ROMANS CHAPTER SEVEN (NIV)
1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognised as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
ALL THE PIECES OF STAND-ALONE INFORMATION
One: Unification with Jesus Christ has replaced Legal Obligation with Holy Spirit Transformation
- Paul wanted to point out to something that was important.
- He was speaking to those among the Roman church who were Jews who knew the Old Testament.
- The Old Testament law only applies while someone is still living.
- He likens it to a wife who is obligated to be faithful to her husband for as long as he is living.
- If the husband dies, she is released from that obligation.
- If she had sexual relations with another man while her husband was still living she would be breaking an important principle of marriage.
- If the husband died she is free from that obligation to re-marry and the sexual relationship with her new husband is not counted as adulterous.
- In the same way, Jewish people, whose faith has been defined by an obligation to keep the laws of the Old Testament, are now released from that obligation.
- Their “death” to the law (freedom from any obligation to OT. law) has come about because through baptism they were united with Jesus in his death.
- They are released from this obligation because they have become united (symbolised through the baptismal act of coming up from the water) with the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
- This new bond is so that the can produce the fruit that comes from being sons and daughters of God.
- Before a person becomes bonded to Jesus Christ, the fruit of their lives will only result in various forms of destruction.
- When we cease to have any obligation to the law through dying with Christ we are released from the condemnation or outcome of trying to obey the law through the power of a human will.
- This release brings us into a different reality: we are able to serve God by the power of the Spirit.
- The written code could never produce what the Spirit of God produces.
Two: The Law Itself is not the Problem: The Law is Spiritual and Good.
- Someone reading this might think that the law was and is bad.
- This is not true in any way.
- Without the law, we would not have understood the presence and identity of SIN.
- We would not have been able to identify covetousness unless the law told us that it was wrong to covet.
- When we became aware of this law, our sinful nature took the opportunity to stir up many different forms of covetousness.
- Before there was a law and we didn’t know what unrighteousness was like, we were simply ignorant.
- When God commanded his people, e.g. telling them not to covet, their failure became patently obvious.
- The commandment that was meant to produce a life free from covetousness, became the very thing that stirred up more covetousness and we reaped its destructive harvest.
- It was the sinfulness of our human nature that rose up and encouraged rebelliousness to this law by deceiving us into thinking something God had said was false. Our determination to continue being covetous brought the destructive power that is always going to be the outcome of sin.
- This proves that the law itself is not the problem. It is good.
Three: We Have a New Way to Deal With Sin
- The law is spiritual (it is not just about external human behaviour).
- The problem is that we have chosen to live in an unspiritual way (independent humanistic)
- The unspiritual way defies normal reason: we don’t act in accordance with our understanding.
- I want to do what is righteous but I don’t do it.
- I do things that I do not approve of – or hate.
- When I live like this I am in agreement with what the law of God says.
- All of this exposes what is going on in my life: there is another force at work separate to the real ME.
- So I really exist as two separate natures: my REAL NATURE and my SINFUL NATURE.
- There is nothing good in my sinful nature.
- My sinful nature prevents me from doing what I know is good and right.
- Instead of doing what I know to be right I do the things I know to be wrong.
- This exposes the fact that I have a sinful nature that is separate from my real nature.
- Even though I want to do what is good, this destructive power is right there inside me.
- My real nature delights in and approves of everything God has said.
- There is another force within me waging war with my real nature and this war is going on in my mind.
- This force wants to imprison me to the deceitful and destructive intentions of sin.
- Battling against this presence makes me feel rotten.
- I wonder who could deliver me from this constant disappointment and destruction?
- God has given us deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- My real self will want to be enslaved to what God has said.
- My sinful nature will always make me a slave to sin.
A PARAPHRASE OF ROMANS 7
1 I want to say some things to those of you who are from a Jewish background and may feel bad about yourselves or others not keeping the traditions of Judaism based on the laws of Moses. You will be aware that the law only applies to someone while they are still alive. 2 It’s the same with a married woman. She is required by the law to be faithful to her husband as long as he is alive. If her husband should die, she is released from that obligation and is free to marry someone else. 3 If she had had a sexual relationship with another man while her husband was still living she would have been guilty of committing adultery. If her husband died and she married another man that same sexual relationship would no longer be called adultery.
4 You need to understand, brother and sister Jews, that as a result of your commitment to follow Jesus, you are no longer under obligation to the Old Testament law. Your baptism was the act of faith that declared your old life to be finished. Your new life with Jesus was made possible by his resurrection from the dead. It was given so that you could bear fruit that would honour God. 5 The fruit we used to bear in our former way of life demonstrated the destructive nature of sinful passions and desires. All it produced was a form of death. 6 Now, because we have died with Christ to the legalistic way of life that enslaved us, we have been released from the obligation to just obey a set of rules. We are now able to live a new life that is being transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than the laws of Moses.
7 If anyone thinks that this somehow makes the law the source of the problem, you need to know it is not the law that is at fault. In fact, if there had been no revelation of God through the law of Moses, we would have no idea what sin actually was. For example, I would not have known about coveting unless the commandment of God said, “you shall not covet.” 8 The weird thing was that when I found out that coveting was wrong, it seemed to make me all the more capable of coveting all kinds of things. 9 Before I knew the law about coveting there was no stirring like that within me. 10 It seems strange that the very law that was supposed to help me to change my life for good actually made me more capable of doing things that were destructive. 11 It was the sinful nature within me. It deceived me by convincing me that all kinds of things were beneficial when they really were destructive. 12 This proves that the law itself is holy. The commandments are righteous and good.
13 How is it that something good could be used to make me even more damaging and destructive? Well, it’s not actually the fault of the law. The blame lies with my sinful nature. What the law does is make it very clear that I have a sinful nature. It shows up real character of sin. Sin wants to take something good and use it to cause even more destruction.
14 If we are clear about the fact that the law is spiritual it is also clear that I have a side to me that is unspiritual. It shows that I have been enslaved by this sinful nature. I end up doing things I myself don’t understand. 15 The presence of this sinful nature causes me to be unable to do the things I really want to do. Instead, I do things that I really hate doing. 16 When this happens my genuine nature is the part of me that agrees that what God has said is good. 17 What is happening is that my genuine nature is not responsible for doing these bad things, but it is the sinful nature within me. 18 I am totally convinced that there is nothing good in my sinful nature. 19 I have a desire to do good but I can’t make it become a normal part of my life. I still keep failing to do the things I want and doing the things I don’t want. 20 As I have already said, this proves that it is not my real nature doing it but my sinful nature.
21 So this is how it works. When my real nature wants to do what is right, this sinful nature is right there in the same place. 22 My real nature delights in what God has said 23 but there is a different force at work that wages war against what my mind affirms is right and good. It makes me a prisoner to the sinful nature. 24 This war makes me feel loathsome and I don’t know how I can ever be free to do what my real self sincerely desires. 25 I can only give thanks to God because he has made this deliverance possible through what Jesus Christ our Lord has done.
The situation is like this: My real self wants only to serve God and his purposes. My sinful nature will always be enslaved to what can only damage and destroy me.
The Key Players In The Romans 7 Story
- we are no longer under obligation to the law because we have died and rose again with Jesus
- the law was not able to conquer the power of sin (sinful passions) that kept us in a separate independent damaging and destructive way of life.
- the law itself is good and part of its role was to expose the presence and power of our sinful nature.
- the sinful nature used the law to enslave us even more acutely than before.
- the law itself is spiritual – the problem is that we are dominated by our sinful nature.
SIN – OUR EVER PRESENT SINFUL NATURE
- the realm of the flesh – a dominion ruled by our predisposition to distrust what God says and choose to trust in the things that appeal to ourselves – mind and emotions etc.
- these things are only capable of causing damage and destruction.
- the sinful nature is exposed by the word of God – the law for Jewish believers in the Roman church.
- the sinful nature used the law to bring about all kinds of mistrust, rebellion and independence.
- the result of this influence was to bring us into the experience of a battle that we could never really win.
- the sinful nature is entirely unspiritual.
- the presence and activity of the sinful nature causes me to desire, say and do things that I regret and dislike – even hate.
- the sinful nature is responsible for the destructive things I do, not the real ME.
- I need a way of being delivered from the power of the sinful nature.
OUR REAL SELF
- My real self has no obligation to live a life of keeping rules, no matter how religious they seem and how righteous they make me feel.
- My real self has died with Christ and is risen to a new life with Christ.
- My real self belongs to Jesus – not Jesus and the law. (since Jesus IS the fulfilment of the law)
- My real self began to be identified when I heard what God said and agreed that it was good and right.
- My real self suffered and was challenged by my sinful self when I agreed that what God said was right and good.
- My real self was deceived by the sinful self to believe that taking an alternative path to what God had said was going to be a better way to live. That deception was exposed when I was damaged and destroyed by taking the pathway suggested by my sinful nature.
- My real self was found to be waging a battle. It knew what was good and right but could not put it into practice. I ended up doing things that I disapproved of and did not agree with.
- My real self can only be freed from this losing battle through what God has given me as I choose to trust Jesus and be transformed by the power of the Spirit.
- My real self will always know that what God has said is true, trustworthy and good and in everyone’s best interests regardless of what my sinful nature says and wants.
THE POWERFUL PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
- The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ has changed the whole landscape of history for the people created by God as his children.
- Through what Jesus has done every single person now has the option of re-discovering their true identity and purpose through belonging to him: knowing, relating, serving, worshipping, trusting.
- The result of our relationship with Jesus is a changed or transformed life and lifestyle where the changes are the evidence of the work of God, not the effort and ability of human people by themselves or together with others.
- Belonging to Jesus involves a life of responding to and being empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
- By trusting in and belonging to what Jesus has revealed and done I am set free to gain victory over the sinful nature – not by gritting my teeth and obeying a law, but by being changed on the inside by the power of the Holy Spirit.
SUMMARY STATEMENTS OF THE MESSAGE OF ROMANS SEVEN
- Those whose background have placed mega-value on keeping the traditions of Judaism based on the law of Moses need to know that when they died with Christ (as an expression of their faith in him) they were freed from all obligation to those traditions. Those traditions were made obsolete by the fact that we now belong to Jesus and have a new life in him by our identification with his resurrection (also imparted through the experience of baptism by being lifted up out of the water). We are now enabled to bear the fruit of that commitment and so glorify God. Instead of obeying the law we serve in a new life that comes because the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and enables us to live by his power. (Romans 7 1-6)
- This doesn’t mean the law itself is the problem. In fact, it was the law that exposed the extent of the real problem: the presence and activity of a nature within us that would promote a life separated from God – a life that mistrusts what he has said. This life even uses the law itself to cause us to do and say damaging and destructive things – things that damage us and damage those around us. This path of damage will eventually lead to total destruction. So it’s not the word from God that is the problem but our sinful nature.
- The way this sinful nature works is to be at war with what God has said and what God wants. It wants to totally enslave us. The more we are enslaved the more miserable we become on the inside.
- The fact is that our REAL SELF recognises the goodness of what God has said and genuinely wants to live the kind of life that God has called us to, but the ever presence of our sinful self robs us of the power to do what we know to be right and good and to do things we genuinely dislike, even hate.
- This would be an intolerable situation. The law doesn’t have the power to deal with our sinful nature and neither does our genuine SELF. The only way we can be delivered is by trusting what Jesus has done on our behalf and allowing his victory over the power of sin to set us free from the experience of losing this battle with our sinful nature.
- That’s why holding on to some loyalty to a set of laws or traditions will never give us the power to be free. Only by allowing Jesus to give us what our real self desires, can we be genuinely free. We need the breakthrough that comes when we choose to put our trust in Jesus and receive the power of the Holy Spirit.