful thinking?
- Verses 5-8. By what evidence can we be doubly sure that God loves us? Notice the importance of having at least two witnesses. Cf. Deut. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1. In what ways are the witnesses mentioned here different and complementary?
- What are the consequences for men and women: (a) of Adam’s fall into sin, and (b) of Christ’s ‘obedience’ or ‘act of righteousness? In what respects are the latter both similar to, and different from, the former? What ought we to recognize about the character of the benefit that becomes ours in Christ?
- What four ‘reigns’ are spoken of in this passage? Two of them are the sad experience of all people. How do the other two operate? What benefits do they bring? How can we enter into their enjoyment?
- What is now the position of those who are spiritually united with Christ: (a) in relation to sin, and (b) in relation to God? How had this change been effected?
- This being our positon in Christ, how are we so to enjoy and express it as to live a life of victory over sin? See verses 11-14; and note the key words, ‘consider’, ‘let not’, ‘yield’.
Two questions may arise out of Paul’s argument so far: the first, ‘Shall we then continue to sin?’ and the second, ‘How is it possible to be not under law?’ The first is answered in 6:15-23, and the second in 7:1-6.
- In 6:15-23, what two masters are contrasted? What kinds of service do they respectively demand, and with what result? In view of all these things, what is the only possible answer to the question whether we should continue in sin?
- To answer the second question (‘How is it possible to be not under law?’) Paul finds in the marriage tie an illustration of a person being subject to law and subsequently set free from it (verses 1-3), and applies it to the case of the Christian (verse 4). In the case of the Christian, by whose death is his old position under law brought to an end? Who is the new husband? And what are the fruits of this new union, as contrasted with those of the old? See verses 5 and 6.
Note. 7:4. When Christ’s body was broken in death, he passed to a life from all subjection to legal ordinances, and we, having died with him, are also set free. Sharing in his resurrection life, we are able to live no longer in legal bondage but in the glad obedience of love.
Man’s trust life under the law frustrated and spoiled by sin.
- Verses 7-13. To speak about passions being aroused by the law might suggest that the law itself is sinful. What evidence does Paul give in theses to show that the law is holy and god, and yet: (a) reveals sin; (b) provokes sin; (c) results in death? What does it thus bring to light concerning the character of sin?
- Verses 14-25. Which is the stronger force in a man’s life, the law or sin? What, then, is the inevitable result of life under the law, even at its best?
Note. In verses 14-25 the apostle expands what he means by ‘the old way of the written code’ (7:6). The law of God command from without, but sin as a power within compels obedience to its own dictates. Two things are needed: (a) deliverance from the condemnation that the law of God pronounces, and (b) a power within greater than that of sin to enable us to do God’s will. Both are provided in Christ, as Paul shows in chapter 8, expounding the meaning of his words ‘the new way of the Spirit’ (7:6).