26/7/15 – Romans 7:1-25 “Conflict between old and new relationships”
Romans 7:1-3 – 1Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. 3So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Just as a woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives, likewise mankind and the law of sin and death. Man is bound by that law until he becomes dead to that law, the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:2 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
But on the death of the husband the wife is released from her husband’s authority by law. She is then free to marry another man, something she couldn’t do while her husband still lived, and still had authority over her. Likewise the death of the old man sin nature meant death to the law that demanded penalty for all sin, and the freedom to be married to another – Christ (see Vs 4 below).
Romans 7:4 – Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Therefore, when we are dead to the law through the body of Christ – see Romans 6:6 – we are free to be married to Christ who was raised from the dead. Thus the Church (the body of genuine Christian believers) is known as the Bride of Christ, and the rapture leads into the wedding feast of the Bride (Church) and Bridegroom (Christ).
Revelation 19:7 – Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Ephesians 5:23-25 – 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Once we were in bondage to the law. We had to die to that bondage before we could live again in bondage to another – Christ. And then our fruit of the flesh becomes our fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5); we have literally changed sides, changed masters, changed countries. We are now citizens of another country.
Philippians 3:20 – For our conversation (politeuma – citizenship or politics) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Romans 7:5 – For when we were in the flesh, the motions (sufferings, enduring, can mean passions) of sins, which were by the law, did work in (energeo – empowered, made to operate, energised) our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
This states a constant fact, that in the flesh our sinful passions worked continually in our bodies to bring outcomes that led to death (clearly spiritual).
Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.
While we were under bondage to the flesh, the law energized, empowered, our passion, our desire, for sinfulness because of the opposition of the law to that sin. These sinful passions then stirred us up to bear fruit that seemed right to us at the time but in fact led to death. That is, the law stirred up sin within us.
Romans 7:6 – But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter.
But (in contrast to being in the flesh in Vs 5 above) now (our current condition, hopefully) being freed from the law’s bondage (enslavement) having cast off the legal requirement of the law of sin through death (Vs 1-4 above) so that we should be free to serve other than the law (that is, the ‘marriage’ to the law is ended). We are now in a new, spiritual ‘marriage’ to Christ through the Spirit) and the old law ‘marriage’ is over. We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); the old man sin nature of the flesh (governed by the ‘marriage’ to the law) should now be in the past.
The letter here refers to the letter of the law. Therefore, if we say we are Christians, then we should get on with our new ‘marriage’, our new life, and move on from the previous relationship. The past has gone, the new has come. Don’t keep living in the past by continuing to serve the things of the past (sins) in the oldness of the letter. Serve the new ‘marriage’ by obeying its requirements in the newness of our spirits
This compares the new spiritual man with the sinful old man of the flesh.
Romans 7:7 – What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The law itself is not bad. The law itself is not sin! Keeping the law perfectly would bring holiness, except that no-one can keep the law perfectly. The law itself is good. For example, “You shall not covet.” It is good to have laws that protect our society like this. But with a law comes a penalty for breaking that law, and that penalty introduces sin. Thus sin is defined by the law and the penalty it demands for the breaking of that law.
We wouldn’t have known that our coveting was wrong, says Paul, unless the law told us so. In fact, we really only call “coveting” wrong because the law says it is wrong.
covet – a strong desire to own something that someone else already owns.
And therefore I only know what sin is simply because the law has defined it.
Romans 7:8 – But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (lust, desire for what is forbidden). For without the law sin [was] dead.
The law says “Don’t….!” so we think, “What would it be like to …..?” Note that people generally only take drugs, begin drinking alcohol, smoking etc because their curiosity has been aroused by the forbidding of such. We want to see what it’s like!! Why was it so necessary to forbid it? Note the curiosity of the Hebrews in wanting to see what it was like to serve other gods.
Deuteronomy 12:29-30 – 29When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
Why did they want to see what serving other gods was like? Most likely it was because they were curious to see why God should forbid such. Forbidden fruits are usually the most desirable to those who are of the flesh. A desire to rebel, in fact.
Romans 7:9-11 – 9For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10And the commandment, which [was ordained] to life, I found [to be] unto death. 11For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew [me].
Before Paul was convicted by the law, in his ignorance he believed himself to be free from condemnation. He considered himself alive as he saw it. But when he saw the truth of the law after his experience on the road to Damascus, he realised that what he had called righteousness before then was actually sin; thus he died to the law. Paul had believed that the law he was serving (as a pharisee) would bring him life (favour with God) but when he was brought face-to-face with the truth, he saw instead that his previous ritualistic obedience was really condemning him to death. He was outwardly clean but inwardly like death. (“unwashed tombs” – cf Matthew 23:27 – “whited sepulchres”). Now sin brought guilt and misery. His obedience to that commandment that should have brought life to him (Leviticus 18:5 – Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I [am] the Lord.) now brought death.
Perfect obedience to the law should bring life but no-one can totally obey the law; thus his imperfect obedience brought death. Sin took advantage of this, deceiving him into believing he would live by his ritual, and by this deception sin was causing him to die instead. Deception causes people who are enslaved by sin to think that they are really not doing anything wrong. So many people are condemned by the law, yet because they don’t know the law, they don’t realise that they are actually sinful and heading for death!
Romans 7:12 – Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
See Romans 7:7 – Is the law sin? God forbid! So the law isn’t sinful or bad. In reality the law is holy, and the commandments of the law are holy, just and good. Paul is making sure we aren’t misled into thinking it’s all the fault of the law that we sin.
Romans 7:13 – Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Could that which is supposed to be good become evil (death) for me? “God forbid!” “Certainly not!” We have just been told that the law is holy, just and good. But sin was producing death in Paul by appearing to be good instead. Paul didn’t recognize the death that sin was producing in him; he thought he was doing good that would lead to life but instead it led to death. In order for Paul to recognize sin properly, he had to see what the law really said about it. Because the law is “holy, and just, and good” (Vs 12 above), therefore what it condemned has to be opposed to “holy, and just, and good” (Vs 12 above).
Thus the commandment condemns sin as exceedingly sinful. So the purpose of the law is really to demonstrate the sinfulness of sin! The law only shows us how far from holiness we are. The law is our measuring stick against which all will fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
exceeding – beyond all measure, to the utmost possible extent. A very strong word.
Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
The commandment of the law, being “holy, and just, and good”, has to be spiritual (that is, not carnal or fleshly, which relates to sin) and pure. However, Paul says he is carnal, subject still to corrupt, fleshly passions which retain some significant influence over him still. The habitual use of these passions in the past is hard to overcome, yet, because he is now in a new, more spiritual ‘marriage’, he should no longer be controlled or dominated by these sinful passions.
sold under sin – not that he chose or preferred to sin, but that sin continued to demand domination of his desires. The word ‘sold’ relates to the selling of slaves, especially after being taken captive in war. It means to be placed under the authority of another person such that you are subject to the will of that person. Sold under sin therefore means that the person is subject to the authority and subsequent control of sin. This control can lead the Christian into committing the sin, then to feel godly sorrow at the consequent conflict in his/her life. It then becomes a tussle to fight against such efforts of sin to take control. Note Vs 15-20 below.
Romans 7:15-20 – 15For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good. 17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. 19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
This is what Paul has been leading up to so far in this passage, the conflict between the old and the new relationships. He has left the old relationship with the law and is now in a new relationship in the “newness of spirit” (Vs 6 above). Vs 14 explains a lot of his conflict: the law continues to demonstrate his sinful nature; that is, he is carnal, sold under sin. And, even though in Christ Jesus he is free from the condemnation of the law (Romans 8:1), sin’s constant demands for domination get to him all too often. He doesn’t do those things he should do, and he does do those things he hates to do. He agrees with the law when it condemns him for doing those things he knows he shouldn’t do.
Thus the law is good in that it reveals his disobedience. But it is not him but really the sin that still remains in his life that causes the problems. Vs 20 sums it up well: Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.. As the saying goes: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Romans 7:21 – I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
He is strongly influenced (“sold under sin” Vs 14 above) by corrupt passions which overrule his desire (his will) to do good. When he tries to do the right thing, these desires become stumbling blocks to him, preventing him from accomplishing what he desired by his will to achieve.
Galatians 5:17 – For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Romans 7:22 – For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
delight – delight, rejoice. Paul delights (rejoices) in that law of God which gives such feelings to the inward or spiritual man, the new man as opposed to the old man, the spiritual man as opposed to the carnal or fleshly man. While the law of God condemns the sinner, it should be a delight to those who are in that new relationship. It is the law that exposes sin for what it really is, and the Christian should rejoice that the law has so clearly defined sin.
Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Romans 7:23 – 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.
another law – the law that Paul mentions in Vs 21 above, the law that is used by sin, demanded by sin, in fact, to enslave man to its evil, to its corruptions. This law is not the joy and rejoicing of his heart (Jeremiah 15:16) (also see Vs 22 above) but instead causes conflict between the old and the new man. This law rules from the flesh while the law in Vs 22 above rules from the rational mind, the spiritual man.
bringing me into captivity – The one which wins the battle takes captives in war, who are then required to serve the victor, in this case, sin. Paul desires the new man, the inward man, the spiritual man, to win the battle against sin, but sin brings its influence to bear upon Paul such that a battle ensues. The flesh is at war with the spiritual. And if the flesh wins, it takes Paul captive, subject to the law (authority, control, dominion) that sin imposes upon his life.
Romans 7:24 – O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
And Paul groans in agony as he sees himself as a new man in a new relationship, so often losing the battle to the old man of the old relationship. He wants to break free but while he has this body of death, he has to face this conflict. The old ‘marriage’ relationship constantly demands to be reinstated, to be made legal again. He knows that when he leaves his fleshly body (in death) he will also leave the conflict behind. He will be perfect one day, but not until he has completed his time here on earth.
Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 15:50-57 – 50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? 56The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. 57But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 7:25 – 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.
He thanks God that he does indeed have an answer to his dilemma, that it is through the power of the second ‘marriage’ that Paul alluded to in the first few verses of this chapter (see Romans 7:4). What our human strength can’t achieve and the law couldn’t overcome, Jesus Christ has achieved through the gospel which has established us in the new ‘marriage’ relationship. While we live we will be challenged by this conflict between the old and the new, the serving of the flesh through the law of sin, and the serving of God through His holy law. God’s law is holy and just, and does set a standard by which we should measure everything in our lives. It defines our sin and why it (our sin) is in conflict with a holy God. It is our roadmap by which we must steer our course to heaven. We will get off track, probably regularly, but it provides direction on how to return to the desired course. It might be impossible to be perfect in this life but that is no reason why we should give up and excuse sin just because we cannot be perfect. The standard of God’s law will continue to exist as a defense against the imposition of the law of sin on our lives.
Luke 21:33 – Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Luke 16:17 – And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Even if we cannot be perfect, we should strive to be perfect, holy as God is holy.
1 Peter 1:15-16 – 15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Failure still cannot be excused or explained away as a natural consequence of the flesh. The choice is always ours to make, and, for Christians, should never be too difficult.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].