We’ve come thus far, understanding that all have sinned and continually come short of the glory of God and that all can stand justified (righteous) in the sight of God, not by putting their grubby, religious paws on their righteousness, but by faith, accepting the risen Christ as the living Son of God.
Paul has demonstrated that being just before God is a matter of faith, citing both Abraham and David as evidence. When Job asked how a man could be just with God, he was asking a question that has had a consistent answer – faith – simply take God at His word.
Since Chapter Five, Paul has turned his attention from the mechanics of justification (again, faith), to the benefits of justification. In Romans 5, Paul writes that being justified we shall be saved from the wrath of God. In Titus 3, Paul writes that being justified, we have been made heirs of hope. We were justified by faith and God thereby declared us righteous by making us righteous. (2Corinthians 5:21) God did not owe us this, but by His grace, He chose to rescue His creation from the choice of Adam’s disobedience.
As if that were not amazing enough, God further more determined by His own will to bless those He justified with the unsearchable riches of His grace. In other words, God would ‘save’ or bestow salvation upon the justified believer. Therefore, Paul says, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. From the beginning of Chapter Five, Paul has been describing all that is true about the believer in the wonderful world of the salvation of God.
Knowing that this is true of the believer and knowing that the obedience of One, Jesus Christ, put an end to the reign of Sin and Death, Paul begins to turn his attention in Chapter 6 to understanding that we have yet another choice. Knowing that our Old Man is crucified with Christ, we should henceforth not be the servants of Sin. If we yield ourselves to the reign of Sin, then we can only expect to receive the wage commensurate of such efforts – death. The believer who seeks to appeal to God by fanciful, religious activity accomplished in the flesh ultimately never appeals to God but rather only to themselves. However, the believer who yields to righteousness doesn’t show up on pay day to receive death, but enjoys payday everyday because the gift of God IS eternal life.
The “Christian Life” is not day-in and day-out performance in which we hope to attain a payday after we die. The Christian Life is a day-in and day-out payday, nay, ‘gift day’ where we realize the eternal life we have right now.
So, knowing this is true and that we do not have to yield to the kingdom of Sin and Death, what does that mean regarding our flesh, where Sin still manifests itself? If we are alive in the Spirit and are justified in Christ, why does it seem that our flesh can never come to grips with this? Let’s watch Paul masterfully unfold this in Chapter Seven.
Romans 7:1 Know 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? 7:2 For 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. 7:3 So 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. 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.
Paul further reminds folks, by drawing attention back to the law of marriage, that just as the law has dominion over a wife so long as the husband liveth, so too would the law of sin and death have dominion over a man so long as that man liveth (under that law). But, if the husband be dead, the wife is freed from the law – likewise, if a death occurs for the individual, freedom would ensue. That death occurred when we were baptized into Christ’s death (not water), back in Romans 6:3. We died to our old husband, Adam, and were raised to life with our new Husband, Christ.
2Corinthians 11:2 records Paul telling the Corinthians that he has ESPOUSED them unto CHRIST as a chaste virgin. By the way, the idea of being a chaste virgin should cause one to pause and reflect on this – the very “carnal Corinthians” were espoused to Christ as a CHASTE virgin?! Indeed, because as Romans 7 lays out for us, our flesh isn’t what dictates how God views us. Just as Paul told the Ephesians, we are BLAMELESS in His sight.
Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 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.
Therefore, Paul concludes, we should serve God in NEWNESS of the SPIRIT and not in the OLDNESS of the LETTER. Many people today believe they are serving God by the efforts they exhibit in the flesh and submit themselves to all kinds of mind contortions and flesh manipulations therefore. There is certainly nothing wrong about making wise decisions and being cautious to hear a matter fully before making a decision, but, to the extent that we believe it is making or keeping God happy with us, we’ve missed the boat.
In 2Corinthians 3, where Paul talks about the Corinthians being the EPISTLES of God, not written in STONE or INK, but in fleshly tables of the HEART. The scriptures we hold in our hands are certainly complete, but it seems that the written work of God is still ongoing – not in ink on white paper, bound in a book, but in the very heart of every believer. Kind of an interesting and humbling thought!
As Paul goes on in 2Corinthians 3, we see that the letter KILLETH and the Spirit giveth LIFE. We see that the GLORY of the Law was nothing compared to the GLORY of the Spirit. That, when compared, the GLORY of the Spirit shows that there really is no GLORY of the Law. Imagine that – the GLORY of the Law was pictured by the face of Moses that shone like the sun after coming down from the mount, and yet Paul writes that the GLORY of the Spirit FAR EXCEEDS the Law’s GLORY. Ever look at the sun? You can’t do it for too long because it hurts your eyes, but yet Paul says that the GLORY of the SPIRIT is FAR GREATER than that. And, it is from the GLORY of the Law we have been changed into the GLORY of the Spirit. We have been made into the very image of HIS GLORY, by His Spirit. And, as Hebrews states, Christ is the “express image of His person” – Christ is the Glory of God and that’s who we are IN!
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. 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 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. 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 7:18 For 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. 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
We know from Romans 5 that the law served to expose sin for what it really is. And, when we appeal to the law to serve God, Paul states that the law ends up working all manner of evil in us. Is the law therefore sin? No, as Paul says, because the law is simply the tool – what is evil or good is a matter of the tool-wielder’s choice. No, indeed the law is not sin, but when used as a means to serve God, it will do nothing but reveal how much one is actually not serving God. The letter kills and it is impossible to serve a God of life by means of death.
Paul said he did the things he hated but didn’t do the things he wanted to do. He said that he learned that within his flesh, dwells NO GOOD THING. But, Paul concludes that just as SIN took occasion by the law to deceive Paul and to perform all manner of evil in him, so too in the FLESH, SIN takes occasion to sin. It is vital to understand who is sinning. According to Paul, it is Sin that sins. Paul doesn’t say his flesh sins. Paul doesn’t say he sins. Paul says, “It is NO MORE I that do, but SIN that dwelleth in me.”
Paul understood that “who” he was was a Son of God, separated from his flesh by the Spirit, and joined unto Christ. Paul understood that the sin of his flesh was not a representation of who he was. Paul didn’t sin – it was SIN that sinned in Paul’s flesh. How so? Because the reality of the person of Paul was that he was in the Person of Christ. His physical body had not yet experienced redemption (bodily resurrection), even though in the Spirit, Paul was ALREADY RAISED TO WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.
The very fact that sin still sins doesn’t change that we have already been justified and are in the Spirit of God. The very image of Christ is the same image we’ve been changed into. We’ve been changed from an old glory (of the letter that killeth) into a new glory (of the Spirit that giveth life).
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, ARE CHANGED into the SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, even as BY THE SPIRIT of the Lord.” 2Corinthians 3:18
Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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. 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 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.
But, even though he knows that who he is in Christ is an ever-sinless son of God, he still finds another law (law of sin and death) working in his flesh and warring against the law of his mind. The mind is where the ability rests to accomplish reasoning and understanding and discernment. The flesh is nothing more than the vessel of clay that houses the mind. The FLESH is the garden of Sin, whereas the MIND is the garden of God. Paul, with his mind, concludes that the law of God is of utmost desirability. Paul does NOT make this conclusion from his FLESH, note. Why? Because, as Paul says in Romans 8, the FLESH is NOT subject to the Law of God and NEITHER INDEED CAN BE.
The proper response to sin’s activity in the flesh is verse 24. The believer who lives after the Spirit looks at his flesh and declares how wretched he is and the need to be delivered from the body of DEATH. Paul thanked God that even though in his FLESH, he served the law of SIN, with his mind, he still has the ability to serve the Law of God. This is simple recognition of Paul’s reality. Paul was frustrated that sin had residency in his flesh, but was thankful that God had residency in his mind.
The “Law of God” is not necessarily synonymous with the “Law of Moses”, unless the context would lead that direction. In Romans 6, 7, and 8, however, we find that the Law of God is the jurisdiction of the Spirit of Life within the believer. It is the boundaries of His glorious liberty that has been granted to each believer.
Romans 8:1 There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ, who walk NOT after the FLESH, but after the SPIRIT.
Our story continues…