Romans 7:14–8:2comment (0)
January 2, 2014
By Thomas L. Fuller
Related Scripture: Romans 7:14–8:2
Bible Studies for Life
Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
A Fight You Can’t Win By Yourself
In Romans 6, Paul wrote of our having “died to sin” (v. 2) and of our being “set free from sin” (vv. 7, 18, 22). Why then do we still struggle with sin? The Christian’s freedom is a freedom from the mastery or tyranny of sin, not from temptations and struggles. Sin is alive and well in this fallen world and in us, living as we do in these bodies of flesh. Though saved and justified by faith in Jesus Christ, we must do battle with sin daily, but we are not in the fight alone.
In Romans 7, Paul turns his attention to the law. We have been released from the law in order to give ourselves to Christ (vv. 1–6). So then is the law sin? Not at all, says Paul (v. 7). The law is “holy and righteous and good” (v. 12), showing us what sin is. The real culprit is sin itself, working out its deadly effects via the agency of the law (v. 13). Paul then illustrates his point by writing in an autobiographical fashion.
Paul bears witness to a frustrating, dual reality, common to all believers. On the one hand, he knows what is right and what is wrong and wants to embrace what’s good and shun evil. On the other hand, in spite of what he knows and wants, Paul finds himself failing to do what’s right or to resist the temptations to do what’s wrong. The law is not the culprit (vv. 14, 16). Neither is Paul wholly to blame, but “sin that dwells within me” (vv. 17, 20). This is not “the Devil made me do it” theology, providing convenient justification for willful acts of disobedience. It is, however, a frank recognition that the struggle with sin continues so long as we live in these bodies of flesh.
The reality of our ongoing struggle with sin is, quite frankly, discouraging. Even worse, as our desire to obey and please God grows, so also can grow our feelings of defeat when we fall short of the mark. Hence Paul’s cry, “Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul, however, was not lamenting defeat, for he spent the better part of chapters 3–5 conveying the message that we are justified by faith. For that reason, Paul’s next cry is: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Though our struggle with sin continues in these “bodies of death,” we have victory over sin through Jesus Christ. In 8:1–2, Paul twice uses the prepositional phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” First in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. We will continue to sin, falling short of the glory of God, but there is no condemnation. God already condemned our sin in Christ and justified us by Christ’s righteousness. Second in Christ Jesus, we have been set free from the law of sin and death. As Paul has shown, we are incapable of attaining right standing before God by the law; it only leads to sin and death. But Jesus set us free from serving that master; He gave us the freedom of right standing before God, that we might live to please Him. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of our victory over sin.