We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/
If there is a chapter that has spawned more debate than Romans 7, I am at a loss to name it. Is this Paul talking about his pre-conversion state? Is he talking about the Christian’s battle with sin? Is he talking about being bound by habitual sin even after his conversion? What’s going on here? And I wouldn’t presume to counter the great men of God who have taken their stand on any side throughout the centuries. But I will proffer a consideration.
One of Paul’s key themes underlying chapters 5 through 8 is: Exactly what has changed for the Believer, and what has not? We are new creatures indeed, but we are not yet glorified. We are justified, but still sin. We have eternal life, and yet will still die physically. We have a new love of holiness, and yet sinful desires still stir within us. So he can write: “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Romans 7:22–23 (ESV). It would seem that only a genuine Christian could declare they “delight in the law of God”, but how does that square with being “captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members”?
Without trying to reach above my grasp or overcomplicating the matter I think his point is ultimately this: Even as a Believer, even in my best efforts to serve God, sin still taints all of my motives. I do nothing purely yet. And if that is true, if I cannot find even one really pure motive and intent of the heart that isn’t still somehow tainted by sin – then why am I not condemned the way I was before? And the glorious answer is: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!… There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 7:25a & 8:1-2.
The old law said: “Sin, and you will die.” But the new law, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from that old law. The new law says: “Believe, and you will live!” The Believer’s being “captive” in vs. 23 is simply that we cannot escape sin tainting all – even our best service for Christ. But the Believer’s freedom is that we are not subject to condemnation even though that is the case because – and ONLY because – we are in Christ Jesus.
Hallelujah! This is our joy and our freedom and our glory even though we still cry out with Paul “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” What does that look like? “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” I set my mind to serve Christ, even though I know that I still have fleshly tendencies tainting my service. And because of Christ – the Father receives it as purified in the blood of the Lamb.
What a Redeemer He is!