By Mike Willis
As the seventh chapter of Romans opens, Paul has several loose ends which he needs to tie up. In Romans 3:20, he had stated, “Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” In 5:20, he said, “Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound.” And in 6:14, he added, “for sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.” The seventh chapter of Romans is designed to deal with these three different principles which he had previously stated to tie these loose ends together. Verses 1-6 discuss how and why we are not under the law, verses 7;13 answers the question, “Is the law sinful?” and verses 14-25 show why the law cannot justify anyone. Hence, let us consider the different things that Paul was dealing with in this chapter.
We Are Delivered From The Law (7:1-6)
In these verses, Paul is showing that man is delivered from the law. He begins by stating that the law has dominion over a man so long as he lives (v. 1). To illustrate this point, Paul compared the manner in which man is bound by the law to his being bound by his marriage covenant (vs. 2-3). The partners in a marriage covenant are bound to each other so long as either shall live. However, when one mate dies, both are freed from the marriage covenant. With reference to the law, Paul is showing that we die to the law by the body of Christ (v. 4). We died with Christ (cf. 6:6-8). Having died to Christ, we are, therefore, loosed from the law and no longer bound by it.
To show that men are not bound by the law was especially important for Paul’s Jewish audience. They had been brought up with instruction that if a man departed from faithfulness to the law of Moses and aligned himself with some other religious law, he became a spiritual adulterer. Consequently, Paul is concerned to show that men are not spiritual adulterers whenever they depart from the Mosiacal law to be married to Christ. The reason for that is that we die to the law of Moses with Christ and, consequently, are freed from that law and have the right to be joined to Christ. Hence, we are delivered from the law to become married to Christ that we might bring forth fruit to God.
The Law Is Not Sinful (7:7-13)
Lest someone charge Paul with teaching that man’s problem is a sorry law, Paul shows that the problem lies in man and not in the law. The law revealed sin to us. Paul would not have known what sin was unless God revealed it to him. The law, therefore, made known to us what sin was. It was added because of transgressions (Gal. 3:19). It was given that we might have a knowledge of what sin was (Rom. 3:20). To illustrate this point, Paul used one of the commandments from the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not covet.”
We must not misunderstand Paul’s point. His point is not the following: because the commandment was given, man is therefore moved to want to do that which is forbidden. No one has wanted to commit murder because God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” no one has wanted to commit adultery because God said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Rather, what has happened is that these lusts and desires that are in man are known to be sin by the revelation of God’s word. Paul had all of the desires for the forbidden things that characterize covetousness, but did not realize the sinfulness of these desires until the law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Consequently, the purpose of the law was to reveal to man what sin. was.
However, the law left man dead in Sin is personified in these verses to show how it leaves man dead unto the law. The punishment for disobedience of the law was death (cf. Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). In Gal. 3:10, Paul said, “Cursed is everyone that continued not in all things which were written in the book of the law to do them.” Because man is a sinner, he was left by the law under the curse of the law, under the penalty of death. Consequently, law, when considered by itself, left man condemned and doomed to hell.
However, the law in itself was good, though it made no provisions for the sinfulness of man. Verse 10 argues that the commandment was ordained to life. God, in the commandments, revealed to us the kind of life which we should live to have the best life here on the earth below and to live with God in heaven when we die. Hence, the commandment was designed to show us what was holy and just and good, but man violated the commandment and sin intruded on his life. This left man dead in his trespasses and sin. Hence, the problem was not that the law was bad but the problem was that man was a sinner.
The Law Left Man In Sin (7:14-24)
In this third section of Romans 7, Paul argues to show that the problem is with the sin which man commits and not with the law. Verse 14 states, “For we know that the law, is spiritual, but I am carnal sold under sin.” The problem is not that the law was a bad law, but that man is a sinful creature. There simply must be some provision made for sin in order for man to be saved.
In verses 15-24, Paul described the inner conflict which every man feels as he tries to obey the law of God. This passage is one with which each of us can easily identify. We have each been guilty of transgression of the law. Many times the things that we do, we do with the knowledge that what we are doing is wrcng; although with our mind we want to do what is right, the desires of our flesh win out over our minds and we end up committing the very thing that we condemn. Hence, with our minds we consent that the law is good but we go ahead and commit the horrible sinful act prohibited by the word of God.
Every man can testify that he has had the same experience which Paul has had. That good thing which he knows that he should do, he does not do and the bad thing which he condemns, he ends up doing. There have been times whenever we know that we ought to say a kind word to someone that we say something hateful and commit sin. Sometimes we say this even though we are trying to bite our tongue. We are provoked to the point that we no longer try to control our flesh and we do the thing which is condemned by God.
The problem with the law is that it had no provisions for the forgiveness of sin. The man who was going to be saved by law-keeping, had to keep the law perfectly. Hence, this Jew who rejected Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world was left with nothing but the perfect obedience to the law as a means for saving himself. The blood of bulls and goats could not atone for sin. He had rejected Jesus Christ, the real atonement for sin, so he would be left with a law that demanded perfect obedience. There was no one able to perfectly obey the law of God and so man was left with the problem of sin in his life. He said, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Hence, the law had no ability to sanctify. There was nothing in the law that made it possible to take care of the weaknesses of the flesh that were part of a man’s life.
No Condemnation In Christ (8:1-17)
What would be the solution to man’s problems? It is at this point that chapter 8 shows the deliverance that is available to man through Jesus Christ. In verses 1-16, Paul shows that the grace of God through Jesus Christ has done for man what the law could not do for him. Whereas, the law left man dead in his transpasses in sin, Paul said, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord that we have been delivered from the body of this death” (7:25). And thus, as he came to 8:1, he said, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Why? Because an atonement had been made for sin. What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh of man, .God did through the sacrifice of His Son on Calvary, through the offering of His Son in behalf of the sins of mankind. God did what man could not do for himself. He made atonement for the sins of the world and, thus, in Christ through grace, we have provisions made for the sins of the world.
It is precisely at this point that some people have misunderstood the grace that is under the new covenant scriptures. The point is that the old covenant made no provisions for the weaknesses of man (it is understood that the old law without Jesus Christ demanded perfect lawkeeping); the covenant of grace makes provisions for those weaknesses in man which occur as Paul described in chapter 7. And yet, some misunderstand these scriptures by concluding that man can never so sin as to fall from grace. Other passages in the scriptures show that this is not true (cf. I Cor. 10:12; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Rev. 2:4; 3:15-16, etc.). Others conclude afrom this passage that the grace of God is extended to man unconditionally. Some have the impression. that, because there is no condemnation in Christ, man is not responsible for the times when he commits the sins which he does not want to commit with his mind but commits anyway because of the weaknesses of his flesh. There are provisions made in the law of Christ for the forgiveness of these kinds of sins; those provisions are given to man conditionally. In the same way that one’s primary reception of grace is given to him conditionally, so are the provisions of forgiveness after becoming a Christian given to him conditionally. We need to understand that the forgiveness of sins that is available to the man who is overcome by the weakness of the flesh is given conditionally upon man’s willingness to turn from that sin, confess that sin, and ask God’s forgiveness. For the man who has this desire, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.
However, the person who is going to stand with no condemnation must be one that walks after the spirit. He cannot be one who minds the things of the flesh.
|Characteristics of Those Who Walk After The Flesh||Characteristics of Those Who Walk After The Spirit|
|A. Mind the things of the flesh (8:5)||A. Mind the things of the spirt (8:5)|
|B. End up in death (8:6)||B. End up in life (8:6)|
|C. Are at enmity with God (8:7)||C. Are at peace with God (8:6)|
|D. Are not subject to the law of God||D. Have their mortal bodies quickened (8:11) so that they become debtors to righteousness (8:12)|
|E. Cannot please God||E. Please God|
As we look at this chart which gives the characteristics of the two kinds of walks, we see what the nature of the one is who is not under condemnation. He is one that is doing his best to do the things revealed in the holy will of God. He is not one who is involved in sin, in the defense of sin and in refusing to confess what he is doing is sinful. Hence, a man who is involved in the sin, for example, of the use of mechanical instruments in worship and is one who refuses to acknowledge this as sin but instead defends it as righteousness and encourages others to be involved in this same sin, cannot be described as one who is walking after the spirit. He must be described as one who is walking after the flesh.
This passage, therefore, offers no hope for that man who is continually walking in the pathway of wickedness in direct disobedience to one of the commandments of God. The hope that this holds out is for the man who is walking after the spirit but who, on one occasion or another because of some weakness of the flesh or ignorance of his involves himself in sin. The grace provided for this man is that he can turn to God and ask for forgiveness and the blood of Jesus Christ will blot out his sin. The grace that is extended is grace to wash away’ the sin. No system of justification based on perfect law-keeping with a just pronouncement of death upon the disobeyer of that law could hold out such grace for man.
Those who are redeemed are sons of God (8:14-17). As sons of God they approach God with the spirit of sonship and not with the spirit of bondage, that is of fear. The slave cringes before his master. This is not the relationship that we have before God. We come before God calling upon Him as our Father. We have the spirit of sonship and not the spirit of bondage. Being sons of God, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. These are the blessed privileges available to man through grace, available to man through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and not available to the man who is walking under the law.
Reasons To Endure Suffering (8:18-30)
Having shown the glorious blessings available to man through Christ and unavailable to the one trying to be saved by law-keeping, Paul now moved to show that the redeemed are willing to suffer for Christ. He began by saying, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v. 18). Having stated that, he showed that the person who is redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus is willing to endure whatever temptations and tribulations and persecutions there might be for him to suffer under the sun, that he might have the hope of glory in heaven.
To encourage man to endure this persecution, he shows that the whole creation itself is involved in suffering. Many of the things which Christians endure on this earth below are sufferings that are typical for all men and not merely for Christians. Even as non-Christians die of cancer, so also do Christians. Even as non-Christians die of heart diseases, so also do Christians. When famines hit, the Christians suffer right along beside the world. And so, in verses 19-22, Paul showed that the whole world is suffering in hope of something better later on.
Then, he moved to show that not only does the whole world, but even the elite of Christianity had to suffer. In verse 23, he said, “And not only they, (that is the whole creation) but ourselves also which have the first fruits of the spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption to wit the redemption of our bodies.” His point is that even the apostles and the firstborn of Christianity had to endure suffering. Consequently, we who are walking after the spirit today ought not to think it strange that we have to endure infirmities. What we must do is that we must continue to serve – to serve in hope of the glory that will be later revealed to us. Consequently, as we plod through the tribulations and persecutions of this life below, we plod in hope of a better life, a better reward than what we presently have, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (8:24-25).
During this time that we are on this earth below, we have the Holy Spirit to help us with our infirmities. In verses 2627, Paul said, “Likewise, the spirit helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered and he that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the spirit because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” We ought, therefore, to endure suffering because we have the Holy Spirit helping us during these groanings. There have been times when each of us was suffering so much that he just could not put into words the things which he was feeling within his body. As he prayed to God at that time, the Spirit presented to God what he was needing and made intercession in his behalf. We have that hope for us.
We are willing to suffer because we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord (8:28). We are willing to suffer because we know that eventually God will glorify His saints (8:29-30).
Nothing Can Separate Us From God (8:29-40)
We also are aware in this life below that if we walk after the spirit that nothing can separate us from God. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is the. question which Paul posed in verse 31. The very God who gave His Son for us will(give us everything that we need for salvation. When I come to the realization that God is working for the salvation of man and not for the damnation of man, I know that He will do everything He can to deliver us from sin and death. Furthermore, I know that if God is on my side, it matters not who is against me. If God has justified me, Satan cannot condemn me nor can anyone else lay a charge against me. The precious blood of Jesus has washed away every sin that I have committed and consequently, I stand before God completely acquitted of sin. Hence, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Paul said, in verses 35-39, the following:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, ,or famine or nakedness or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Hence, we see the blessed hope that the Christian has that is not available to the man outside of Christ. He is in the love of God and nothing, no person or no thing, can separate him from God’s love. The only way that he can get out of God’s love is to willfully turn his back on God, refuse to obey God, and turn to become a disciple of the devil. So long as he is walking in the spirit, turning to God and asking forgiveness for the sins which he commits when he commits them, he will stand in the love of God and have the hope of eternal salvation with Christ when he dies.
- Give an outline of chapter 7.
- How could a Jew be Joined to Christ without being guilty of spiritual adultery?
- God’s law reveals what is holy, lust and good, but why is it that the law alone cannot save us?
- If the works of our own life have been sinful how can we ever by freed from the condemnation of those sins?
- What are some false doctrines which men teach by misusing the expression “no condemnation . . . in Christ Jesus”?
- Contrast the attitudes of a man who walks after the flesh and one who walks after the Spirit, with reference to the sins he may commit.
- What is the difference between the spirit of bondage and the spirit of sonship?
- A Christian will not have to suffer disease, financial failure, or other tragedies in this life. Prove this true or false.
- What are some things that help a Christian to endure hardships?
- We must live in terror and anxiety every moment as to our salvation because the gospel offers no security. Prove this true or false.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 1, pp. 18-21
January 4, 1979