We ended our last study on the premise that, as the NASB put it, we were released from the Law.
Romans 7:6 NLT But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
Is that a true statement? Well, yes and No.
Yes, because we were released from the bondage associated with the law. How that works is wrapped up in Jesus’ death and resurrection, for through His death and resurrection He paid the price for our redemption and all sins were forgiven humankind.
(Easy, now, there seems to be a bit of catch to this hope of automatic forgiveness. This forgiveness, though very real, is a gift, and like any gift must be received.)
The question then is, have you received that gift of life in Jesus Christ?
The NO side of this answer comes out of several things.
- Jesus himself told us that the law would NOT pass away until all had been fulfilled, and only then would we be done with it. [Since some insist on references as proof, then you can look at Matthew 5:18; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17.]
When will the law be fulfilled?
You could assume that this would happen when Jesus comes back as the warring Messiah Israel longs for. It is at this point that He will shut the mouth of His enemies, and takes His throne, once again, to reign forever. We see this triumphant return at the end of God’s wrath, (the period we love to call – The Great Tribulation,) as we transition into the millennial reign. A large portion of this descriptive is found in Revelation 19 verses 11-21. But there are other examples as well.
Jeremiah 3:17 NASB “At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart.
Ezekiel 37:25-28 NASB “They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. (26) “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. (27) “My dwelling place also will be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. (28) “And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”‘”
2. The “law” is now written upon our hearts.
Romans 2:14-16 NASB For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, (15) in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (16) on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Yes, I am very much aware the these are Gentiles that Paul is speaking of, and, the assumption is that they are godless, because they are NOT of our assemblies, nor have they done the religious things necessary to be acclaimed Christians.
Certainly, you can see that an aspect of the paragraph demonstrates that the “law” bears them witness before God on the day of judgment. Now, if God can write His law upon the hearts of those outside of standardized religion, then He is highly capable of writing His law deliberately upon those He calls His own.
Jeremiah 31:33 KJV But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2 Corinthians 3:3-8 NLT “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. (4) We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. (5) It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. (6) He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. (7) The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. (8) Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?”
There is one other idea I need to mention.
3. For those hoping that this all bypasses the “law” and allows them to do whatever they want.
Doing whatever you want here on earth can get you killed, and for many, we have a legal system to deal with those who break the laws of man. However, the things you do here on earth have little to do with the end result of a life spent with the Father in the future. I will admit that there are those that will tell you that you can jeopardize God’s love for you and lose your salvation. (To think that God would ever turn His back on you is nothing more than broken human thinking and needs to be thrown out with the trash.)
Even though we are free from the bondage of the law through Jesus, there is something that may be even more constraining, and that is that we are considered bondservants to Jesus. You want that in plain English? A bondservant is a polite way of saying, slave. Be honest and ask yourself, what rights does a slave have? Truthfully, NONE, however, we are voluntary slaves because we have submitted our lives to Jesus and are therefore bondservants; and yet, we have the FREE WILL to destroy the body God gave us. Isn’t that peculiar?
So, this life we live in Christ is still one of choice. Do we, as the thief on the cross, choose to turn to the only one who truly loves us, and in a sense, bond ourselves in marriage; or, do we merely submit to his authority as slaves, in obedience? For me, the reciprocity of a marital relationship wins out. In human terms, the marriage relationship is not one where we are always lying in fields of clover without a care in the world; no, there are days when the sound of your spouse’s voice grates on your last nerve. Is it that way with the Father? Even if He calls me a moron, which He sometimes does, I still know that I am loved because we have a relationship based upon respect. (It is not because I respect Him that He loves me, but I have learned what His character and nature are, and out of that I have learned that He can be trusted and that He loves me without end.
What if the alternative is douleuō/slavery? A friend of mine, because of abuses, could not handle the thought of slavery; he could accept Paul’s words as long as he could see his role as one of a bondservant, simply because the bondservant, having been treated with respect, longs to stay in the relationship.
“But now we have been released from the law,” but, as C. S. Lewis says, there is no easy Christianity.
The NASB opens the next section as:
The Law and Sin
Heres a standardized version to start us off.
(Romans 7:7 KJV) What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. (9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (10) And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. (11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
If the law, as Paul puts it, caused or causes so much grief, then is it bad, or worse yet, is the law SIN? Eugene Peterson put it this way, “then it’s no better than sin itself.”
But you instinctively know this is not a true assumption because SIN came into the world at a time when there was no law as we understand it. Now hold up a minute and think about how that sin entered into the world.
Did Adam take a bite of the fruit before or after sin?
Sin was already active and waiting for him. If you want to get legalistic there was a law, in the form of a commandment – do not eat the fruit of that tree. Since sin is merely missing the mark, the mark for Adam was to obey that one commandment, which he chose not to obey. The commandment to obey was, in reality, a law.
When we read this epic story of humanity’s insertion into the earth and their fall, we assume the entire transaction took place in five minutes, after all, that’s how long it took my Sunday School teacher to tell the story while using the flannel board cutouts. The difficulty is, we don’t have any solid scriptural evidence that backs up that conclusion. Since the Hebrew word eon is contingent upon other words to define its time frame; and, there was NO clock or calendar, then the time frame between the commandment to not eat the fruit of that ONE tree and the damage done could have been a billion years. (Yeah, I know, that gives many of you grief, as you think the entirety of creation until this moment in time is only about 10,000 years. My word to you, your God is too small.)
Let’s try to analyze what Paul said in verse seven.
“on the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law;” NASB
Are you trying to tell me, that Saul the pharisee did not realize that having people, like Stephen, killed by stoning, was missing the mark? Ah, but for Saul, Stephen, a blasphemer according to “the law/Torah,” was deserving of stoning.
Alright, then, let’s back up in time to a moment when the toddler Saul, first told his mother NO. This is something that every child does, but where does that rebellion come from? It’s there, already embedded, thanks to Adam.
Does a toddler understand that an outright refusal, lacking reasonable conditions, is inappropriate? They may not at first understand, but it is something they soon learn based on, if nothing else, a commandment (a parental law,) with appropriate enforcement. Should the child have functional mental capacity, then in a short course of time, they come to understand that there are repercussions for open, and antagonistic disobedience.
One of my grandsons was born with a cancerous brain tumor and had to have it removed on his third day of life. He is now 16, praise God. But between the ages of three and four, he did not just say no, he would slap you in the face. The common understanding among the family was that his brain and its ability to function appropriately had suffered tremendously from the tumor, the surgery, and then the chemotherapy treatments, and he was not, therefore, thinking clearly as a healthy child might. Still, the behavior had to be checked, and quickly.
So when Paul says I would not have come to know sin except through the Law, perhaps he is saying, having been taught that there was a law as a young child, I came to understand that going outside the parameters of the Law, was to miss the mark (sin.)
The Phillips translation reads: “sin in me, finding in the commandment an opportunity to express itself, stimulated all my desires.”
I must insert a memory that may help to understand this. As children, we had access to firecrackers and balsa wood airplanes, which we would blow up, and inadvertently annoy the neighbors. The problem is, once you blow up the glider, you need more. Lacking the funds to buy more, where do you think the mental drive pushed me? You got it, and that happened without having to think extensively about it; why? Because it is a part of us, embedded in us. So, the law for me was two-part: 1. My mother would make us boys put our hands in our back pockets so that she could monitor our activity in the store where they had the best glider collection. 2. Mom would also apply the heavy burden of religious guilt and the threat of hell if we stole another glider. This threat was a routine part of our lives when we were children, and to be honest, it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I was able to get past the idea of an ominous, hateful God.
The King James Version of Paul’s statement reads like this “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Romans, along with many other translations, seems to focus on the word covetousness. The word covet as used in the NASB version of Romans 7:7 is epithumeō and means to set the heart upon, or, to long for. That can mean to long for anything which is not yours. I, too, have that problem when a really nice car or truck goes by me.
In Romans 7:8, the word applied is coveting. It’s a variation from the usage of the word covet that we see in verse seven, but not too much. Coveting is the Greek word epithumia and means a longing, especially for what is forbidden. For some, “lust” is a motivation to steal, while for others, it is to take the sexuality of a woman without her permission.
Can something be prohibited without a commandment or instruction? I would have to say no because God seems to have covered all His bases. This is evidenced in Paul’s next assertion.
Paul himself said the law of God is written on some people’s hearts. Why then do they take what is not theirs, and what excuse do they use?
Is it remotely possible that Saul, before he became known as Paul, as a young man, did not know Law and the ramifications? Hardly, he was a pharisee and ran with the best of them. The process of learning who you were and what was expected of you began early. These kids did not go to regular school, as many of us did, they went to synagogue school, or they were taught at home. But know this, the Torah (or law) was central to their education. So, it is safe to assume that Saul, much like what we saw in Jesus when at the age of 12, they found Him in the temple discussing the scriptures with the temple elders, would have been adept at scripture at an early age.
Romans 7:8 KJV “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.”
I used the KJV version and it threw us a curveball because it used the word concupiscence – a word that NO ONE uses. It is still the Greek word epithumia (which I defined above,) and means a longing (especially for what is forbidden).
“But sin took the opportunity provided by this commandment and made me have all kinds of wrong desires. Clearly, without laws sin is dead.” (Romans 7:8 God’s Word)
So the law/commandments evoked all kinds of wrong desires. Apparently, most of which centered around fulfilling one’s desires, whether it be for something another person had or the attractiveness of a woman.
Again Paul’s words.
For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; (Romans 2:12 NASB)
So Paul can say, “for apart from the Law sin is dead.” Because, without the law, it would seem that there is no judgment, but you know that is not true, as they, the Gentiles outside of Christ, are judged through Jesus Christ. Fortunately, Christ paid for everyone’s debt on the cross.
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:14-16 NASB)
Romans 7:9 Moffatt NT “I lived at one time without law myself, but when the command came home to me, sin sprang to life and I died;”
The NLT says, “the power of sin came to life.” Maybe that is another of saying, after the Law came, the party was over.
Romans 7:10 MSG “The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.”
Another version: “…The commandment that was intended to bring me life was found to be bringing me death!” (CJB)
So, I should be able to look at what God did to the people Moses brought out of Egypt, as something that was supposed to guide them into life. I cannot imagine the law having any other impact upon them either.
Consider something: without the law, Israel had NO constraints.
Deeming Moses to be dead, they had Aaron make them the Moloch idol upon which they could go back to roasting their children to this “unknown” god. So the law then came to them, and sin sprang to life, and what happened, many of them died as well.
Romans 7:11 MSG “So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead.”
“Having one’s mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one’s mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom.” (Romans 8:6 CJB)
- A mind
- Controlled by the old nature
- Is death.
- But somehow changing one’s mind to be controlled by the Spirit (This is the pneuma – the breath of God, or, as we know it, the Holy Spirit of God,) is life and peace.
How do you do that? We renew our minds by putting God’s Word into our hearts. Isn’t that nice, I used a religious phrase on you, “just put God’s Word into your heart.” Seriously?
Let me explain, as I have been preparing so that I can convey the obscure things Paul has been saying, I, too, have been absorbing these Words. In a sense, I have been putting them into my heart. Just days ago, I walked through these same words I am giving you, with a good friend of mine. We both had to admit that these Words, which are alive, are changing us, and we could both see the changes and identified them.
Romans 7:12 NIV “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”
Nothing conveys a theme better than the Word, so let’s look at what the Psalmist wrote.
For the word of the LORD is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness. (Psalms 33:4 NASB)
Once again, Paul’s apologetic/common sense argument comes into play.
Romans 7:13 CJB “Then did something good become for me the source of death? Heaven forbid! Rather, it was sin working death in me through something good, so that sin might be clearly exposed as sin, so that sin through the commandment might come to be experienced as sinful beyond measure.”
“Then did something good become for me the source of death?”
I know, I have talked about this a lot recently, but you need to understand something. These people that God brought out of Egypt were effectively Egyptians, and followed after Egyptian god; Moloch is one of them. They had to be retrained and constrained. I can guarantee that they cried like babies.
Romans 7:14 CJB For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave.
By the way, what Paul wrote here is not defeatist, it is an act of aggression, as you now recognize who and what the enemy looks like. No, I am not necessarily the enemy, but it sure is something that lives with me every day. Now, if we could grasp the idea, that we are in Christ, and that our relationship with Him is comparable to being baptized into His death, then we too are dead to sin, just as He is. (There is no much more than this, but I am trying not to lose you.)
In Celebrate Recovery, a spin-off of AA, you introduce yourself as, insert your name here _, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, recovering from _ insert your problem here_. Mine happened to be rage.
The Apostle Paul can easily be visualized as standing before the crowd and saying,
Good evening. My name is Paul, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ,
and I am a recovering Pharisee, and a slave to sin.
Paul next talks about his own struggle.
Romans 7:15 CJB I don’t understand my own behavior—I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate!
My grandparents had all kinds of sayings, one of them was “landsakes.” I honestly don’t know what that means. I can speculate to no avail, but what I do know, is that when one of them said it, you knew they were not particularly thrilled with whatever you did. I can just hear Paul talking to himself as he says, “well for landsakes,” I don’t understand my own behavior.
If God lives in you, then there is a driving force inside you, called the Holy Spirit, telling you, you don’t need to be doing that!
In what seems like a struggle with the law, there comes this.
Romans 7:16 NLT “But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.”
A general, and safe assumption, is that everything that has been said, has been stated on a previous occasion. This was not done to bore you, it was done because we forget, and, the most important aspect, all prophecy is born from patterns. Repetition helps to establish God’s prophetic word. Note David’s words.
Psalms 119:127-128 NASB (127) Therefore I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above fine gold. (128) Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.
So, the law is good.
Romans 7:17 MSG “But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!”
At some point in my readings, I saw this phrase, the law, above anything else, showed us that we need God’s grace. In recovery, one of the defining moments is when you realize that you are out of control and that you cannot do this by yourself. Our Christian walk is not so different, and that is why God sent the Holy Spirit. Oh sure, I, and you, need other believers to help us along the way, but of a kindred spirit and a sane mind. Why? Because we are broken, and our only hope of getting through this comes through Jesus Christ. The following is Romans 7:18-24 from Eugene Peterson’s Message.
I realize that I don’t have what it takes.
I can will it, but I can’t do it.
I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it;
I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.
My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions.
Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.
The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.
I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.
Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps.
I’m at the end of my rope.
Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
(Romans 7:18-24 MSG)
I will admit at this point, that I am in tears because I have felt this way. Thank God I know what the next verse says.
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.
He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
(Romans 7:25 MSG)