There was a practice in the church for many years where women were expected to wear some kind of head covering when they attended church. This practice has weakened and pretty much disappeared today, but even so there are some churches that still hold to this tradition quite strongly.
Much of the argument for this tradition comes out of this section of scripture. But is it what the scripture is truly saying? Does a woman have to wear a veil or a hat or some other kind of head covering today?
The question is probably even more compelling given the rise of Islam and the requirement of that religion for women to not just wear hats or veils, but to fully cover their faces with the burka. Now I do not intend to get into the discussion over whether the burka is right or wrong as my focus is not about what is done in Islam, but rather what is practiced in the name of Jesus Christ and the Christian churches. So let us look at this scripture to try to understand what Paul was driving at.
A number of things come to mind as I read these two verses. First is the stark contrast between the old and the ne covenants, especially as they were interpreted and put into practice by both the Pharisees and Jesus Christ respectively.
The Pharisees strictly applied the letter of the law, but without love. Their approach was without compassion, mercy or judgement. On the contrary, Jesus kept the law also but both preached and showed by His actions how it should be interpreted from the basis of faith, mercy, compassion, justice and most importantly, love.
The second thing that occurred to me as I read this is how wrong it is when many so-called Christians deliberately misinterpret the freedom from law we have in Christ Jesus by faith, and promote licentiousness. Paul is quite explicit in these two verses that this is not the purpose or function of freedom from law.
If we are to follow the Lord and come to God, we must do so as He has defined the way. Jesus is the way and we an only come to God through Jesus Christ. And there are certain “rules” to follow if we are to come to Christ in a way that pleases God.
All of the things God gave us as gifts, methods of praise and worship or instructions were given for a specific purpose. None of His gifts, methods or processes were given for no reason, nor should they be ignored. There is a definite plan, purpose and reason for every little thing that God has told us to seek and do and none is to be disregarded.
And today especially I want to consider the act of baptism and explain why this particular act is so important. There are many in the church who have lost the understanding of this critical action we are to participate in when we first come to Christ, and this set of scriptures today will help us understand. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ considered baptism so important, and so critical that He was baptised Himself and He specified baptism as one of the key things in the great commission He gave to the disciples just before He departed the earth to return to the Father. So we should listen and obey.
The message contained in this single scripture is incredibly powerful. It drives powerfully to many of the problems we face today and used correctly forces us to think hard about many of the actions and decisions being taken by people in the world today. Look at the verse closely.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 – RSV)
There are so many instances I can recall where people have misused the message of this verse, for they fail to see what the message is. Two prominent issues come to mind, (not the only ones I must add), one to do with a false teaching of the church and the other to do with the way the world is currently thinking and behaving, especially at present in the light of the rise of terrorism and mass shootings in the USA as well as in other places.
The new covenant was a mystery to the Jews prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. There was much written about it in the law and prophets but it was not understood and revealed in its fullness until Christ came to fulfill the prophecies and to explain the new covenant.
One of the great mysteries of the new covenant is revealed in this section of scripture. But to this day it is still not well understood. And it is because of this particular mystery that many both in the days of Jesus and the disciples right down to today have stumbled over the stumbling stone.
To understand this mystery, indeed all of the mysteries of the new covenant requires faith. And even among some who claim to see this matter, it is evident that they still do not understand it. Their words deny their stated beliefs and as such they do not receive all the promises of the Lord available under the new covenant which rest upon faith. Why is it so?
There is no other way to come to God and be accepted by Him except on the grounds of faith. That is the focus of these few scriptures at the end of Romans 9.
In These few words we see the situation both in Jesus Christ and also before He came to the earth when the rule of law was in place.
I doubt anyone would disagree that the way to God in Jesus Christ is by faith, but faith also played a big part in the lives of those who lived under the law prior to Jesus Christ. Consider first all the men and women who lived before the law was given. There were some who were considered righteous, such as Abraham, Lot, Noah, Enoch and yet others were considered sinful and evil.
Why? And what was the change, if there was one, when the law came into being?
In previous posts I have looked at sin, freedom from sin and freedom from law. Here we see a further section of scriptures that look at the matter of the knowledge of sin.
The understanding of the knowledge of sin is important for all Christians, even after they are set apart from the law and have had their sins removed.
It is important to understand these things because sin is a problem for all of mankind and it is not something easily escaped. Even though the scripture tells us we are set free from sin and have been removed from the law, it is the fact of sin that sneaks up on us and has the power to tear us down and pull us apart…if we allow it.
So understanding sin and the power of sin under the law becomes critical so that we do not allow it to overcome us.
In my last post we saw why it is necessary that we are set free from the law to negate and remove the power of sin so that God can help us to grow mature in Jesus Christ.
In these next few verses of Romans 7 we see how this works and we learn how God enabled this to take place. You can’t just say that sin and the law does not apply to you because sin applies to everyone because all of mankind dies for their sins. So if we are to escape sin and law, which is the power of sin, there needs to be a process by which we can be separated from the law.
God made sure that there is a way for us to be set free from the law and sin and He established a process and a path that we must follow to get there. God established the process in the law and then when Jesus came He set the path in motion. So let us look at how freedom from law works and how we enter into it.
The title of this post may seem to be blindingly obvious because who can possibly break the law after they have died? It’s impossible to even consider such a thing isn’t it?
Absolutely! Once a person dies they can’t do anything, say anything, act or behave in any way at all. So how can they break the law? Well, they can’t. It’s as simple as that. A dead person cannot break the law and so, as the title says, the law ends at death.
Now believe it or not, even though this sounds blatantly obvious, there is a message that is crucial for Christians to learn and understand about this very matter. It is written in this first verse of Romans 7 and it is crucial that all Christians “get it” because it drives to the very core of the workings and power of the new covenant.
If there is one issue that Christians struggle with it is how they stand in relation to sin after coming to The Lord. I would like you to read the title of this post once again before I go on. Done that? Good! So let me repeat it…you are NOT a sinner.
And yet I know many of you in Christ are probably saying, “Yes I am. I am a sinner saved by grace.” In fact you may have those words on a bumper sticker or seen it on someone else’s bumper and read it nodding your head in agreement as you do. Well those words are wrong because that is not what the bible says and it is not the will and purpose of God or how His amazing grace works.
So I will say it once more. You are not a sinner…provided that you follow the pattern and the process that The Lord laid out for us to follow as we come to Him and learn to walk in His ways. Best of all, Paul outlines in some very powerful detail what that process is in these scriptures at the start of Romans 6 so let us take hold of these words and grasp the truth of the new covenant and the promises of God for us.