Romans 7 Questions Concerning Salvation cont’d.
Romans 7:1-6-Here, Paul uses the relationship of a husband and wife in marriage to demonstrate our relationship to the law. In verse 1, in the Greek, there is no “the” before the word “law”…suggesting that at that point he is not speaking specifically of the Law of Moses, but of legal principles in general. When a woman's husband dies she is no longer bound (by law, legally) to him...and may marry, again. Death ends all obligations and contracts. A wife is no longer bound to her husband if he dies because death ends that contract. If her husband dies, she is freed from the constraints of that law. In a similar way, when we die in Christ, we are no longer bound to the Law and its impossible standards for righteousness; but, we are free to become the bride of Christ, to be made righteous by virtue of that relationship, and to live righteously through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“We know how a woman is bound by law in marriage to her husband; but, how are we bound to the Law (:1-4)?”
God gave the Law to be the standard that identified our righteousness…which is the product of our being bound (in a right relationship) to Him and is demonstrated in the resulting righteous living characteristic of those that are bound to Him. However, because of our involvement in sin…instead of identifying our righteousness, it identified our unrighteousness and the extent of the depravity of our sin. God had created us to be righteous and the Law was intended to reveal that we were bound to Him. But instead, just the opposite happened and it revealed how sinful we are. So, since the Law revealed unrighteousness, men began to mistakenly look at the Law as something else, as well. They saw it, not just as a standard that identified that they were righteousness…but a means by which to be righteous. In great detail they identified how to keep the Law…so that they would achieve its standard and be identified as righteous. Then, they added layer upon layer of laws of their own…in order to assure that they were keeping the Law of God. But the Law was never meant to be a means to be righteous…it was meant to identify those that were already righteous by virtue of the fact that they were bound to God. God never intended for man to be righteous by his own effort. He would be righteous because of his right relationship with God and the Law would reveal that. Men became bound to the Law in that they saw it as the means to be righteous. They were bound to it…meaning that they believed that keeping it was absolutely necessary in order to attain righteousness. Consequently, they became totally dependent upon it (bound) as the means to righteousness.
“What is the result of our attempt to gain righteousness by fulfilling the Law?” (:5-7)
Our sin becomes even more sinful. First, because the harder we try…the more obvious our sin becomes. The harder I attempt to achieve the standard of the Law, the more I realize the true depth of the depravity of my sin (:7). Instead of showing me how to not sin…the Law reveals that I cannot be righteous. Second, when I attempt to become righteous by keeping the Law…I instead become more sinful. Why? Because God never intended for me to attain righteousness on my own, apart from Him. And, any attempt to do so, is an act of rebellion against God’s will…and as such, is in itself, sin.
“How do we ‘die to the Law through the body of Christ’ and are ‘released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound’ (:4,6)?”
As just explained, since the very attempt to be righteous by keeping the Law is actually an act of sin…all such attempts must die, cease. How do we do that? All death is the result of sin. But Jesus never sinned. He perfectly fulfilled the Law. He is utterly righteous. So then, why did He die? He willfully died in our behalf. He paid the price for our sin (our unrighteousness) with His righteousness (6:23). He did not die because of His own sin (there was none), but He died in behalf of our sin. Now, when we accept Him by faith as our Savior…that payment of His righteousness is made to our account before God. As a result, we are legally set free from the bondage of sin and from the Law as a supposed means of righteousness. We no longer attempt to attain righteousness on our own. We “die” to such an attempt at righteousness. We are “released” from the Law as a means of righteousness.
“How does sin become ‘alive’ when the Law comes (:5,9)?”
The Law, which is good and is intended to identify that which is good...instead, becomes a tool in the hands of men that is used to detect sin. But part of the problem is that it doesn’t just detect sin…it actually arouses sin and causes it to be alive (active). My old, sinful nature is in rebellion against God…the ”enemy of God” (Ephesians 2:15,16; James 4:4). So, when I discover that God’s commandments tell me to not do something…I refuse to submit to its authority. I am going to do it. Whatever God is for…I am against. This very act reveals even further that the Law is righteous and that I am a sinner. Did the Law make me a sinner? No. I am a sinner and the Law proves it. Apart from the Law I am alive (:9)…I have the appearance of being righteous. But, when the Law came, I died…it showed my unrighteousness and sin became alive and my sinful nature went into overdrive (:9-11).
(a)"to live again" (ana, "and" zao, "to live"), "to regain life," is used of moral "revival," Luk 15:24, "is alive again;"
(b) of sin, Rom 7:9, "revived," lit., "lived again" i.e., it sprang into activity, manifesting the evil inherent in it; here sin is personified, by way of contrast to the man himself. Some mss. have it in Rom 14:9, for zao, as in the RV, which italicizes "again."
(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G326&t=KJV)
“Does that mean that the Law (commandment) is sinful because it is used to create sin?” (:7-12)
No. I am sinful because I produce sin. The Law is “holy and righteous and good” (:12) and as such it reveals sin…but it is not the cause of sin.
“Does the Law cause death?” (:13-14)
No. Sin causes death (6:23). The Law identifies the cause of death, but does not cause it. In actuality, due to the fact that our sinful nature reacts to the Law by increasing its sinful rebellion against God…sin is shown to be more sinful than ever before and it is clearly demonstrated that I am still under bondage to it.
“If I am saved from sin, why do I still struggle with it so much?” (:15-25)
Romans 7:15-Paul refers to our old nature (its method of operation and consequences) by several terms: “flesh” (:5,14,18,25), “sinful passions” (:5), “members of our body” (:5,23), “fruit for death” (:5), “oldness of the letter” (:6), “bondage to sin” (:15), “sin which dwells in me” (:17,20), “nothing good dwells in me” (:18), “evil that I do not wish” (:19), “the principle that evil is present in me” (:21), “law of sin” (:23,25), “body of death” (:24). Each of these terms refers to the old nature (our physical/emotional/mental drives and obsessions that seek to serve and satisfy itself) that we inherit by physical birth. Having listed all of these terms that describe his old nature, Paul cries out, “What a wretched man I am!” There are two possible meanings to what Paul is speaking about. The word “wretched” is a compound word in Greek. It is comprised of the word “talanton” which means…
the scale of a balance, a balance, a pair of scales
and the word “piera” which means…
- a trial, experience, attempt
- to attempt a thing, to make trial of a thing or of a person
- to have a trial of a thing
- to experience, learn to know by experience
When combined, they speak of a life that is out of balance, over burdened, weighed down, excessively overloaded because of the difficulties that the person has experienced. So, on one hand, Paul could be speaking of his emotional state of being. Because of his continuous struggle with the old nature…he is worn down, tired of the fight, at the end of his rope. As if he is saying, “I am so tired of this struggle. Sometimes I just don’t think that I can fight any more!” Or, on the other hand, he could be speaking of his moral state of being. If we were to place his struggle on the scales…with the physical nature on one side and the spiritual nature on the other side…it would clearly identify that the physical nature has not been overcome, but continues to have influence and power in his life. He would be judged not good and righteous…but wretched and sinful.
Paul uses another set of terms to refer to the new nature (its method of operation and consequences) that we receive when we are born spiritually: “bear fruit for God” (:4:), “newness of the Spirit” (:6), “wishing” (:18), “good that I wish” (:19), “the one who wishes to do good” (:21), “the inner man” (:22), “the law of my mind” (:23), “mind” (:25).
It is the struggle between these two natures, these two adversaries, these arch enemies (both which exist simultaneously in Paul) that Paul is dealing with. Both natures are Paul’s nature. He isn’t one, or the other. He is both. And yet, ultimately, only one will be victorious…the spiritual nature of the new birth. Paul is aware of this truth…but he recognizes that until he physically dies the battle will continue and it is a difficult battle. Even though we want to do what is right, we often do what is sinful...because of the power of the flesh (the old nature of the physical birth) that we still live with (cf. Romans 6:1-11). But Paul tells us that we can be victorious in this struggle by continuously reckoning, considering ourselves to be alive to God. By that he is speaking of the new relationship that we have with God by virtue of our spiritual birth. We have been, “joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead”. We are to “consider yourselves…alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). It is by our faith in Jesus Christ that we will be set free!
It is as if Paul is saying, “I know that I have been saved from the penalty of sin. But, as long as I live on this earth, every single day I still have this old nature to deal with. I get so tired of continuously struggling with the influence of this rotten, sinful nature. Sometimes it seems to get the best of me. I think things I don’t want to think. I even do things that I don’t want to do. I try so hard. I try to have the right attitudes and the right behavior. But, often, I fail miserably. What’s the answer? Actually, I’ve known all along. It’s not me being, or doing right. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ living through me! When I submit myself to Him the power of His Holy Spirit becomes operative in me. That’s the only way to be alive to the new life and dead to the old. There, in Him, is the victory!”
We have identified the adversaries in this war for our loyalty…the flesh and the Spirit. But it is also important that we identify the battlefield in this war. It is the “mind”.
Mind (Noun and Verb):
"mind," denotes, speaking generally, the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining.
Its use in the NT may be analyzed as follows: it denotes
(1) of the thoughts and counsels of God,
(2) of Christ, a testimony to His Godhood; Eph 4:23;
(c) the new nature, which belongs to the believer by reason of the new birth, Rom 7:23, 25, where it is contrasted with "the flesh," the principle of evil which dominates fallen man. Under (b) may come 2Th 2:2, where it stands for the determination to be steadfast amidst afflictions, through the confident expectation of the day of rest and recompense mentioned in the first chapter.
(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3563&t=NASB)
The “mind” is the place where these two opponents meet. It is the place of decision. The place where we decide who we will be loyal to. The flesh wars by attempting to dominate the person by applying pressure and persuasion on the mind through a variety of ways that include (1) the physical drives of sensuality, sex, pleasure, gratification, and indulgence; and (2) the mental drives of intellect, pride, feelings, emotions, desire, success, attainment of possessions, and societal pressure for acceptance. The Spirit wars by revealing the nature of God, truth, righteousness, the meaning of life, how we are intended to relate to people and the world around us…and that we find true life when we willfully submit ourselves to Him. It is a constant struggle of the believer’s “mind” to decide who will win…because the flesh will never cease its attacks until the day the believer dies.
So, then, how is victory attained in this life here on earth? Paul told us earlier…”Even so consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus…Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (6:11; 7:25). It is by a day by day, no, a moment by moment considering, reckoning, determining…that I am alive to Jesus Christ (literally born again, filled with the Holy Spirit and submitted to Him) and dead to the flesh (figuratively dead because of Christ’s death and resurrection and the application of what He has done to my life) that I attain victory. I make a decision to not listen to or be controlled by the flesh. I am dead to it…not under its influence. Instead, I make a decision that I am alive to God! I know and believe that the Holy Spirit lives in me. Through the life-changing presence of the Spirit of God and through the truth-revealing power of the Word of God…I choose to live as a faithful child of God!
Prayer: Lord, teach me and enable me to live “in newness of the Spirit” and to not allow the flesh to overpower me.