February 24 (Reading for February 20-26: Romans 7). After revealing the supremacy of God’s grace over the penalty of sin, Paul ended chapter 6 with the definitive statement: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23). From sin comes death, but God’s gift in Christ is eternal life! He illustrates this in chapter 7 by talking about marriage. A man and a woman are bound together by the law of matrimony. When one of them dies, the other is free from this law. When a person dies to sin, they are freed from sin that brings death, and they are made alive to God in Christ (see 6:11). “In the analogy of Marriage, the believer in Christ is freed from any obligation of the former union with Sin” (J.W. Shepherd, “The Life and Letters of St. Paul,” p. 400).
Paul described this as a marvelous emancipation. Before Christ, our sinful nature controlled us, and by our behavior, we bore “fruit for death.” After dying to sin in Christ, we serve “in newness of the Spirit” and we “bear fruit for God” (7:4-6). In this process, the law served to bring “to light” our sinful behavior. The Law is “holy and righteous and good,” because it reveals to us what sin is. This brought up a question for Paul: was it something good (the Law) that brought death to us? He quickly answered: “Far from it! Rather it was sin” (7:12-13). Remember, “the wages of sin (not the wages of the law) is death” (6:23). The law tells me to stop at a red light. If I run it and get a ticket, I cannot blame the law. I can only blame myself for breaking the law.
In the second half of the chapter, Paul wrote about the conflict that exists in the spiritual realm: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (7:15). It is the same conflict that Jesus alluded to when He said, “No one can serve two masters” (Mt. 6:24). Paul had earlier dealt with the issue when he wrote: “For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want” (Gal. 5.17). A principle to help us win this war was revealed by Paul when he wrote: “Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (6:13). In other words, we can choose whom we will serve.
Paul described the war as being between the “law of God” and the “law of sin” (7:22-23). One will lead me to do “what I want to do;” the other will lead me to do “what I hate.” Paul in desperation asked how he could be delivered from this dilemma, and then answered his question: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25). The victory is in Christ! (Chapter 8 reveals the complete answer to the question). We began with Paul’s analogy of what happens in marriage. We end with an analogy from Major Ian Thomas of what happens in an airplane. He spoke of the law of gravity which binds us to the earth, and added: “There is another law, a higher law, the law of aero-dynamics, and if I…commit myself in total trust to this new law, (the law of areo-dynamics) will set me free from (the law of gravity).” (“The Saving Life of Christ,” p. 20). We are bound by the law of sin, but we are freed by the law of God (in Christ) so that we are free to fly (spiritually)!
– Al Gary