The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.

We often call Romans 6 the baptism chapter, but it’s more than that because, as we know, baptism is only the beginning of our growth in Christ.

To illustrate the point, have a look at a question Paul asks three times in the context. It’s found in verses 3 and 16 of chapter 6 and then in verse 1 of chapter 7 – “Do you not know?” By asking the question, this section in Romans is divided into three parts.

Part 1 is about baptism. Read verses 3-15. You will find that they’re very theoretical. Paul explains the mechanics behind baptism, what it means. He says things like, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing” (v6). There’s a lot of doctrine in this first section, and that’s how we start in Christ. We learn the theory of what it means to be a child of God.

But then we need to do something about it. The second section, from verses 16 to the end of the chapter, is all about service. For instance, in verses 17 and 18, Paul writes that we “have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

Having learned about Christ, our next stage of spiritual development involves us doing a lot of serving. Maybe we do a lot of Bible study and teaching, or go on mission work, or get involved in lots of ecclesial activities, visiting old folk, teaching Sunday School and so on.

Unfortunately, sometimes people stay in stage 2 (or even stage 1!) Frequently, religion is very much associated with service, and of course, that’s a big part of it. But without getting to stage 3, it’s pointless. In chapter 7, Paul says, “Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?” (v1).

You might wonder what on earth that has got to do with anything. But here’s Paul’s point: living a life of service, or slavery as he puts it, is living under the law. That’s the nature of service – you’re obeying a command. Or, at least that’s the nature of service without stage number 3. Paul then talks about the law being done away with and replaced with Christ. But he uses the analogy of marriage. The law going away is like your old marriage partner dying, and then you are free to marry someone else. He sums it up in verse 4 by saying, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.”

The point is, the motivation for our service shouldn’t be just because we’ve been commanded to do something. We might start like that, with a law-based mindset. But as we mature in Christ, we learn what true covenant love is, the kind of love between husbands and wives that extends well beyond romantic love. The type of love Christ has for his bride.

We don’t start our journey in Christ, understanding godly love. It’s only something we can appreciate, and use as our motivation to live the new life, through experience. But what we can understand is the need to keep growing. If we remain stagnant and don’t get beyond stage 1, then we’re just going to have a very academic but empty religious life. If we stay in stage 2, we might do a lot of good works and facilitate things like the spread of the gospel, but we won’t develop the kind of character God wants in His children. It’s only when we finally realize that the law-based mindset needs to die that we can be married to our Lord and live lives motivated by love.

If you think about it, these stages of spiritual development match our thought from the day from last week in Matthew 25. There we looked at the three parables in the chapter – the ten virgins, talents, and sheep and goats. The parable of the virgins is about getting ourselves in the right headspace of readiness. But readiness for what? Service – which is what the parable of the talents is about, being good stewards. However, without understanding the principle of the third parable, the sheep and goats, which is all about love for one another, then it means nothing.

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

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