Romans Chapter seven

VERSES 1-4 Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 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 of marriage. So then, if she marries 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, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, 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 to God.

In this day, people are less familiar with the solemn binding of covenants, but as Paul reminded the Christians at Galatia, even as far as covenants between people, “no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established” (Galatians 3:15).

Marriage is a covenant which is binding until death.

(However, just to mention in passing, a person bound by the covenant of marriage was free upon the unfaithfulness of a partner, because unfaithfulness, especially adultery, was punishable by death under the Law – and even if the unfaithful partner was not actually killed, they were, through their unfaithfulness, counted as having died.)

God made a covenant with Abraham based upon a promise – and the covenant he made subsequently with Israel at Mount Sinai, which included the giving of the Law, did not, however, set aside the covenant which he had made with Abraham.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (Galatians 3:16-18).

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.  “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

However, even though the LORD made the Sinai covenant with Israel after making the covenant with Abraham, and even though the Sinai covenant, constituted by the Law of Moses), did not set aside the covenant previously made with Abraham, it still remained a binding covenant that could not simply be set aside – for God always remains faithful to his word and his covenants.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished…” (Matthew 5:18).

And the apostle Paul taught: the Sinai covenant of the Law was a covenant that brought death [for sinners] (see 2 Corinthians 3:7) – and that the Law was given, not for the righteous, but for lawbreakers with the intended purpose of condemning lawbreakers (see 1 Timothy 1:9).

How then could God remain faithful to his word – while at the same time setting us free from the condemnation of the Law, while also not revoking his own covenant? The only way is through death.

Christ took upon himself the form of a mortal man – and he died for us, as the very LORD through whom the covenant was made, he too died for us, thereby setting us free.

In him, we too are counted as having died, so that in him, we may also be raised to new life and to enter a new and better covenant assuring us of life and blessing which could not be attained under the old covenant on account of our old [and former] sinful nature.

In Romans 6 Paul taught that through our faith in Christ and his death on our behalf, we have died to sin – but having died to sin, we have also died to the old covenant – which condemned sin. Ironically, it is through the very death sentence required by the Law, that we have died to the Law.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:17-21).

It is by dying to the old that we are raised to the new – by the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus.

If we have died to the old – then we have also died to sin, so that we are effectively set free from the old sinful nature – and we come under the control of the Spirit who gives new life.

VERES 5-6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, 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.

People have been sinful by nature ever since the fall of Adam, but sin was not detected, or evident,  to the same extent until the Law was given.

The Law was given to make sin all the more evident and utterly sinful. This meant that the Law would also come to be associated with sin – which also makes the Law an aversion to sinners. When people want to persist in their sin and yet also appeal to God’s mercy, they often argue that they are no longer under the Law but under grace. But God’s grace enables us to die to the old – it does not excuse, condone or approve of the old.

VERSES 7-13 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from 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! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Unlike any other moral religious rules and regulations which may be approved and taught by men in various different religions and philosophies, the Law of Moses was given by the LORD at Mount Sinai, including the lessons found in the various sacrifices required for sin – which pointed to the ultimate and final atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The law is good – it is spiritual – and it comes from God – and so when it is taught by many teachers of the Law, we may be persuaded to come under the Law – for it was given by God – and even Jesus said that nothing could be taken away or added to the Law.

However, as Paul taught, when the Law comes, so too, does sin then spring to life and the law and sin brings death. However, the Law was not given to change the sinful nature but to condemn sin in sinful man – so that only by the Spirit may we be effectively raised to new life.

When this is not clearly understood, confusion arises when people try to live both according to the old covenant, external law, which condemns sin – and the new covenant – through the new life by the power of the Spirit and the new covenant law written upon people’s hearts – which is like trying to sew a new patch onto an old garment.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-5).

It is by believing the gospel that we receive the promised Holy Spirit – and it is by receiving the Holy Spirit that we are transformed and set free from sin.

But if we resort back to trying to accomplish the goal of righteousness by observing the old covenant Law, then we will find that we come under the condemnation of the Law all over again.

If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

So many people have failed to understand what Paul went on to teach in the remainder of chapter 7.

Paul was not only describing his life before coming to faith in Christ when he tried to live by the Law. But neither was Paul describing his life as a Christian, when he said that he could not do the good he intended to do – and what a wretched man he was.

Paul was describing the futile situation of when one took their eyes off Christ – and no longer kept in step with the Spirit, so that one then tended to be governed once again by external rules and regulations such as was the old covenant Law.

Unless we live according to the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts, we will indeed stumble all over again and come under the curse and condemnation of the old covenant law that was intended to lead us to Christ and our freedom in him as we are led by the Spirit and moved by the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The answer to sin and lawlessness is not the old covenant Law or any amount of rules and regulations – but a changed heart and new creation which is only through the effective work of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death and resurrection.

VERSES 14-25 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 I know that nothing good lives 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 what I do is not the good I want to do; no, 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.    RO 7:21 So I find this law at work: When 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 the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

When Paul writes: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

If his letter perhaps ended there and we lost the remaining chapters – and were quite ignorant of the effective work of the Holy Spirit, then we may conclude that we remain wretched sinners for as long as we continue to live in this fallen world and in this body of sin – bound by the sinful nature.

However, chapter 8 explains Paul’s rejoicing that through faith in Jesus Christ, we are truly set free from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us raising us to new life and transforming us from within through the love shed abroad in our hearts – spoken of in chapter 5.

We hinder, the work of the Holy Spirit, even quenching and grieving the Spirit – if we again start to live according to the desires of the sinful nature – and we can very easily become entangled again in sin if we do not take care and live by faith, keeping in step with the Spirit.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (Galatians 5:16-18).