Read Romans 7:1-25
“’Til death do us part.” These famous words spoken at almost every wedding convey the duration of marriage designed by God. A marriage lasts until at least one person in the marriage dies. In Romans 7, Paul uses marriage as an illustration of our relationship to God’s Law. The apostle explains that each of us were once “married” or “bound” to God’s Law, and only death can free us from that bad “marriage”. But how can our “marriage” to the Law, something that is good and holy, be bad?
It’s true that God’s Law is good and holy, but it also became the unwitting tool of sin. (Romans 7:5, 10) As we read God’s Law, our sinful nature seeks to rebel against God’s rulership. Somehow, just knowing that there is a restriction on our actions makes us want to break that restriction. Imagine that you are walking along in your neighborhood and you come across a yard with lush, dark green grass that has just been reseeded. The area is marked off with caution tape, and there’s even a sign that says, “Do not walk on the grass.” What is your first instinct? You want to walk on the grass! (Or at the very least, you’re thinking about it.) But if there wasn’t the caution tape and the sign, you would have never even thought about it. This is Paul’s point. God’s Law is good and holy, but our sinful nature is aroused by it. The Law led us to sin, which leads only to death. (Romans 7:5)
Going back to our marriage analogy… When we were united with Christ in His death, this means that we also died to the Law. We are now free from the Law—from that “bad marriage”—to be united to our Lord, Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:4)
But when we are united to Christ, the reality of our current situation can be tough! We live in a tension between our transformed mind and the sin that resides in our bodies. (Romans 7:15-20) Paul says it’s a war, and that he even struggles with it! (Romans 7:24) Martin Luther expounds on this point: “Wonderful and sweet is the mercy of God who at the same time considers us both as sinners and non-sinners. Sin remains and at the same time it does not remain.” But the gospel gives us hope in this war as well. If we are in Christ, God gives us help to overcome sin and temptation. Plus, we can look forward to the day when this war will be over—when we will be completely free to love and serve our Heavenly Father without sin distracting and tempting us. That’s a day we can all look forward to!
Questions for study and discussion:
1) Re-read Romans 7:15-24. Do you ever feel this tension that Paul describes? What hope does it give to know that even Paul struggled with this?
2) How does God’s Law, which is good and holy, become the “unwitting tool” of sin? How have good rules, or even God’s Law, led to sin in your own life?
3) One of the implications of Paul’s argument is that we won’t really have complete free will until we get to heaven. When we were not Christians we were enslaved to sin, and as Christians we still live in tension between sin and a renewed mind. How does that inform your view of free will? How does this help us understand the state of the world around us?
4) What benefits do we gain by turning to Christ help us in this war on sin? (See John 14:26 & 16:7; 1 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3)