May 22, 2011
Romans #16

Romans 7:1-13

 

Few chapters in the Bible have been subject to more decidedly different interpretations than this chapter. Though many good men have given their opinion on this chapter, it is still open to much discussion.

Law. There are at least four laws referred to in chapter 7:

1. V. 7ff, the law of the conscience. Paul has dealt with the inborn law of the conscience in the first 6 chapters.
2. V. 12, the moral law as revealed in the commandments
3. Vv. 12, 22, the law of God.
4. Vv. 23, 8:2, the law of sin and death that wars in the members of every person.

V. 12, Law of God; that is, the general law. The commandments; that is, specific applications of the Law of God, such as thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery.

Chapter 7 continues on what Paul has been saying in chapter 6.

V. 1, know the law.

In Romans 1:13, he tells us that he is writing to the Gentiles. In Romans 2:17-3:6 he rebukes the Jews.

We can gather some things from the first 6 chapters of Romans.

First, though the letter is to the Gentiles, Rome had an abundance of Jews. We know from other epistles that the gospel preachers went first to the Jewish synagogues, for that is where those who were interested in the God of Israel met. From there, it spread into the Gentile community.

Second, it is clear that the church here is made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

Third, the false teachers were active among the believers at Rome, insisting that the converted Jews had to continue in conformity to the Jewish manner of religious life, and that the Gentiles needed to convert to become Jews, that is, following the Jewish manner of life, in order to be good Christians. There was big money in the jewish religious practices of the day, and they certainly did not want to lose that money.

The false teachers showed up in every new church, up until the time of the destruction of the Jewish race and religion in 70 AD.

Acts gives us an idea of how these false teachers worked:

Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

The Gentiles had responded to the gospel of Christ. The false teachers, the Pharisees, were following he gospel preachers trying to convince the converts that faith was not enough. If they hoped for genuine salvation, they had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. The Roman church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and the false teachers were working to convince the Gentiles that they had to become Jews and keep the law of Moses if they would be true Christians.

We see from Paul's letter here that the problem was not unique with the Gentiles, but the Jewish Christians were being influenced also.

In Romans 1, Paul expressed his desire to see the Gentiles at Rome, but his primary calling was to those who had never heard the gospel. He was so busy going where Christ had never been named that he was unable to go to Rome, where Christ was already being preached. Romans 15:20-23. So he writes to them, dealing with the problem of the false teachers who were influencing both the Jews and Gentiles in the church.

The group at Rome was a strong church. According to 7:1, they were all very well instructed in the law of Moses. The godly Jews in Rome would have seen to it that the Gentiles were well instructed in the law of Moses. The false teachers were trying to add the Jewish religious traditions to the gospel for both the Jews and the Gentiles.

We understand this by the situations Paul deals with. His theme up to this point to both the Gentiles and the Jews at Rome has been that the law cannot justify, only faith in Christ justifies.

Let us now try to gather some points together.

Vv. 1-3. We saw in 6:3-5, and other places, that Paul uses illustrations that are easily understood by his readers. Here he uses the moral law of Moses concerning marriage. The law has power or control over the married individuals as long as both are alive. When one dies, the law loses its power.

Using the example of marriage, he shows how the law of sin and death loses its authority through faith in Christ, vv. 21-23.

Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after 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.

Vv. 4-6. The law we are dead to is the law of sin and death that seeks to control our body's instruments that work unrighteousness. 6:13.

Paul has shown how the believer is dead to that law of sin and death through the work of Christ.

V. 5 continues the thought of 6:13. He tells the Romans that since they are freed from the law of sin and death, their members, or instruments, are no longer servants to unrighteousness. Rather, they are now under the new law of God which requires service unto righteousness, 6:22.

Paul uses the very real and practical illustration of marriage to explain this deeply spiritual truth. Marry as well as both Bettie and I can easily identify with Paul's illustration.

Death of one spouse, frees the other to be married to another. Thus, death with Christ, as illustrated by baptism in 6:3-5, frees us from the law of sin and death. Baptism illustrates being raised from our deadness in trespasses and sins to newness of life in Christ Jesus.

Paul is simply stating the facts of chapter 6 in a different way. By the work of Christ, the believing sinner has been set free from the law of sin and death that ruled his members, or instruments, in the past, the same as the death of a spouse frees one from the marriage laws.

Now that the legal binding to sin has been broken, the believer is married to another, even Christ Jesus. The believer has been freed from the law of sin, so he can now walk in the law of newness of life.

Following the marriage illustration a little further. Under the law of sin and death, the sinner is obliged to follow sin to its conclusion, destruction and death. The unbeliever cannot be expected to act in anyway except in unrighteousness, though it is nice when he does "good".

But married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, brings with it the expectation of bringing forth fruit unto God.

Again, Paul is continuing his argument he started in chapter 6, as he follows the logical conclusion of 6:5. Being free from the law of sin, which was our old master who demanded unrighteousness, we are now free to serve the new Master, Christ and his righteousness. Newness of spirit, or newness of life according to 6:5.

Vv. 7-13.

To this point, Paul's words are easily understood from what he said in the previous chapters, particularly chapter 6.

But from v. 7 to the end of this chapter is one of the most discussed passages in Scripture, with no one being able to give a firm understanding to Paul's words here. It is certainly one of those passages referred to by Peter as hard to understand.

As I have considered this passage for many hours over the past week, here is how it seems best to fit together. I have looked at about every commentator I have access to on this passage, and my understanding is not inconsistent with what others have seen, particularly Robertson's NT Word Pictures.

Paul now gets down to the personal level as he shows us his personal struggle over sin. He presents two views of his struggle—his struggle before his conversion and his struggle after his conversion.

As we read the Scriptures, both Old and New, we are inclined to think of the authors as sinless and perfect. Peter calls them holy men of old,

2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. {in old time: or, at any time}

But we are clearly told that these holy men of God were sinners as we are:

Acts 14:15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

James 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. {subject…: of the same nature, that is, a fellow mortal} {earnestly: or, in his prayer}

Paul told Timothy,

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Present tents.

These holy men were sinners saved the same way every person must be saved; that is, by grace though faith in Christ. Their salvation did not make them sinless any more than salvation makes us sinless, though some might preach such foolishness.

However, we do understand that the holy men of God received a greater measure of grace from God to equipt them for their exceedingly high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (See Philippians 3:14)

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. {soberly: Gr. to sobriety}

Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

We understand that it is God who must call one to Christ, for no man can come to the Son except the Father draw him, John 6:44. Then God is the one who gives to each person the enabling grace to fulfill that person's unique calling in Christ. And no one can say to him, What doest thou? Job 9:12.

All of that to say this, we have no record of his sins, nor of the sins of any of the Apostles. But we do know that none of these holy men were sinless. They were men as we are, born sinners, saved by the grace of God, sanctified by the indwelling Spirit, yet still possessing a body of fallen flesh, whose instruments could either be used for good or evil.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Conversion did not make them sinless, any more than it made us sinless.

Now on to,

Vv. 7-13, Paul considers the law and its past effect on him as an unsaved man. He starts this section with I had not known sin...

Vv. 14-25, he considers the law and its present effects on him as a saved man. He starts this section with but I am carnal...

Paul presents the sin problem from a personal level, which is on the level of his readers. He offers two points of view: past and present.

We need to keep in mind that the problem Paul is dealing with is not about pardon of sin, but about deliverance from the power of sin and death that continued its attempt to control him, v. 24. The situation is that the law of sin sought to control him, not that it did.

The law of Moses is holy, just, and good (v. 12), requiring a holy walk. But though the law was given for life, it had then nor has now any power in itself to enable Paul to walk a holy walk before his conversion. Then even after his conversion, he found that the law did not have the power to produce a holy walk.

In other words, throughout the first 6 chapters, Paul has shown that thought the law and commandment are good, holy and just, there is no power in them to produce a holy life pleasing to God. We have seen and will see that the good and holy law that was meant for life can only produces death apart from conversion and the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is not involved as Paul defines the struggle here. It is Paul himself in the flesh, or in the strength of his own will that is seeking holiness. He is warning his readers that the holiness required by God cannot be accomplished by the law, and can only be accomplished through the power of the resurrected Christ.

The discussion is just starting to get good, as he deals with the problem of sin he experienced both as an unsaved and as a saved man. What he presents is very good, practical, and common to all men. He tells us of his problem, and identifies our problem, of doing what he does not want to do, and not able to do what he wants to do.

I do not want to stop once we start examining what Paul will say, so we will stop here, and pick up the rest of the chapter next time.