Let us first look at these three chapters. The red type highlights Scriptures showing the effect of grace brought by Jesus Christ on believers. The italic blue type highlights Scriptures show man under the law. Note Paul's example when he first came under the law (7:7-11).
Romans 6: 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 7: 1 Do you not know, brethren--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only during his life? 2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.
5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
8 But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; 10 the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; 34 who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Well, what did we learn? What does grace do for the sinner? "Are we to continue in sin?" No. Why? Because we died to sin that "we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). "Our old self was crucified with him . . . [that] we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (v. 6). "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness" (v. 12). "Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (v. 14). "You who were once slaves of sin" are "set free from sin" (v. 17), "You were slaves of sin" and you now "have become slaves of God, have becomes slaves of righteousness" (v. 18). "You have been set free from sin and have becomes slaves of God . . . what you get is sanctification" (v. 22).
These themes are carried into the first part of chapter 7. "We were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work" -- they "were" but are no longer (v. 5). We have "the new life of the Spirit" (v. 5). Well, we have seen that grace brings a person new life in Christ and victory, resulting in a life of holiness and obedience. "We are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (v. 6).
Does Paul mean "that the law is sin? By no means."
To illustrate this truth, Paul gives his own example starting in 7:7 to show that living under the law only brought death. He first writes about the purpose of the law, "If it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin." Is he writing here about before or after becoming a Christian? It is obvious he is writing about before since he is telling how the law made sin known to him. Paul next points out what took place when he came under the law. Right away we see "sin, finding opportunity in the commandment" (v. 8) caused death. "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandments came, sin revived and I died" (v. 9).
Paul describes his old self: "I am carnal, sold under sin . . . . I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . . I cannot so it [that is, do good]" (7:14, 15, 18). He was still in the flesh: "I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me" (v. 20). Paul delighted "in the law of God . . . but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin" (vv. 22, 23).
Paul finds that Jesus Christ will deliver him, the wretched man under the law (7:24, 25).
Note: Paul used the aroist verb tense through verse 13, which describes undefined actions normal occurring in the past, and then changes to the present tense in verses 14-25. Some infer this means Paul is now writing about his present conflicts in his Christian life. There is a verb tense change here, but this involves a special use of the present tense in the "historical present" sense, that is, as a "flashback" we see used so often today (ref. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament). "The present tense is thus employed when a past event is viewed with the vividness of a present occurrence." The acceptance of this interpretation here as Paul's condition under the law will doubtless depends on ones theology, but it must be recognized and accepted this tense is allowed in Greek grammar.
In summary, the later part of chapter 7 deals with Paul before he repented and followed Christ. We know for certain no Christian, as we have seen in chapter 6, would cry "Wretched man that I am!" (7:24).
In chapter 8 Paul again reflects on the theme mention back in 7:6, "we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." He opens this chapter with the statement how "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin" (v. 1). Now "those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit" (v. 5). "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law. . . . But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit" (v. 6). "If you live according to the flesh you will die . . . if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live" (v. 13). These Scriptures show this chapter stands in sharp contrast to the old "chapter 7" Paul.
The idea that the Christian is powerless and does "the very thing [he] hates" is contrary to Christ's call for repentance, discipleship, and holy living. And a Christian must walk under the leading of the Holy Spirit. A carnal "Christian" lives a defeated life but the spiritual man walks by the Spirit.
My friend, if you are not a Christian and live as Paul did in the last part of chapter 7 you need to repent and be born again through God's grace. If you are a professing Christian and live as Paul did, you too need to have God's grace in your life. As Paul wrote, "The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world" (Titus 2:11, 12). Let us all hear the Word, and have God's grace in our lives.
by Leland M. Haines, December 1997.
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