Friends, sorry that the blog for Romans 7:1-13 did not make it out in a timely manner (ie, not at all). I’d like to offer you a focus in Romans 7:14-25 with reference to the whole chapter this week. Let’s follow a slightly different format this week called the COMA method of bible study (this doesn’t mean that it puts us to sleep!).
C.O.M.A. – CONTEXT, OBSERVATION, MEANING and APPLICATION
C is for CONTEXT
What have we covered so far in Romans that is relevant to this chapter?
Paul is writing to a Christian audience in a very friendly style. He has never met this church but loves their reputation. His aim is not to rebuke but to outline exactly what this gospel that he is not ashamed of. It is the power of God that bring salvation by faith alone.
Without God, we are all sinners. All have turned away from God regardless of their knowledge of the law or not. No one is righteous and yet it is only the righteous who will be safe on judeny day (I have not placed bible references hear bit I hope that this is all filial ground and you might even remember where these lessons are coming from).
It is not our works or attempts to be good that can save us but only faith like Abraham – who believed God and that act of belief or faith was credited to him as righteousness. We couldn’t save ourselves but God could and while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Grace has saved all who have faith in God the Father and Jesus Christ.
What good then is the law? That’s the context and question of chapters 6 and 7. Romans 6:1 proposes: let’s sin! sin! sin! so that God can be praised so much more for his grace. What an amazing grace! Romans 6:15 asks: if grace is so good, we have no motivation to stop sinning. Romans 7:7 asks: is the law to blame for our sin and guilt? Romans 7:13 asks: did the law become like poison to me? Each of these questions are aimed at understanding where the law fits in to this teaching about Grace and each question is followed by a resounding NO!!!
The point? Sin and judgement exists prior to the written law but only when the law became known was sin both recognised and fanned into flame. We would struggle to understand the grace of God without first hearing what it means to be in rebellion against him.
The context of chapter 7 is working out who the enemy is: the law or sin? What is their relationship? Should we hate the law?
Verse 7 asks ‘is the law sinful?’ Is God’s commandments the bad guy? The answer in short comes in verse 12… the law is holy, righteous and good. After all, it came from God. Verse 6 tells us that we are living in the spirit now and not struggling under the written code or law but this does not mean that the law was useless. Verse 13 concludes for us that without the law, sin would not have been identified and understood as sin.
NB: Paul uses the word ‘law’ quite a lot without a clear definition and he doesn’t always mean the same thing. Mostly, what he refers to is the written down laws of the Old Testament. This includes everything that describes how God’s people ought to live as the people of God. Sometimes, as in chapter 2 and in 7:1-3, he refers to the law of the land – the laws that we live under in our society. Context is needed to work out what he means in each case.
O is for OBSERVATION
What can you see in the text that helps your understanding of it? What do you notice? What is the structure? This is an information gathering moment and a bit of initial comprehension.
Here is a thought on the structure of verses 14-25
- vv14-17 ‘I know’ that the law is spiritual but I am unspiritual.
- vv18-20 ‘I know’ that good itself does not dwell in me.
- vv21-23 So ‘I know’ this: I want to obey the law but sin is what is at work in me
- vv24-25 this seems impossible but thank God for Jesus!
- Verse 25b a recap of what he is attempting to say
This structure follows a logical argument from Paul, namely, the Law is from God but sin is my constant enemy and I cannot do what the law commands even though I try – God is my only help.
- Verse 14 it is surprising to hear Paul describe the law as spiritual. This has two effects, firstly that it aligns the law of God immediately with a category that we’ve seen is good, that is, the way of the Spirit (v6). Secondly, it alludes to the fact that the law has it’s origins with God and that it ultimately embodies knowledge and revelation of God (see 2:18-20; 3:1, 21).
- Paul discusses the concept of dwelling in the ‘sinful nature’. He contrasts the new life of the Spirit introduced in the first half of the chapter with the life of the natural person – living captive to sin – Note verse 15 stating that ‘I do not know understand what I do.’
- “Total depravity” is a theological term used to describe the condition of humanity outside of Christ. Chapter 1 of Romans pictured the human race as out of control in the opposite direction from God. Here in chapter 7, Paul describes the battle that humans face. Total depravity encaptures a concept that means even becoming a Christian and rejecting sin is an act of mercy and grace from God. This is captured in the way that Paul finishes the chapter.
- v24 highlights a problem that many discuss in this chapter: who does Paul mean when he says “I”? Does he mean himself? If so, is he describing what it was like before he became a Christian? Isn’t he already saved? Or is he pretending to be any human on the planet? Perhaps he is pretending to be all of Israel who received the law and were stuck with the problem of being unable to keep it? Does the answer to these questions matter?
M is for MEANING
What is the overall meaning of the text. Try and state the point of this section in 10 words or less.
Here’s my attempt – you might be able to capture it better…
“I am, by nature, incapable of good – God help me!”
“Love for the law is not enough. We need Jesus.”
“The Law is from God – sin is my enemy.”
Now, does that sound right? Does that first one sound too harsh? Does that sound like what Paul is saying? If I am wrong, prove it. If I am right, how does this affect your view on people, the world and society in general?
A is for APPLICATION
Having looked at the CONTEXT, OBSERVATIONS of the text and then the MEANING, what are we to do about it? How should we respond? Does the passage tell us? Is there an obvious implication? Here’s some ideas…
- By default, we are not basically good and make mistakes at times. This is a radically different view from our culture’s view.
- The law, given by God and revealing the mind of God, uncovers the savageness of sin. Without it, sin kills us without us even being aware that we are dying. With the law on our minds, we can only conclude that we need God’s help.
- Let us have a high view of the LAW and a low view on sin. Let’s be absolutely suspicious of our motivations and ability to do good and very affirming of the origin of the law and the reason for the law.
- Stop and consider why the law was given. Without our knowledge of the corrosion and demolition of sin, we would not conclude that we need a Saviour.
- Rejoice that God is good.
- Rejoice that he has delivered us through Jesus Christ!
- Lean on God for help to deal with sin. Keep in mind that we need his Spirit to battle while we are still in the body.
That’s it from me. I know that this was a long post – perhaps they all are – but chapter 7 can be tricky to handle. Consider also, using the COMA method laid out in this post – I plan to use it in my groups this week.
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK?
Father God, we praise you for your goodness and kindness to us in sending your Son. Save us, we pray, from the power of sin in our lives. Thank you for your grace and mercy, for your word of truth and for the Holy Spirit. Keep us safe in your care we pray. Amen