I love teaching on Romans 7. And I’ll probably make this post into two or three parts just so that it’s easier to read.
Romans 7:13-25 is one of the most controversial and debated passages in Scripture. Most get hung up on his use of the present tense in these verses. Believing that Paul is talking about the struggle we continue to have in life even after “accepting” Christ. But that interpretation is out of the context of chapters five, six, and eight.
Our lack of understanding of Romans 5 and 6 causes a MAJOR misinterpretation of chapter 7.
As long as we see ourselves as the Romans 7 man we will “feel” “Biblical” pressure to put our flesh under, to modify our behavior, and beat this thing called SIN. Causing us to settle into a mindset of works and self-effort. Because after all, we’ve been taught that Paul is the Romans 7 man; that he has to struggle between his spirit and flesh continually. And that he is never free from that internal war! And if the Apostle Paul had to struggle what about us? And then we get to chapter 8 and read about the beautiful freedom of life in the Spirit. BUT we read chapter 8 through the lens that we’ve understood chapter 7, or rather misunderstood! And then we miss the fullness of what Paul is telling us in chapter 8!
Our current popular teachings that we are the Romans 7 man reflect NOTHING Paul has taught so far in Romans. Or in any of his other epistles, for that matter! He has already made it abundantly clear in Romans that the cross changed everything!
Not only do we NOT have a “sin nature,” but we also do NOT have a struggle with sin because we died to it (Romans 6:11).
If we are struggling with sin, then it’s because we’re ignorant of what Jesus did in His FINISHED work. In other words, we don’t know what Jesus FINISHED. And in fact, those are Paul’s words. He starts chapter 7 with the words, are you ignorant brethren? Ignorance of the FINISHED work will keep us empowering what Jesus already defeated 2000 years ago. Jesus said to SIN and death – IT IS FINISHED!
He wrote this letter (Romans) to a mixed audience consisting of believing Jews AND believing Gentiles. In chapter 11 and verse 3, he says that he is speaking to you Gentiles.
And here in Romans 7:1, he says that he is speaking to those knowing the law.
He is addressing ONLY those Jews who had been under the Mosaic law. Because the law was never for us, and honestly, this chapter should’ve started with the subheading – ALL non-Jewish people (and actually ALL people born after the cross) skip ahead to chapter eight!
Perhaps if we were to read chapters five, six, and then skip ahead to chapter eight, we might understand that we have ZERO association with sin and death!
In verse 4, Paul says to these Jews (not to you!),
Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)
He tells his Jewish brothers, ALL OF YOU HAVE DIED TO THE LAW! The word died is an aorist, indicative, passive verb tense. Meaning, it’s past tense, a FINISHED act that happened to them ALL. How did they die to the law? They died to it through the body of Christ. I love the word through! It is dia in Greek and means completely, successfully through. It means thoroughly!! Literally, it means to be SUCCESSFULLY across to the other side!
In other words, they didn’t just partially die to it. Jesus didn’t start the process, and now it’s up to them to finish dying to it. Jesus didn’t get take them part of the way. NO!! He got them SUCCESSFULLY across to the other side. They completely, successfully died to the law! And it was completely, successfully through Jesus’ death!
And then in verse 6, he tells them that we (again, he’s talking to THEM not us!) HAVE BEEN released (or severed) from the law. Again, it’s an aorist indicative passive. A past tense, FINISHED act that happened to them! They were now severed from that which they were bound. The word bound is an imperfect verb tense meaning an action that occurred in the past that was continual, repeated, or constant. They were continually bound to the law in the past; it possessed them! But Paul makes it very clear in these first few verses in Romans 7 that their lives have changed in Christ, that they are no longer slaves to the Mosaic law. In verse 4, he said they now belong to another. In the Greek, it says that they have BECOME another, having been resurrected from the dead! In other words, they died with Christ and resurrected with Christ; NOW they are no longer the same person!
EVERYTHING changed! They have become another – HIM who raised from the dead! It is HIS life IN them!!
In chapter 5, he told them their inclusion (their co-death and co-resurrection) in Christ severed their association with sin! And now, here in chapter 7, he begins by telling them that their inclusion (their co-death and co-resurrection) IN Christ ALSO severed their association with the law! The Mirror Bible paraphrases verse 6 exceptionally well.
“But NOW we are FULLY released from any further association with a life directed by the rule of the law, we are dead to that which once held us captive, free to be slaves to the newness of spirit spontaneity rather than age-old religious rituals, imitating the mere face value of the written code.” (Romans 7:6, Mirror Bible)
Paul has not minced words with them! He is telling them it’s a done deal! A FINISHED act! They had nothing to do with it! Christ did it all, and they now have NEW lives. New lives that have ZERO association with SIN (chapter 5) AND ZERO association with the Mosaic law (chapter 7)!
So, if their lives have completely changed in Christ, if it’s past tense, FINISHED tense, then WHY does Paul switch from past tense to present tense verbs in the rest of this chapter? That we’ll talk about in the next post!