Romans 7: What is the Point of the Law?

theology

 

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“The Law enslaves me. The Law kills me because the law is a mirror of my sin, and it drives me to the cross. It drives me to grace. That is what Paul is talking about here.”

R.C. Sproul

Read Romans 7

  1. Verses 1-6: Paul employs the idea of marriage as a comparison to how the law is binding upon us. A wife who is married is bound to the husband. The only way to loosen this binding is for the husband to die, thus enabling the wife to remarry. In the same way, our sin is accountable to the law and binds us until death. The good news of Christ means that, through his death, we also put to death our sinful habits and have (of course not perfect) a victory over our flesh. In the resurrection, we are given a new life that is free from the law defining our righteousness. Note here that in this analogy Paul is not describing the law as that which is passing away. Rather, the dying alludes to us dying in our sin, being buried in Christ, and being resurrected in Christ’s righteousness. Paul is not describing the law negatively and simply whisking it away. Instead, he is rejoicing that Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and will of God puts to death that sin in us which would otherwise be held accountable by the law, and rightly so. We have finally “died to that which held us captive.” We were captives and slaves of our sinful nature, not the law in itself.
  2. Verses 7-13: Appropriately, Paul anticipates people twisting his words and accusing the law as being sinful in itself. On the other hand, Paul stresses that through the law comes the knowledge of sin. The commandments of God, because they are holy, good, and just (see verse 12), expose that in us which is pagan, wicked, and unjust. The law, when fully fulfilled, leads to life (see the example of Jesus). However, the law seized us in our sin and forced us to label our sin, thus making us liable to the law, and more importantly, to God. The fault lies in sin, not the law. “Sin is rebellion against God and ‘sinful beyond measure’ because it interferes with the just rights and prerogatives [a privilege to a particular individual] of God.” ~ C.H. Spurgeon
  3. Verses 14-25: Now, we have always seen ourselves as the character in these verses. We identify with the struggle Paul describes here, but the vast majority of scholars believe that we are reading it incorrectly, and I think that I may agree with them. The thesis of Romans 7 is found in verse 5: “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions aroused through the law were working in us to bear fruit for death.” Paul is using past-tense verbiage here, indicating that he no longer belongs to the flesh in the same way. From this, the majority of New Testament scholars argue that Paul is using the term “I” in these verses as a rhetorical technique common to the Greco-Roman era. For the pre-converted, the reason that they sin is because they are enslaved; we were unable to do what was right because we were unregenerate (not born again). The sin that lies in us makes it impossible for us to obey the law, and this creates a war in the conscience of every individual. The person will either continue in wickedness and harden their heart beyond any conviction, or will yield to the convictions according to the grace of God, and cry out in need “Who will rescue me from this body of Death?” If we are in Christ then we have already desperately cried out to God in our helplessness, and he has, past tensely, saved us from our wretched bodies of death. Rest assured in his grace and freedom, O Christian.

Think About

  1. What is/was the point of the law? Is there any relevance to it today?
  2. What is the point of exposing the sin according to the law?
  3. Do you agree with the scholars? Why/why not?

Pray

  1. Dear Lord, you created the law out of your goodness, holiness, and justice. We were unable to obey. Because of our enslavement to sin, the law served to expose us in our sinful state. Thankfully, you have come and rescued us from our wretched fleshliness and delivered us into the Kingdom of God. Thank you for being willing to reconcile us to you. Help us to realize that the exposing of our sin brings us back to you, and help us live in light of being rescued from our wretched bodies. We obviously struggle with our sinfulness still, but we are not slaves to it any longer. You are the one who has rescued us, Lord. Grant us the power, O Lord, to live in the freedom that Christ not only makes possible but also guarantees according to his own promises. Amen.

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