Reading through the Bible together
This chapter is a continuation of Paul’s previous declarations where he has concluded that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. His intentions in this chapter are often misunderstood and misapplied as he describes what it is like to be a slave to sin.
Paul uses the law of marriage to explain our spiritual union with Christ. Without Christ, we are married to the old man of sin who is our slave master. In order to enter into a spiritual union with Christ, the old man of sin must be crucified (vs. 1-4). Christ will not commit spiritual adultery. Many Christians fail to enter into a true spiritual union with Christ because the old man of sin is partially alive, yet they think they are spiritually united with the Lord. He will not force Himself on us. But if we yield to Him through full surrender, He will enter into a spiritual union with us which is life-transforming.
The key to understanding this chapter is found in verse 14. Paul says, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” The remainder of Romans 7 describes what it is like to be a slave to sin and under the conviction of the law. Paul’s life is an illustration of this: “For that which I do, I allow not, for what I would do, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I” (v. 15). Paul’s sinful nature is still married to sin, he wants to perfectly keep the law, but his sinful nature keeps hold of him, so he does some things he does not want to do, and he does not do all the things he wants to do (righteousness). When he says, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me” (vs. 17); he is saying that the old man of sin remains a part of his life even though he does not want it to.
In the following verses, he describes the struggle of knowing what is right yet remaining captive to the impulse of sin (vs. 19-23). Then Paul makes his desperate cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (vs. 24). The word wretched is the Greek word talaiporos and it is only found in one other place in the New Testament, in Revelation 3:17 in the message to the Laodicean church. We are the Laodicean church, and many are having the experience of being blind to sin and yet equate their experience with righteousness by faith. Christ wants to deliver us from this bondage, and we will see how He does so in Paul’s very next chapter. We can truly thank God, as Paul says in verse 25, of what can happen to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Norman McNulty, M.D.
Neurologist, Lawrenceburg, TN, USA