• Brian O'Kelly

31 - Romans 7 - A New Law



3.1. I indicated in our study of chapter 6 that while some believe that in that chapter Paul is discussing entire sanctification. I shared with you that I believe chapter 6 and seven are expansion on the 2 ½ chapters where he talks about and points out that all are sinners whether Jew or Greek. So this chapter is a continuation of Paul’s description of the sin problem and we should be escaping it. This is not a chapter on how to not sin, that begins in chapter 8.

4. First half of today’s text

4.1. Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.



5. Freed From the Law - 1st Verse

5.1. Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

5.1.1. As is normal Paul opens with a question. The question begins “or do you not know” referencing the last part of chapter 6 which is the end of his slave analogy.

5.1.1.1. Romans 5:22-23 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

5.1.2. Sin up until this point had always been defined in the mind of the Jew as a violation of the law. Paul is basically asking here do you not know that the wages of sin is death and that prior to Jesus all men were under the law until they die.

5.1.3. Paul has a parenthesis in his opening statement of the chapter here. In that parenthesis he says “for I speak to those who know the law”. For those of you who have been following this series may remember that when we did chapter 1 I indicated that while some have called Romans the universal epistle I believe it was a letter primarily to the Jews who were in the Roman church and were acting as though they were in a superior position to the Greeks or Gentiles in the church were also Judaizers who were supplying the idea that the Gentiles said they would be as good as the Jews. It’s good to keep this in mind as we go through this entire book of Romans. I believe what he says here “I speak to those who know the law” that he points out here again that he is addressing the Jews. The Gentiles didn’t know the law hadn’t been educated the law and were mostly ignorant of its contents.

6. At this point Paul offers a new example from marriage

6.1. 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

6.1.1. In the first example, Paul draws a parallel to a slave who has a change in master. Here he draws a parallel to a woman who has a change in husband.

6.1.2. In the first example of the slave market Paul is indicating that it is the slave who dies, and he is calling that a change in master. Here he is indicating that it’s the same as if the husband dies. So, in the first case it is the one who is subject who dies while in this example it is the one who is the master who dies.

6.1.3. He is talking to those (according to the first verse) who know the law. This means they would have understood Deuteronomy 24:1-5

6.1.3.1. Deuteronomy 24:1-5 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some [a]uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, 2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, 4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled.

6.1.3.2. When a woman who was divorced from one man, and remarried, she was subject to the new husband and there was no going back. The same is true for the Christian. Once the Christian has moved from bondage to the law which was also bondage to sin, to a position of bondage to grace, there is no going back.

6.1.3.3. This appears in Hebrews 10:26 too “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”

6.1.3.3.1. Some have misunderstood this to mean that if you sin after you have become a believer that there is a sacrifice for you. The idea being that if you sin after you know better you just left out the cold without any way to remediate that sin. This is not the meaning of the writer of Hebrews. What this means is that by accepting Jesus and understanding the sacrifice “received the knowledge of the truth” the Jew (who Hebrews is written to) cannot go back to the temple and try to reinstitute the temple sacrifices. This is what the writer means by “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”.

7. A New Spousal Relationship

7.1. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

7.2. Entering into the body of Christ makes us dead to the law because now we have become the bride of Christ, we are married to him now. We have a new husband, a new master, a new Lord who we must obey.

7.3. Now imagine a woman who is married, and her husband wants her to do the grocery shopping in the home and because he can’t cook, he wants her to do the cooking. That this husband dies or divorces her, and she remarries. Her new husband also wants her to do the grocery shopping, but he happens to be a trained chef and prefers to do all the cooking himself. There will be some overlap between what the old husband wanted her to do and what the new husband wants her to do. This doesn’t mean that when she goes shopping, she is obeying the old husband. In the same way while we are now under the law of Christ, the law of grace, Jesus has some of the same requirements of us then we had under the law. The commandment not to murder, not the steal, not commit adultery these were commands that were in the law, they are also commands of Jesus. This does not mean that by obeying Jesus in the areas of similarity means that we are now needing to obey the law as well.

7.4. We are the bride of Christ. We are to bear fruit to God.

7.4.1. So what is fruit? Fruit is the product of a healthy plant, that contains it the seed or seeds that can produce one or more other healthy plants. I’ve heard it said that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit wisdom is knowing not put it into fruit salad.

7.4.2. What is the fruit we are supposed to bear to God? It is of two types:

7.4.2.1. Luke 1:42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

7.4.2.2. The fruit this speaks of is the normal fruit of a marriage. That is children. As believers we are supposed to reproduce other believers. This is what it means to be fruitful as a Christian. Remember when Paul called Timothy his“a true son in the faith”in Timothy 1:2

7.4.2.3. Remember God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” so there is a literal command for the Christian to have children than there is a figurative command to reproduce not only in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense through sharing our faith with others.

7.4.2.4. The second kind of fruit is the way we appear to others in the world and the impact we have on them. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:16

7.4.2.5. James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

8. What flesh were we in?

8.1. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

8.1.1. Paul says “when we were in the flesh” and a large number of commentators and preachers will tell you that this is a reference to your own physical body. I don’t believe this is correct, although it might be. My own belief is that because Paul is using here a past tense expression “when we were” it speaks of a former condition which is no longer the case. You may have heard some Christians say things like “I was really in the flesh the other day” as though being in the flesh or out of the flesh is constantly in a state of flux, or that we are potentially vacillating between a fleshly state and the spiritual state.

8.1.2. My own understanding of Paul’s use of “in the flesh” here and continuing through much of the rest of this chapter and chapter 8 is a reference to being “in Adam”, under the mastery of sin, under the slavery of death, and in bondage to the law.

8.1.3. As I explained we were studying chapter 6 and verse six or Paul says “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with” that “our old man” and “body of sin” are reference to the body of Adam that we were in as opposed to the body of Christ that we are now in.

8.1.4. This concept of “sinful passions which were aroused by the law” is similar in my mind to the idea of someone telling you things like, and you may of heard this example, “don’t think about pink elephants, whatever you do don’t think about pink elephants, don’t picture them in your mind, don’t imagine what they look like, don’t wonder if it’s a shade of light pink or dark pink, whatever you do don’t think about pink elephants” the result of which is that you picture in your mind pink elephants.

8.1.5. The idea here being that while most sins were contemplated by someone, not everyone had contemplated every sin or even considered them but the law by defining what was right and wrong created the ideas for some people to do things they hadn’t considered before.

9. Delivered from the Law

9.1. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

9.1.1. Died to what we were held by. No one keeps a dead slave. The dead slave is no longer under the power of the former master.

9.1.2. The newness of the Spirit refers to a newfound freedom and the idea of being controlled not by simply the law, but by the Holy Spirit. The law was rigid and unforgiving. It was dead and lifeless. The Holy Spirit is alive. Remember that the bible tells us that Jesus is the word. The word is alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. The law could never give life but the Holy Spirit is life giving. This is why legalism is so deadly to the life of the believer. You’ll find that the more focused a person or an organization is on the letter of the law less focused they tend to be on the spirit of God.

10. Sin’s Advantage in the Law

10.1. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.

10.2. Paul again here is personifying sin as though it is a person in the same way that he is personified death prior. Of course, neither death or sin are persons or personalities. Now is sin is in the personality, how can it produce anything? That it “produced in me all manner of evil desire”. This could be considered similar to saying that this nice steak in front of me produced hunger. The steak doesn’t produce anything anymore than the sin does. Rather, it is my own appetite in response to the knowledge of the steak that produces the hunger. No this is an imperfect example I’m giving here but the idea is that when presented with an opportunity or an understanding of what is wrong to do our own appetites often choose the sinful act.

10.3. When Paul says here “apart from the law sin was dead” I believe what he means is that without knowledge that something is sinful it is still wrong but is not rebellion. The law only has power to condemn those who know it and willingly disobey it.

11. Alive Once?

11.1. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

11.1.1. How could Paul have ever been alive? So many Christians teach and believe the proposition that all men are born spiritually dead. If this is true, what is Paul talking about?

11.1.2. “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”. When Paul received the commandment and understood it, his own sinfulness was revealed to him and at that point he realized that his own desire to do the wrong thing was sufficient to condemn him. This is why he says that the commandment instead of bringing life brought death. The commandment, or the law, could only bring life to those were obedient to it. The problem is that there was no one who was able to be obedient to the law.

11.1.3. Sin, again here personified in verse 11, “deceive me, and by it killed me”. Once again, sin is not a person, nor does it have volitional will. Sin is something we willingly choose and in the same way that appetite produces hunger in response to the stimuli of food, our other fleshly appetites produce sins in response to stimuli. The deception he speaks of here is a self-deception which is revealed to us and demonstrated with our understanding of the law and our subsequent understanding of our inability to keep it.

11.1.4. The law is “holy and just and good” because it drives us to understand our own unholiness, unjustness, and lack of goodness.

12. Part 2

12.1. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

13. Law Cannot Save from Sin

13.1. 13 Has then what is good (The law) become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good (the law), so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

13.1.1. What does Paul mean by “carnal”? Does Paul mean that he has become what some call a “carnal Christian”, a christian living in the flesh? I don’t believe this is Paul’s meaning, but I believe he means is to identify that his flesh (and yours and mine) is still in bondage to its own appetites.

13.1.2. Before one becomes a Christian there is no conflict between your body and your spirit. These two work in perfect harmony. When your body wants to sin, so does your mind, so does your spirit. However, when one becomes a Christian the conflict between our flesh and our spirit begins.

13.1.3. We realize fairly quickly after conversion of difficult this task is of bringing our body into subjection to the decision we’ve made to follow Jesus.

14. My own behavior confuses me

14.1. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.

14.1.1. Now Paul is speaking my language. So often I find myself, and you probably find yourself in the place where I’ve committed some sin and I’m both disappointed and sometimes disgusted and ashamed at my own behavior. I totally relate to Paul’s statement that I don’t understand it or how I can do so often the opposite of what I wrote want to do and I agree that God’s standard for my behavior, regardless of my inability to meet it, that that standard is good.

15. Is it sin or is it me?

15.1. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

15.1.1. Now when Paul says here that it is “sin that dwells in me” this is not a license to sin. I mean after all, we can’t help it right? He has just explained this repeatedly all the way back to chapter 3 and mentions it again in four, five and six. When he is not offering here is an exculpatory statement. He is not letting himself off the hook by blaming the sin within. It is explanatory rather than exculpatory. Paul is not okay with it which he explains in the next verse.

15.1.2. As I discussed before the psalmist says, “he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” Psalm 103:14 and James says “For we all stumble in many things.” James 3:2. We make a mistake if we see these as permissive statements, they are not. They are explanatory, much like when Jesus said to the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane after falling asleep, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38. The Lord is here explaining, not excusing the weakness of the disciples. We know this because the statement immediately prior is “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation”.

16. The spirit is willing

16.1. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, (the internal conflict between the desires of our flesh and the desires of our spirit) and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

16.1.1. When Paul says “this body of death” there is I believe, a double meaning here. He is discussing both the sinful desire of our flesh which leads to a spiritual death if we are to indulge it as well as the body of Adam or the “old man”.

16.1.2. Paul then finally thanks God and offers the truth that with his mind (his spirit) he is desirous of serving God but that his body is desirous of serving the law of sin.

16.1.3. This is why mankind needs a perfect judge with perfect knowledge. Only God knows have chosen to cooperate with the flesh and how much our stumbling and weakness is a part of the human condition.

16.1.4. I believe this is part of why God came in the form of a man. It says “5 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15. Now the idea here is not that God had to come as a man so that he could experience this as though he couldn’t know this any other way. After all, God knows everything. Rather, it was so that we could know the perfect justice of a perfect judge. God was not lacking in perspective, but he wanted to make sure to clear up any doubt about this issue. Further, he wanted to demonstrate that for all of us, that each of our sins is avoidable as they are all acts of rebellion, a rebellion that Jesus, even though a man, never demonstrated. This is one of the main reasons I don’t being born stained. Jesus wasn’t born stained, which would make his temptation, nothing like yours and mine.

17. Next week

17.1. In chapter 8 Paul will begin to offer the remedy for sin