Romans 7Romans 7 isn't about the history of the law or how an unsaved person discovers that they are a sinner. It is instead what happens to a Christian when they put themselves again under the law. It is not talking about how the law was under the old covenant but how law & sin is under the new.
"You were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. While we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."
Paul speaks briefly about being a Jew under the law having sinful passions aroused by the law. He says that they have been released from the law & no longer have to live that way. In the rest of this chapter He warns that the way we experience life is similar to that of a unsaved person when we put ourselves again under the law. He says, as he does again in Romans 8, that we are not "in the flesh." This sets the stage telling us that we have been released from the law & to no longer serve/walk by it. The remainder of Romans 7 goes on to speak about what happens when a Christian puts themselves under the law & I can say from experience & observation that it is totally true.
"Is the Law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
The law exposes sin, it was meant to do that under the old covenant so people could protect themselves from sin.
"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind"
Sin used the law against people like a weapon gaining greater power over them. This was true for old & new covenant people.
"for apart from the Law sin is dead."
This is a decisively new covenant statement. Sin was alive before the law in the days of Genesis. Sin was alive before the cross but Jesus killed it. Now, for those under the new covenant the only way for sin to have life is through someone subjecting themselves to law. "Sin shall have no power over you because you are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).
"I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me."
This isn't about how unsaved people find out that they are sinners, verses 4-6 makes that clear when it talks about Christians not living by the letter of the law anymore.
This is experiential language not literal or spiritual language because
1. All people are "dead in Adam" from physical birth.
2. Sin was already alive in all mankind before the cross.
3. Sin does not "kill" an unsaved person's spirit only when they find out about the law. Sin also killed before the law was given.
He was alive apart from the law, meaning He was living exclusively under grace but then commandments came & sin became alive. The commands that used to sustain life in the old covenant now produce (figurative experiential) death (a crappy shame filled life of burden). Sin deceived him using the law, this is easy because the law sounds good because it was once very good. It deceived him into putting himself under the law (walking by the old way of the letter) & thus "killed" him causing him to struggle when before he was free from sin. So this is not about sin & law under the old covenant but under the new.
"So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good."
The law was a good weapon meant to be used against sin to kill it while it was alive in the days of the old covenant. Now however that the law has ended through Christ sin uses the law as a bad weapon against us who are under grace.
"Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? Certainly not! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful."
He says sin should be most obvious when it uses the once good commands to produce death in us. The law was meant to be good & stand against sin & it did or else we'd have to ignore the positive ways the law is spoken of in the Old Testament. But now that Jesus has drained sin of its power Himself we have no need for the law & in fact the law has become sin's favorite weapon to persecute us. To us who have tasted grace it should be obvious that sin is at its most utterly sinful state when it uses God's commands against us.
"For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
This can only refer to a saved person.
1. He clarifies that nothing good lives in his flesh suggesting that something good, God, lives in his spirit. He also separates the inner man (spirit) from the "members of his body" (flesh).
2. He says sin is what sins in him. This is only true of someone born of the Spirit. Those who are not born of the spirit do produce sin from themselves because they are sill in the "old man" identity that includes the flesh.
Paul says that he knows the law is good. Later in 1 Timothy he says the law is only good if used right pointing out that the law is not made for the righteous thus we should not subject ourselves to it. Why is Paul struggling? The verses examined just before this tell us exactly why. It is because sin is using the law against him. It is because he has put himself under the law thus sin is alive to him thus something to struggle with. This is Paul describing what it is like to "serve/walk by the oldness of the letter of the law." In the new covenant walking by the law is also walking by the flesh. This struggle IS NOT the inevitable common struggle of all Christians. It is ONLY the struggle of those who empower sin by putting themselves under the law. I am also saying this from experience. I'm not just pretending this is true because I think the bible says so.
Let's step back & review these verses in light of what we've learned before moving on to Romans 8.
"Is the Law sin? Impossible! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead."
Is owning a gun murder? Certainly not! But a murderer taking hold of a gun produces death. Guns are meant to protect you from evil yet evil men can take your gun & kill you with it. The law is the same way. It was meant to protect people from death & the power of sin under the old covenant, it did, but the law was too weak to stand against sin. So sin took the weapon that is law & pointed it at people gaining more power & producing death. Sin was armed before the cross but Jesus disarmed it to where now the only way sin is alive with power is through the law. "Apart from the law sin is dead" means apart from the weapon of the law sin is unarmed. I've said this before, "the only way for sin to have power over you is for you to put the gun in its hand." But to my surprise scripture says the gun is the law. God officially abolished the law on the cross thus God does not require us to put the gun of the law in sin's hand to shoot us.
Romans 8"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."
This again shows us that Romans 7 is for "those in Christ Jesus." He says, "Instead of judging us by law keeping God sets us free from it." You are free from the law. You are free from the reality of sin & death. If you struggle against sin or death (shame & burden) you are living with a false mindset, sin has used the law to deceive you, because the reality is you have been set free from them.
"For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
This essentially says that "Jesus fulfilled the law!" He condemned sin, robbing it of its power. Some translations falsely say that "the requirement of the Law" is fulfilled in us. But instead it truly says that the "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us." The righteousness, the "good" of it that Romans 7 speaks about. It is speaking about the good & righteous actions the law talks about. They are performed when we "do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Walking by the law is walking by the flesh under the new covenant.
So this is said in light of what is said in Romans 7. If we try to keep the law we are doing it by the flesh because sin has deceived us into doing so. Sin tells us that it is good to try to keep the law & thus it empowers itself when we try to keep the law. Why? because the law was good but it is inferior to the new way of the spirit. If we simply walk by the spirit all of the good things the law talks about doing comes naturally. God has "Put His laws (instructions/guidance) in our hearts, and writes them on our minds." If we look at the written commands like a check list or if we even consider keeping the written law (letter of the law) we will empower sin & be condemned. But it is not a condemnation from God but a false condemnation from sin because sin cannot truly condemn us because Christ condemned sin.
"Those who walk according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who walk according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
If you lack the experience of peace it is likely you have set your mind on the law &/or the flesh rather than the spirit. He also points out that regardless of if your mind is set on the flesh "if the Spirit of God is in you" you are in reality "not in the flesh but in the Spirit." This possibility of Christians having fleshly/legal mindsets is why he points out that God "will give life to your mortal bodies (members/body parts & unrenewed mind) through His Spirit who dwells in you."
"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh (law), to live according to the flesh (law)— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
This is saying that we are not obligated to keep the law by the flesh, we are not obligated to live trying to keep laws. If we do this we will figuratively die. This is not talking about loss of salvation, eternal life cannot be snuffed out. This figurative death involves us thinking or feeling like we are experiencing the sad realities people who don't know God & people under the old covenant felt. Things such as condemnation, burdens, guilt, shame, feeling separated from God, feeling like we don't measure up, feeling that God is mad at us, struggling against sin as Romans 7 describes, & many other miserable things.
"The (bad) deeds of the body (flesh)" still happen because we still have bodies. We are living abundant life. If we don't put ourselves under the law all we have to do to continually experience that abundant life is to "put to death the deeds of the flesh by the weapon of the spirit."
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
Embracing & experiencing these realities are marks of setting your mind on the Spirit: Living like God is your actual Father, absence of fear, never feeling burdened, obligated, or persecuted like a slave, knowing we are God's children & that He shares with us & gives to us.
Additional truths from Romans 8 relating to all of this.
The Spirit helps our weakness. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. God is for us. Sin cannot truly stand against you, you cannot truly be condemned, all accusations against you are baseless. We cannot be separated from God's love by anything including sin & ourselves. When it comes to giving God didn't spare His own Son so He will also with Jesus freely give us all things. We overwhelmingly have victory, conquering through Him who loved us.
See this post for more on the purpose of the law under the old covenant regarding it protecting people from sin, The Devil Has the Power of Death