ROMANS LIVE: INSTALLMENT 34

 

With Dale Ratzlaff

 

We continue our study in Romans 7:13-25.

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.  For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

 

Commentary

As we mentioned in the last study, Romans 7 has been interpreted in many ways and raises many questions. A quick summary of Paul’s statements in Romans 6 compared to what he says in Romans 7 seems at first glance to be contradictory.

Rom. 6:6-7: Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Rom. 7:14: For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

Rom. 6:11: Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Rom. 7:15-17: For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Rom. 6:17-18: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Rom. 7:18-20: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Rom. 6:22-23: But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord).

Rom. 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Comparing the statement in Romans 6 where Paul rejoices in the fact that that Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin, with his description of a defeated life still in the bondage of sin has led some to conclude Paul is describing his life before he was regenerated by the Spirit. Others see this section as a vivid description of the sinful nature that is not wiped clean at the point of salvation. While Christians do continue to deal with sin because of our fallen, sinful nature, I do not think this is Paul’s main purpose in this chapter.

As you may recall, I suggested that Romans 7:5,6 is the outline heading for the rest of chapter 7 through chapter 8. Verse 5 reads:

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

In Romans 7 Paul refers to “law” some 22 times. The only mention of the Spirit is in verse 6. I believe there is a major insight here. Christians who are continually focused on the law will have the sinful passions of their lower nature aroused by the law. This, Paul concludes, will result in bearing fruit for death. This is exactly what Paul has illustrated in Romans 7:14-24. He concludes this section with,

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom. 7:24-25).

We come back to Romans 7:6 which is the outline heading for Romans 8.

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:6).

Here again we find a major insight. Some will interpret Paul’s statement, “we have been released from the law”, to mean that we are released from the condemnation of the law. While this is true, it is not the thrust of Paul’s thought in this verse. Rather now that we are released from the law “we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Paul clearly has in view how we serve God once we are regenerated by the Spirit. We are not to live continually looking at our behavior as evaluated by the law. If we do our experience will be that portrayed in Romans 7:14-24.

We will move into the wonderful chapter of Romans 8 in our next study, but I cannot stop without listing Romans 8:1.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

 

Application

Paul has shown the wonderful truth of substitution in chapters 3-5. In chapter 6 he shows that Christ is not only our Substitute (He did it for me) but our Representative (we did it in Him). Chapter 7 shows us how foolish it is for us to look away from Christ’s work to our own. We are not saved by our works. Paul states this truth over and over again. When we take our eyes off of what Christ has done and focus on our own behavior we will be discouraged. Therefore, in the Christian life we are to look away from self and focus our attention on Christ and who we now are in Him.

 

Prayer

Father, thank you that I can live “in Christ” and do not have to trust my own righteousness. Help me to serve you in the newness of the spirit and not in the oldness of the letter of the law.

In Jesus name.

 

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DaleRatzlaff
DaleRatzlaff

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