Freed Through Christ

Explore the Bible Series

November 1, 2005

 

Background Passage: Romans 7:1-25

Lesson Passage: Romans 7:4-6; 14-25

 

Introduction: Many years ago, a seasoned, mature pastor spoke with me about the relationship between the Law and the Gospel.Frankly, he reflected on this issue with such passion that I was taken off guard.For more than three hours, as we drove from the airport to my home in East Texas, he drew my attention to texts like Romans 7:1-25. In my youthful immaturity, I know I gave my mentor a rather tepid response; nevertheless, he patiently and passionately instructed me without the slightest hint of irritation (I find that remarkable as I reflect on this incident).Our eventual arrival at our destination interrupted the uncomfortable discussion, and I welcomed the respite of domestic distractions as we carried his luggage into the house.We never resumed that conversation, but I have never forgotten the things my aged friend said to me. Nearly twenty-five years have passed since that unsettling car ride, but I have never forgotten that conversation.

 

Today, this issue seems as important to me as it did to my friend so many years ago.Years of study and pastoral experience have convinced me of the great wisdom of my pastor friend.Sadly, I do not possess his patience with others who do not see these things in exactly the same way I do, but the Law/Grace issue evokes something of the same passion in me that I sensed in him. This topic touches on almost every aspect of our understanding of the Gospel.Indeed, it influences our understanding of the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture, the character of God, the nature and work of Christ, the atonement, justification, and sanctification.It touches, in addition, on issues related to assurance of salvation, church discipline, and the future state of the lost and saved.Indeed, the proper apprehension of the continuity of the Bible rests on getting this right.I do not mean to demonize those with whom I disagree on this matter, but I cannot imagine that Christians would not think this a critical issue in our understanding of the Christian faith.Romans 7 will provide helpful instruction for our advancement in these matters.

 

 

Outline of the Text:

 

I.                    The Christianís Freedom from the Law (7:1-6)

A.    Paulís principle stated (v 1): ďÖ the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he livesÖĒThe apostle continued a theme he began in Romans 6:14 ďÖ for you are not under the law, but under grace.ĒWhat did Paul mean when he asserted that believers are no longer under the law?The remainder of Chapter Seven answers that question.

B.     An analogy of the believerís relationship to the law (vv. 2-6): Paul imagined a woman who had taken a husband.As long as the husband lived, she was legally bound to her spouse.Only death could erase the marriage covenant between the woman and her husband.However, if the man died, the woman was no longer restricted by the marriage covenant (v. 2).She was released from the bond to the dead husband, and she could freely marry another man (v. 3).

C.    The explanation of the analogy (vv. 4-6):Like the man in the analogy (notice that Paul describes the death of the husband and not the wife), believers have died to legal bondage; thus, they are released from the constraints and indictments of the law.They are free to join themselves to another.What was the believerís previous relation to the law?

1.      The unbeliever is under the constraint of the law; that is, he is bound to the law and cannot escape its demands.Like a bad marriage, the lost person cannot escape the demand to remain ďmarriedĒ to the law. In Paulís illustration, the married woman, even if she has entered an unhappy marriage, cannot break away from the marriage without also violating the law of God.She is, as it were, trapped.Whatever she contrives, she cannot break the legal bond she has to her husband.

2.      The law stirs the ungodly passions of the unbeliever (v. 5).Rather than motivate the lost person to obedience to Godís commands, the very presence of the law stirs the passions of the lost person.

3.      The law was at work in the members (includes every aspect of human character) and produced the fruit of death (v. 5).

††††††††††††††††† Application: Bible students must take care to study the entire context of Paulís claims concerning the believerís freedom from the law.Indeed, Paul clearly anticipated that his readers might misunderstand his assertion that the believer is free from the law; therefore, he devoted the rest of the chapter to dispel misconceptions about the nature of the law.

 

II.                 The Nature of the Law (7:7-25)

A.The law and the unbeliever (vv. 7-13): Paul began this section, as was his pattern, with a pointed question. ďIs the law sin?ĒThis suggestion, of course, seemed inconceivable to the apostle. He anticipated that someone might conclude, based on the previous paragraph, that Paul held the law in low regard. The apostle used the first person singular throughout the rest of the chapter, and Bible students must decide if this indicates an autobiographical element or whether Paul used the first person as rhetorical device.Curtis Vaughan and Bruce Corley argue Paul intended an autobiographical thrust to the text.

A.    The law and the unbeliever (vv. 7-13)

1.      The law reveals sin (v. 7): Paul came to know his own sin through the law.In particular, he recognized the covetous nature of his heart and the principle of covetousness at work in him.This verse reveals the true character if sin.Sin begins with the disposition of the heart.Overt acts of sin grow from this corrupt propensity of the heart.Paul claimed that his awareness of this sinful disposition came through the law.

2.      The law stirs and enlivens sin (vv. 8-11):Paul pointed out the utter evil of sin.Sin remains rather dormant until the law stirs rebellion in the heart.However, the moment the law introduces a directive or prohibition, the evil heart arouses to rebel against the righteous demand of the law.The words in verse nine indicate that Paul, in his lost condition, did realize his alienation and sinfulness before God.In the rest of this paragraph Paul identified the real problem for the sinner.The law did not produce rebellion and death for the unregenerate Saul of Tarsus; rather, sin deceived and killed him.The law is good, holy, and pure. The commandments manifest the utter sinfulness of sin (v. 13).

B.     The law and the believer (vv. 14-25): In my judgment, Paul described the experience of believers in these verses.This view has some difficulties, but it seems to fit the grammar and context best.This text reveals the nature of the believerís continued struggle with remaining sin.The principle of sin no longer dominates the believerís affections and experience, but it carries out sinister guerilla warfare in the soul that grieves and perplexes even the best of saints.This struggle with sin becomes, at times, so intense that the believer may despair of his standing in grace.He may perceive himself as a fleshly bondservant to sin (v. 14).Sadly, the embattled Christian may yield to the temptation to do things that he does not want to do. He has the will to do what the law demands, but, in his weakness, he sometimes does what he knows is wrong (vv. 16-17).Indwelling sin exercises a powerful influence. (v. 17). Only a regenerate man could delight in the law in the inner man (v. 22), but remaining sin wins the battle on occasion and grieves the believer greatly.In his failure to obey God, the believer sees his wretchedness apart from the sustaining mercies of Christ (v. 24).The believer, in this life, never rises above the possibility of periodic despair about his failings; nevertheless, like Paul, the smitten heart of the true believer always draws him to the God of grace for a sweet draught of the Lordís mercies (v. 25)

 

 

Questions for Consideration:

1.      What does Paul mean when he asserts that the believer is free from the law?

2.      What does this passage reveal about the differences between the unbelieverís view of the law and the believerís understanding?

3.      What perspective does this text give concerning the struggles of the Christian life?

4.      What conclusions should Christians draw about the believerís relationship to the law (perhaps as summarized in the Ten Commandments)?