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Romans 7:1-25: Sin and the Christian

Key Idea 1: Dead to the power of the law, united with Christ

In Romans 7, Paul uses the analogy of marriage to explain our relationship with the law. When we marry, we pledge our commitment to one another. But when a husband dies, the wife is not bound to that husband anymore – she is free to remarry. Likewise, when we receive the gift of salvation, the power of the law is dead, and we are united to Christ by faith. We cannot be “under the Law” and “united to Christ” simultaneously.

Key Idea 2: The purpose of the law

The law served a great purpose when we were yoked with it, dead in sin. As our teacher, the law showed us the meaning of sin, teaching us right from wrong. The law also taught us that we were incapable of keeping the whole law all the time. If we think we did not fall short of keeping the law, then we do not realize how tainted our motives can be, even when our actions might be “perfect.” So the law revealed our need for something more – a Savior, a Redeemer, who paid the penalty of the law for us.

<<Parenthetical Thought>>

Does this mean the law doesn’t apply to us now? No. What it means is we don’t earn God’s favor by keeping the law. Instead, when we receive the gift of faith, we die to our old selves and are made new. We are released from the law to serve God in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Paul will explain this new life in the Spirit in Romans, chapter 8.)

Jesus teaches His disciples and us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments or law. The gospel writers record Jesus teaching the law: to love God completely, with our whole beings, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, or even more challenging to love our neighbors as Jesus loves us. We demonstrate our love for God by our obedience to His teachings. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves Me will listen to My voice and obey.” Loving God means keeping his commandments which are not burdensome (1 John 5:3 NLT).

If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.

1 John 2:4-6 MSG

Key Idea 3: Our struggle with sin

The short answer to this thorny question, “why do we still struggle with sin?” is because we live in a fallen world between the “now and the not yet” of our salvation. We have not yet been made perfect in Christ, although we have been made alive in Him!

And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 AMP

My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is.

1 John 3:2 VOICE

Key Idea 4: Two interpretations of Romans 7:14-25

Theologians have differing views on the meaning of Paul’s writing in Romans 7:14-25.

girl with angel and devil representing sin and victory - the two natures inside.
Image by Tumisu, from Pixabay 

Some believe we continue to have two natures even after salvation – the “old” and “new” man – living inside us. Paul says in Romans 7:14b-15, “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Some scholars see this passage as an internal war between two natures; if that is true, then Paul indicates he often lost that war.

a picture of a butterfly with chrysalis, representing metamorphosis, from sin to new creation
Image by DD Scribbler from Pixabay

Other theologians believe when scripture says we are crucified with Christ, the old man dies. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Paul says in Romans 7:14b-15, “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Scholars see this passage as referring to Paul’s struggles in obeying the law as a faithful Jew, frustrating, even impossible to fully keep the law. They believe Paul is talking about his pre-Christian experience.

My readers know I am an amateur theologian, and I loosely hold this idea of theology. Theology is man’s construct of the nature of God. To be too adamant would be to put God in too small of a box – a box of our own making. Who are we to explain the things of God to a “T?” You may support the two natures theory or the pre-Christian theory – either way, God still expects us to experience victory over sin; otherwise, He would not admonish us to be holy even as He is holy! And praise God for verse 25 — “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

**See the notes at the bottom of this post to read short essays by scholars on this passage.**

Key Idea 5: Our victory over sin

If we are going to experience victory over sin, we must listen to the Spirit and heed the word of God. Meditate on these five verses:

Our victory comes through Jesus!
It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, who gives us victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 Phillips)

Our victory comes through the gift of faith!
For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has conquered and overcomes the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God].” (1 John 5:4 AMP).

Our victory comes through the Word of God!
I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin.” (Psalm 119:11 TLB)

Our victory comes through letting the Spirit of God guide our lives!
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves …Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we live by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:14, 24, 25 NLT)

Our victory comes through humility!
Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NLT)

Key Idea 6: What to do when we sin

Too often, when we sin, we want to hide. But the best thing we can do is ask God to reveal our sin and confess it to Him.

“I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Psalm 32:5 NIV

But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.

1 John 1:9 VOICE

A Hymn of Praise

On merit not my own I stand;
On doings which I have not done,
Merit beyond what I can claim,
Doings more perfect than my own.

Upon a life I have not lived,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Not on the tears which I have shed;
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears, another’s griefs,
On them I rest, on them alone.

Jesus, O Son of God, I build
On what Thy cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read,
My guilt, my pardon there I see.

O fulness of the eternal grace,
O wonders past all wondering!
Here in the hall of love and song,
We sing the praises of our King.

Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889
-Listen here –

**Essays on Romans 7**

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