Romans 7:4. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Romans 7 propels us forward into our union with Christ. We have died to the law because we are united to Christ’s death. But why? What is the purpose of all this? What is God’s intention in uniting us to Christ and thus to himself?
Mankind has always had a holiness mandate. That is, we were made for holiness. To image God. To reflect him to the world. To make the invisible God visible. We were made to bear fruit. The fruit of the Spirit – love. Especially love.
that we may bear fruit for God.
But the law can never bear fruit. Period.
Speaking of Home Alone… This was one of my favorite commercials from this past holiday season:
Do you remember Home Alone? Of course you do. The beginning of the movie demonstrates Kevin McCallister under the law. Under the law, Kevin is unable to produce anything fruitful. He acts bratty, spills milk, and winds up in the attic. Why? Because he was condemned from the beginning. He never stood a chance against the standards the other family members placed over him. But when he is free from the law (home alone), he learns to trust in his identity as a McCallister. Now he is able to help his neighbor, fight off the evil bad guys, save his home, and forgive his family. His death to the law and resurrection to new life produced fruitfulness.
Only freedom from the demands of the law can produce the fruit of real love. Why? Because the law can only stir up the sinful flesh. When we have to earn our way to God’s love and the love of others it only produces self-righteousness in us (Kevin’s declaration: “I don’t need you, I don’t need anybody”). It cannot produce true love. It cannot produce holiness. Only competition. Only manipulation. Only selfishness. The law’s function is and always has been to reveal our sin, never to produce our holiness. Only grace can do that.
But sometimes we even get grace wrong. First, like the Romans, we might think grace gives us a license to sin (6:1). This is clear misunderstanding of grace as power. Or, when we rightly think about grace and our complete inability to do anything good apart from Christ, it might become easy for us to take a passive view of the Christian life. So now we just sit back in our grace recliners and wait for God to magically transform us. Or, we might think of grace as a debt to be paid back (how ironic), and we spend our Christianity trying to demonstrate our extreme gratitude. But, of course this is just another form of law and we’re right back where we started.
What a mess.
How do we bear fruit for God, but do it from grace?
The answer is faith.
The whole point of “to live is Christ” is that we would grow and be transformed into Christ’s likeness. You see God doesn’t just want to forgive us and justify us. He wants us to bear fruit. He wants to sanctify us. So much so that he has guaranteed it by placing his life into yours. But this guarantee does not and should not create passivity, licentiousness, or legalism. It creates love.
It is never law that produces fruit. It is faith in the indwelling life of Christ and his love that bears fruit. Period.
Are you trying to bear fruit for God by law keeping or by faith in your union with Christ?
Love, the beautiful mystery, and the fruit for God. Love bears love.