Preached @ Anchor Community Church on August 3rd
“…by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease, but it’s symptoms.”
“Paul is not telling us that the life of the wretched man is as bad as is could be, only that it is not as good as it should be…That because this man delights in the Law and longs to keep it perfectly, his continued inability to do so troubles him acutely”
The Big Picture: The more we grow to understand God’s Holiness (The Law), the more we love Him and His Grace
Intellectually we know that God is great, and he saved us, and we have eternal life in Him. Intellectually, understand God’s love, and talk about the joy we ought to have in our heart in Christ. If all of this is true than why do I struggle to have joy? Why are there certain sins that seem to get a hold of me, and seemingly cannot be beaten? Why does it appear that everyone around me is joyful and have victory in their life, and I don’t?
These are real questions many believers have, and some have struggled enough with these questions to walk away from the faith because it doesn’t work, or worse, some have taken their lives because it hasn’t worked for them.
Paul has written chapter seven to defend against attacks in regard to his own teachings about the law and how we are “Dead” to the Law (Romans 6:14; 7:6). Doesn’t this teaching lead us to destruction and immorality? Today we come to the meat of Paul’s argument, and it happens to be a bit controversial in that there are a number of interpretations held by solid men that appear to contradict one another. This text is not speaking about justification so the debates are not done so by believers and non-believers, but by believers trying to figure out how one truly applies the gospel to their life.
Today we have 3 Points that illuminates Paul’s thinking in this chapter.
From the Head…
Recap: The Goodness of the Law and Its Purpose (Romans 7:13)
Paul begins our passage once again reminding us that he is not disrespecting the Law in any way, but on the contrary loves the Law of God. The problem with us is not God’s law, but “Indwelling Sin” that continues to haunt us as believers (See vv. 17-18, 20, 23). Those that teach a realized sanctification or perfectionism of any kind reduce God’s Law to some do’s and don’t’s that can be achieved easily and then act righteously for their achievements. Paul is arguing that the Law of God reflects God’s beauty and holiness, and only acts as a tutor to show us His standard. The result according to Paul is more sinfulness and death. Paul argues in v. 13 “Sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment (Law) might become sinful beyond measure.” He is emphasizing the enslaving and destructive nature of indwelling sin. Genesis 2 and 3 made it clear that when we choose to disobey God, death is the result. We see this in our marriages, relationships, personal decisions, etc.
Our problem then is sin, not the Law. As one writer said, “If we are not killing sin, sin is killing us.” Our “Harmless” little sins become enslaving and often very destructive in our lives.
Why The Law Doesn’t Work As A Saving Mechanism (Romans 7-14-24)
While Romans 6 showed us that we are free from the power of sin, Romans 7 helps us realize that the presence of indwelling sin is a real, and dangerous thing. As we saw above it is deeply indwelling, and verse 14 says that, “I am of the flesh sold unto sin.” This verse particularly is a tough one, and one that makes it clear to some that even though Paul is using the first person; he can’t be speaking of himself or any believer. So the question is this passage speaking of an unregenerate person, or “Carnal” Christian? Or is Paul talking about himself as a mature believer in Christ?
I believe he is speaking about the latter. Paul is speaking of the experience of not only himself, but of the normal believer’s experience.
What I’m Not Saying
- That being at peace with sin is normal
- That we have no need to struggle against sin
- Living in defeat is normal to the “mature” Christian life
I am saying quite the opposite, however I am saying that although I do believe that Christians have great hope, an incredible source of joy, and ought to live in victory, there is NO Christian that does so perfectly and continually. That kind of teaching leads to both self-righteousness by lowering the standard, or lives in defeat and despair, because they know deep down they don’t live up to their teaching.
1. Only Real Believers Can Say
a. Love God’s Law (v.22)
b. Hate their sin (v.15)
c. Jesus is their deliverance (vv.24-25)
2. Fits in perfectly with Paul’s supposition of himself (1 Timothy 1:1 cf. Ephesians 3:8)
3. Doesn’t fit with Paul’s other pre-conversion statements about himself (See Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:13-14).
4. His use of the 1st Person
5. If all of this is in relationship to the unbelieving Jew the whole chapter is pretty irrelevant in the context of the argument. To this theologian JI Packer says, “It would be a huge hole in Paul’s argument if he talked about the unsaved Jew and said nothing regarding the Christian and the Law”
6. The context leads us to this conclusion. In verse 14 Paul is not saying his whole being (Spirit) is Sold unto sin,” but he is in the flesh (See too vv. 17-18, 22 (“Members”), 25. The context leading into chapter eight describes the real struggle between the flesh (Indwelling Sin) and the Spirit. The same is true in Galatians 5. Our flesh still desires things even though we are “Saved.” Those things are both good and bad. We are still selfish. We still desire to save ourselves, and control our own lives. We still covet
7. Our Experience reflects a real struggle with sin. Galatians 5:17 reminds us that, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Paul’s struggle is not in an outward gross sin. Paul’s struggle is Coveting, an inward personal sin. The inability to do right in verses 13, 18, 20 comes from the word Katergazesthai, which means to do or work. The idea Paul is demonstrating is not the inability to ever do what is right, but at the time of the sin, his desire for something else outweighs his desire to please God. This is the type of sin that Paul becomes acutely aware of. It’s the inward sins that God’s word and His Spirit brings to our mind as we realize how Holy God is. A mature person then is one that has an incredible handle on the immensity of God’s holiness, which causes a discontent with our won sin, which is the beginning of the only way to kill it off, yet, an understanding of God’s grace and love for us in spite of the depth of our indwelling sin. Maturity doesn’t think too high of themselves or too low, but understands the gospel, and our need for something outside ourselves to save us.
To this JI Packer writes, “Paul is not telling us that the life of the wretched man is as bad as is could be, only that it is not as good as it should be…That because this man delights in the Law and longs to keep it perfectly, his continued inability to do so troubles him acutely” This is the state Paul is in. He recognizes his condition, but goes to Jesus for the cure, which leads to our last point.
What Is Our Only Hope? (Romans 7:25)
The answer is not a “What” but a Who. The answer is not more Law. The answer is Jesus and God’s Grace! John Piper writes, “The Christian wants to be perfect like Christ, and knows he won’t, which is why he wants Jesus to come back” Only a believer can say all these words, and only an argument pointing to believers would include his/her struggle with their sin, since it is part of being a believer in Jesus. We live in an already/not yet state of being. We are truly saved by His grace, and His work on the cross through faith, but we are journeying toward being like Him; shaped by His word and the Holy Spirit, and continued trust to walk in obedience to His call on our lives.
There are two extremes that often destroy the Christian life; Perfectionism and Defeatism. Our only hope in defeating the hopelessness that can accompany either one of these heresies is Jesus, who loved us, and died for us. When we begin to wallow in despair or revel in self-righteousness, it is because we have forgotten what He has done on our behalf (See 2 Peter 1:3-9).
…to the Heart
The human heart is oriented toward Law. The gospel of Jesus Christ orients us toward Him. The Law is good, but our indwelling sin is the problem. We will always gravitate toward rebellion or religion, but the gospel will always pull us back to Jesus as the only hope for humanity.
Questions For Study
1. Why did Paul write Romans 7?
2. If Romans 7 is about unregenerate Jews, what application does it hold for believers?
3. In what way are you more acutely aware of your sins in Christ?
4. Why is sin a problem?
5. What relationship does the Law have with our desire to sin?
6. Do you ever feel like the person Paul is describing? Is this good or bad?
Books For Further Study
NT Commentary on Romans, William Hendricksen
John MacArthur NT Commentary, Romans 1-8, John MacArthur
Encountering the NT Series: Romans Doug Moo
Romans, Martin Luther
Romans: God’s Good News For the World, John Stott
Romans, R.C. Sproul
Romans, John Calvin
St. Paul For Everyone: Romans, N.T. Wright
 Jon Owen alludes to it, but I’m not sure of the reference at this time?