Chapter 7 builds on what Paul has been saying so far in this letter. He has taught us that no flesh can be justified by the law (Rom. 3:20). The only way we can be justified is by the grace that comes through Jesus (Rom. 3:24). We accept that grace through an obedient faith. Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we must obey Godís plan of salvation. Paul points out in chapter 6, that we must be baptized into Christ in order to die with Him and be raised with Him in order for our sins to be forgiven.
As we get into chapter 7, Paul is going to continue to teach his readers that the Law of Moses is no longer binding because we are under a new law, the Law of Christ. At the end of chapter 6, Paul was teaching how we are slaves of righteousness instead of slaves of sin. We have it so much better under the new covenant. Paul continues his thought.
Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
Paul is making his appeal to those who know the Law of Moses. Obviously, if you die, a law can no longer be bound on you. There are different ideas people get from our text and from the next few verses, but the overall message is that death is the end of the law. Whether you die, or the law dies, it is no longer binding. Paul is using this thought to reach the Jews to let them know that the Law of Moses is dead. †
A man named Greenfield said our text could be translated as follows, ďthe law hath dominion over a man as long as it is in force, and no longerĒ (Notes on the Greek New Testament).
Based on this translation, Paul is saying that as long as the law is in effect, people are under that law, but if the law is dead, then it is no longer in effect. For example, if a state decides to change the speed limit on a road from 55 to 35, then the old speed of 55 is no longer in effect. If you drive 55 and get pulled over, you cannot claim that you were not speeding since the speed limit used to be 55. Youíre going to get a ticket because the new law is in effect. Also, both laws cannot have authority at the same time.
It really doesnít matter which translation we go by because both thoughts are true. Paul is going to use marriage to prove his point.
Romans 7:2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. †3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
When God created Adam and Eve, these two were to remain together forever. God hates divorce, and His design was for a man and woman to marry one another and to remain married till death. However, as Paul points out, the woman is no longer bound to her husband once he dies. The husband represents the Law of Moses.
If the husband was still alive and the woman goes off and marries another man, then she will be guilty of adultery, which would end with her being put to death under the Law of Moses (Lev. 20:10). If she marries another after her husband is dead, then she is not committing adultery because she is no longer bound to her husband. If we relate this to the Law of Moses, we can understand that the Law of Moses is dead, so we are no longer bound to its laws. Before I go any further, letís see what Paul says next.
Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another-- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Now, this can get confusing because Paul gives the example of the husband, or we could say the Law of Moses dying, but then he says that you, that is Christians, have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, yet the woman in the example did not die. The only reason this is confusing is when you take the illustration too far. The only purpose of this illustrations is to show that when the husband or the Law of Moses dies, then the woman or the people can marry another because they are no longer under the old law.
The Jews were pictured as being married to God (Jer. 31:32), but it was based upon on the Law of Moses. When the Law of Moses died, they were free to be married to another, that is to Christ through the Law of Christ. So, how and when did the Law of Moses die, or we could ask, when did it become obsolete and no longer binding on anyone? Paul answers the question in two different places.
Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, †15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, †16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
Colossians 2:14 †having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When Christ came to this earth, He fulfilled the Law of Moses by keeping it perfectly and by fulfilling all the prophecies about the coming Messiah. When He died on the cross for us, He nailed those handwriting of requirements to the cross. His death did away with the old system where Jews and Gentiles were divided. He brought forth a new covenant that was for all. As the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 9:15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. †16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. †17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
Notice, it was at Jesusí death that the new covenant went into effect. Since Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses, He could bring forth a new covenant, which was a new set of laws under the system of grace. Since the Law of Moses and its authority was nailed to the cross, it is no longer binding on anyone, which is the point Paul is trying to get across to the Jews who are still struggling with the idea that one can only be justified through circumcision and by keeping the Law of Moses.
When the Jews tried to bind any part of the Law of Moses, they made themselves out to be spiritual adulterers because they wanted to be under two covenants at the same time, but that cannot work just as a woman cannot marry another man while her first husband lives. Now, it is true that the Law of Moses continued to be practiced for a while, and it took some time for the gospel to be preached to everyone, but technically, the authority of the Law of Moses was gone when Christ died on the cross.
I think this is important for us to understand that both covenants could not have authority at the same time. However, those who teach the A.D. 70 doctrine think that the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ were both in force at the same time until A.D. 70, but based on what I have shown you, that would cause spiritual adultery.
Since the Law of Moses was dead, the Jews could be under a new covenant. So, Jesusí death is how we are able to die to the law. However, in order for us to be joined to Christ and be part of the church, we must die in Christ as Paul clearly pointed out in Romans 6. Once we understand these two things about how Jesusí death made the Law Moses no longer binding and how we must die with Christ in baptism to be joined with Him, then the confusion of our text should disappear.††
Paul says that we should bear fruit to God. This is just general statement saying that we should be living righteous lives in accordance to Godís Word. In the remainder of this chapter, Paul is going emphasize just how hard it was to live under the Law of Moses.
Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. †6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
Paul is contrasting their lives before and after Christ. Before Christ, their sinful passions were made known by the law. The Law of Moses didnít make them sin, it simply pointed out what sin was. There is nothing wrong per se with the fleshly desires that we have as long as those desires are fulfilled in a righteous way instead of a sinful way. When they gave in to vile passions and sinned, that is how they were bearing the fruit of death because under the Law of Moses, there was no way to really take care of your sins. The true cure for sin didnít happen until Jesus.
Paul wants the Jews to understand that the Law of Moses is no longer binding. So, they need to stop trying to live by it and stop trying to bind it on others. Instead, they need to serve in the newness of the Spirit. There are some who think this means that we should allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit and not the law as found in New Testament, but that is not what Paul is saying. He is simply contrasting the old and new covenant. As Christians, we are to serve, that is to be slaves to the new covenant and not the old. Jesus said:
John 12:48 †"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
We are going to be judged by the Word that Paul says makes us complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). So, the new covenant and its laws that we find in the New Testament are very important to Christians. The Spirit cannot lead us in some other direction than that found in Scripture.
Next Paul says:
Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." †8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.
In case anyone got the wrong idea from what Paul had said, he makes it clear that the Law of Moses was not sin. In fact, he said, ďCertainly not!Ē The Law did not cause sin, it simply exposed or we could say defined sin. Even today, we have laws in United States that most of us donít know about, but ignorance is no excuse. If you break one of those laws, you are still guilty. Same is true with the Law of God. Just because a Jew may not have known a particular thing was against the Law of Moses, if they violate it, they have stilled sinned. So, the Law of Moses gave everyone the knowledge of what sin was (Rom. 3:20).
You may want to make a note in your Bible for this next part because it goes against the religious groups who teach that the Sabbath is still binding on us today. This same group will agree that all the ceremonial laws that were part of the Law of Moses were nailed to the cross and done away with, but they would say the 10 commandments, which includes keeping the Sabbath, were not nailed to the cross. However, Paul says otherwise because he said: For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." †
ĎYou shall not covetí is part of the 10 commandments, which is part of the Law that Paul said was dead. Much more could be said about this, but this is a strong point by itself that shows that Paul included the 10 commandments along with all the ceremonial laws as being dead.
In verse 8, sin is personified as the enemy who uses the Law to tempt people to sin. Of course, we know that the real tempter is the devil, and he is really good at using the commands of God to corrupt people by twisting them. For example, with Eve, he used Godís commands but added the little word Ďnot.í He said: "You will not surely die.Ē He used Scripture when he tried to get Jesus to sin as well. The Scriptures themselves donít cause one to sin, but it does tell us what sin is. When we know something is wrong, our own desires, along with a little push from the devil, can cause us to sin.
Paul said: For apart from the law sin was dead.
This can be taken two different ways. It could be saying that if there is no law, then there can be no sin, which is true. Another way this is viewed is explained by Deaver:
"Apart from the law, before the giving of the law, sin would be dead only so far as the individual guilty of the sin -- that is, he would have no knowledge of it.† Sin would not be dead as far as it concerned God, for then there would have been no sin.† The people were sinful -- they failed to recognize their condition.† God gave the law; the law made sin clear; the people came to know what was sinful, and were brought to realize their guilt and condemnation."
Both these interpretations are correct regardless if only one of them was intended by our text.
Our next section of Scripture is a bit difficult, which includes verses 9-23. The difficulty comes from what perspective you approach it from. The perspective I will approach this section is described by Winters:
"But Paul is not considering his state of mind as a Christian.† Rather he is describing his state of mind as a sinner under the law.† His description is of a man (himself or any other man who sincerely seeks to serve God under law) living under a law when he knows he has violated that law ...† I conclude then that this section in no way describes the internal conflicts of a Christian.† It is a description of a sinner under law."
With this perspective in mind, letís begin.
Romans 7:9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. †10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. †11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
When Paul says that he was
alive apart from the law baffles those who teach that we are born a sinner
because how could Paul ever be alive apart from the Law. The answer is simple,
we are not born sinners. Thatís exactly how Paul was alive apart from the law
because he was not under the yolk of the Law until he reached the age of
The Law itself did not condemn anyone, but showed what one must do to be pleasing to God, but the problem was is that sin, or we could say the devil, used the commandments against Paul because he found that he could not keep the Law perfectly. When this happened, he died spiritually.
Again, we can see the same pattern with Adam and Eve. They were created without sin, but when the commandment came to not eat of that one tree, Satan used that opportunity and twisted the command and Adam and Eve sinned, which brought forth spiritual and physical death.
Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. †13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. †
The Law of Moses was from God;
therefore, it is holy, righteous, and good. The Law itself did not bring
spiritual death to Paul. No, it was sin that produced death by using the Law.
As Paul has been saying, the Law of Moses showed what sin was. Those who
trusted in God would turn from that sin, but many did not. However, we know that
Jesus was the only one who ever kept the Law perfectly. The Law of Moses not
only showed us what sin was, it was also used to prove to the people that they
needed more than just Law keeping because true justification came through
Jesus, which Paul will make clear later.
Paul is contrasting the goodness of the Law of Moses to that of the fleshly desires of man, which is what caused people to sin.
Next, Paul writes:
Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. †15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. †16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. †17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. †18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. †19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. †20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. †21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. †22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, †23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Paul is giving us a glimpse into his struggle with the Law of Moses. Now, some think he is referring to his struggle as Christian, but that doesnít seem to fit the context. Even if he was describing his struggle as a Christian, the conclusion of the matter is the same, which we will see in minute.
Paul defends the Law of Moses stating that it is
spiritual, but the problem is with man and his fleshly desires. Paul, or any
other person under the Law, could desire to do what was right, but like many of
us today, we donít do that which is right, we do that which is wrong. Why?
Because sin is powerful and has a way of dwelling in us and controlling us.
When I say control, I donít mean against our will, but with our will because we
choose to have sin take the driverís seat in our lives.
Like Paul, I am sure all of us want to give God our best and do the right thing every time, but like Paul struggled under the Law of Moses, we tend to do those things that we know we shouldnít, but we do them anyway. Itís that constant struggle between living for God and living for ourselves. Paul describes it as a war that is waging inside of us to do what is right instead of doing what is wrong, but there is no way we can win this war on our own. Paul gives us the answer on how we can win this internal war.
Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? †25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.†
Paul understood that he could not keep the Law of Moses perfectly, so he was a sinner. Even though they had animal sacrifices, there was always a reminder of the sin. So, he considered himself a wretched man. Notice, he asked the question about who, not what, will deliver him from the body of death.
He answers the question, it is Christ. Jesus is the one who came to this earth and lived perfectly without sin. He fulfilled the Law of Moses and became the perfect sacrifice on the cross, which would bring about true forgiveness for our sins. As the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) †12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. †13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, †14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. †15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. †
Jesus is the solution. Paul would never be able to find justification through keeping the Law of Moses, and he nor any man, other the Jesus, was able to keep it perfectly. Thanks to Jesus, we can all be saved. He has made it possible for us to have our sins forgiven and to have a home with our Father in heaven. Paul is going to expound on how great it is to be in Christ when we look at chapter 8, but we should all be thankful for Jesus because without Him, none of could be saved.
Paul closes this chapter pointing out one more time the struggle he had under the Law of Moses.
In conclusion, Paul did his best to prove to the Jews that the Law of Moses was dead, which means it was no longer binding, but Christís law is, and it is a Law that is for everyone. It is a better law because under it, we can truly have the forgiveness of our sins. So, donít try to go back to the Law of Moses or anything else. Instead, stick with the Law of Christ because it is the new covenant, and it is our authority that we will be judged by.