May 2015 (These two older versions of Romans 7 are still informative, I believe.)
Unfortunately there are some serious errors that people make concerning this very important chapter in the bible.
This chapter describes how man is a slave to his basic nature, but some would have you believe it is the description of a Christian. It is the description of what man is released from when he becomes a Christian. It is the documentation by the apostle Paul of his experiences under the law, or, under LAW.
The law was “a schoolmaster unto Christ”, meaning that the law was a teacher by means of presenting to man his inability to put into practice those higher aspirations that man might have through coming into contact with spiritual matters.
When man finally realises and accepts his failings and inadequacies, he is in a position to accept Christ as the answer to his problem. (Similar to the thief on the cross). Some who fail to understand the nature of this chapter, do so because they fail to accept that God has dealt with their sin in a complete way in Christ, and so are unable to see the magnitude of its implications for them regarding the removal of the power of sin to enslave them. “For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law….” (But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ”).
Since Christ absorbed the penalty of the law for us, its penalty is no longer held against us, and so the power of sin is also removed. Of course, we must respond to this action by “taking advantage” of this reconciliation God has offered, and by believing its truth, make it real in our lives. The cross was the proof and reality of his forgiveness of us, we only have to accept it (Him).
[ in Romans7 Paul was “under the wrath of God”][ I have to say I am utterly amazed that intelligent people still get Romans 7 wrong]
I inadvertently omitted to reproduce this earlier version of R7. Maybe a bit primitive and to some degree superceded but still relevant I believe….
ROMANS CHAPTER SEVEN. May 30 2015. This chapter of Romans is very controversial. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out (although the basic premise was there and most of the time was spent bumping heads with pastors and ministers) and I believe I was led to the right answers! There are many explanations to be found on the web, some quite simple and short, some quite long and complicated.
There are older compositions and more modern approaches. Apart from misconceptions due to a certain innocence in approaching this writing of Paul’s, even though the warning is given that there are some things that Paul writes about that are hard to understand, there are a couple of things that provide difficulties for those stick in the muds who can’t get the overall sense of it!
Those things are the tenses as given in the Greek, and the fact that Paul speaks highly of the law. The former item is a matter for Greek scholars or by referral o some of the more elaborate sites, and the latter is for evaluation by references to other scriptures or again, by reference to those elaborate sites aforementioned.
A couple of other things trip people up, one being the tendency to accept time frames in the sequence they seem to appear. This occurs from the beginning in Paul’s transition from the previous chapter 6, where he has just finished wrapping up how we are now no longer slaves to sin. In 7 though, he does not carry on as though it were in some sort of sequence, No, he starts a new tack by stopping to analyse what the problem was with the law that caused the strife mentioned in the preceding chapters, and what this strife was and how it came about. He is going to explain just what the mechanism of sin is inside the human personality, and the how and why of its power over sinners to keep them sinning!
As Paul goes deeper into his story, he eventually gets to the point where he reveals how he himself is, as a member of humanity, and how he was when he was placed in that position of being under law, and how he would again react if he (hypothetically) was placed again under the law. It is in fact, a dramatic melodrama that he lays out before us, reflecting his increasing agitation as the law, schoolmaster that it is, reveals to him his inability to perform that which he wants to do. He discovers that he is not in charge of his own will, it is all wishy washy wishful thinking that leads to nothing, or to be more precise, leads to something other than he wanted to happen, and in fact was invariably evil, though he wanted good.
And he starts it all with, So then, I write to those of you WHO KNOW THE LAW. That should provide some sort of clue as to his subject matter in 7. He is going to enquire into this law that caused the slavery to sin that he has just finished explaining in chapter 6 doesn’t exist anymore for the Christian!
Some say that he is relating a “flashback”, and this may be somewhat true. Some important points though are that he says he is carnal or of flesh. Whatever the wording, he is simply saying that he, like all of us, are not some spiritual thing that descended from heaven, but he was born into humanity with all its failings, and when placed under law, there is an adverse reaction. Conversely, the law is said to be spiritual, so he is decidedly outgunned!
By the time he gets to “Wretched man” etc, he is expressing the totality of his failure and frustration at his inability to control himself, and he is recognising how lost he is in the depths of sin and death. “Who will deliver me?”. So he does not know the name of his Saviour at this point in the proceedings, Given of course that this is a hypothetical discourse in which Paul goes off like a frog in a sock.
Another of those sticking points occurs here, because as soon as the name Christ is mentioned, from that point on people think it is the after Christ experience he is talking about. But no, it is simply an interjection of relief that there is indeed, a Saviour.
Now the next problem is because of that thought that what is being said is being said in Christian context. But all Paul is doing is summing up the situation that he has just described insofar as he has discovered about himself and the rest of the human race. And that is that the second part of verse 25 is stating that he has found within himself two states, the one is that his mind, his will, (for what it’s worth), is aligned with the good, wants to do good. The other is that within himself (in his flesh, his natural human nature) he has discovered a law or principle that wants to follow, is aligned with, the very opposite.
(It seems there is some kind of “catch 22” or contrariness that ties him up in knots.) (Additional – see “afterthoughts” as a footnote below. Paul is under the wrath of God!) (it could be that it is this wrath that disturbs his intended righteousness and corrupts it).
The point here is, that he is identifying two aspects within him that are in opposing conditions, and he has already said that “it is not I, but sin that dwells in me”. So he has divorced himself, his mind, from that within him that causes the trouble. And he has identified it as sin.
To further labour the point, he is simply concluding that he is a two state kind of guy, who has already shown that if he is presented with law, he reacts to it badly, but who is about to reveal what happens when he is placed under grace instead of law. And this he does in the next chapter, which, building on the words just spoken, says, “There is now THEREFORE no condemnation (now) for those (in Christ) for the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us (me?) free from the law (of sin and death).
But of course, he was already free from sin and death at the end of chapter 6. His excursion into 7 was explanatory, and dramatic under the schooling of the law, until that law, as a teacher (school master), BROUGHT HIM TO CHRIST. Then there was no longer need of the law, it had done its job.
The story Paul relates is true, because he went through all this as a Pharisee who went about killing Christians. He is well aware of what happens if you were to try and produce righteousness on your own, by yourself, without Christ. Because he, as an expert in the law, did this himself when he was Saul. [although he kept the “letter of the law”]
Chapter 8 of course, is further elaboration of the freedom theme, that really would have logically flowed on from 6. But it all makes perfect sense, and when you see it for what it is, it is difficult to imagine how anyone really could consider that Paul in this chapter was supposed to be a Christian! And it is extremely frustrating that this view still abounds out there!
It is not even about “sinning”, it is about the propensity to sin that he talks. And just look at what’s involved here. The two basic views are that either he is a Christian, with all this hopelessness and sinfulness, and his will being empowered to sin through the law; OR it is a description of one under law, albeit by proxy, who is a slave to sin, again, because he is enslaved by the law to a life of helplessness and hopelessness. Surely the latter is that which is described as a life of futility to which men have been subjected.
So just what do you think it means for a Christian to be told that he, like Paul in 7, is in slavery to sin? For that is what it is saying. Or should they be told just what Paul stated in 6 and elaborated on in 8, that what was the case in 7 has now been overcome, NOT BECAUSE OF THE STRENGTH OR WEAKNESS OF HIS FAITH, [or flesh] BUT BECAUSE OF THE CHRIST WHO TOOK OUR DEATH, AND BECAUSE OF THAT, DIS-EMPOWERED THE LAW. And how much the wiser will he be through understanding R7 the right way!
“For the sting of death is sin, and THE POWER OF SIN IS THE LAW”.
So does it describe a Christian in slavery to sin? Or does it describe the sin condition from which one is released when they become a christian? – Your choice!
Afterthoughts, NOTES. In R7, Paul is under the wrath of God. He is under the wrath of the law for, “Law brings wrath“. The opposition between law and flesh, compared to the opposition of the Spirit and the flesh? For the Spirit and the flesh are opposed, so you cannot do as you will?!! (Galatians)..