It is difficult to leave the subject of Romans 7 when eminently respectable theologians are still getting it wrong. (No I couldn’t be wrong 🙂 ). I guess one of the main sticking points for them is where in verse 14 Paul’s discourse turns to the present tense.
This immediately leads one to think that because he is Paul the apostle, that he is from then on talking about his present state as a Christian. What is not understood though, is that he is reaching inside himself to expose what his human nature does when under law. It is an interesting thing that during the process of coming to understand this chapter, one can initially tend to avoid this reality and try to explain it some other way, But the truth of it is unavoidable.
Paul is saying that He, of himself, if under law, finds this process occurring within himself. It is an expose of human nature, and he is using himself, his own human nature, as the example. He is not saying ‘I Paul the apostle find this as a present day situation within me’. [but he could do if he reverted to law]. This whole chapter is about the law. He is not saying that he as one filled with the Spirit is now behaving in this defeated way. He is not saying that as a Christian he is in slavery to his flesh.
No, he is saying that Christ frees you from this condition of slavery to the flesh, so that you no longer are powerless. That your previously defeated will is now empowered, by the destruction of the power of the flesh and its sin to condemn you. The flesh remains what it is, but now it has lost its power to keep your will in captivity to serve its own purposes. Similarly the tempter has lost his power because to fall to temptation now no longer automatically involves a death sentence, since Jesus took it away.
So to believe what the error says, means that your salvation involves the forgiveness of your continuing failure, and you don’t have to pay attention to this at all. By saying this, it fails to acknowledge the greatness of the separation between the present state of man under law, and his preordained destiny of an elevated life in the Spirit. For a Christian to be credited with this kind of negative behaviour is just terrible, not the least so for his own conscience sake.
“The good I would do I cannot do, the evil I would not do this I keep on doing”. If this is your story as a Christian, I would be thinking about a rewrite! Certainly we have our weakness, certainly sometimes our failures are very obvious. But to ascribe Paul’s comments about himself to being a Christian when it is actually that of the pre-Christian position and the very thing from which we are released, is to reverse the whole intent of this chapter, which was to demonstrate the complete failure of the law to save, to gain righteousness, because of the weakness of the flesh.
To operate within the parameters of this wrong idea is to weaken the gap between law and Spirit, is to tend to accept failure as being normal, “just like Paul in Romans 7, and he was an apostle!” It also prolongs the influence of law, because it confuses Christanity with the law, and infers that a Christian lives under law and it’s just that his failures to keep it are covered by the sacrifice of Christ. This is not at all the language of scripture.
We see in verse 14 that Paul says he was sold into bondage to sin. But this is countered now by Christ buying us back again. Is he sold to sin or bought back? You can’t have it both ways. Also verse 23 describes the war within, [conflict, wrath] which leaves him a prisoner to sin. So he is a prisoner to sin, full of conflict. Who will set me free from this body of death? Oh that’s right, Jesus will!
Verse 25 is very significant because it appears to lend weight to the argument of error – “Thanks be to God!” a present tense exclamation, which is then followed with an also present tense explanation that “So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God [notice he is serving or attempting to serve, (which doesn’t work) the law] but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Now because of the way this is written, it is easy to conclude that the end of the matter is that we are stuck with a two part situation, which, if you believe this to be the Christian position, means that righteousness is a hit and miss affair and a tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit, although the Spirit has not been mentioned at all in this Chapter. [except v6]
But this is not what he is saying, he is simply summing up his position as one under law, as he has previously expressed, that though his mind is desirous of serving the law, this desire is futile, because the ‘other law’, the law in his flesh, overrides, overpowers it.
So what is to change this situation? Romans 8 verse 1. “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”.
Now we see the Spirit, now we see life. The new law of the spirit of life has entered this “catch 22” and takes out of the equation the law of sin and death. Now the mind is freed from the accusations and conflict of the flesh, and the righteousness of the law, which previously was unattainable, is now greatly even the more exceeded because it comes from the glory of the Spirit.
Cromans 7 Cslavery Cprisoner Cromans7