Monday, January 30, 2012

Romans 7 – The Struggle

In Romans 6 Paul explained how we were freed from the penalty of sin which is death; also how we were freed from the bondage of our own lusts, to where Christ could be our new master. This week He will talk about our relationship to the Law. Essentially there are two views of law, one will focus on the letter of exactly what the Law says, and the other will focus on the spirit of what the Law was intended to accomplish.

Freed from the Law

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

[In verses 1-3, Paul continues the discussion that he began in Romans 6:15, answering the question, "Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under grace?" He used the illustration of a master and servant to explain how a Christian Should yield himself to God. In today's passage he uses the illustration of a husband and wife to show that the believer has a new relationship to the Law because of his union with Christ.


When Bro. Al spoke on New Year's Day he related the Jewish perspective of the security in knowing the boundaries of the Law. But most of us will understand the difference between a "good husband" who simply does not commit adultery but may have other issues, and a "good husband" who loves his wife the way Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).]


4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

[So what is your relationship to the Law? Is it to the letter of the law, where a man could be free from adultery but abusive in many other ways? Paul says we have become dead to the letter of the Law which was "in the flesh". In verse 5 He speaks of a particular sin that is "aroused by the Law" and that is the sin of rebellion; where you only want to know where to draw the line, just so you can step over it. Almost anyone who has raised kids knows about the sin of rebellion. In the flesh the letter of the Law defined man's relationship to God.

But verse 6 tells us we have been freed from the legalistic view of the Law, because as verse 4 said, we are "dead to the law through the body of Christ". But as before we were not freed to our own purpose, rather we are married to the resurrected Christ to bear fruit to God, spiritual fruit.]

Sin's Advantage in the Law

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."

[If we say the law is bad, then some might infer that the lawgiver is also bad. So what was the good purpose or intent of the Law? First the Law reveals sin; some sin like murder is obvious, but coveting is a hidden sin or attitude, that only God would know when we are doing it; but the Law calls it to our attention.]

8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

[Sin is opportunistic. Some people have O.D.D. Oppositional Defiance Disorder, all you have to say is "don't" and that is exactly what they will do. I remember training my oldest son not to go out in the street, he would walk to the edge of the yard and put one little foot across the line, just to see what would happen. Paul says that once he knew the Law all his evil desires were revealed, you see without the law his rebellion was dormant, it had to be aroused from sleep so it could be dealt with. He realized his innocence was really just ignorance, and that once sin was aroused his innocence was dead.]

10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

[So now being aware of our own rebellion and evil desires, opportunistic sin has put us all under the penalty of death. The law has condemned each of our mortal bodies to death. So it is not that the Law was bad, it only destroyed our illusion of innocence; the Law rightly reflects that character of God and man. God is holy, and we are corrupt.]

Law Cannot Save from Sin

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

[The letter of the Law is critical it reveals, arouses and condemns our sin, but it cannot fix our sinful nature. This inability to solve the problem is not a weakness of the law, but of the flesh. For as long as we are in the flesh our relationship to God is in the letter of the Law. The Law is spiritual but we are carnal; so we don't need a new Law, we need a new relationship.]

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

[To be honest almost no one will teach and preach on these 6 verses; and those that do usually end up with heresy. A lot of people are very uncomfortable with the brutal honesty of the Christian struggle. You could read Romans 6 and get the idea that sin is dead, it is no long our master, therefore it has no more bearing in our lives. But this focus on our relationship to the Law points a laser beam on the fact that Jesus did, what no other man or woman was able to do. Jesus yielded His will in obedience to the Law and the father, so that he could earn the right to die in our place.

People who are free-will Armenian's have the most problem here because Paul reveals that his own will accomplished nothing because "sin still dwells in me", and as long as I live in this body sin still has the opportunity to be aroused from sleep. And if you stopped right here you would end up with any number of heresies that basically say that "whatever you do in this body no longer matters once you have been saved". But we already learned last week that you are the slave of the one you serve, so if we yielded control of the body to freely follow its own sin nature, then who are we serving?]

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

[So summarizing the situation Paul realizes "evil is present with me" even when I want to do good. I love verse 24, "O wretched man that I am, who will free me from this body of death?" If you're thinking "that's a terrible verse; how could you love that verse"? I love it because the answer is Jesus; thank God it's Jesus. If the answer is me, then I'm in trouble. That word wretched means completely exhausted, and without strength.

There are two verses you really need to get this:

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

You see what really happens to legalist who try to serve God by force of will to uphold their own standard of righteousness, is that they get tired, cynical, and judgmental.

In order to be completely committed to the gospel, we have to make an honest assessment of what we are apart from Christ. We need to draw a contrast between what is "in me" in my body relating to God by the letter of the Law; and "in Christ" in my mind, relating to God by the spirit of the Law. By the letter of the Law I know that sin is alive in me; but by the spirit of the Law I know that I am alive in Christ.

Just to give you a little preview of next week:

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh

We struggle in this world because we are still flesh and blood with a sin-nature, living in a broken sin-filled world. The point of grace was not to say that we would no longer struggle, but to say that the struggle of the Christian life is worth it, because we are in Christ. God is glorified when His redeemed struggle, not by the will of the flesh, but against the will of the flesh, by the power of His Holy Spirit. And we will talk about that more in Romans 8.


  1. Explain this idea "Where there is no authority, there is no rebellion".
  2. How is sin dormant or dead apart from the Law?
  3. Why can't the Law set you free?



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