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Scripture reading – Romans 7
The apostle Paul’s observations concerning the law continues in Romans 7. In my opinion, today’s Scripture reading is one of the most misunderstood chapters of the book (and is surely what I would describe as a “hot topic” chapter). For two decades I have heard banter about the law, and listened as preachers and believers hurl the charge, “legalist,” against believers who dare call upon the 21st century church to repent of its sin, turn to God, and pursue holiness.
“Grace, Grace” has become the message of the church, but is there a genuine understanding and appreciation of God’s grace, when there is a void of teaching regarding the Law and Commandments? “Free from the law,” is the theme of most churches, and that spirit has introduced a carnality that is veiled in a piety of pseudo-spirituality. Tragically, the grace that is being preached in the pulpit, and practiced in the pew, is a “lawless grace,” and knows nothing of God’s holiness.
Paul wrote to believers in Romans 6, “ye are not under the law, but under grace” (6:14). Sadly, many have taken that phrase, and abandoned teaching the law and commandments. As a result, we are confronting a generation that is lawless, trumpeting grace as a cover for all manner of sin and wickedness. Paul proposed, if we “are not under the law, but under grace…shall we sin?” (6:14-15). Paul’s answer was emphatic—“God forbid” (6:15). In other words, God’s grace is never a license to sin! With that truth settled, what role does the law have for believers?
Paul appeared to address believers of Jewish descent when he asked, “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? (7:1)
Using an analogy of marriage, Paul illustrated the role of the law and the believer, drawing a contrast with a wife married to a husband (7:2-4). We know the covenant of marriage binds a wife to her husband, “till death do us part.” Therefore, a wife is married to her husband by law, and only death may free her to marry another man (7:3b).
Using the wife’s covenant relationship with her husband as an illustration of the law, Paul wrote concerning believers, “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” (7:4). A sinner is bound, or in bondage to the law, and under obligation to pay the penalty required of the law (7:1), that being “the wages of sin is death” (6:23).
Yet, because Christ died for our sin, His death redeemed us from the curse of the law, and by His resurrection we are judged “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (7:4a), to the end “we should bring forth fruit unto God” (7:4b). We might suppose that fruit is borne out as we love, and serve God, bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which in essence can only come from walking in the perfect Law of Liberty (i.e., the Law).
A Spiritual Struggle (Romans 7:14-25)
Paul identified an internal spiritual warfare that he, and all believers face within themselves (7:14-25). He was conscious of an inner struggle with the power of sin (7:14, 19), which he identified as “my flesh” (7:17) and an “evil…present with me” (7:19). Contemporary with the power of sin and the presence of evil, was the Spirit of God that moved Paul to “delight in the law of God” (7:22).
Identifying the spiritual conflict in his soul between an “evil” that had power, and a renewed heart that delights in the Law of God (7:22-23), Paul exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24)
What was the resolution to Paul’s spiritual conflict? Jesus Christ!
Paul wrote, “25 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” (7:25). In other words, while Paul’s spirit and mind desired to “serve the Law of God,” he found his flesh was not yet free from “the law of sin” (7:25).
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