Romans Bible Study Lesson 19

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Grappling with Sin

Romans 7:7—25

Verse 7

If the Law arouses our sinful passions (7:5) and makes our sin even more sinful (5:20) then the logical conclusion would be that the Law is bad. However, there is nothing wrong with the Law. In fact, the Law is good because it is from God who has told us through the Law what He expects. It turns out the problem is with the heart of man. Instead of having to worry about obeying only one thing as Adam did with the command to not eat of the fruit if the tree of good and evil, now mankind needed to obey 613 commands contained in the Mosaic Law. If man was incapable of obeying the one command, what chance did he have of obeying 613 commands? With the introduction of the Law came increased sinfulness because there were now many more ways of disobeying God. Instead of the Law leading to righteousness and eternal life it lead to condemnation and death. There are many today who try to use the Law as a vehicle to get to God, but unfortunately, the Law only increases sin and results in greater condemnation. The whole purpose of the Law was to point out the complete inability for man to attain his own righteousness and thus his need for a Savior. The addition of the Law has now made it absolutely clear that I have transgressed God’s will. I am now without excuse.

Galatians 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions (to make wrongdoing a legal offense), having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come (Jesus Christ) to whom the promise had been made.

Galatians 3:24—25 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

So, is the Law sin? Of course not. It contains a standard of behavior given to us from God. If it is from God how can it be sinful? The Law only tells us what God expects of us and since we are incapable of living up to His standard, we should realize we need something other than the Law to bring us to Him.

Verses 8—12

Not only did the Law increase our sin by giving us many more ways of failing to do what God expected but also our human nature (the old, sinful nature) tends to do what we are told not to do (or not do what we are told to do). When you see a “Wet paint, do not touch” sign what is your first reaction? We are probably driven to touch the painted surface. We always tend to want to be in control and not be under control. By nature if someone tells us to do something we are pulled to do the opposite to show them that we can’t be controlled.

Paul says he was once alive apart from the Law. There was a point in time when he was not controlled by the Law, possibly during his childhood. As he became aware of the Mosaic Law he became a slave to all of its commandments. He went from childhood innocence and life to becoming a slave to the Law and death. When someone tells you they are trusting in the Law to get to heaven you can respond that according to the Bible the only thing the Law is capable of producing is death.

Verse 13

So, after the Law was given and made sin even more sinful and produced death, is it the Law’s fault? Absolutely not! Your sin nature was the cause of death. The Law only pointed out how weak and incapable your old nature really was in obeying the precepts God laid out in the Law. The Law only contains God’s standards for man to follow in order for him to obtain righteousness (Romans 2:7) but it does not contain the power to help us live up to those standards. Since old nature does not have the ability to do anything that is pleasing to God, it impossible for us to gain salvation through good works (Romans 3:10—12).

Romans 7:14—25

This section deals with Paul’s real-life struggle with his sin nature. From this we can get some insight into the struggles a Godly saint goes through on his day-to-day walk with the Lord. These things were written for our instruction and encouragement. Imagine if God only had the writers of the Bible write about their accomplishments leaving out any failures. Our assumption would be that a saved person would always live a God-honoring life. When we see the failures of Biblical individuals, we should realize that we will probably fail too but, as God lovingly brought them back to Himself, he will bring us back into fellowship.

There are two main views on this passage. The first one views the struggle an unsaved person would go through, the second view is that of a saved person.

Arguments that Paul was speaking as an unsaved person:

1. Paul just said we are dead to sin so there should be no struggle (6:3—11).

2. Before we were saved we were slaves to unrighteousness and after salvation we were set free (6:16—17).

3. The end of chapter 7 is the unbeliever ruled by sin while chapter 8 is the believer ruled by the Holy Spirit.

Arguments that Paul was speaking as a saved person:

1. The verbs are in the past tense in 7:7—13 and in the present tense in 7:14—25 so the end of chapter 7 deals with Paul in his present state.

2. Paul states that Jesus Christ is his Lord in verse 25.

3. In context the argument seems to be one of sanctification not justification.

4. This passage is in line with other Scripture in stating we will struggle with sin (Galatians 5:17).

5. Believers throughout the Bible struggled with sin.

In conclusion, I believe the second view is the correct view. Those who embrace the first view do not have a good understanding of the difference between our position and our experience. Romans 6 deals with our position in Christ while Chapter 7 deals with our experience or practice in walking with God on a day-to-day basis.

I like the way Alva J. McClain outlines this section in his book Romans: the Gospel of God’s Grace.

Statement of fact:            verse 14            verse 18            verse 21

Proof of fact:             verses 15—16           verse 19            verses 22—24

Conclusion:                     verse 17            verse 20            verse 25

Verses 14—17

Paul makes the statement that the Law is spiritual; it is from God. On the other hand, Paul (the natural man) is not spiritual but of the flesh. The proof of this comes from experience in that he is doing the very thing he hates. Instead of pleasing God he pleases himself. His conclusion is that sin has taken over his life and controls him. His true self is his new nature while his old nature is to be considered dead. He instead has allowed the old nature to take over and control what he does. This struggle would not take place if Paul did not have the new nature given to him by God.

Verses 18—21

Paul now states the fact that there is nothing good contained in his natural person. He has the willingness to be good but the inability through the power of the old nature to do good. The proof of this again comes from his own personal experience in that he carries out the very evil he does not want to do. He concludes the same as before—that he is being controlled by sin. He is allowing sin to reign in his life against the wishes of the person God has made him to be. The struggles of the old and new natures continue but the old nature seems to be winning.

Verses 21—25

In the third and final round we see Paul’s statement of fact, that there is evil present within his being. The proof of this is once again based on his experience. He wants to do the right thing and enjoys the Word of God but on the other hand he has become a prisoner to sin. His desire to do right has been eclipse by a greater desire to do evil. At this point is seems that Paul’s condition is hopeless. How can he break this cycle of self destruction? What can Paul do what is right instead of that which is evil?

In his conclusion Paul recognizes that solving his dilemma is not based on what he needs to do to be set free but trusting in the One who is able to set him free. In other words, Paul realizes that he is powerless to do anything that can save him from this body of sin and instead must put himself fully in God’s control.

If you are struggling with sin that seems to have taken over your life you are in good company. We can see the inner turmoil that Paul suffered from the conflict of old and new natures. The very fact that you are struggling shows you are in Christ for there would be no struggle if you had no new nature to struggle with. We need to continually put the old man to death and continually feed the new nature. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through study and meditation of God’s Word (12:1—2).

Ephesians 4:22—24 22that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.