Romans 7 (NRSV)
Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd.
There’s one of us that’s humble; one that’s proud.
There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
And one who, unrepentant, sits and grins.
There’s one who loves his neighbor as himself,
And one who cares for naught but fame and self.
From much corroding care would I be free
If once I could determine which is Me.
–Edwin S. Martin, “Mixed”
An Analogy from Marriage
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime? 2Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. 3Accordingly, 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.
In a French cemetery there are the following concise inscriptions on one tombstone. The epitaph is for a husband and wife:
I am anxiously expecting you. –A.D. 1827
Here I am! –A.D. 1867
4In the same way, my friends, 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. 5While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
The theme of Romans 7:1-5 is summarized. Because we died with Jesus at Calvary, we are dead to the law and delivered from its dominion over us as a principle of justification or of sanctification. The law does not justify us; it does not make us right with God. The law does not sanctify us; it does not take us deeper with God and make us more holy before Him.
6But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
We are free from the law, not only in terms of fulfilling it for our salvation, but also in terms of meeting its demands for how we must live as God’s children! Such freedom now! With the Spirit’s help, I now can serve God better, out of love and thanksgiving rather than fear or duty. So, I’m “Never Gonna Stop” praising You, Lord! Thanks to Tommy Walker, singing.
The Law and Sin
7What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
13Did what 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.
The Inner Conflict
14For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Do you ever feel that you are your own worst enemy? That when you resolve to do something good, you somehow sabotage yourself (those conflicting desires!) and end up defeated? Recently I was reading Genesis 4 and came upon a phrase that captures just what seems to happen to me; in verse 7, God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door.” How well I know the feeling of being pounced by sin!
Yet the Lord, in such gracious kindness, has provided a way to deal with the problem. In Revelation 3:20 Christ assures us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This has been a helpful visual to me — that at those moments when I am wavering, I can imagine Christ knocking and the devil crouching outside the door of my heart. The choice is clear: let me open the door and admit the Lord, who is always my friend and never my enemy, and who will help me do what is right.
21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Psalm 106:1 (NIV)
Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;
his love endures forever.
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Prayer of Confession
(based on Romans 7:15-23)
we confess that we have sinned.
Even though we want to do what is right,
we did not always succeed today.
Not only did we fail to do what was right,
but at times we consciously chose to think and act
in ways we knew were wrong.
We are truly sorry,
and we ask for your forgiveness.
. . .
Words of Assurance
(based on Romans 7:24-25)
Friends, hear this:
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
we have been set free from the power of sin!
It no longer needs to control us.
So be at peace: your sins are forgiven!
Go out and live in the light of Christ.
Thanks be to God!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.