Sanctification through union with Christ in His death and Resurrection
Sanctification and the Law:
The sixth chapter explains the right way to be sanctified. The key words are know, reckon and yield. In the seventh chapter Paul explains how men attempt to find sanctification in the wrong way. This is a difficult chapter to understand. God has given this chapter to warn us against the wrong way people might attempt to find sanctification. Paul already explained that people receive righteousness only through faith in Christ (Rom 5:1). Yet human nature is such that they love to merit righteousness and sanctification by good works. In this chapter we see a picture of a saved man trying to be holy by keeping the law. The sixth and seventh chapters should be considered together to understand what Paul explains in the seventh chapter. Sin shall not have dominion over believers because they are not under law but under grace (6:14). The sixth chapter is about believer and the grace. The seventh chapter is about believer and the law. We can divide this chapter into three divisions. The law and the believer Rom 7:1-6; the law and sin Rom 7:7-13; the law and the carnal man Rom 7:14-25. Paul uses the analogy of marriage to prove his point in this chapter.
The Law and the Believer: 7:1-6.
Paul first explains our rescue from the bondage of sin and law. He uses the illustration of a married couple. While wife and husband both alive their marriage vows are binding. But at death, the surviving spouse is released from that relationship (7:2). This is true in both divine and civil law. Paul was writing to those believers who have failed to reckon that they are dead to sin when they got saved. Paul uses an analogy to prove this point. The law required that a woman remains with her husband until his death. If husband dies, she is free to marry another man. Marriage bond cannot be broken except by death. When Christ died on the cross, believer is dead with Christ. Because of Christ's death believers are released from our bondage of law. So law no longer holds us in its power (Rom 6:15). Now we are united to the one who rose from the dead. The purpose of we being freed from the law and united to Christ is that we may bear fruit for God (Rom 7:4). Now the law of love written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit motivates us to obey the law and live a holy life. We obey the law not because of fear but because of love for God.
The Law and Sin: 7:7-13.
Paul explains the relationship between law and sin. Since our sinful desires are aroused by the law, does the law become sinful? (Rom 7:5-7). Paul’s answer is clear "Of course not"! The law is not sinful. It is good and given by God. The law is holy, righteous and good. It gives the knowledge of sin. Paul claims that “I would never have known that coveting is sinful if the law had not said "Do not covet”. Law does not cause sin but provokes us to do the very thing God forbids. Sin nature in us takes advantage of the law and arouses all kinds of forbidden desire within us. Apart from the law, sin does not have the power to provoke sin. When the law was imposed upon Paul as a rule of life, he became conscious of his lack of ability to keep the law. Thus sin came alive and he died (Rom 7:9). The law was given to guard and promote life. Instead it became the occasion for sin. The law was given to guide men to holy life. But sin took advantage of the law and deceived us. Sin is a terrible thing, whereas the law is good. Sin uses law for its own evil purposes (Rom 7:13). Our sin is so bad, we find ourselves desiring to do the very thing God forbids. God gave the law to reveal our sin so that we realize that we need a Savior.
The Conflict between the Old and New Natures in a Believer: 7:14-24. Paul was convinced that the law is holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12). Then why it cannot bring holiness? Paul gives the answer. “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom 7:14). The trouble is not with the law but with us. We are sold like a slave to sin because of our weak flesh. We do not have the natural ability to do the things God commands. This is what happens when a believer fails to reckon himself dead to sin. Paul admits that he is unable to do what he knows he must do. Paul knew God’s will and wanted to do it but could not. Paul says that "In me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing" (Rom 7:18). He was aware of the fact that in him, flesh and Spirit are in conflict. There is a moral and spiritual struggle going on in every believer. A drive to to do evil and a desire to do good (1 John 3:9). Paul recognized that he cannot break the power of sin by himself. As long as a believer is alive there will be a constant battle between the old sinful nature and the new spiritual nature. The new nature delights in the law of God. A believer is a defeated Christian when he is controlled by his old nature. This disorder can be healed only by the grace and power of God.
The Way of Escape: 7:25. The expression used in verse 25, reveals the helplessness of a believer who has not gained the mastery over sin. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of death?” (Rom 7:24). Paul describes the moral and spiritual struggle. He was unable to live the Christian life by himself because of his sinful nature. Even when there is a desire to do the right thing the old nature drives us to do evil. This is not a pleasant state. So Paul cries out for deliverance. "Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of death" (Rom 7:24). Paul found the answer in Jesus Christ our Lord. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:25). Christ broke the power of sin. So set our mind on the things of the Lord. Beware of our weaknesses and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Replace lustful thoughts with the word of God (Rom 13:14). Fix our thoughts on what is true and honorable (Phil 4:8). God has promised to provide a way of escape in our temptations (1 Cor 10:13). Praise God who has provided the solution in Christ Jesus. We cannot heal the problem of our sin, but God can. He has provided the solution in Jesus Christ. Someday the war will be over! Ask God to strengthen you to trust Christ to battle against sin and temptations in your life.