Romans 7

Our relationship to law and sin

 

Romans 7:1-6

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? 2Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4Likewise, 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. 5For 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. 6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

There may be those who read Paul’s letter who think that law and Christianity mix.  Paul says they do not and offers an illustration regarding marriage.  Marriage vows last as long as both parties are alive and to have more than one mate at a time involves adultery, or in the United States the charge would be bigamy (Romans 7:1-3).  Likewise, for Christians, there has been a death to the Law of Moses through the body of Christ, that is, through the cross (Romans 7:4; see Colossians 2:14).  Christ nailed the law to the cross and since we have been “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3) and “united with him in a death like his” (Romans 6:5) we, having died to the law “are released from the law”(Romans 7:6).  Thus the old written code is done away and we now live a new life in the Spirit (Romans 7:6).

Romans 7:7-12

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

The next question that one might ask would be, “Well then, isn’t the law itself sin?”  There are three answers to this question: “By no means!” (Romans 7:7; see notes on Romans 6:2) and “The law is holy” (Romans 7:12).  Actually, the law is “spiritual” (Romans 7:14). Its commandments are “holy and righteous and good”  (Romans 7:12).  The law allowed individuals to know what sin really is (Romans 7:7) because sin took advantage through the commandment and “deceived me” (Romans 7:11).  The law worked like a mirror: it could help you see sin much as a mirror can help you see the smudge on your face, however, it did not remove sin anymore than the mirror removes the smudge. Thus, what was supposed to bring life actually brought death.  This is how covetousness or murder or breaking any other commandment can bring sin to life (Romans 7:7-10).

Romans 7:13-23

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Since the results were bad, (i.e. death) does that mean that bad was a result of good? (Romans 7:13).   The answer is that sin was the culprit.   When you are in the flesh, you are sold into bondage to sin (Romans 7:14).  Paul describes the plight of most of us in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I do not understand my own actions.”  He demonstrates with several examples:

ü  I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15)

ü  It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (Romans 7:17)

ü  Nothing good dwells in me (Romans 7:18)

ü  I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18)

ü  I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want I keep doing (Romans 7:19)

ü  It is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me (Romans 7:20)

ü  When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (Romans 7:21)

ü  I delight in the law of God, but I have another law waging war within me (Romans 7:22-23)

ü  I am being taken captive by the law of sin that dwells within me (Romans 7:23)

Romans 7:24-25

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

So, the result of this war that is raging is that Paul considers himself to be a “wretched man” who will be delivered to death (Romans 7:24).  Remember what he said in Romans 6:23!   In spite of all this, he affirms that he can and will be delivered through Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25).  While we are in the flesh the battle will constantly go on between spirit and flesh! (Romans 7:25).  Many times it will seem like the flesh is winning.  However, we must remember that we have someone to deliver us from this death sentence: Jesus Christ.

Review Questions:

 

1.     Should Christians follow the Law of Moses today?  Give scriptures to support your answer.

 

2.     What words did Paul use to describe the Law?

 

3.     What words did Paul use to describe the Commandments?

 

4.     In Romans 7:15, Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions.”  He follows this with several examples where his own actions do not match what his desires are.  What caused this battle to go on within him?  Does this battle still go on in Christians today?

 

5.     While Paul declares himself to be a “wretched man,” he claims there is delivery from this.  How does it happen?

© Get To Know The Bible Ministries Inc., P.O. Box 14464, Springfield, Missouri 65814 - Notice: All material on this site, with the exception of those items specifically copyrighted to someone else (e.g. Bible translations) is protected by copyright law.  Copyright 2003-2017 by Get To Know The Bible Ministries Inc.  Permission is granted for reproduction for non-commercial, personal use or for use in one classroom.  No portion of this site may be reproduced for purposes of resale or profiting in any way without the prior permission of the copyright holder who may be reached at the above address or by sending an email.  Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in this website are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) Copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.