By Andrew E. Courtis
In the previous chapter Paul said, “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). How does this account for the struggle every believer has with sin? In Romans 7 we learn what it means for the believer to be free from the Law and how this relates to the battle of sin.
Paul begins with an analogy revealing that when a man and woman marry, they are united for life. The only way for this marriage to cease is by physical death (7:1-3). It is important to note that this text is not providing a thorough treatment on the topic of divorce and remarriage. Instead, it is providing the readers with the general and normal realty that death is the means that ends a wife’s obligation to her husband (for more reading on the issue of divorce see Matt. 5:31-34; 19:1-12; and 1 Cor. 7). The point of this analogy is applied in verses 4-6. Paul states that believers have died to the Law and are joined to Christ with the view of being obedient to Him.
Paul now looks back at his life as an unbeliever (evidenced by the past tense) and describes his life in relation to the Law (7:7-13). He shows how the Law exposes sin in a person’s life (7:7), and then as a consequence excites sin (7:8-11). Paul summarises this section by arguing that despite sin’s reaction to the Law, the Law and commandments of God are holy and good (7:12).
It is interesting to note that in this major section (7:14-25) Paul moves on from the use of the past tense in referring to himself (7:7-13) to the present tense. This has led many interpreters to the conclusion that this section is describing Paul present condition as a believer. In addition to the use of the present tense, I believe this to be true for the following reasons: Paul’s desire to obey (7:15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21), delight in the Law (7:22), and his deepest thanks to God through Jesus Christ (7:25) reflect the actions of a child of God.
In this section Paul writes about his struggle with sin in three cycles. Each of these reveals the state (7:14, 18, 21), sign (7:15-16, 19, 22-23), and source of the struggle (7:17, 20, 24-25). These struggles are indications that he is a genuine believer who is fighting sin and pursuing righteousness.
1. THE STRUGGLE WITH SINFUL CONFINEMENT (7:14-17)
2. THE STRUGGLE WITH SINFUL CONTAMINATION (7:18-20)
3. THE STRUGGLE WITH SINFUL CLOSENESS (7:21-25)
Romans 7:14-25 teaches us that all Christians will struggle with sin all their lives. This struggle against sin is actually a sign of spiritual life and thus provides the believer with a yearning for hope. This now opens the way for the next section (8:1-17) which introduces the reader to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s walk.
- Salvation has three tenses: (1) we are saved from the penalty of sin, (2) being saved from the power of sin, and (3) will be saved from the presence of sin. How does this distinction help reconcile our daily battle with sin?
- In 7:1-3 Paul gives an analogy. What is Paul’s application of it in 7:4-6?
- What does the Law do when it comes into contact with an unbeliever (7:7-11)? Why is the Law not responsible for our sin?
- Why does the believer struggle with sin and why can't the Law help us be holy?
- What does Paul look forward to as a believer? See 7:25; 5:9, 10; 8:23; 13:11