In the previous message we saw the two husbands revealed in Romans 7:1-6. In this message we shall consider the three laws revealed in 7:7-25. I would like to read each verse and, when necessary, make some comments on it.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! But I had not known sin except through the law; for I had not known coveting except the law had said, You shall not covet” (v. 7). This verse makes it quite clear that the law gives us the knowledge of sin, for the law exposes sin and identifies it as sin.
“But sin, taking occasion through the commandment, wrought in me coveting of every kind. For without law sin is dead” (v. 8). Sin utilizes the law, and the law helps sin to work in us. Hence, the law was not given to help us, but to assist sin. Without law, or apart from the law, sin is dead.
“For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (v. 9). Surely the law does not help us; it helps sin. The law came to revive sin, to make sin alive. Before the law came, sin was dormant. However, when the law appeared, sin was quickened and revived.
“And the commandment which was unto life, this was found to me to be unto death” (v. 10). Although the law was supposed to be unto life, eventually, as far as we are concerned, it was death.
“For sin, taking occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me” (v. 11). Sin is a killer and the law is the killing instrument. The law is the knife used by sin to kill us. Without a knife or killing instrument it is difficult to kill people. Sin, using the law, firstly deceives us and then kills us. Since the acts of deceiving and killing are certainly the behavior of a person, we must consider sin as the personification of Satan.
“So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (v. 12). There is no problem regarding the nature of the law. The nature, the essence, of the law is holy, just, and good.
“Did then that which is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, working death to me through that which is good; that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful” (v. 13). This verse is additional proof that the law does not help us. Instead, the law makes sin exceedingly sinful. Are you still attracted by the law? We must stay away from it.
“For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am fleshly, sold under sin” (v. 14). The phrase “sold under sin” means sold to sin. Sin is the buyer, the buying master, and we have been sold to him.
“For what I do, I do not acknowledge; for what I will, this I do not practice; but what I hate, this I do” (v. 15). The word acknowledge in this verse does not mean that we do not know. How can we say that we do not know what we do? Certainly we know. This verse means that Paul did not acknowledge what he did. It means that although we may act wrongly we do not acknowledge it or approve it.
“But if what I do not will, this I do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me” (vv. 16-17). Paul says that it is no longer he who does what he does not want to do, but sin that dwells within him. The word dwells is not the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated “abide”; it is a Greek word that actually means “make a home,” because the verb has the root meaning of home or house. Therefore, this verse does not mean that sin simply abides or remains within us for awhile, but that sin makes its home in us. Thus it is no longer we who do the evil that we do not want to do, but sin that makes its home within us.
“For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but to do the good is not” (v. 18). Paul does not say that there is nothing good in him; he says that there is nothing good in his flesh. We must pay careful attention to the modifier used by Paul—“in my flesh.” Never say that there is nothing good in you, for there is good within you. However, in our flesh, that is, in our fallen body, nothing good dwells. In our fallen body, which the Bible calls “flesh,” sin dwells with all its lusts. Thus, nothing good is found in our flesh.
“For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil I do not will, this I practice” (v. 19). This verse proves that there is good within us, for we do have a good will, a will to do the good. However, we are unable to practice the good that we will to do.
“But if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwells in me. I find then the law that, at my willing to do the good, the evil is present with me” (vv. 20-21). Verse 21 mentions the law that operates whenever we will to do good. This law is evil, for whenever we attempt to do good, the evil is present with us. The Greek word translated “the evil” in this verse denotes that which is evil in character.
“For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, But I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me a captive in the law of sin which is in my members” (vv. 22-23). Verse 22 mentions the law of God in which Paul delights according to the inner man. We may label this as law number one. In verse 23 Paul refers to the law of the mind, which we may label law number two. Since this law is the law of the mind and the mind is a part of our soul, it means that there is a law in our soul. Verse 23 also mentions what Paul calls “a different law in my members.” Since this law is in our members and our members are a part of our flesh, our fallen body, it means that in our flesh is another law. This law, law number three, wars against the law of our minds. In 7:23 we find two laws fighting against one another, warring against one another. Paul says that this “different law” in our members makes us captive to the law of sin. This “law of sin which is in my members” is equivalent to the “different law in my members” mentioned earlier in the verse. This law is the third law. Thus, in this one verse we find two laws: one is a good law in our mind, and the other is an evil law in our members.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (v. 24). Why is our body termed the body of this death? Because in our body is the evil law that wars against the good law in our soul. This evil law makes our body a “body of this death.” What is “this death”? It is the death of being defeated, the death of being made captive and carried away by the law of sin in our body.
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve as a slave the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (v. 25). This verse gives the answer to the question raised in the preceding verse. According to verse 25, deliverance from the body of death is through Jesus Christ our Lord. In this verse Paul tells us that with his mind by himself, not in his spirit by the Lord Jesus, he served the law of God as a slave. He also says that with his flesh he served the law of sin.
In 7:7-25 we see three laws, and it is possible for us to locate them.
The law of God is just, good, holy, and spiritual (vv. 12, 14, 16). This law is outside of us or we may say that it is above us. This law of God makes many demands and requirements of the fallen man that he might be exposed (vv. 7-11).
While the law of God is above us and outside of us, making demands upon us, the law of good is in the mind of man’s soul (vv. 23, 22). We may say that the law of good in our mind corresponds to the law of God and responds to its demands, trying to keep it (vv. 18, 21, 22). Whenever the law of God places a demand upon us, the good law in our soul responds to it. If the law of God says, “Honor your parents,” the good law in our mind immediately replies, “Amen! I will do it. I will honor my parents.” This has been our experience throughout life. Each time the law of God made a demand the law of good in our soul responded and promised to fulfill it.
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