Romans 7:1-5 -As you study the Old Testament, you cannot help being struck by the dignity and honor accorded to the law of God. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9) Psalm 119 uses ten different synonyms to describe the blessings of God’s law. In Isaiah 42:21 we read “It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.” David taught concerning the Law’s importance for believers that still applies to us today (Psalm 19:7-11). The last command given by God in the Old Testament is “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel” (Malachi 4:4).
With Revelation 6 in mind Paul now deals with the problem of the Law of the Lord and the outworking of it in our lives. God’s people considered obedience to God’s law to be not only the demonstration of salvation’s godliness but also the means of salvation, which God never intended. Paul was criticized then and even today for supposedly disregarding the Mosaic Law. To counter these accusations the elders in the Jerusalem congregation advised him to join a group of four other Jewish men in a Nazarite purification ceremony in the Temple.
By participating in that rite he would demonstrate his respect for the law and perhaps defuse some of the false criticism. Because such an act would in no way compromise the gospel, the apostle willingly agreed (Acts 21:20-26). As it turned out, however, his actions were misinterpreted and misrepresented, and Jewish opposition against Paul was hardened still further (Acts 21:27-30).
Yeshua demonstrated his feelings about God’s Law in Matthew 5:17-19. Knowing that his readers, especially Jewish believers, would still have a great many questions about the law in relation to their faith in Christ, Paul continues in the present passage to explain that critical relationship. It is one thing for a believer to understand that his identification with Jesus Christ means that he has died to sin (Romans 6:2) and to count or reckon that to be true (Romans 6:11).
But it is something else for him to deal with the sin nature that remains within and how it expresses itself in my thoughts and actions. This is the internal conflict that we all face. The statement that a believer identified with Jesus Christ in His death is no-longer “under Law” (Romans 6:14) should not have surprised Paul’s readers because they were men who know the Law.
That the Law has authority over a man only as long as he lives is a self-evident truth which Paul illustrates by marriage. The basic thought of this passage is that death cancels all contracts. Paul could have said that we were married to sin and that sin was slain by Messiah; and that we are now free to be married to God. He could have said that we were married to the law; that the law was killed by the work of Christ; and that now we are free to be married to God.
But he puts it another way; it is we who die to the law. By baptism we share in the death of Christ. That means that, having died, we are discharged from all obligations to the law and become free to marry again. This time we marry, not the law, but Messiah. When that happens, Christian obedience becomes, not an externally imposed obedience to the Law of the Lord, but an inner allegiance of the spirit to Yeshua.
The book of Romans teaches us that salvation produces a total transformation. The purpose of our being joined to Christ is that we might bear fruit for God. Paul elaborates on this truth in Ephesians 2:10.
In writing this letter Paul tells us that we have been purchased and redeemed that we might produce the fruit of the kingdom by being the Lord’s bond-servants. Godly fruit manifests itself in two areas; attitude and action. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives relating to our attitudes is found in Galatians 5:22-23; “love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.
Our actions are realized as we abide in Messiah – John 15:1-2. The writer of Hebrews speaks of “the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15), and Paul prayed that Philippian believers would be prepared for the day of Messiah by being “filled with the fruit of righteousness” Philippians 1:11. In Romans 7:5 – Paul describes some things that characterized our old lives as unbelievers. First, we walked in our sinful nature; another word for this is the flesh.
This is walking according to our natural rather than in a supernatural way. The fruit of this is sin and death. Second, our lives were characterized by sinful passions, this is the desire to think and to do the things that are the natural fruit of a life lived in the flesh. The Law stimulates these sinful passions. How does the holy Law of God, arouse that which is sinful?
First of all it does so because, apart from knowledge of the Law, a person would not know good from evil (see Romans 7:7). The Law, tells us clearly what is wrong, and arouses evil in an unregenerate person because our naturally rebellious nature makes us want to do the very things we learn are forbidden.
Flowing from that our unregenerate lives were characterized by the continuous work of our sinful passions in our bodies bearing the fruit of sin, which is death. The word “Work” is from a Greek verb meaning to operate with power. We get our word energy from it.
Romans 7:6 The expression but now introduces the contrast of the description given in Romans 7:5. We, who are believers in Yeshua, have been released from our old bondage to the Law by our death in Messiah so that we have died to that which we were bound in the flesh. When a person dies, he is set free from all the legal penalties. We died in Yeshua when He paid our debt of sin on the Cross and we were thereby released from our moral and spiritual penalties under God’s Law this is what Galatians 3:13 teaches us.
Freedom from the law does not bring freedom to sin but rather for the first time to do what is righteous, a freedom that we can’t have until we are born anew. Paul’s point is not simply that when we are redeemed we are able to do what is right but that we will do what is right.
This flows out of our response of gratitude for our faith and understanding of what was done for us in Yeshua. We are released from our bondage to the law so that we will serve God as sons and bond-slaves whose sole purpose for existence is to obey the will of his master. We serve the Lord now in the newness of the Spirit rather than in oldness of the letter.
The result is the fruit of redemption which is not an option but a natural result John 15:1-2. The law is still important to us as Believers. But now for the first time, we are able to meet the law’s demands for righteousness, which was God’s desire when He gave it in the first place, because we now have a new nature and God’s Holy Spirit to give us the power to obey.
We are no longer under the law’s bondage or penalty and the result is that we are more enthusiastic and able to live by its godly standards than is the most zealous legalist who does not have the knowledge or power that we have. With full sincerity and joy we can say with the psalmist, “O how I love Thy law!” (Psalm 119:97). We now have the power to obey His law and to do His will and that to do His will is to give Him glory.
Romans 6:7 – Here Paul gives us his spiritual autobiography and laying bare his heart and soul. He deals with the paradox of the law. In itself it is holy and is in fact the very voice of God. The root meaning of the word holy describes something that comes from a sphere other than this world. The Law also is just. The root of this word in the Greek expresses the idea of giving to man, and to God, their due.
Therefore the law is that which settles all relationships, human and divine. If a man perfectly kept the law, he would be in a perfect relationship both with God and with his fellow men. The law is good. It is designed for our highest welfare. It is meant to make a man good. And yet this same law is the very thing through which sin gains entry into a man. How does that happen? There are two ways in which the law may be said to be, in one sense, the source of sin.
First it defines sin. Sin without the law has no existence. Until a thing is defined as sin by the law, we do not know that it is sin. The law creates sin in the sense that it defines it. The law, by making men aware of what it is, creates sin. But there is a much more serious sense in which the law produces sin. One of the strange facts of life is the fascination of the forbidden thing.
The Rabbis saw that human tendency at work in the Garden of Eden. Adam at first lived in innocence; a commandment was given him not to touch the forbidden tree, but the serpent came and subtly turned that prohibition into a temptation. The fact that the tree was forbidden made it desirable; so Adam was seduced into sin by the forbidden fruit; and death was the result.
Romans 7:8-11 Apart from the law, we would have no way of accurately judging our sinfulness. Only God’s law reveals God’s standards and enables us to see how far short of His righteousness we are and how helpless we are to gain righteousness by our own efforts. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the call for a higher standard of righteousness than was thought.
Yeshua showed that God demands perfect righteousness in the heart not just externally (Matthew 5:48). Jesus gave a series of illustrations to demonstrate this. In God’s sight, the person who hates his brother is as guilty of sin as the murderer (Romans 7:21-22), the person who lusts is as guilty of immorality as the adulterer (Romans 7:27-28), the person who divorces his or her spouse except on the grounds of unfaithfulness causes both of them, as well as any future spouses, to commit adultery (Romans 7:31-32). He taught that truth is truth, and falsehood is falsehood, and swearing an oath neither justifies a lie nor verifies a truth (Matthew 5:33-37).
So first of all the Law reveals sin. Secondly the Law arouses sin. By nature we are rebels that resent any constraints on our life. When we are confronted by something forbidden it seems to become all the more attractive to us if for nothing other than to assert our self-will.
John Bunyan in Pilgrims Progress illustrates the reality of sin with a room covered with dust. A man with a broom that represents God’s law begins to sweep, as he does the dust swirls up and almost suffocates Christian.
That is what the law does to sin. It stirs sin up so that it becomes stifling. And just as a broom can’t clean a room of dust but only stir it up, so the law cannot cleanse our hearts of sin but only makes the sin more evident and irritating. Sin without the Law is dormant or dead Paul tells us. It only is agitated when we are made aware of the Law.
Thirdly the law not only reveals sin and stirs it up but it has the ability to undo and destroy the sinner. Paul says that he experienced life when he lived apart from the Law. How could a Pharisee ever have life apart from the Law?
Paul was in fact an expert on the law and considered himself to be blameless in regard to it. But when Paul came to faith he came to realize that he had served only the “oldness of the letter” of the law (Romans 7:6).
When he came to a true understanding of the commandment as taught by Yeshua, he began to see himself as he really was and began to realize how far short he came of the law’s true standards on the heart. His sin came alive, and he realized his true unrighteousness. For the first time, he realized he was spiritually dead and became broken and repentant. He now could join with the penitent tax-gatherer, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). We live in a day where we emphasize God’s love to the neglect of His wrath and judgment. The result is that few people go on with the Lord because they do not really think that they are sinners. So Paul tells us that the commandments, which were to result in life, resulted in death.
The Law was given to provide blessing for those who love and serve Him. (Psalm 19; Psalm 119:1-2). Since we are unable to keep all the commandments we stand condemned under its sentence of death. The law cannot produce the life it was meant to produce because none of us can meet the law’s perfect standard of righteousness. If it were possible, perfect obedience to the law could bring life. But because full obedience is not possible the law brings death rather than life.
But when we place our faith in Jesus, we are saved and given eternal life because “the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” (Romans 8:4,10). Repeating what he has just said about sin taking opportunity through the commandment and causing his death, Paul says that sin also deceived him. Deceit is subtle and devastating, when a person who is deceived into thinking he is acceptable to God because of his own merit and good works he will see no need of salvation and no reason for trusting in Messiah.
Romans 7:12-13 – The Law was given to provide blessing for those who love and serve Him. (Psalm 19:1-14; Psalm 119:1-2). Since we are unable to keep all the commandments we stand condemned under its sentence of death. The law cannot produce the life it was meant to produce because none of us can meet the law’s perfect standard of righteousness. If it were possible, perfect obedience to the law could bring life.
But because full obedience is not possible the law brings death rather than life. But when we place our faith in Jesus, we are saved and given eternal life because “the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” (Romans 8:4,10). Repeating what he has just said about sin taking opportunity through the commandment and causing his death, Paul says that sin also deceived him.
Deceit is subtle and destructive, when we are deceived into thinking we are acceptable to God because of our own merit and good works we see no need of salvation and no reason for trusting in Messiah.
Paul tells us that not only is the law not sin but that the law is, in fact, holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Throughout the rest of this chapter Paul tells us that the Law is spiritual, Romans 7:14, good, Romans 7:16, and in agreement with his “inner man” that the Law is true and holy, Romans 7:22. Once again Paul anticipates a question that would naturally come to mind, did that which is good become a cause of death for me? And his answer is, May it never be! When someone commits murder we don’t condemn the law but the murderer.
The law is true and right. It is not the law that is the cause of spiritual death but rather our sin. Sin is revealed under the light of God’s law. The commandment shows that sin is entirely sinful. Until we see sin for what it is we don’t really see the need to be saved from it. Sin distorts God’s holy Law so that instead of bringing life, as God intended, it brings death. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives us further insight on the purpose of the Law (Galatians 3:19-22).
The purpose of the law was to compel us to come to faith in Yeshua, who fulfilled the law on our behalf when we trust in His righteousness instead of our own. After we come to faith we still need to know the Law in order to see clearly the sin in our lives and to confess it and experience the blessings that comes with his forgiveness.
We can say with the psalmist, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11) and can claim the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Romans 7:14 – There has been much disagreement as to whether the person described here is a Believer or a not. Some maintain that the person here is too much in bondage to sin to be a believer, while others believe that the person here has too much love for the things of God and too much hatred of sin to be an unbeliever.
Is Paul referring to himself or using a literary device to identify more personally with his us, his readers. If Paul is speaking of himself, is he speaking of his life before or after his coming to faith? Those who believe Paul is speaking about an unbeliever point out that he describes the person as being “of flesh, sold into bondage” (Romans 7:14), as having nothing good dwelling in him (Romans 7:18), and as a “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” (Romans 7:24).
If so how could he be the same person described in chapter 6 as having died to sin (Romans 7:2), having his old self crucified and no longer enslaved to sin (Romans 7:6), “freed from sin” (Romans 7:7, 18, 22), dead to sin (Romans 7:11), and obedient from the heart to God’s Word (Romans 7:17)?
Those who believe that Paul is describing a believer in chapter 7 point out that this person desires to obey God’s law and hates doing what is evil (Romans 7:15, 19, 21), is humble before God, realizes that nothing good dwells in him (Romans 7:18), sees sin in him, but not all that is in him (Romans 7:17, 20-22). He gives thanks to Yeshua as his Lord and serves Him with his mind (Romans 7:25). Paul has stated that none of these things are true of unbelievers.
So then Paul is describing the mature of Believer who measures himself against God’s standards of righteousness and realizes how far we fall short. The closer we get to God, the more we see our own sin. It is the immature, and legalistic person who tends to live under the illusion that they are spiritual. It is brokenness, contrition, and humility that characterize the person in Romans 7 which are the marks of a spiritual and mature believe who has no trust in his own goodness and achievements.
The spiritual believer is sensitive to sin because he knows it grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), dishonors God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), hinders our prayers from being answered (1 Peter 3:12), and diminishes God’s power in our lives (1 Corinthians 9:27). It causes good things from God to be withheld (Jeremiah 5:25), robs us of the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), hinders our spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 3:1) and brings chastisement from the Lord (Hebrews 12:57). It hurts the body of believers and our fellowship and can even harm us physically (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 John 5:16).
When Paul discusses being in the flesh it is not that he is still in his old nature or enslaved and bound as he once was. The idea is that, although believers are not still in the flesh, the flesh is still in them. We still have a sinfulness that typify all human beings, but our spirit, our inner self, has been completely and forever cleansed of sin. That’s why at death we are prepared to enter God’s presence in perfect holiness and purity because we have been spiritually reborn and our body flesh and sin is left behind.
We are all are aware that our lives falls short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness and that we fall back into sin too often. But we have a new Father, and are no longer lovers of this world (1 John 2:15) and no longer in bondage to sin, but we are still subject its deceit and still attracted by its allurements. Yet as believers we can’t be happy with our sin, because it is contrary to our new nature and because we knows that it grieves his Lord as well as our own consciences.
Romans 7:15 – Paul’s proof that sin still indwells him was his ongoing confusion over the sin working in his life. Paul found himself doing things he didn’t approve of. It was not that he was unable to do a good thing but that when compared to God’s law he was unable to measure up to its standard. It wasn’t that he couldn’t accomplish any good at all, or faithfully obey God. But rather he was expressing an inner turmoil of desiring in his heart to fulfill the spirit as well as the letter of the law and realizing that he was unable to live up to God’s standards and his own heart’s desire.
It was not Paul’s conscience that was bothering it was his inner man, that was transformed by the Messiah living in Him through The Holy Spirit that he now could see something of the true holiness, goodness, and glory of God’s law and was grieved by his falling short of it. This is in contrast to who he was before he came to faith when he was self-satisfied thinking himself blameless before God’s law (Philippians 3:6). Paul now realized how far short of God’s perfect law he came, even as a Spirit filled believer and an apostle.
Humility is the mark of a true disciple who cries out, “Lord, I can’t be all you want me to be, I can’t do this myself.” Like the repentant tax collector who cried out to God in confession and seeking mercy. Together with Paul we too say that we are not doing what we know we should do and would like to do. This does not release from the call to be perfect as God is, it just so shows us that apart from dependence upon God and His Spirit we cannot do this on our own.
Romans 7:16-17 Paul now deals with the reason why he is unable to fulfill the law. He begins by saying that it is not the fault of the Law, because he agrees with the rightness and goodness of the Law. Paul tells us that it is not him breaking the Law but rather sin which indwells him. In saying this he is not trying to escape personal responsibility. He was not embracing dualism, which was a problem in the early church and is popular in some Christian circles today. This teaching suggests that the spirit world is all good and the physical world all evil.
These people justify their sin by claiming it is the fruit of their physical bodies, which is going to be destroyed anyway, and that the inner, spiritual person remains innately good and is untouched by and unaccountable for anything the body does. But Paul has already confessed that he was a willing sinner in Romans 7:14. If we say we don’t sin then we make God and His Word to be lying (1 John 1:9-10). A true believer is continually recognizing and confessing his sin. But now that he is a new person in Messiah he no longer approves of the sin that still grips him through the flesh.
Before he came to faith his inner self approved of the sin he committed, now his new inner self disapproves. He explains the reason for this change in Galatians 2:20. When we come to faith sin is no longer the driving force in our lives, its there but it is not in the drivers seat. Someone has described this concept in this way: We are like untrained artists who see a scene that is perfect for painting but because we lack the skill are unable to do it.
The problem is not the scene, the paint, the canvass, the brush, but the painter. When we commit our lives to the Lord He takes our hand and paints the picture with our hand in His. Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The only way we can overcome this battle and bear the fruit that God wants us to is by walking in the Spirit and in His power, so that we will not “carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Romans 7:18–19 When Paul says that nothing good lives in him he is referring to his old nature or the natural man not the new man in Messiah. This is the concept of the total depravity of man. When we talk of “total depravity of man” it refers to the work of sin extending to all people and affecting the entire person, which includes our intellect, emotions, and will, so that nothing in the person can commend us to God.
Paul had a deep desire to do only good. Unfortunately this was not present in his life. He is not saying he couldn’t do good things but that he was incapable of completely fulfilling the requirements of God’s holy law.
Consider this in the light of Philippians 3:12-14. As we grow in our spiritual life, we should develop an increased hatred of sin and an increased love for righteousness. As our desire for holiness increases, so will our sensitivity to sin and our distaste for it. In spite of our growth Paul like us still wrestled with sin when he says, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
David was a man after God’s own heart yet he too faced the same battles we do. We see this in his penitential Psalm 32:1-11,38:1-22,51:1-19, but in many other psalms as well, David agonized over and confessed his sin before God. He was so near to the heart of God that the least sin in his life loomed before his eyes as a great offense.
Romans 7:18–20 When Paul says that nothing good lives in him he is referring to his old nature or the natural man not the new man in Messiah. This is the concept of the total depravity of man. When we talk of “total depravity of man” it refers to the work of sin extending to all people and affecting the entire person, which includes our intellect, emotions, and will, so that nothing in the person can commend us to God.
Paul had a deep desire to do only good. Unfortunately this was not present in his life. He is not saying he couldn’t do good things but that he was incapable of completely fulfilling the requirements of God’s holy law. Consider this in the light of Philippians 3:12-14. As we grow in our spiritual life, we should develop an increased hatred of sin and an increased love for righteousness. As our desire for holiness increases, so will our sensitivity to sin and our distaste for it.
In spite of our growth Paul like us still wrestled with sin when he says, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. David was a man after God’s own heart yet he too faced the same battles we do. We see this in his penitential Psalms 32, 38, and 51, but in many other psalms as well, David agonized over and confessed his sin before God.
He was so near to the heart of God that the least sin in his life loomed before his eyes as a great offense. The spiritual believer is sensitive to sin because he knows it grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), because it dishonors God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), because sin keeps his prayers from being answered (1 Peter 3:12), and because sin makes his life spiritually powerless (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Sin in our lives causes good things from God to be withheld (Jeremiah 5:25), and robs us of the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:12), it inhibits our spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 3:1), and brings discipline from the Lord (Hebrews 12:57), and prevents us from being a fit vessel for the Lord to use (2 Timothy 2:21).
The spiritual believer is sensitive to sin because it pollutes our fellowship with other believers (1 Corinthians 10:21), and hinders the blessings that come from partaking of communion (1 Corinthians 11:28-29), and it can even compromise our physical life and health (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 John 5:16).
As long as we are in this world until we are glorified, the law will continue to a spiritual ally to us. An obedient and Spirit-filled believer should value and honor and study all the commandments of God. We should embrace the words of the psalmist, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11), and that Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
God’s Word is more valuable for believers under the New Covenant than it was for those under the Old Covenant, not only because the Lord has revealed more of His truth to us in the New Testament, but also because believers now have the indwelling Holy Spirit to illumine and apply His truth.
So, although the law cannot save or sanctify, it is still holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12), and obedience to it offers great benefits both to believers and unbelievers. In Romans 7:20 Paul essentially repeats what he said in Romans 7:16-17, If I am doing the very thing I do not wish, he argues with simple logic, then it follows that I am no longer the one doing it. Paul uses the phrase no longer, referring to the time before his conversion. Before salvation it was the inner I who sinned and agreed with the sin. An unsaved person cannot truthfully say he is not doing it. He does not have a new nature.
Romans 7:21 The continuing presence of evil in a believer’s life is so universal that Paul refers to it not as an uncommon thing but as such a common reality as to be called a continually operating spiritual principle. Lingering sin does battle with every good thing a believer desires to do, every good thought, every good intention, every good motive, every good word, every good deed.
The Lord warned Cain when he became angry that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted but his own was not: “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). Sin continues to crouch at the door, even of believers, in order to lead people into disobedience.
Romans 7:22-23 The first part of Paul’s proof that sin is no longer his master and that he is indeed redeemed by God and made into the likeness of Yeshua is his being able to say, I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. In other words, Paul’s justified inner man is on the side of the law of God and no longer on the side of sin. Psalm 119 offers many parallels to Romans 7.
Over and over and in a multitude of ways, the psalmist praises and exalts the Lord and His Word: “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches” Psalm 119:14), “I shall delight in Thy commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119:47), “Thy law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77), “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), and “Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140). It has always been true that the godly person’s “delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1-2).
Paul’s inner man, the deepest recesses of his redeemed person, hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and seeks first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). “Though our outer man is decaying,” Paul told the Corinthian believers, “yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). He prayed that Christians in Ephesus would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
The second part of Paul’s proof that sin is no longer his master and that he is indeed redeemed by God and made into the likeness of Yeshua involves a corresponding but opposite principle (Psalm 119:21), a different law, which does not operate in the inner person but in the members his body, that is, in his unredeemed and still sinful humanness. That opposing principle is continually waging war against the law of the believer’s mind, a term that corresponds to the redeemed inner man about whom Paul has been talking.
Paul is not setting up a dichotomy between the mind and the body but is contrasting the inner man, or the redeemed “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), with the “flesh” (Romans 7:25), that remnant of the old man that remains with each believer until we receive our glorified bodies (Romans 8:23).
Paul is not saying his mind is always spiritual and his body is always sinful. In fact, he confesses that, tragically, the fleshly principle undermines the law of his mind and temporarily makes him a prisoner of the law of sin which is in his members. As Paul will explain in chapter 8, what he has just said of himself could not apply to an unbeliever, who is entirely, in his mind as well as in his flesh, “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). Unbelievers do not want to please God and could not please Him if they wanted to (Romans 8:8).
Psalm 119 also parallels Romans 7 on the down side, in regard to the believer’s constant struggle with the sin that he hates and longs to be rid of. The psalmist sometimes was plagued by evil forces and people that warred against God and his own inner person.
“My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times” (Psalm 119:20), he lamented, “My soul cleaves to the dust” (Psalm 119:25), and, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71). He repeatedly pleads with God to revive him (Psalm 119:25, 88, 107, 149, 154). With the deep humility that characterizes every mature believer, the writer ends by confessing, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep,” by imploring God to “seek Thy servant,” and finally by affirming again, “I do not forget Thy commandments” (Psalm 119:176).
Romans 7:24 – Here Paul confesses that he needs a Deliverer. All of us can identify with the struggle Paul had. This is the bondage of sin and coming short of the glory of God. Too often we find ourselves distrusting God, being hard of heart, loving the world and self, being prideful, and cold. We, like Paul long to walk in humility and meekness, to be filled with the fruit of love, joy, and peace.
But day-by-day we find the force of sin reasserting its power over us. We struggle and struggle against it, and find we don’t have the power to free ourselves. This conflict between the flesh and spirit continues in us as long as we live, in some more, and in others less. Yet, we are both flesh and spirit, and we will fight this battle until we are completely spiritual. It is this awareness that drives us to the truth that deliverance is found only through Jesus our Lord.
Listen to the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 130:1-5. According to archaeologists there was a community near Tarsus, where Paul was born where an ancient tribe sentenced convicted murderers to a grisly execution. The corpse of the slain person tied to the body of the murderer and remained there until the murderer himself died. In a few days, which must have seemed an eternity, the decay of the person he had slain infected and killed him. Some commentators suggest that maybe Paul had this in mind when he expressed his yearning to be freed from the body of death.
In Romans 8 he rejoices in the victory that has been won for him by the Messiah. As frustrating and difficult our struggle with sin may be, this trial is nothing compared with the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven.
Romans 7:25 ends this chapter with praise to God, for there is deliverance from sin! But it does not come through man-made laws or our own power or abilities or some force but through the great Deliverer Himself. He alone can deliver us from sin. He is perfectly clear about this in John 14:6; Romans 8:2. Paul’s conclusion is that he serves the law of God with his mind, with his renewed mind. When we know that our deliverance is through Yeshua, His Word teaches us that our mind becomes transformed by His Word working in and upon us, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
Because of this we take this new mind and do all we can to serve the law of God. This battle is described in Psalm 119 which has many striking parallels to Romans 7. Over and over and in a multitude of ways, the psalmist praises and exalts the Lord and His Word: “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches”
(Psalm 119:14), “I shall delight in Thy commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119:47), “Thy law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77), “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), and “Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140). It has always been true that the godly person’s “delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2). When we come to faith we dedicate ourselves to be conformed to the image of Messiah.
Because of God’s Word we know that we have been delivered from the law (force) of sin through Yeshua and so keep our justification and God’s grace always before us. We also know by His Word that when our flesh serves the law of sin by failing, we have open access into God’s presence to ask forgiveness. And receiving a fresh surge of God’s forgiveness and grace, we start all over again. The believer begins to sense the law of God with renewed fervor, the fervor of his renewed mind.