Romans 7:1 — To Those Who Know the Law — all non-Jews can skip ahead to chapter 8! (Bible Study notes)

For video teaching of these notes, click the link Romans 7:1 — Week 20 — To Those Who Know the Law — all non-Jews can skip ahead to chapter 8! (video)

  1. Chapter 7 – Not A New Subject
  • Verse 1 is a continuation from Paul’s discussion in chapter 6
      • it begins with the word “or” which is a conjunction
      • conjunctions link thoughts, ideas, sentences etc.
      • letting us know that what he’s going to say now is related to something he said previously — what he had been saying since Romans 5:18 and in Romans 6
  • This is possibly the most misunderstood chapter in scripture, and has held countless Christians in an identity crisis.
  • I’ve seen different sub-headings regarding chapter 7 — subheadings that help promote a false idea of dual nature 
      • The War Within
      • The Christian’s Struggle
      • The Sin Nature Remains
      • Struggle of the Spirit with the Flesh
  • Without a proper context in mind, Romans 7 can “seem to be” describing the normal Christian experience — an inward battle with sin
      • a battle with sin that can never truly end in this life, because sin remains part of our nature after “accepting” Christ. 
  • The problem with viewing Romans 7 as man’s inward struggle with sin is that this chapter isn’t just a picture of man having an occasional experience of sin, but an utter defeat by sin (v14, v24).
      • so, if we believe that Romans 7 is the Christian experience of an inward battle with sin 
      • that we are “carnal”, “sold under sin”, and “wretched” to the core —  then what we’re left with is: 
          • that we are left in the exact same state as before the Cross. 
          • and that we cannot expect liberation from sin in this life. 
  • A sin conscious view of Romans 7 can also become a comfortable stronghold in our minds
      • comfortable because with a view like that I have an answer for my “experience” — a disempowering answer, but an answer none the less
  • Because of my “experience” with sin, and my lack of revelation regarding who I am in Christ: 
      • I settle into the idea that I am supposed to war between two natures on the inside
      • telling myself that even the amazing apostle Paul struggled, believing himself to be a “wretched man” — so obviously, I am also “wretched”
      • and for the rest of my life I just need to continually ask forgiveness for sin
      • and be happy with a future “promise” of liberation — in the sweet by and by
      • but by managing this struggle well, I can progress in sanctification and holiness
  • BUT that’s not what Paul has been teaching
      • he taught that we were actually set free from the sin nature itself when we were co-crucified with Christ
          • Romans 6:6:  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
          • Col 3:3:   For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
          • Gal 2:20:  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
          • 2 Cor 5:21:  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
      • We must never let our experiences determine truth for us.
  • You may “battle” with sin but it’s not because you have two natures warring on the inside
      • and it’s not because crucifying your flesh causes you to progress in sanctification making you holier and holier
      • NO! It’s simply because you haven’t understood the FULL meaning of being co-crucified with Christ 
          • that you are dead to “the sin” (the nature of Adam; the old man; the law of sin and death) and ALIVE to God — alive with His life, His nature, all that He is and all that He has!
          • mankind’s struggle/war with sin ended at the Cross — behold the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sin of the world!
  • Chapter 7 was NOT to explain to YOU that your experience with sin will be a struggle in life — a struggle between wanting to do good and not doing it
        • NO!
        • Paul was writing to a transitional generation of Jews
            • one that was alive before the Cross — in Adam
            • and alive after the Cross — in Christ (none of the adamic nature remaining)
  • Verse 1 is simply connecting it to what Paul has been talking about and the question that the Jews had about no longer being under the Law
      • Doesn’t that make us sinners? Isn’t it a sin for us to not keep the commandments of the Law? Isn’t it a sin not to keep the Sabbath? Aren’t I going to be a sinner just like the Gentiles if I stop obeying the written code?
      • The question in 6:15 was Shall we sin then because we’re not under law but under grace?
          • the Jews thought that to not be under law made them as Gentiles — made them sinners
          • under the law, it was unlawful to associate with anyone not under the law, they were considered unclean, which in turn made the Jew who was trying to follow the law unclean.
  • Paul assures them that they won’t be sinners because they aren’t under the law because they’ve been set free from sin and made righteous they’ve had a nature change 
      • they sinned because of a sin nature — the law didn’t keep them from sinning
      • so now here in chapter 7 he continues explaining why no longer being under the law won’t make them sinners
  • Put yourselves in the sandals of the devout first century Jew who has been raised to revere and keep the Law. 
      • how did they feel about the Law? 
  • Notice what David had to say about the Law in Psalm 119:70:
      • v. 70 — Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law.
      • v. 72 — The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
      • v. 97 — O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
      • v. 174 — I long for Your salvation, O LORD, And Your law is my delight.
        • here the psalmist David, from the very depths of his heart, is pouring out his love for the law of God. 
        • he observes it, he obeys it, he longs for it and delights in it
        • he loves it and weeps for those who do not know it, do not obey it and who treat it with scorn.
  • If we read the last command of the last book in the Old Covenant, we see this:
      • Malachi 4:4: Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.
  • Judaism saw the Law as the most precious gift God had given them, safeguarding their relationship with Him.
      • and they viewed the Gentiles as sinners because they didn’t have the Law.
      • so you can understand how hard it was for a first century Jew to grasp the concept that they were not under the Law. 
  • The church in Rome had a number of Jewish people who were no doubt tempted to hang on to aspects of the Law of Moses. 
      • so Paul wants to stress the fact that having co-crucified with Christ and now married to Him, they are no longer obligated in any way to the Law of Moses. 
      • and to help them grasp this Paul continues in chapter 7 to talk about their relationship to the Law
  1. Those Who Know The Law

Romans 7:1 (NASB): Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

“Or are you ignorant brothers, for I speak to those knowing law, that the law rules over the man for as long as the time he is alive.”

  • to those who know the law”
      • he is speaking to the Jews 
  • Know is ginosko which means those who intimately know; have personal first hand experience with the Law
      • only the Jews had personal, intimate first hand experience with the Law because it was only given to them — it was never for the Gentiles — it was never for the church
  • If you’re not a Jew, it’s not about you! 
      • Paul is dealing specifically here with the Jewish believers. 
      • Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses.
          • Romans 2:14 starts out with For when the Gentiles, which have not the law….
          • Romans 9:3-4 Paul is talking about his fellow Jews — For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (4) Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises
          • Eph 2:11-12: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; (12) That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world
  • Before the cross of Christ, mankind was divided into two groups: Jews and Gentiles.  
      • these covenants were for Israel alone and separated her from all other nations on the face of the earth, making God’s “chosen people” absolutely unique. 
      • Israel was segregated from other peoples by the Mosaic law and by her special relationship with the One who calls Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 
          • Psalms 147:19-20 “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with  any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them”
  • These 1st century Jewish believers did not completely understand the significance of what Jesus did. 
      • even several decades after Jesus’ death, many of them did not understand what a dramatic difference Jesus had made in mankind’s relationship with God. 
      • not understanding that the new covenant had replaced the old and that He had made one new man out of the two Jew and Gentile
      • perhaps they thought the teachings of Jesus had simply been added on top of the teachings of Moses.
  • A lot of Jewish believers continued to keep the customs of Judaism. 
      • they continued to circumcise their children, continued to participate in temple rituals and continued in the law of Moses. 
      • those things were part of their culture — it had guided them in every aspect of human activity for so long that Jews found it difficult to conceive of life without “the Law.”
  • So, chapter 7 is about Paul helping these Jews understand their transition from Moses to Christ
      • he didn’t write it to teach the church that they would struggle with sin

III.  Still A Problem More Than 1900 Years Later

  • Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in 57 or 58 AD — more than 1900 years ago
      • and while it’s easy to understand why the readers of Romans had a difficult time transitioning from Moses to Christ and needed Paul’s help in navigating that
      • it is however, hard to believe that using the Mosaic Law as our standard of holiness, our guide for behavior, is still an issue with Christians today!
          • we didn’t have to transition from Moses to Christ as the law wasn’t given to us and never meant for us to adopt it as our own when we got “saved.”
  • Again, the Law was for the children of Israel for a specific time in history — with an expiration date.
      • maybe understanding some history about the Law would help us 

IV.  Law Given To Israel

  • When the children of Israel came to Mt Sinai and were going into the Promised Land, God gave them a law. 
      • the law was part of His covenant relationship with them. 
      • He gave them a written code to regulate their moral and religious activities.
      • the Ten Commandments constituted the core of that law. 
          • these rules, however, were strengthened by an extensive body of commandments – 613 of them
      • in addition, the Hebrews had living prophets who expanded God’s message to them along the way. 
      • the Mosaic Law also provided a specific sacrificial system for the Israelite people, by which means pardon from sin was bestowed – in view of the coming Savior (see: Gal. 4:4; Heb. 9:15). and on top of that it embodied an elaborate system of worship.
      • this law had an expiration date — until Christ comes
  • So, after Jesus came, many Jewish believers wanted to know what role the law should continue to play in their lives. 
      • the Mosaic Law and the Temple were their center of life!  It was all they had ever known.
      • if they weren’t obligated to keep the Law, what would keep them from living sinfully? 
      • the apostle Paul boldly claimed that Jewish believers “are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). 
          • If that was true, what would that look like? What would that mean?
  • In Galatians 3:23-29, Paul explained that the law of Moses was a “paidagogos,” which is translated schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian. 
      • in the Greco-Roman world, the son of a wealthy man would be cared for by a paidagogos, a slave who was given the responsibility of watching over his master’s son. 
      • this guardian would watch over the boy constantly; taking him to school, keeping him out of trouble, guiding him, guarding him, and teaching him. 
      • in the life of a young boy, a paidagogos was a good thing. 
          • however, when the boy became a man, he no longer needed a paidagogos — he was set free from this tutelage.
      • Paul told the Jewish believers that the law was just like that in the life of Israel. 
  • The law was to develop a great expectation and necessity for the Redeemer by revealing their transgressions and show them their need for a Savior
      • Gal 3:19:  Why then the Law? It was added on account of transgressions, until the Seed to whom promise has been made should have come, having been ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator.
      • 2 Tim 3:15:  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
  • and once Christ came, like a boy who became a man, they would no longer need the law in the same way.
      • Eph 1:5:  He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will
          • adoption is not being adopted into a family;  it means sonship — that the son has come of age to no longer be under guardians and to administer the father’s estate.
  • A young boy does what is right because his guardian tells him to, but a man does what is right because he is an heir of his father’s household. 
      • when a young boy is under a guardian, he is just like a slave (Galatians 4:1-2). 
      • and Paul makes the point that the Jews were slaves under the law. 
      • but when Christ came — He justified them by His faith, making them righteous
          • Gal 3:24-25 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. (25) Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
  • An example is the son of a king 
      • he doesn’t need a law to tell him to do the king’s will and in many ways he is exempt from the law
          • but he does the king’s will because he loves the king and because the king is his father. 
          • he does the king’s will because the king’s will has become his will. 
      • this is what their new life under grace was to look like
  • Paul says in verse 1 that they were ignorant
      • Ignorant is agnoeo in Greek meaning to not understand; not knowing
  • Romans 6:6 Paul told them they were to know that the old self (anthropos – mankind) was crucified with Christ (meaning they died with Christ) so that the body of sin (Adam and all that belonged to Adam) might be done away with (severed), that no longer were they enslaved to sin
      • and Romans 6:9,11 they were to also know that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no longer has dominion over him……likewise they were to reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to God
      • knowing is an intimate personal first hand knowledge
  • Their “knowing” was in the wrong thing
      • the reason they didn’t KNOW that they were free from the authority of the law because they were co-crucified and co-resurrected was because they KNEW the law.
      • you can’t know both!
      • knowing the law hinders your ability to know who you are IN CHRIST and as we’ll see in later verses in Romans 7, it keeps you sin conscious and so you struggle
          • 1 Cor 15:56 tells us that the Law gives sin it’s power
          • 2 Cor 3:7-8 tells us that the Law (referring to the 10 commandments) is a ministry of death
          • law and grace don’t mix. 
  • Love is the only commandment in the New Covenant of Grace

V.  Conclusion

  • In my opinion Romans 7 should come with the introductory statement “if you are Jewish please read this chapter.  If you aren’t please proceed to chapter 8”
      • I can’t stress enough —THE LAW WAS ONLY FOR THE JEWS 
      • AND ONLY for a period of time (from Mt Sinai to Christ)
  • Col 2:6 says As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him
      • Eph 2:8 tells us For by grace you are saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God
  • We don’t need the laws to guide our behavior and teach us how to live holy and pleasing to God
      • Titus 2:11-12 tells us that grace (NOT law) teaches us how to do that:  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12)Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Next week we’ll look at verses 2-6 and talk about the Jews being dead to the law — because again, they were the ONLY ones under it!

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