The following is a guest blog post by Bryan Razinski. Bryan is a Religion undergraduate at Liberty University.
“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. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:13-14, ESV).
Since the creation of the human race has sin been the problem in our lives. In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul is trying to clear up some misconceptions of how the Law and sin are intertwined and yet set apart from each other. Paul takes the Law and sin and explains how they are in fact intertwined without ever actually intertwining.
Being a roman citizen, Paul knew that society ran on a tight political level and had particular laws that citizens had to follow in order to be able to freely live within the community. Paul takes this familiar knowledge of Roman law and in Romans chapter 7 gets to the point of the Law. All throughout Romans Paul makes mention of the law but here is where he brings it to a climax. In the first part of the chapter, Paul starts off by reminding those who know the law the bind the law has on them and uses one of the most sacred practices among his Jewish culture- marriage. Paul uses a sacred law to provide a vivid example of how the Law what they were originally under until they were released from the law by death, which was completed on the cross. Christ is brought in to serve as the one who died to the law and then reborn brand new. We who are his sons and daughters share in this new inheritance.
The next section is a look into how sin interacted with the Law. “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” (Romans 7:5, ESV). From the time of creation when Adam and Eve sinned our flesh has been infected with a disease-sin- and it has spread to our very soul and nature. While the Holy Spirit dwells in our body, our flesh remains sinful and we see that the Spirit and the flesh constantly make war with each other, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17, ESV). The Law did not cause us to sin; it manifested the glory and holiness of God. The holiness of the Law aroused our sinful desire because sin is the manifest of our glory at the cost of stealing Gods. The Law was created to make known to us that what we naturally desire is no longer the same thing God desires. Sin took the Law and distorted it just like it did at the time of creation when it invaded the mind and soul of Adam and Eve. While God is punishing them He is also telling them the effects of sin will have on what has been created. Sin is not more powerful than God… for it births itself from within us, “[l]et no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15, ESV). James and Paul seem to say similar things. James says “enticed by our own desires” and Paul says “living in the flesh, our sinful passions”. Sin and the Law are opposed to each other. We sin because that is now our natural inclination. Paul ends this with a point, those who are in Christ are no longer under the written code. In the previous chapter Paul ends with a note on how Grace has abounded over sin and has beaten it. The clutches of sin have been broken and the Law, which sin took and distorted in our minds, we are no longer under. We are now under grace.
Paul makes a clear and emphatic statement. The Law is not sin, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” (Romans 7:7, ESV). The Law gives us the knowledge that sin is present in the world. Without it we would be ignorant forever. The Law was given as a way for us to see our sin for what it is- sin. The Laws given were used by sin to distort and ruin our holy view of it and do exactly what it says not to do. The Law was never meant to be fulfilled by us…it was meant to bring sin into the light and show it in its terrible and horrendous splendor. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me, “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.” (Romans 7:13, ESV). Sin has her own agenda and she strikes at the very things God creates so that they are not what they originally were to begin with. (I am referring to sin in the feminine gender because the original Greek word is in the feminine gender). The command was given by the Lord for the purpose of teaching His people- and through His people the entire world- that sin had blinded them to the truth. We sin because our natural self has been corrupted to the core and are no longer naturally godly in body and mind (Romans 8:7). The Law revealed the evil of sin and brought it out to show what it really was and how sinful sin is and a distinction is made between the Law and us- while the Law is spiritual at its core without flesh and sin, we are bound to sin because of our flesh. The Law is the expectations directly from the Lord without any distortion or tainted message which, when clashed against sin, brings out the evil sin is and the control it has on our lives. The Law should want to make us change and leave our sin. For this very reason every time we sin we see that the Law is good because it is doing its job and we see how sinful we really are. The core issue for Christians is brought to light- sin. The devil is not named. The demons are not mentioned. Only sin is. They are not directly responsible for our doom, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:20, ESV). WE are the problem. Our own self was the issue and it is our own natural desire to sin (ref. Galatians 5:17b).
It is now clear that when we want to do the right thing in the eyes of God it is certain that we will have to fight a natural inclination to do evil. We will always want to do the opposite of what the Lord wants us to do. We are fighting between two laws- one of the flesh and one of the mind. While we delight in the Lord’s statues in our mind we find ourselves delighting in our own sinful desires with our flesh. Until the day we are with the Lord in heaven for eternity we will continually fight our own flesh because while our mind wants to serve the Lord our flesh does not. The Law affected our minds- it made us aware of our sin, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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.” (Romans 7:22-23, ESV). While our mind is captivated and loyal to the Lord because we are saved, our flesh is not. We will still physically die one day. The Lord has plans to replace our sinful flesh with new flesh, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, ESV).
Paul ends this portion of his letter to the Roman church with a realization- he is wretched. But there is hope, “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.” (Romans 7:25, ESV). Jesus Christ has given us new life and with it we have a clear understanding- We are to serve the law of God with our minds, which from it flows transformation, and the decision to get up every morning and decide to fight sin. We are to daily pick up our cross and follow Him (ref. Luke 9:23) and continue to fight against our flesh which will still serve the law of sin.
In light of this here is Romans 8:1-8. I pray you see the beauty of it in light of the chapter before it and how wonderful salvation is.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Or the law of the Spirit of life has set you, free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:1-8, ESV).
Soli Deo Gloria!