Updated: Apr 15, 2022
Romans 7:1-25 a short commentary
Released From the Law, Bound to Christ
Last time in Chapter 6 we saw that when Jesus Christ died for our sins then our old sinful nature is reckoned to have died with Jesus Christ. The old sinful nature has got various names such as the ‘old man of the flesh’ etc. If our old sinful nature is treated as a corpse then it should not be responding to temptations from the world the flesh and the devil. Paul tells the church that we must consider or reckon the old nature as dead to sin. This is because we have a new master, we have a new Daddy, we have a new future, and we have a new past. Our new family identity is in God’s family through Christ. We have been transferred from the lineage of Adam to the lineage of Jesus Christ and in our new family we set our hearts on the heavenly things that are above. Our new lives are in some way hidden in Christ i.e. we are ‘in Christ’. Now that we are indeed new creations in Christ we should offer all our hearts, all our soul and mind and all our bodily faculties/abilities to God to be His instruments or weapons of righteousness. That means placing our whole beings at God’s disposal praying ‘Lord take my whole spirit soul and body and use them for your glory’. This helps me to begin to understand when Paul says ‘it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me’ . To be able to do this we need empowering by the Spirit and in pouring of grace. Every human being serves someone either God or the evil one. Paul then used the then every day example of how a slave could be exchanged from one master to another showing that we have been exchanged from our old master (sin) to our new master (Jesus Christ).The old master paid terrible wages (death) whilst our new master (Jesus Christ) gifts us eternal life. Seems like a good exchange to me! Remember who your Daddy is and don’t let Satan steal your new identity in Christ that His life’s blood purchased for you.
In chapter 7 we consider why if we are able to reckon our old man of the flesh to be dead to sin then just why is it we battle so much with the temptation to sin in our daily lives? In this chapter Paul is mainly speaking about the natural life i.e. life before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
7:1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. 4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were controlled by our sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Paul now lovingly describes to his dear brothers and sisters just how our glorious liberty as the sons of God actually works. Paul is tenderly pleading with his brothers and sisters to move on from any doubt that they needed to keep the law to be saved.
When a person dies they are no longer under the law of God or indeed the law of the land. In the movies a cop never books a corpse. Paul now gives an everyday example of what it means when death brings a freedom from a law. In God’s eyes marriage is a solemn l covenant between one man and one woman for life. If either party violates that covenant by marrying another then they have broken God’s law in this matter.
However although marriage is a solemn covenant it does not extend beyond life. So if a widow desires to marry then neither God’s law nor indeed the law of the land forbids this.
So in the same way that death dissolves the marriage, so when we died in Christ we too were set free from our ‘marriage’ with sin and were free to ‘marry’ the Lord. Sin is our ‘Ex’. Jesus Christ fully paid our debt to the law. When we belong to or ‘marry’ Jesus Christ it is God’s intention that our marriage will bear fruit for God. That love of Christ that is poured into our hearts day by day is producing fruit, the character of Jesus Christ in our lives. The unbelievers see this fruit and are drawn to it and want to taste it. These truths should make our hearts beat faster and be filled with gratitude to the Lord. Notice how Paul changes from ‘you’ to ‘we’ as Paul identifies with his brothers and sisters.
V5 When sin was our old boss and we heard the law (10 commandments) something in human nature causes us to rebel against the law and produce dead works in our lives e.g. envy, greed or violence V6 but when the old sin nature dies in Christ we are released from the power of the written law and are now empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Law and Sin
7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
V7 Paul here reminds us that the law (10 commandments) were not the problem but as we saw earlier in Romans were given by God to show men just how sinful we really are and the law exposed sin in all its ugliness. When we come up against any law something in human nature wants to break the rules; do not walk on the grass, wet paint -do not touch, no mobile phones seem to produce the exact reactions that are forbidden!
It is interesting to consider why was it Paul chose as his example from the law ‘coveting’? This was the last of the 10 commandments . Was this possibly his own weakness? We saw previously that the law could be used as a mirror to see our true moral/spiritual condition. If we look in the mirror of the law and see a dirty face then it is you or I not the mirror that has the problem!
V9 There was a time in Paul’s life when he was blissfully unaware of his tendency to covet and it was only when Paul became fully aware as he studied the law that he should not covet that his sin nature started coveting all sorts of things. This produces death to the self life which causes us to begin to realise we will never earn our salvation through works. The law exposes our sinfulness. V10 the law reveals man as utterly fallen and sinful but reveals God as righteous, holy and sinless. Naturally speaking we are totally unable to keep God’s law and the sooner we catch on the better. We need help, we need God’s help.
Please note how many times in v14-25 Paul uses the word ‘I’ or ‘me’ etc. This is that evidence that he is describing his personal battle of the ‘old man’ of the flesh versus his inner man (spirit).
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
V14 the law of God is perfect but Paul as a believer is not (neither are we). He is a saint who struggles to keep the old sin nature at bay in his life .
V15 Paul finds himself from time to time doing and saying things that as a man of God he hates. This is the old sin nature rising up in him.
V16 In his heart Paul agrees with the indwelling Holy Spirit that God’s law is good.
Do not give the old nature squatter's rights!
V17-20 Paul makes the distinction that in his innermost being i.e. his heart, his spirit and deepest and truest person he strongly desires to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit but sometimes find that his old sin nature has been calling the shots. The old nature is the culprit, the sinner and the actual offender. The old nature is the wicked squatter  in our bodies. We must not grant squatter’s rights to our old man, they must be removed somehow.
V21 The sin nature is crouching at the door of our hearts and minds just waiting for a half chance to get in there and do his evil works , trying to turn our good ideas into evil deeds.
V22-23 Deep in his heart Paul delights in the holy and perfect commandments of God and wants to please His Daddy God for all His goodness. Paul like all believers has been regenerated in his spirit which is now the real you. Who is the real you? In our born again hearts day by day we are being transformed into the image of Christ. The old nature generates a principle that strives to govern Paul and wants to place all his faculties to be used in sinful ways i.e. when we use our speech, hands , feet etc as weapons of evil. Paul longs to serve God directly out of his heart unhampered by the old sin nature.
V24 Paul bitterly complains that he simply wants to serve the Lord completely and whole heartedly to which our hearts will cry Amen. Paul in his distress cries is there an answer to this constant battle between his heart and his old nature?
V25 Some commentators think that Paul is talking about a final victory of the old nature when we die and go to heaven. Whilst this idea does give a little comfort I don’t think it fully explains Paul’s exclamation of thanksgiving.
The intruder or squatter in our lives who is the old man of the flesh needs to be dealt with each day we live. I believe that Paul’s exclamation of thanksgiving is that he had a revelation of how we gain the victory in the battle between the flesh and the spirit. That revelation is that through Jesus Christ we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who pours love and grace into our hearts thus empowering us to walk in the Spirit and deny the lusts of the flesh . Yes our Daddy God has provided us with the power to walk in victory each day of our lives, will you use it?
a. Romans 7:5 - Or "by the flesh"
b. Romans 7:7 - Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21
c. Romans 7:18 - Or "my flesh"
d. Romans 7:25 - Or "in the flesh"
 Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Greek meganoito; God forbid or ‘your premise has merit but your conclusion is wrong’.  Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”  Galatians 5:16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever [c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  W Hendricksen NT commentary on Romans page 234  Romans 8:1-4
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