It keeps cropping up. Romans 7 is talking about slavery to sin under law. It is not talking about the Christian experience. Romans 7 is slavery to sin, Romans 8 is release from that slavery. If you get this wrong, then you are ascribing to the Christian, the condition that is actually one of slavery to sin, the very condition from which a Christian is released.
It is all a question of will power. In 7 the person’s will is overpowered by the will of the flesh, of sin. The person knows what is right to do because of the law’s enlightenment in this regard, but because there is no element other than law (sin and death) present, his will becomes just wishful thinking under the onslaught of the condemning flesh.
He knows what is right and wrong because the law tells him so. And this is the whole point of it. Because he is under the law, he is under wrath, because law brings wrath. No Christian can be described as being under wrath. The whole point of the chapter is to explain what the forces at work within a man actually are, and primarily as under law. Then he explains how freedom from this sin slavery occurs in 8.
Because sin has been rendered of no account through the body of Christ, its power to condemn has been defeated. Christ’s victory is the defeat of sin’s power. This breaks the cycle that previously held sway, it releases the man’s will from all power except that of grace, of the gospel. A new Spirit is in control and the flesh has been defeated. It’s accusations of condemnation now fall on deaf ears, ears that have been unstopped and have heard and responded to the gospel.
If you do not believe that the power of sin was totally broken in the body of Jesus – If you believe that the person in 7 was a Christian, still meeting the power of the flesh and struggling and trying to deal with it through whatever means, even if that supposedly be the Spirit or that supposedly be grace, then you will be a very confused “Christian”. Yes some understanding of grace and the destruction of the power of sin by the cross may very well ’empower’ you. But to try and reconcile that with the description of the one in 7 being a Christian is not possible. There will always be confusion somewhere if this teaching holds sway.
There is a difference between teaching that the poor performance of the man in 7 is overcome by “grace”, (ie that even though this position of failure still exists, he is forgiven) and the teaching that the reason for this very poor performance (under law) has been absolutely completely and utterly removed by the cross. The former puts the law in a position to retain power, failing to see that the whole chapter is about how the law gives power to sin, and It was by the release from this sin condition through Jesus dealing with it, that is the very foundation of the atonement and is forgiveness itself.
Romans chapter 7 is all about man under law, and therefore man under the power of sin. Christians have been released from both the power of sin and from the law. Though the flesh accuse, it has no power (authority) to do so. Temptation can no longer be based upon past failure, but only on future failure to apprehend the grace of God that has been placed before us to so apprehend, that makes the result of this grace so valuable as to provide strength to overcome it. Anyone who deliberately looks within their flesh for evidence of sin power will find it, they will again find the law of sin and death, but this is not ‘normal’ Christian behaviour because Jesus took away this power from the flesh, and to return credence to it is to return to the realm of disbelief.
It is the misunderstanding of this chapter that gives law keepers some leverage in their attempts to maintain that the law still remains dominant over Christians. How could this man be a Christian if he was in relationship with and in subjection to, the law? Has he not heard of the Spirit?
17/7/2017 I want to add some notes because of comments made in “From the Study”, https://fromthestudy.com and because I placed reference on there to this post, and before Derek replies to my already in place comments. This could go on almost forever, because R7 is notoriously tricky, but for those who persevere, the end result is rewarding. WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT PAUL WHO IS UNDER THE NEW COVENANT, IS EXPLAINING THE OLD COVENANT. So He places himself as one who is under the law. He also has hindsight of what it means to be under law, having been there himself, and now being in the new covenant, having insight from that perspective also.
One of the more serious observations, and one I did not come to see until after many conclusions had already been reached, was that when Paul speaks in present tense about himself in relation to law, that there exists an actual reality at all times regardless of what covenant one considers themselves to be under. And that is, that when/if his “I” is placed in a position of being under law, sin and flesh will be empowered.
“Law brings wrath”, and this is shown by his “Wretched man that I am”. “Who will release me from this body of death”. We have to remember this is Paul the apostle who is in reality, under the new covenant, not under law, but under grace, led by the Spirit; but who is here taking the position of one under law, as being still in the old covenant, the one that has been replaced by the new.
The whole of Romans 7 is about the law. It is not until we get to Romans 8 that we leave the subject of law, of the old covenant. Paul cannot be a Christian in R7 because Christians are not under the law. Romans 7 would not even have had to be written, since it is about a superceded covenant, except Paul wants to explain for teaching purposes, what place the law played while it was in place. And very important it is too.
Paul, by hypothetically placing himself under law, rediscovers the power of sin within. [for the purpose of explanation]. He has already explained that “The good I would do, I cannot; it is the evil I would not do, this is what I do”. This is called slavery to sin, and is the condition Christ came to release us from. Paul’s will is useless, being a slave or servant to and of the flesh, of “sin in the flesh”. His will can only be released once he accepts the gospel and enters into the new covenant of the Spirit, having been released from the law by Christ’s sacrifice “to” the law. [the law of sin and death].
V25 is the conclusion he arrives at and has already partly stated beforehand, that 1/ his mind is aligned with (follows a law of) God, while his flesh follows a law of sin. So he says there is a dual condition within him which means in reality that the fact that his mind wants to do the law is meaningless because he can’t actually do it, as much as he wants to or “wishes” to. And 2/ his flesh is in accord with the law of sin, which is dominant over him and controls his will. He is powerless over his “body of death”.
Note that this two state, two “entity” condition is the static or passive situation, which will either in the R7 situation react to law by empowering the flesh, or in the R8 situation will respond to grace because the law has been disempowered by the cross.
Romans 7 describes the death state that exists in man and is confirmed by the law, and Romans 8 describes the release from death into the new life of the Spirit. IE both covenants are represented here. You are either in one or the other, and R7 is the old, while R8 is the new. Paul who is in the new covenant and is Spirit filled, has, for purpose of explanation, hypothetically entered into the old.
Whatever glory the old covenant had is greatly exceeded by the new. Paul recognises the law as holy of origin and the representation of righteousness for that time. But it has been superceded with much superior righteousness which is now attainable, we having been “…released from all things that you could not be released from by the law of Moses”. Paul also calls the law “The ministry of death” because it provokes and maintains death within.
Overnight I received new insights, which may be difficult to reproduce here because of both time and articulation difficulties. But Paul here was all of himself, by himself. The number of “I’s” are many, he is without spirit or Jesus. The players are himself and his flesh and the law (of sin and death). Jesus said “without me you can do nothing” and here is the perfect example of this. Old covenant, OLD creation…….Jesus comes into the Romans 7 of our lives and turns it into Romans 8. ….More later when time permits…. Paul was trying to attain to the righteousness of the law….”If a law could have been given that…” Man who is part of the old creation cannot attain righteousness under law.
No further comments from Derek yet. Overnight again more insights.
PAUL’S EXPANDING CONSCIOUSNESS (big bang theory? LOL) (emergent) CHRIST IN US. Romans 6 NEW covenant, Romans 7 OLD covenant. Jesus perfect (polarisation) – (where is HIS “I”.) NEW CREATION. Man’s emergent [created] consciousness from the animal basic consciousness. God’s Spirit re-created in man. God’s Spirit always was pre-existant. Paul’s “I” in 7 is subject to old covenant conditions.
………………………………… People are always looking for a progression of thinking, or a sequential chain of events, perhaps chronologically ordered. But wrongly. [the same problem occurs in Rev.]
Paul has explained Romans 6 as in the progression of the effect of the new covenant. He is explaining so we might learn from it. But when he shifts to Romans 7 he is returning to the subject of the old covenant, to explore the realities involved in why there was the need to shift from the old to the new covenant. The subject matter is the law, the old covenant. Paul gets into explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of it all, eventually declaring himself to be dead (in sin).
The subject turns to the nature of death itself, death in man. Paul is immersing himself in the subject matter, death by law. As much as it goes against the grain, Paul is opening himself to the realities of this, and uses the “I” as meaning himself, his immediate consciousness. In this sense, he has left the new covenant and his life in it, far behind. He has regressed back to law instead of Spirit. [he is (re)considering his old nature]
The good that I want I cannot do it is the evil I would not, that I do. This is obviously not the description of a Christian. If it was, why bother! This is the “I” of one under law, as the whole context of this chapter is law. Paul is re-entering being under the law. There is not a hint of Spirit or Jesus here. The reality of it is, that he can do nothing OF HIMSELF. Meaning he does not have the Spirit, or Jesus, or the gospel. Jesus said without me you can do nothing. This is pre-gospel, it is old covenant conditions (law).
It is placing man under a worse condition through coming to know law, than if he had never known it. To the point where Paul says, wretched man that I am. I have noticed how hard it is to get to the point of the reality of sin in him, and this is because of sin in ME. As someone else has said, the nearer you get to the problem, the more the problem will resist you. I this, I that, I something else. Paul ADMITS to the problem of there being something in him that causes his poor performance. But he DENIES responsibility for it.
Because he has expressed a desire to do what the law requires, the fact that he is unable to do it even though his desire is to do it (the righteousness of the law) proves to him that he is not the one responsible for the negative outcome. He blames sin that lives in him. Sin as a natural component of being part of the natural creation. What has happened is that his awareness and consciousness of sin has grown through becoming aware of his failings, and the law exemplifies, emphasises this.
And this negative outcome is not the work of a Christian.
Paul’s “I” identity in Romans 7 is his identity as one under law, the law that kills.
Paul is explaining the old covenant. Under the old covenant, he would perform like this. His basic inner sinful nature may always be there, [for he knew what was in man] whether the old or the new covenant is in play, but under the new covenant, by the Spirit, hopefully man’s complete nature would now undergo an overhaul, a transformation, he will become a new creation in Christ, and “all things will become new”. I cannot here state the degree to which the inner problem of the sin identity is nullified by the Spirit. But by faith it is wiped out by his cross and his love. There is another thing here which is quite exciting, and that is the comparison between what Paul has revealed here, and the nature of Jesus. More to come on that.
The conclusion Paul reaches in 7 is that by natural nature his mind (now educated, enlightened by various means including law)* knows right from wrong, and his “I”, his conscious willing identity wants to do what is right. However, his natural nature, the foundation of what he is as a creature of creation, contains elements which oppose his new found aspirations because, at core, Paul and his aspirations are a threat to “their” existence. Sin seems to have a personality, is ‘personified’. There may be a degree of separation of nature within man, which may be operational at some indeterminate level.
Having identified the duality of his nature, Paul leaves it at that. The inference, the conclusion, has to be that when you place a man under law, this duality of nature emerges, is clarified, is polarised, so that the problem becomes the more apparent. It was the righteousness of law that strengthened his righteous aspirations but also it was law that made him increasingly aware of his inability to fulfill them. “Catch 22”
It is into this scenario that Romans 8 enters. Man’s nature when placed under law, empowers sin. But man’s nature, when placed in grace, disempowers that sin nature, defeats it. The Spirit then becomes the added ingredient which confirms the overpowering of the sin nature which has become strengthened by law. The Spirit is the ongoing strength by which sin nature is kept at bay.
[Where Paul exclaims “thanks be to Christ” it is only an exclamation of relief that there is a solution. It does not mean that what is written after this is in any context of Jesus or Spirit, it is just the logical sequence of events and is theatrically necessary for purpose of explanation. He immediately resumes his discourse as one under law, old covenant].
*This alludes to the death that came from the garden when Adam gained knowledge of good and evil.
There is the fundamental, natural basic “I” and also the enlightened, higher “I”? The first “I” is subject to the forces of nature, of “sin”; the higher “I” which is there because knowledge of right and wrong created it, can be freed by the even greater righteousness of mercy, forgiveness, love. The “I” who is God is willing to suffer much in order to bring his created ones through to the finish line.
Jesus was polarised to the point where he was able to heal his body totally to immortality. The fundamental of his polarisation prior to his immortality and resurrection, is the same polarisation we should be experiencing through the power of his Spirit of resurrection. We should be able, theoretically, to be “as he was in this world” or similar words. It is by faith from first to last. We, “I”, our body even, should be in submission to us (almost?) to the degree that his was to him, the only difference being that we are not to see our immortality this side of the resurrection. [because we will never be perfected to the complete degree he was]. The realities of the resurrection however, should be evident in our lives NOW.
THE FINAL SCENARIO. PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF APART FROM FAITH. HE HAS PLACED HIMSELF AS ONE UNDER LAW FOR PURPOSE OF EXPLANATION.
The tense is irrelevant , is a distraction. Presumption, admittedly; but everything Paul says is probably in the present tense unless he goes to the past.
Paul is speaking as a narrator who is explaining the effect law had and still has on people. Law doesn’t have to be the law of Moses, either. Law is anything that sets itself up or is set up as an authority over us. It may be parents, school, civil authorities, church etc.
In His case we are talking religious authority which is talking moral authority. Paul is a teacher, and He is teaching. He carries on from Romans 6, again explaining the results of now not being under law. 6. We now serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Then He wants to talk about the law, the one from whose influence we have now been removed. 7. What shall we say then? [What will we conclude, what is our assessment of the law and law process?] PROPOSITION Is the law sin?
Paul answers with his own experience of the matter. 7. On the contrary, The law brought me to know sin. But the law stirred up coveting within me, and apart from law, sin is dead. 9. I was alive apart from law, but law brought sin alive, and I died. 11. Sin deceived me. PAUL IS RELATING WHAT LAW DID TO HIM (in the past). And is about to explain his inner tendencies to sin. He is not speaking as “serving in newness of the Spirit”
12. So the law is a good thing because it points out and makes even more obvious, the bad thing.
13. Can we reasonably say then, that the good thing brought about my death? No, it was the bad thing that brought about my death, the good thing (law) was simply pointing it (the bad thing)(sin) out to me, giving it more emphasis and power and prominence .
[the tense now changes because he has left the past and moved to a present analysis of himself as under law]
14. The law is good (spiritual) but I am flesh, not spiritual, and flesh is bound to sin, is bonded to it and is in bondage to sin. This is why my death in the foregoing explanation occurred, because my flesh is by nature involved with sin, contains sin, and produces sin. My flesh (my natural human nature) is exploited by sin, which exploitation is empowered by law which points out the limitations of my spiritual designs [desires], seeing no matter how it goes, I am still dead at the end of it.
15. For those things that I do (as one under law), which I found I have done, which came out and which even now would come out of this natural, but now even more forced condition, I do not understand. The things I do under law I do not understand, because in this condition, under law, I do not do what I want to do, I do what I don’t want to do.
16. The fact that I would do what I don’t want to do, means I am in agreeance with the law, confessing (saying, agreeing with) it (the law) is good.
17. This means then, it is not from my will that this action comes, but from the distortion of my will that sin brings into it. Sin lives in me. (Sin has found this temple to be inhabitable). [until by faith it is swept clean]
18. HERE IS A DEFINITIVE STATEMENT. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is to say, in my flesh. (What I am by basic human nature). For even though I wish, want, to do good, it does not, appears to be impossible, to do.
19. For the good that I wish to do doesn’t happen; it is the OPPOSITE thing, the bad I have purposed NOT to do, that I actually do. (What a fruitcake!).
20. But if I do what I don’t want to do, (drawing from past experience) it means someone or something else is doing it. It appears it is sin residing (dwelling, living) in me. [sin dwells in him by virtue of “human nature”, but what is the situation after cleansing by faith?!!]. [The Spirit gives life to your mortal body].
21. Therefore, I find that this principle exists. EVIL IS PRESENT IN ME The one who would purpose to do good. (the good of the law).(In my human nature, “flesh”)
22. I am as happy as a pig in mud in my agreeance with the righteousness of the law, in my inner being, from wherever I am drawing my inspirational agreeance to desire to do good. [probably from his “right” mind][his heart?][“innermost being”].
23. But I perceive ANOTHER LAW in my natural self which differs and does not agree with the decision (law) of my mind and wages war against it, opposes it, is in conflict with it: And takes me as a prisoner to itself. [prisoner to sin][captive to sin][slave to sin][The pre-saved condition].
24. Wretched man! Who will achieve liberation for me? from this body of death?
25. Thanks be to God who has provided the solution, the answer, the liberation […and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God…][ see Corinthians or Colossians or suchlike] ..through Jesus!
25. SO THEN. On the one hand I find that I myself [I OF myself] with my mind I am serving (wishing to serve)(not serving) but willing to serve a law of God – But on the other hand, my flesh serves (follows) a law of sin. And indeed serves it, whereas my mind is powerless to actually “serve” the desired outcome that “his law” requires.
These two scenarios, which describe the latent inert position* of my actual self – the serving God’s law or serving sin’s law, are “triggered” by one of two situations. Either I am placed under law, which produces all the negativity aforementioned, or we introduce grace, which forgives law’s transgressions and thereby removes its power to condemn and thereby removes its power to control. IT REMOVES SIN’S POWER. And hopefully with ongoing cleansing and sanctification, by faith, removes much of the indwelling sin of the flesh. It certainly removes the control that flesh has over the mind. “Set free” from slavery or servanthood to sin.
*[in reality, “restless”]
What I have proposed here, is that Paul is not actually “doing it”, but is describing his PROPENSITY to or for sin, which if were allowed to act, would be the action of sin or sinning. But He is only describing his latent inactive, a “snapshot” as it were, of the condition within him which under law, leads to the increased activity of sin.
The NIV (though there are differing versions?) has used terminology like “The good I [would] DO”, instead of the good I am DOING” IE that which He would do because his prior experience has shown that he actually does or has done it.
Jesus said that without him we can do nothing. The man in R7 is a man “without him”. He is helpless and hopeless and is a slave to sin. Romans 6 explained the release from the law and Romans 7 explains the why’s and wherefore’s of captivity, slavery, to sin under law. The designed slavery so that man could then recognise his release from it.
What this is saying is that man is faulty and cannot live or enter into real life without forgiveness. That if he only operates to the facts (of his sinful life)[law] he will never SEE life. That those facts of his sin need cleansing through returning to God. The birth of the [new] creation requires forgiveness, grace, Spirit, love. It needs Jesus.
[21. the reason he wishes to do good is because he agrees with the law]
[“without me (Jesus) you can do nothing”][“Be led by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh”. Jesus has become “a life giving Spirit”. “I am with you and will be in you”] Romans 7 does not have Jesus, the resurrection Spirit, since having gone through most of 7, he then exclaims “who will deliver me…?]
PAUL’S FLESH. It has been difficult to decide just where Paul’s flesh, stands. But it appears he is talking about “We/you were by nature children/objects of wrath…”. The same nature as in “When Gentiles who don’t have the law, do by nature that which the law contains, they show they are a law unto themselves…..” He is talking about himself, and specifies it as “his flesh”. “In me dwells no good thing, that is, in my flesh…” – natural human nature. The “other law” he perceives in him is that which is self serving and which has developed over time, and which also represents the animalistic, basic “desires of the flesh” AKA “The lust of the flesh”. Because of this basic nature which simply wants to do its own thing, it is a random collection of thoughts and actions that control us, or which we think we are in control of. Therefore we are “objects of wrath” because we don’t fit into God’s ordered, righteousness controlled environment. In the case of the gentiles, he is saying some manage to organise a reasonable inner structure which in some ways at some times is closer to God’s “requirement”.
THE FLESH is not to be seen as some inner component that we will war with forever, (although it may seem like it) but rather that it is we ourselves in our raw nature, which needs to be changed to new nature. Law makes sin obvious, grace removes sin ongoingly and frees us from all impediment towards fulfilling the designed intention of overcoming our basic structure and converting it to spiritual nature. Allowing a new birth to a new scenario which gives us power over our natural selves via his indwelling Spirit. To move into the new creation that we become and are becoming. A total takeover of ourselves by His kingdom. GAL. says the flesh and the law are opposed so you cannot do what you want (see R7) but if you are led by the Spirit you will not support the works of the flesh.
If Paul looks at any time to his natural nature (flesh) then of course he will find what “the flesh” contains. So He says the law is spiritual but he is unspiritual having been sold as a slave to sin – he is speaking as being under law (which no Christian is) and having been sold as a slave to sin -which no Christian is – because this whole chapter 7 is about law and nothing BUT law. He previously had said that the law killed him. So he speaks as this dead man, killed by guilt and the sentence of death under law.
I know that within me, THAT IS, in my flesh (natural self) dwells no good thing. He is not talking of his reborn nature. So we are not talking about flesh simply as that being what he is composed of, being flesh and blood, although this is of course his body and the carrier of these faulty components of his natural nature, that old creation which is to become new creation. The new creature is to emerge from the old creature, which is said to be “dead” buried in baptism complete with the old “I” and risen as the new “I”.