by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5 November 28, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
1901 ASV Translation:
18 and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.
20 For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness.
21 What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
I. The Infirmity of the Flesh.
A. Why this "interruption"?
1. Paul interrupts his own flow of thought to interject the idea that he had to "speak after the manner of men" because, for some reason, he apparently believed that the "infirmity" of the Romans would make it difficult for them to understand him.
a. In Romans 3:5 he used a similar expression when he introduced an outlandish idea and discounted it as a foolish "man" idea. There are "men-speak" things that are so contrary to reality that they serve as a background of contrast to the truth.
b. In Galatians 3:15 he used a similar expression when he pulled a "human practice" into his argument to make a point. Thus, there are "men-speak" things that are shadows of "God-speak" things that help to make it possible for men to understand God.
c. It seems that in this Roman context he is doing the same thing he did in Galatians 3 -- he is using a "human practice" to illustrate what they need to do.
2. What was it that required him to insert the idea that he was speaking after the manner of men?
a. He had referred to a "submission from the heart" -- an issue over which men have little, to no, control. The heart is a maze of complications and "deceitfulness" runs a close race to be the most descriptive term of its reality (Jeremiah 17:9). This reality means that men simply run aground when it comes to doing righteousness "from the heart" unless God is powerfully involved in the process. [Note Jesus' comment to Peter in Matthew 16:17 in the context of a 24/7 discipleship lifestyle.]
b. He sought a continuation of that "heart-submission" even though he knew that it was "beyond" them for the most part. Thus, he falls back upon a "human "illustration" to attempt to get them a "method" for that continuation.
B. What constitutes this enormously complex "infirmity" that makes "submission from the heart" so difficult?
1. His terminology includes the idea of a "diseased flesh".
a. The "flesh" in the Bible...
1) In Matthew 16:17 Jesus told Peter that his grasp of Jesus' identity as the Christ did not arise out of "flesh and blood" but, in contrast, out of "revelation" from the Father in heaven. This reference to "flesh" has something to do with mental ability.
2) In Matthew 19:5 the man who "leaves father and mother" and "cleaves to his wife" will create a "one flesh" reality that, because it involves "leaving" and "cleaving" (neither of which are physical issues), has something to do with a unity of body, soul, and spirit.
3) Matthew 24:22 uses "flesh" to refer to the physical aspect of humanity (Luke 3:6; 24:39; John 1:14).
4) In Matthew 26:41 Jesus noted that the "spirit" was "willing", but that the "flesh" is "weak". Thus, there is a need for prayer in the face of temptation. The suggestion is that there are certain potent motivators in the "flesh" that argue for a submission to temptation in order to "escape" the stress of godliness in this environment.
5) John 1:13 pointedly rules out "the will of the flesh" as the root cause of the new birth as well as "the will of the male." Here, again, there is the suggestion that the "flesh" is a potent motivator.
6) John 3:6 contrasts birth out of the flesh and birth out of the Spirit.
7) In John 6:51 Jesus promised to give His "flesh" as bread for the life of the world.
b. The "flesh" in Paul.
1) For Paul, the "flesh" refers to the "mechanical" universe -- the mechanisms of physical reality. Jesus was "of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3), which refers to the on-going "mechanical" connection of humanity through egg/sperm combinations through generations (also Romans 4:1). Circumcision had a "fleshly" reality in the cutting away of the skin and a non-fleshly reality in the alteration of the loves of the heart.
2) The "disease of the flesh" has primarily to do with the fixation upon "pleasure" that makes a deliberate choice to suffer very difficult. As a metaphor that extends from the body, the "flesh" is a figure that refers to man's value/belief system that puts him at the center of the universe as God. In the confusion of this "system", there is a great deal of conflict between various "values" and "beliefs" that set the "person" up as "conflicted" -- i.e., having to deal with the mutually exclusive demands of a value/belief system that has no integrated unity. The "body" is always screaming, "Don't hurt me", the "soul" is always whimpering, "Don't threaten me", and the "spirit" is always demanding, "Don't humiliate me." This kind of three-way opposition makes for a "diseased" flesh.
2. What was Paul's "human" expression that compensated for the "diseased flesh"?
a. What did he say?
1) Did he mean his comment to be a parenthesis in his argument so that both the preceding context and the following context was his "human" speech? Apparently.
a) His preceding context was a statement about how they had become the servants of righteousness.
b) His following context is a statement about how they need to practice their new servitude.
1) He said that there was a "parallelism" that could be "applied": just as...so in the same manner.
2) He said that there was a unity that could be understood: You presented...you present (the verb is used as an historical indicative and then it is used as an imperative). He makes the "presentation" a matter of the "decision making process" by which a person decides what he will do.
b. How did that compensate for the "flesh"?
1) It forced a "singularity" of objective that forces the fragmented aspects of man's reality to fall in line under that singularity: the body submits to pain, the soul submits to threat, the spirit submits to humiliation if the commitment to "sanctification" requires it. No longer are any of the three inner tyrants to be free to demand anything. Instead, "sanctification" is the touch-stone by which all decisions will be made.
2) Clearly, the "compensation" is "flawed" in that this is a "human-speak" concept.
a) What would Paul have said in "God-speak" if there were no "diseased flesh"? From Jesus' comment to Peter in Matthew 16:17, the "revelation" that comes from God sets up "reality" in such a way that it is seen as "dominating reality". In other words, without a "disease", the "flesh" would naturally operate with divine insight and wisdom in respect to what is important and what is true and there would be no need for a "presentation" of the members to "specially selected objectives."
b) But with the diseased flesh, men have to "choose" between competing agendas and "force" ungodliness to submit to godliness. The "problem" with this is that men cannot force this submission. Without the Spirit of God, there is no power to force the submission. But, in "human-speak", if a man will embrace the Spirit and make his choices, the "process" will "work".