“So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the One who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.” – Romans 7:4 (NLT)
“Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” – Romans 7:6b
Often times I hear people use this part of Romans to preach on grace and the nature of sin in our lives, but today I am seeing this chapter in a different light and wondering if maybe we have been teaching this chapter inaccurately? Let me show you what I mean.
The above passages talk about how, when we are in Christ, we die to the power of the law. Well, what is the power of the law? The power of the law was spiritual death, because the law is something that no man can ever fulfill in their own fleshly power. This is why Christ had to come, because He was the only One who could accomplish what nothing and no one else could. He was our atonement.
Spiritual death. The power of the law. Why is this the case? Well, Paul goes on to tell us, “When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death” (v. 5).
And in verse 8, “But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me!”
And also in verse 10, “So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead.”
Paul goes from talking about the new life we have in Christ, which sets us free from the power of the law, to talking about what the power of the law was in our lives prior to Christ. He goes on to talk about how, when under the power of the law which brought death, he knew what he was supposed to do, but he always did the opposite. He says in verses 14-17, “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
The entire context here is him giving example of the effect that the law had on his life before he was converted to be a follower of Christ, walking in the power of the Spirit. He was describing the turmoil and conflict that ensued in his life between knowing the right thing to do because of knowing the law, yet continuing to do what was wrong time and time again. Spiritual death.
“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” – Romans 7:24-25
If Paul were to be talking about his new life in the Spirit here, he would be contradicting his own words he wrote prior to this. As I wrote about yesterday, Paul tells us in Romas 6:6, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
So, in context with what Paul has been saying since the very first letter of this letter to the Romans, life outside of Christ is actually death. Because there is no way to meet the requirements of God’s law unless we are covered by the blood of Christ, and we are living a holy, righteous life in the Spirit (which Paul gets into in chapter 8, which we will get into tomorrow).
Romans 7 is not a license to excuse sin in the life of a believer. Rather, it is an example for us to see the new life that we actually have as believers who live according to the Spirit. This does not mean that we won’t be faced with temptations and trials, for Paul makes that very clear in his teachings. But what it means is that we have the ability to do what is good and pleasing and perfect in the eyes of the Lord because we have His Spirit living inside of us.
We have dropped the standard of what it means and looks like to follow Christ, and it is time to raise it back up to where it should’ve been all along. This starts with an accurate, contextual understanding of our new lives and new nature under Christ. This starts with understanding that our faith should take us to a place of righteous living and holiness in God. This is the narrow road that Christ taught. This is the path of righteousness that gives us clean hands and pure hearts, allowing us to ascend the hill of the Lord.
This is the path of worshipping in Spirit and Truth.