In Romans 6, Paul talks about FREEDOM. Through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, we can be set free from the slavery of sin. We are no longer bound by the law, since the law couldn’t stop us from sinning; instead, we can be under God’s grace, which covers our sin and makes us right before God. Now in Romans 7 Paul further discusses the law and sin, and discusses 3 important things everyone should know:
- First, he explains more completely how we are no longer under the authority or rule of the law.
- Second, Paul describes how the law is good and necessary in revealing our sin.
- And third, he discusses the struggle we continue to have with sin and tells us the only way we can overcome it.
The Law Applies to the Living
In verse 1, Paul addresses what we know about the law, and that is, that it only applies to the ‘living’. But before going further, we need to clarify what Paul means here, by ‘the law’. The ancient Greek wording does not have the word “the” preceding the word “law“.
In researching this meaning, I found that the word “law” is a broader principle not only referring to the Mosaic Law, which was the law given to Moses in the Old Testament, but also speaks of a broader principle of law imprinted on creation and in our consciences – our ability to know right from wrong without knowing a decreed law, in addition to the explicit laws given by God.
In verses 2-3, Paul makes the point, by using the example of the commitment of marriage, that death ends all obligations and contracts. A wife is no longer bound to her husband when he dies because death ends that contract. Death frees her from that law.
Jesus Came to Set Us Free from the Law
Verse 4 tells us that our death with Jesus, as we learned about in the last blog post, sets us free from the law. Paul explains that, not only have we died to the power of sin, but we have also died to the law. However, we were not freed from the law, so we can live for ourselves.
Notice here, that it says, ‘and now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead‘. The New King James Version says, ‘you have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you might be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead‘. We were set free from the bondage of sin and the law, so that we could be ‘united’ or ‘married’ to Jesus and produce a harvest of good deeds for God.
The Problem with the Law
Verse 5 tells us about the problem with the law. Before dying to the power of sin, when we were still controlled by our old nature and were under the law, we did not bear fruit – or produce good deeds – for God. The law only aroused a passion to sin, and we could only produce sinful deeds.
In verse 6 Paul now summarizes the theme of Romans 7:1-5. He says that because we died with Jesus, we are dead to the law. This freed us from having to justify ourselves by obeying the law perfectly, something that Paul has made clear is impossible to do. Instead, we have been justified by Jesus’ death.
When we attempted to serve God by obeying the law perfectly, we failed; but Paul tells us that now, in the new way of living in the Spirit, we can serve God. The freedom we obtained through Jesus was not so we could stop serving God, but so that we could serve him better.
Since We Can’t Obey the Law, Is the Law Flawed?
Verses 7-13, tells us that the Law itself is not the problem. God’s law is perfect and holy.
In verse 7, Paul asks the question, ‘is God’s law sinful?‘ He immediately answers with ‘Of course not!‘ The law does what it is meant to, and that is, to point out our sin.
Just like an X-ray or CT scan machine might reveal a problem in our bodies, you can’t blame the machine for what it exposes. We might never know that we are sinning in certain areas, such as Paul’s example of covetousness, if the law didn’t show us specifically.
Sin Corrupted the Law
But in verse 8, Paul tells us where the problem lies. Sin corrupts the law. Sin uses the law to arouse desires to break the law.
I think we are all familiar with being enticed by something that is forbidden. If you have children, you might have experienced telling your child not do to something, only to draw their attention to it, and making them want to do it more, even though they might have never considered doing it before telling them not to?
We all have this tendency. Once God draws a boundary for us, we are immediately enticed to cross that boundary, which is no fault of God or his boundary, but the fault of our sinful hearts. Paul also adds, that if there was no law, sin would not have the power to twist what is good to promote evil. For example, sin warps love into lust. And sin turns an honest desire to provide for one’s family into greed.
The Law Shows Us Our Sin
In verses 9-10 Paul is telling us that like children, before knowing what the law required, we were innocent or naïve. When he uses the phrase ‘I lived‘ without understanding the law, he does not mean he was alive with the life that only God gives. He had a false sense of security despite his sinfulness, and he wasn’t aware of his spiritual deadness. But when he did come to know the law, it showed him his sinfulness which brought death: an awareness of separation from God and condemnation.
Is Sin Real? Or Is God Depriving Us of Something Good?
Verses 11-13 talk about how sin corrupts the law and defeats its life-giving purpose. And once the law became corrupt, it only brought death. It says that sin used God’s law to deceive us. How does sin deceive us? It falsely promises satisfaction, it tells us that our excuses are adequate, it gives us permission to sin, and it falsely provides us with a sense of escape from punishment.
It’s not God’s law that deceives us, but rather sin uses the law to tempt us into rebellion. God’s law is holy, right, and good. Sin is all about deception. One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to get us to think of sin as something good God wants to deprive us of. God warns us away from sin, because he is warning us away from something that will kill us, as Paul says in verse 11.
This is what Jesus was talking about when he said, ‘you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free‘ (John 8:32). The truth sets us free from the deceptions of sin.
The Law Serves Its Purpose
Verse 13 tells us that even though the law provokes us to sin, the law is still good and serves its purpose by exposing our sinfulness and showing us just how evil sin is. The law makes sin appear as sin, because sin wants to hide in us and conceal its true identity and its strength in us.
In verse 14 Paul explains why the law doesn’t work to restrain us. He says the law is spiritual and good, but we are human and slaves to sin. The Greek word used here is sarkikos, which means ‘characterized by the flesh‘, and so a better translation of this verse is in the NKJV which uses the term carnal, which simply means ‘flesh’. We have a carnal nature and are led by our flesh, or fleshly desires, and it will not respond or be restrained by a law that is spiritual and good in nature.
Now even though Paul admits that he is carnal, that we are all carnal, it doesn’t mean that he is not a Christian. His awareness of his carnality only shows how God is at work in him. Once we become aware of the sin invading our lives we can, with God’s power, fight against it.
Two Reasons We Cannot Obey God’s Law and Do Good
In verses 15-23, Paul describes our struggle of obedience in our own strength. He describes two reasons why we cannot obey the law and do good even when we want to:
1. In our own strength, we are powerless and helpless to obey the law and do what is right.
It Is God Who Gives Us Strength
In verses 15-19 Paul describes a sense of helplessness. He says that the problem is not a lack of desire to do what is right, nor is it that he doesn’t know what is right. He says the problem is he lacks the power to do what is right. The law says, “Here are the rules; you better obey them” but gives us no power to obey them.
In verse 17, it sounds like Paul is denying responsibility as a sinner, but this is not what he is saying. There are two views in understanding who Paul is talking about in verses 17-20. Some believe that Paul is referring to those who are not saved, while others believe Paul is talking about Christians who continue to struggle with sin.
After doing a little more digging, I believe this passage talks about sin while being a follower of Christ. Paul is talking about the struggle to do what is right and live a Godly life, in our own strength.
We Struggle to Do What Is Right in Our Own Strength
As Christians, we have freedom from the slavery of sin through Christ who gives us strength. Paul is talking about being unable to do what is right, even as a Christian, in his own strength. He recognizes that when we sin, we are acting against our new nature, as a new man in Jesus Christ. We must own up to our sin yet realize that this impulse to sin does not come from who we are now in Jesus Christ.
Just to add to the evidence that Paul is speaking to the Christian here, look at what is says in verse 22. Paul says that he loves God’s law with all his heart. This is not the mindset of someone still rejecting Christ.
2. There is a battle between our two selves.
Our Old Nature Versus Our New Nature
Paul explains this battle in verses 20-24. As we talked about in Romans 6, we learned about our “flesh” that has desires, passions, and impulses. It has been trained by our old sinful nature and is continually being influenced by a sinful world and Satan. Our flesh, or fleshly desires, can be easily influenced and still has impulses towards sin.
But our true self, our new nature in Christ, delights in obeying God and doing what is right. If we have accepted God’s free gift of salvation, our old nature has died with Christ, and our flesh is also destined to pass away and be resurrected.
Our new nature in Christ is who we truly are, and it is only through God’s power that we can live as God intended. In these verses, Paul is saying that we cannot do what is right, and live how God intended us to, through our own effort and strength.
How to Have Freedom From Sin
In verse 24 Paul asks the question: who will free us from this life dominated by sin and death?
And he answers this in verse 25: The answer is Jesus Christ! We must look outside ourselves, realize our helplessness to overcome sin even as a Christian, and look to Jesus.
Paul doesn’t pretend that looking to Jesus takes away the struggle. He acknowledges that there will be struggle. Rather than Jesus simply taking away our struggle and battling against sin for us, Jesus works through us. He lives out his victory through us, as we join him in that battle.
Real Peace Is Only Made Possible Through Jesus
Before encountering Jesus, Paul lived according to Jewish laws and customs. He upheld those laws and imprisoned people who disobeyed them. But Paul never found any peace until he looked outside of himself, beyond the law, to his Savior, Jesus Christ.
We think we don’t know enough to save ourselves. We research and read all the books to try to obtain as much knowledge as possible in search for truth. But we don’t need a teacher, we need a Savior.
We think we are not motivated enough. We need a coach to encourage us to do what we need to do to save ourselves. But we don’t need a coach, we need a Savior.
We think we don’t know ourselves well enough. We think we need to be psychoanalyzed to discover the root of our problems and find healing to be saved. But we don’t need a doctor, we need a Savior.
Jesus is all we need!
Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants by Louie Giglio – Fear, rejection, addiction, anger, comfort…must fall. We all have threatening giants in our lives – adversaries or strongholds that stop us from living in freedom. Stop settling for far less than God has planned for you!