Setting

Paul declared in chapter 6 that believers who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been set free from sin. In verse 14, he explained that sin would have no dominion over them because they are not under law but under grace. In the present chapter, Paul picks up the issue of the law and examines the hopeless struggles of the sinner who is under law.

Key Verse

(7:24 NKJV)

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Outline

  • Release from the Law
    (7:1-6)
  • Sin’s Deception through the Law
    (7:7-12)
  • Sin’s Power over the Sinner
    (7:13-25)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    What entities are personified in this chapter?

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    Sin (7:5, 8, 9, 11, 13, 17, 20); evil (7:21); another law (7:23).

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  • 2.

    Note the different usages and meanings of the word “law” in this passage.

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    The word “law” is used in this passage primarily to refer to God’s law (v. 25), which includes the commandments (vv. 3, 4, 7). In verse 21, however, “law” seems to denote a guiding principle. Verse 23 brings out this meaning even more clearly, speaking of “law” as a form of power, i.e., the law of sin wars against the law of the mind.

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Segment Analysis

  • 7:1–6

    1.

    What is the point of the analogy Paul makes in 7:1–3?

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    The law is binding only when the person is alive. The only way to be released from the law, then, is to die  to the law. Through Christ we have died to the law and been set free (vv. 4, 6). Another part of the analogy is that upon the death of the husband, the wife is free to marry another person. By the same token, once we have been freed from the law, we now belong to God and bear fruit for Him (v. 4).

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  • 2.

    What does Paul mean by living in the flesh in verse 5?

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    Living in the flesh in the present context means obeying the sinful passions of the flesh (Rom 7:5; 8:5–8).

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  • 3.

    What enabled us to be released from the law?

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    We have died to the law through the body of Christ (Rom 7:4). The Lord Jesus bore our sins in His body and offered His own body in order to sanctify us and reconcile us to God (1 Pet 2:24; Heb 10:10; Col 1:21–22). Consequently, when we are baptized into Christ, we are united with Christ in His death, that the body of sin may be brought to nothing. We are also set free from the sin and death that used to have dominion over us (Rom 6:3–8).

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  • 4.

    Does being released by the law mean that we do not need to obey the law?

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    Paul has stated definitively that we do not overthrow the law through the gospel. Instead, we uphold the law (Rom 3:31). He also answered strongly in the negative to the question “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (6:15). In the last verse of the present chapter, Paul further mentions serving the law of God in a positive light (7:25). So to be released from the law is not to become lawless, but to be free from the condemnation that the law brings because of the overpowering sinful desires within us. It means to serve God in the new way of the Spirit (7:6). We as Christians are still expected to carry out the commandments of God (cf. 1 Cor 7:19; 1 Jn 2:3, 4; 3:22, 24; 5:2–3; 2 Jn 6; Rev 14:12).

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  • 5a.

    Explain “serving in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (v. 6).

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    We saw the contrast between the Spirit and the written code earlier on in Romans. There, being a Jew by the written code means obeying God’s law only superficially whereas being a Jew by the Spirit means obeying God’s law from the heart (Rom 2:27–29). Similarly, in the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes about the contrast between the Spirit and the letter as the difference between the law that was written on stones and the work of God’s Spirit on the human heart (2 Cor 3:3–6). These cross-references help us understand that being released from the law results in a way of life that obeys God from the heart through the help of the Holy Spirit rather than merely putting on an appearance of obedience while being controlled by sin inwardly.

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  • 5b.

    Cite real-life examples of serving in the old way versus the new way.

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  • 7:7–12

    6.

    Note the predominant use of the first person “I” in this passage. Is Paul speaking about his personal struggles? Justify your answer.

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    Clues from the passage indicate that although Paul speaks in the first person, he is not simply writing about his own experience. For example, he says in Rom 7:9, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came…” Paul was raised and groomed as one of the most strict adherents to the law (Php 3:4–6). Never in his life was he without the law. Furthermore, even though he writes about his inward struggles in the present tense, his helpless cry about being trapped in the body of death is not alluding to his present condition as a believer in Christ (Rom 7:24–25). As explained in chapter 6, he who has been united with Christ in baptism has died to sin and the effect of baptism is the putting away of the body of sin (Rom 6:3–11). Therefore, while Paul is speaking from his own experience, he is speaking collectively of all human beings who are living under the bondage of the law.

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  • 7.

    What is the function of the law?

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    The law makes us aware of sin (Rom 7:7; cf. Rom 3:19–20).

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  • 8.

    Why do the law and the commandments, which are good and holy, become death (v. 10)?

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    The law is spiritual, but we are of the flesh, sold under sin (7:14). We have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (v. 18). Instead, we continue to do the evil we do not want (v. 19). As a result, we are condemned by the law and the law becomes death to us even though it promised life (v. 10).

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  • 9.

    When is a person sold under sin (v. 14)?

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    The Greek word for “sold” is in the perfect tense here, which indicates the present state that results from some past action. In other words, we were sold at one point in the past. Romans 5:12 tells us that sin came into the world through one man. Furthermore, one trespass led to condemnation for all men and by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners (5:18–19). We may infer, then, that the entire human race was sold under sin when the first man disobeyed God. The fact that all sinned and death is the destiny of all substantiates this truth (5:12).

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  • 10.

    How are the descriptions in this segment a vivid portrayal of the universal human condition?

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    Too often we know what is right and good and want to do what is right and good. But we succumb to our desires and do what is evil instead. That is why addictions are prevalent. As our Lord Jesus said, “The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41). Paul echoes this reality: “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). A person who is not in Christ cannot break away from this pattern because he is under sin’s dominion.

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  • 11.

    Does this segment teach that a sinner is not really responsible for his actions? Explain Paul’s overall point.

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    It is important not to take this passage out of its context and use it as an excuse that we really have no choice but to keep on sinning. Yes, the human race is hopeless if we tried to be justified before God by keeping the law (cf. Rom 3:20). For this reason, God sent His son as the propitiation. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus we are justified by God’s grace as a gift (Rom 3:21–25). If we put our trust in the Lord Jesus and are joined to His death and resurrection through baptism, we would be able to be set free from sin. Therefore, we are no longer powerless victims left without a choice. We have the choice to commit our lives to the Lord. We can give thanks to God along with Paul and declare that through Jesus Christ our Lord we may be delivered from the body of death (Rom 7:24–25).

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  • 12.

    How would you use the words in this passage as a way to share the gospel with someone?

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    All efforts to earn our way to heaven is futile. We may be able to achieve some outward piety or carry out some charitable works. But we have all been enslaved to sin. Before God all our hidden evil thoughts, words, and actions are laid bare. We stand condemned before God. But God has given us His son, who loved us and died for us while we were yet sinners. Through Him, we can be forgiven of our sins and bear good fruits to God in our lives. Jesus Christ is the answer to the deadly powers of sin.

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  • 13.

    How are we delivered from the wretchedness described through Jesus Christ our Lord (v. 25)?

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    We may view the deliverance of our Lord Jesus Christ as consisting of two aspects.

    The first aspect is that we are forgiven of our sins on account of His personal sacrifice on the cross. Through the redemption by His blood we are justified freely (Rom 3:24–25). This forgiveness of sins occurs during baptism, through which the blood of Jesus Christ washes away our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). When we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death and united with Him in the likeness of His death. Subsequently, our body of sin is brought to nothing, and we are able to walk in newness of life just as Christ was raised from the dead (Rom 6:1–11).

    The second aspect is that in Christ Jesus we are able to be more than conquerors in life. We can walk according to the Spirit and stand tall in the midst of tribulations in life. For those who are in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation (Rom 8:1). This will the topic of the next chapter of Romans.

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