Understanding God’s Gift of Free Will
Bible Study with Jairus – Romans 7
The Process of Spiritual Growth and Maturity
Romans 7 is a very relatable chapter for many Christians, especially verse 24 (ESV), where Paul sighed and said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” This type of expression is familiar to many Christians while they are in the process of pursuing spiritual life.
We received new inspiration when we read Romans 7 in our Bible study. The Holy Spirit illuminated the words in Luke 2:34-35, which covered the birth of Jesus and gave us new revelation. Just like a baby in the womb, Jesus will enter our spirit and dwell in our hearts, and we have a choice to make. If we choose Jesus and let Him grow in us, it brings life and peace. But if we choose to live according to the flesh, it leads to death (Romans 8:6).
Therefore, every descendant of Adam must make a choice. They can either choose the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and one will result in life, the other, death. The power we have, especially our free will, is very important. It determines whether we have life or death. Since God has given us free will, our choice is the determining factor. This is why Jesus came to the world as a baby and why the divine life we receive after believing in the Lord can also be likened to a baby. The life of this baby is in us, revealing many of our thoughts and leading us to fall and rise (Luke 2:34).
One question we had was why did Jesus come into the world as a baby and not as an adult? Couldn’t God have come into the world as an adult and gone to the cross immediately to accomplish redemption? Of course, He could have. In the same way, at the moment we are born again, why is it that Jesus also comes into our hearts as a baby? Why doesn’t He allow us to go to heaven and become spiritually mature instantly so we could avoid all temptation? Could God do this? He is omnipotent, so if He was willing to do so, He could. However, this is not His will.
His will is to give us divine life that starts out small, just like a baby. Jesus Christ first came into the world as a baby. Similarly, the spirit of Jesus Christ that is born again and dwells in our heart (Ephesians 3:17) is also just like a baby. How we treat this baby within us reveals the thoughts of our soul. If we are unwilling to believe that Jesus Christ came to save us and are unwilling to accept Him, we are choosing death, and we will face eternal punishment. If we choose to accept Jesus Christ and be reborn in the Spirit, He will dwell in our hearts. However, how we treat the spiritual baby-like life of Christ within us also determines whether we will be rewarded or disciplined in the future. If we set our mind on the Spirit and on things above (Colossians 3:2), we will have life and peace (Romans 8:6); If we set our mind on the flesh, we receive death.
God’s Gift of Redemption
In other words, we must use our free will to make this choice. God is righteous and just. Therefore, if we were disciplined in the future, we could say to God, “If it’s Adam who sinned, why would you let me, the descendant of Adam, bear this sin? Adam is the one who made the wrong choice. I did not have the opportunity to make my own choice. So if you convict me, I do not have to accept the consequences.”
This statement is fair and would make sense. Therefore, God gave the world His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and allowed him to die and accomplish redemption on the cross to bear the sins of Adam. This opened up our way to the tree of life. As 1 Corinthians 1:30 (ESV) said, “But you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” The teaching I received in the Local Church Movement was that the redemption that Christ accomplished opened our way to the tree of life. They teach this because Genesis 3:24 (ESV) says that after the man was driven out of the Garden of Eden, God “placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way of the tree of life.” The cherubim symbolize God’s glory, the fire symbolizes God’s sanctification and the sword represents God’s righteousness. Thus, God’s requirements for glory, sanctification, and righteousness render us unable to get close to the tree of life. But Christ accomplished righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (the redemption of the body represents the glory we received, which is our glorified body). Therefore, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we can come to God’s throne with confidence and receive mercy and grace in times of need (ESV, Hebrews 4:16). Ephesians 2:18 (ESV) says, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” These verses prove that we can come to the tree of life (which is the life of God embodied in the life of Jesus) through the blood of Jesus.
God did not allow Jesus Christ to accomplish redemption on the cross for all men to be automatically saved. That’s not how it works. Instead, God created everyone with free will to make their own choice. If you choose Christ’s redemption and accept His life by faith, you will have eternal life. But if you do not choose this redemption, it is not God’s heart to condemn you. Condemnation is the natural consequence of not choosing redemption, and you will be heading towards death. When we preach the gospel, we often share an example. In this example, we are all sitting on a train that is heading towards death. It lines up with what Jesus said; “you have been condemned already (John 3:18)”. Because the wages of sin is death, everyone is naturally heading towards death. But Jesus’ train of salvation has arrived, and you must board this train to have life. Jesus’ train of salvation is not here to convict you but to save you.
Jesus’ Entry into the World as a Baby
After Jesus was born as a baby in Israel, He was circumcised and cleansed for eight days. After this, Mary and Joseph took Him to Jerusalem and presented Him to the Lord. The Holy Spirit had revealed to a prophet named Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He praised the Lord and said that he could now die in peace after seeing His redemption with his own eyes. He blessed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, and said to Mary: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (ESV, Luke 2:34-35).
In other words, when Jesus Christ came as a baby, it was quiet and low-key, so much so that he was born in a manger. He could have chosen to come into the world in a more noticeable way, but He did not. Instead, He chose to come into the world quietly as a baby. This baby was appointed for the fall of many in Israel. For example, many people thought that He came from Galilee and despised Him because there had never been a prophet that came out of Galilee. This baby was also appointed for the rising of many. Because many people believed in this baby, they followed Him and were appointed as apostles. Even a thief who was crucified with Jesus believed that he would enter paradise with Him. The baby Jesus became a sign to be opposed. Whether you accept or oppose Him, the thoughts in your heart will be revealed. God can test your heart through your attitude. He knows whether your heart chooses life or death. Everyone who is saved today can be likened to Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus. Because of the life placed within her, she was persecuted, and her soul was pierced by the sword. This happened not only when Mary saw her son Jesus being crucified but also when every Christian suffered and was persecuted because of their faith.
Paul’s Struggle with the Flesh
When we were reading Romans 7 this time, the Holy Spirit illuminated this verse in Luke to help us understand Paul’s experience in Romans 7. In this chapter, Paul’s experience had paved the way for Romans 8, which talks about spiritual reality: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (ESV, Romans 8:6).
Paul’s distress in Romans 7 stemmed from him not being able to discover the mystery of this choice at the time. Each one of us has three parts that can be likened to three different people. One is the old man, which symbolizes living in our flesh. This old man has been crucified with Christ, but his hold on us is still very powerful. The second is the good man that God created in our soul or the “inner being” that Paul mentions in Romans 7:22. This man loves the law of God. But the law of the flesh (Romans 7:23), which is the law of sin and death, waged war against Paul’s mind, so he felt overcome by the law of sin and death and his flesh. Although his “inner being” or mind wants to serve God, his old man is serving the law of sin and flesh (Romans 7:25). This was the cause of Paul’s distress. Many Christians have the same feelings as Paul. The Bible clearly says that the old man has been crucified with Christ. If this is the case, why is it that our old man’s influence still seems so strong in our lives? This question brings us to the revelation that we received during this discussion while reading the previous verse from Luke.
Because God has made a way for our old man to be crucified with Christ, why is our old man still so strong? This can be explained by the lesson of re-election given to us by God. The law of sin and death in our body is still trying to influence our choices and get us to choose death. But the “law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2), like the tree of life in Genesis, is hidden in our spirit. The Bible says, seek, and you will find (ESV, Matthew 7:7). However, whether we seek or not, the thoughts in our hearts will be revealed. Many people wonder why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden is in an obvious location, but the tree of life seems to be hidden. It is symbolic because life is found only by a seeking heart. Sin and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are very easy to find. Finding life requires a seeking heart, and Jesus promises, “Seek, and you will find.” (ESV, Matthew 7:7).
Choosing Life or Death
Today we must make a similar choice as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Our soul, which is our thoughts and mind, must make a choice. We can choose the life of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is readily available. Or we can choose the baby-like life of Jesus Christ hidden in our spirit, which is the tree of life. Our choices will result in either life or death.
At the beginning of Romans 7, Paul compared our old man to a husband. If a husband dies, the wife will be free. In the same way, we have died to the law (Romans 7:4). As wives, we are not subject to the control of our original husband (which represents our old man). Instead, we live for our new husband (which represents Christ) so that we may “bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4). Romans 7:5-6 (ESV) says, “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. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Here it says, “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions were aroused by the law.” What does this mean? It means that if we choose the flesh, sin, and death, the law of God will convict us, and we will die. The law itself is not wrong, nor is it sin (Romans 7:7). However, the law convicts us of sin (Romans 7:7). In other words, the law reveals, convicts, and kills our flesh. But if we choose life, the law will not convict and kill us. Rather, it will help perfect us. The greatest commandment in the Law is to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. When we choose life, we will satisfy Jesus Christ’s requirements of this law.
The Function of the Law
The function of the law is to bring death when we choose sin and the flesh. The purpose of it is to turn our hearts towards the Lord and choose life. The law itself is not wrong, but the reason why the law kills is because a veil lies in our hearts. But when our hearts turn to the Lord, the veil is removed. The Lordis a Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (ESV, 2 Corinthians 3:16-17).
If you were driving a car on the highway in the United States, you would notice that there are white or yellow lines on the side of the highway, and there is some very bumpy pavement outside the yellow lines. If you accidentally drive your car over the line, it will make a loud noise and your car will shake. The purpose of this is to remind you that if you do not readjust the steering wheel, you could be in danger once you cross this line, and your car could go off the road. This is exactly how the law functions. The law itself is not wrong. Rather, it is the behavior of your flesh that is wrong. The law acts like the bumpy pavement. It doesn’t cause your car to crash, it is your own driving mistakes that cause the car to crash. But the function of this highway border is just like the function of the law. Once you cross this border, your car may go off the road. This is what Paul meant in Romans 7:7-17. It is not the law (border) that caused you to sin (crash), but the behavior of your flesh (driving) caused you to sin (crash). With this being said, if you fail to obey the law or drive across the border, you may crash, or die.
Just as you can deliberately drive over the borders you set, the law of sin and death in your flesh can also overcome the law of goodness in your soul. In Romans 7:18-23, Paul begins to talk about how powerful this law of sin and death and the flesh is, and how it can overcome the law of goodness in his soul. Paul found that the law of God was with those who were willing to do good, but evil was right there in his flesh. The members in his mind wanted to follow the law of God, but the law of sin in his flesh often seemed to take him captive. He felt like a passenger in a car. He didn’t want an accident to happen, but the driver was driving very recklessly. Fortunately, passengers are not required to ride in this car and they can choose a good driver. Just like when Americans are riding in an Uber, they usually choose a highly rated driver. In the same way, you have the opportunity to choose Christ today. If you set your mind on the Spirit and choose God and the Lord Jesus Christ, you will have life. But if you set your mind on the flesh, you will die. If you entrust your life to the Lord and let Him drive the car which represents your life, He will lead you to the path of life. But if you choose to live according to the flesh, and let the flesh and the law of sin and death act as the driver you will be taken to the path of death.
The Spirit of Life
This is the experience that Paul talked about in Romans 7 and the preparation he did for the revealed truth that he saw in Romans 8. This truth is “The law of the Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (ESV, Romans 8:2). But just as I mentioned earlier, this law of the Spirit of life will not automatically allow us to have life. It is up to each person, you have to make a choice! The choices you make will have different results. If you are feeling distressed like Paul in Romans 7, it means that somewhere along the way you made a wrong choice.
Of course, we must acknowledge the fact that it takes a period of time between making these choices and seeing positive results. For example, let’s say you were a farmer and you planted crops in a field. These crops are like the law of the Spirit of life, but the weeds are very powerful. If you fail to get rid of the weeds in time, they will grow very quickly and dominate and kill your crops. I have a garden at home but I didn’t attend to it very well for period of time because of my hectic schedule. When I went back to check on it I found that the weeds had grown so tall that they had taken over many of my plants. Some of my plants had even died.
Because these crops, or the life of the law of the Spirit of life, started out as babies we must harness our thoughts and choose the spirit of life and continue to weed out the behavior of our flesh in order to mature spiritually. It is only after becoming spiritually mature that we can truly experience freedom through the law of the Spirit of life.
Our soul is created at the beginning of God’s creation. After God created us, He even said, it was very good (ESV, Genesis 1:31). God then allows us to choose again, which is the process of saving our soul. We must make the right choice in order to have life. Christ’s redemption gives us the opportunity to choose again, but it is up to us to make the right choice.
Choosing Life Every Day
In the beginning, the life of Jesus Christ was still a baby in us and needed to grow and mature slowly. The choices you make and your attitude towards this life will reveal your thoughts and determine whether you will receive salvation and God’s rewards. I pray that God works in your heart and that you make the right choice, and become a child of God. If you have already received salvation, I pray that you choose life every day, so that the life of Jesus Christ will continue to grow in you, allowing you to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Many people have received salvation in America, but many of them have still not chosen to set their minds on the spirit to receive life and peace. Rather they have chosen to set their minds on the things of the flesh. This is why they reap death. People, wake up! Don’t make the wrong choice as Adam did! Yes, you were saved, but you will not be automatically saved from everything! You must make the right choice just as you made the right choice when you decided to accept Jesus Christ into your heart! The life of Jesus in you is still a baby. Give Him room to grow!