Romans 7: Law Is Not The Problem, Nor The Answer

After yesterday’s post it is tempting to think that the Jewish Law was the root of the Christians’ problem in ancient Rome, after all the commands of the Law are what allowed sin to tempt and enslave (7:9-10).  Of course, this message would not fly in a half Jewish church, not to mention the fact that it maligns something that came directly from God.

Paul makes it clear that he is claiming nothing of the sort:

So, then, the law is holy; and the commandment is holy, upright, and good. . . . We know, you see, that the law is spiritual. (7:12, 14a)

The Law itself is a good thing.  Guidance from God on how to live life righteously and wisely is never bad.  But the side effect of Law is temptation, incitement to sin, and ultimately enslavement.

Why is that?  Why is Law by itself not the answer to our sin problem?

Law possesses no power within itself to save us from ourselves. It offers direction but no propulsion.  It tells us what to do — and it is right and that guidance is a blessing — but it does not give us a way beyond ourselves to do the very thing we know and often want to do.

I don’t understand what I do.  I don’t do what I want, you see, but I do what I hate. . . . For I can will the good, but I can’t perform it.  For I don’t do the good thing I want to do, but I end up doing the evil thing I don’t want to do. . . . What a miserable person I am! (7:15, 18b-19, 24a)

Law is not the answer. We (and the Roman Christians) need a supernatural power beyond ourselves to enable the life of righteousness and wisdom the Law describes.

The answer comes tomorrow.

What did you notice anew in this chapter?

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Categories: Romans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Romans 7: Law Is Not The Problem, Nor The Answer

  1. “I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want, you see, but I do what I hate. . . . ”

    I have learned that this is in present tense. it means that Paul is currently experiencing it.
    Christians will experience this too. and the war is on between flesh and spirit.

    the Law is perfect, holy and righteous.

    but it cannot make anyone perfect, holy and righteous.

    • Absolutely! Anyone who tries to live the way of God without the power of God is going to fail and feel this sort of frustration.

      Some scholars posit that Paul isn’t really talking about himself, he is playing a character talking as one who tries to get right by law would have to talk. Maybe so.

      • i notice paul uses phrases like that..

        such like “Thorn in the flesh” – which scholars think Paul had some kind of sickness.

        but i beg to differ. if Paul was alive today, he would definitely blog and say “pain the butt”

        excellent post brother.

        – grace and peace

  2. Eddy Efaw

    I noticed again what I had overlooked so many times before reading through Romans. We need to die to sin SO that the law has no authority over us. I always read it that we just need to die to sin. Just stop sinning then the law has nothing to “say” to you. Grace will forgive you for the times you can’t quite die to sin totally but I have to die . . . to sin . . . SO I can be saved. I had . . . and continue to have it wrong in my head. This reading is continuing to straighten this out in my head. We die to sin “so that we could belong to someone else.” That feels so much better!!!

    ****And we die “so we can bear fruit” which reminds me of the “seed-bearing fruit” in the early chapters of Genesis. We’re created to create. We die so we can bring forth Life. Can’t wait to hear about the Power to do that tomorrow!

    • Nice ideas. I like the creating tie-in.

      As you say, I am struck by how Paul says we are a “slave” one way or another — a slave to sin or a slave to God. But it is going to be hard to be both.

  3. Oh and this line was masterful:

    “Law possesses no power within itself to save us from ourselves. It offers direction but no propulsion.”

  4. “So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.”

    Absolutely! Christianity isn’t a self-improvement plan, its a rescue. I become more and more convinced everyday that I simply can’t do much that is good by myself. I conclude that this is the way but then its another dead end. Success has only come when God shows the way. Or, even better, when I try earnestly to do that which the Bible says to do. Imagine that!

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