4th Sunday after Pentecost – (Proper 8) LSB #’s 590, 589,
Text – Romans 7:5
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
BEARING FRUIT FOR DEATH
The title is an ominous sounding phrase. The underlying text isn’t nearly as famous or well-known as Psalm 23 for example, or John 3:16. Clearly St. Paul is warning us of danger because our thoughts, words & deeds can bring about death rather than life. If we take stock of our lives honestly, there is reason for concern. Our conscience is not perfectly clear.
There are details of our lives we do not willingly share with others. And, there are details in the lives of other people that we all too willingly share. Problems & brokenness are a dime a dozen. The fact that some people make their living by giving motivational speeches says something about that state of human affairs. The human race is in trouble.
Have you heard of a particular solution that motivational speakers will highlight? I’m thinking of the idea that in order to be happy & successful you need to discover what you are passionate about & then do it! In Romans 7:5, the Word of God is sounding a warning in regards to what we are passionate about:
“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” We’ve seen quite a bit of law breaking across our nation this past month. Much of it was aroused by the law & those sinful passions were at work bearing fruit for death!
A police officer in Minneapolis was, at the very least, coldly indifferent to the life of another human being. According to the video, he snuffed that life out & didn’t even flinch! I’m guessing that he’s passionate about that sort of work.
In response, other people have discovered something they are passionate about. In normal times we refer to them as pyromaniacs, & they love to see things burn. There were also plenty of live videos showing people looting & rioting with passion.
According to the Word of God in Romans 7, such people are not following Jesus. Those thoughts, words & deeds are not perpetrated by those who have found life in Christ. At the Mount of Olives, Peter cut off the ear of a servant & Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. Beware of your passions! That’s what God is teaching us here through the Apostle Paul.
He is also teaching us that, because of sin, the law can only bring death. That’s why so many people in this world hate authority. When confronted with someone else who is in charge, they literally feel how powerless they are, & that makes them angry.
While the Law of God is good, & we are not, the Law does have a problem. The Law leaves us in a state of helplessness. It very accurately points out our failures & shortcomings, but offers us nothing in the way of the ability to keep the Law. The Law condemns every single human being as a failure & gives you & me not one ounce of hope for our future.
During His life on earth, Jesus had the power & the ability to keep the Law perfectly. He chose to do so on our behalf because He knew how powerless & desperate all of His creation was. Romans 8:22-23 tell us:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Since the culture & the government of our nation no longer accept the love & forgiveness of Jesus, all they are left with to operate is the Law. The culture today, in spite of their hatred for Christian teaching, is trying, as unbelievers always do, to live by, & to make life better through, the law. There are all kinds of new & politically correct laws that the culture wants us to keep in order to be pure. Laws like the legalization of abortion or of gay marriage are meant to be making life better for people. Yet, because of sin all that the law can do is kill. That’s true whether it is the good & holy Law of God, or the corrupt & twisted laws of mankind.
The Law kills, so Jesus came to suffer that death for us, in order to fulfill the Law. He also came to live the perfect life which would fulfill the Law. As we are alive in Christ we are then able to bear fruit for something other than death.
As Psalm 1:3 (ESV) says of the child of God, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, & its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” As children of God we do yield fruit for life rather than death even when we are not aware of it.
Yes, we still sin. That is an abomination to God, but for Christ’s sake He forgives our sins. We are washed & made clean by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. By that same blood Jesus calls us back to life every time we turn to Him. By that same blood He enables us to turn back to Him. By Jesus’ blood we are set free from bearing fruit for death. Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! As I pray, dear Jesus, hear me; let Your words in me take root. May Your Spirit e’er be near me that I bear abundant fruit. May I daily sing Your praise, from my heart glad anthems raise, till my highest praise is given in the endless joy of heaven. Amen. LSB 589:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet