A Study In Romans 7: Part II

As I mentioned in “Part I: A Study in Romans 7”, our task in studying Romans 7 is to decided if the experience set forth is one of a Christian or not.  Remember, we discussed the two basic and fundamental rules for sound Bible interpretation according to 1 Cor. 2:13 and 2 Tim. 2:15.

1 Cor. 2:13  …comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

2 Tim. 2:15   …rightly dividing the word of truth. 

So, we set forth to answer our question by these two methods:  [1]  Scriptural comparison, (which we did Sunday) and [2] expository examination.  In Part two of our study, we will simply go directly through the chapter verse by verse and expound as we go.  This is in no way exhaustive but will provide a concise overview of the entire chapter. As I’ve stated, we believe that this experience presented in Roman’s 7 is a legal experience and not one of a man under grace. He is still the servant of sin, only now unwilling. Many claim to be under grace but they are deceived.

Romans 6:14  “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

Interestingly, for those who claim that this man in Romans 7 is under grace consider the following:

  • The law is mentioned 23 times, more than any      other chapter in the Bible with the exception of Psalm 119.
  • Jesus is      only mentioned twice while grace is never mentioned.
  • Yet there are 52 references to first person – I, me,      and my. 

The Introduction

Romans 7:1-4  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?  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.  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.  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. 

In verse 1 we have the introduction and premise…The law has dominion over those who are alive. This is not speaking of physcial life, but rather, of those who are alive to the old man/flesh – in covenant with.  God will not forgive the old man, nor can the blood cleanse the old man (flesh). The old man can not be justified, only crucified.  Hence, deliverance is through death alone.  The Apostle draws a parallel between the marriage covenant and our spiritual covenant. So, we are either in covenant with Jesus and under grace, or in covenant with the old man and therefore under the law.  The only way to be freed from the covenant is through death.  Those who are under grace are now dead to the old and alive to the new. 

Next, life past and present…

Romans 7:5-6  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. 6But 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. 

The Apostles clearly offers our past and present conditions as once dead in sins and now, as Christians, alive through Christ Jesus. These verses are the introduction to the struggle of Romans 7.  Teaching that the strength of sin is the law.

And the law only has dominion if the criminal of the flesh is alive. 

The Vindication and purpose of the law

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. 

All the blame for our sinful condition and rebellious constitution is our responsibility alone.  There is nothing wrong with the law – Paul addresses this because it most certainly was an issue.  The problem is unregenerated man.  We do not make void or do away with the lawbut we must do away with ourselves. Sadly, much of today’s theology, instead of embracing the cross and agreeing with the penalty of the law, has attacked the standard instead. At it’s core this is a crossless and rebellious gospel (and the fruit of a crossless gospel are those who identify with Romans 7). 

Philip. 3:18-19  (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 

The law is what brings the knowledge of sin to awaken a careless sinner.Romans 3:20  …for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 

Galatians 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 

The awakened sinner battles with sin apart from grace, this is what we see in Romans 7.

Sin resists the law

Romans 7:8-13  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  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. 

Sin is exposed for what it is by the pure law of God. Here we have a man who is now awakened to his sin but still lost, he is under law (sees the standard) but has no grace to fulfill.  “What about present tense language of the passage?” some may ask. One the main objections to Roman 7’sbeing a legal experience is the present tense.  However, there is a common verb tense called the Historical Present Tense and this is part of our, every-day ordinary speech.  In the textbook Essentials Of English Grammar by L. Sue Baugh, you will find that…

“…writers occasionally use the present tense when reviewing the contents of a book or describing past events to bring them vividly to life for the reader.”

This form of the present tense is known as the literary or historical present.  In general, the Historical Present Tense in a passage (1) starts in the past tense to establish its form; (2) the writer then uses the present tense to bring a vivid description of an event. For example:  

“I was an atheist when I was 20 [past tense]. A neighbor came to me one day to tell me about Jesus… But I don’t want to hear it! [present tense] I am an atheist! I don’t believe in God!”

Paul, in Romans 7, follows the same format. Romans 7:9-11 uses the past tense first.  Paul writes Romans 7 in the Historical Present Tense to give hypocrites a chance to closely identify with his struggle with sin prior to conversion. If you, my friend, can identify with this passage, let it be known: you are not a Christian. 

The Spirit of the law

Romans 7:14-17  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 

Carnal = Animal, Unregenerate.

Sold =  Into slavery.

Under =  Beneath or in Subjection to.

More than any other words in Romans 7, these clearly point to a pre-conversion period under the law.  Paul is not demonstrating the insufficiency of the gospel of grace, but rather, the insufficiency of the law to redeem us apart from grace.  As we have already seen, this cannot be Paul’s Christian testimony.  Notice, that we now see the terrible struggle of an awakened sinner seeking to obey the law in his own strength.Romans 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.

Notice the agony and despair of this man as he seeks freedom. Thus, this is really not the condition of most who claim this expereince as they generally are content to remain frustrated and bound.  We have seen what the law does and now we will see what it can not do. Romans 7:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

This man says …“Not I but sin”

But Paul said…“Not I but Christ.”

The word Dwell speaks of  a fixed and permanent resident.  It is not to stop by for a visit but to reign and have dominion.

Ephes. 3:17   That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;” is the aim of Christianity

Galatians 2:20  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” 

Wishful thinking

Romans 7:18-23  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.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  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. 

We see here a form with no power.  Grace is not just to know, but the ability to know and do.James 1:22  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 

Philip. 2:13  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 

With his intellect this man agrees with the law but was still captive to sin.  Many think that because they are remorseful over sin that they are born-again.  The most depraved people will praise virtue and justice in the abstract (Isaiah 58  “Take delight in approaching unto God”).  Herod heard John the Baptist with delight.  We must never confuse noble desires with noble character. There is a great difference in admiring and possessing.  Here we have a man convinced by the law but not yet changed by the gospel.  He said he was brought into captivity.  This man was a captive to sin not just falling here and there.

2 Cor. 3:17  Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty….(not captivity)

If there is no liberty from sin then you are not filled with the life or Spirit of God.

Romans 8:9-10  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

The desperate cry

Romans 7:24-25  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  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.

What God will accept we can not produce. The conviction of the Holy Ghost, using the law of God is what brings a man to this realization.  Unlike many today who claim this experience, this man cried out for deliverance.  The law has done its work, as a schoolmaster it leads a sinner to Christ.  Notice, through much toil and pain did the sinner come to realize the grace of God (conviction is a very pressing and probing experience).

So, a verse by verse commentary, or studying God’s Word in context, irrefutably proves Romans 7 represents a man under the law, not grace.

Read Part 1 of A Study In Romans 7

Romans 7 man unveiled