“Is the Law sin?” Paul asked as though repeating a reporter’s question. Given his previous replies, this one shouldn’t surprise: “certainly not!”
Romans 7 paints a small picture of Paul’s spiritual experience. He sets the stage here for the triumphant entry in chapter 8.
In verses 7-11 Paul seeks to explain a relationship he finds between the Law and sin. “I would not have known what sin was except through the Law . . . .” He reasons that apart from the Law sin can’t be labeled “sin,” even though it still exists.
Shepherd’s Notes gives this example and commentary: “There may be dangerous microbes in the air, but unless some instrument detects them, they will go unnoticed. The Law does more than show sin for what it is. It provokes sin. Sin seizes the opportunity and arouses within a person a desire to do evil.”
Paul brings up another question: “Did that which is good—that is the Law—become death to me? By no means!” (vs. 13). Paul tells that through the Law he realized just how dark and enormous sin was, even achieving its evil end through something as good as God’s Law so death might be accomplished through it. The Law was never the culprit, just sin.
The Christian’s Struggle
As Paul furthers the relation between the Law and sin, he flips from past to present tenses: “We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” The phrase “sold as a slave to sin” means bought and delivered to sin, as a slave to a master. This same verb was used in Matthew 18:25 to describe a debtor being sold into slavery (Shepherd’s Notes). Paul uses this analogy to show that no matter how much he loved God’s Law, he was enslaved to sin—powerless to completely obey it.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” -vs. 15
More than a tongue twister, Paul’s cry describes the Christian’s struggle against sin, or trying to please God by rule keeping apart from the Holy Spirit’s help.
Verses 21-24 remind me of the children’s book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with struggling being the common denominator.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs. 24)
But Paul’s conclusion rings with sweet victory: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25)
Law makes us aware of sin by defining it.
There is a two-sided reality of the Christian life. Although our acceptance with Christ is secure—making believers complete in Him—we still feel the pull of sin. Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Sanctification is a gradual process that repeatedly takes the believer through this recurring sequence of failure through dependency upon self to triumph through the indwelling Spirit.” Although conflict and struggle are part of our earthly journey, despair and defeat are not thanks to the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ who provides power to live freely above sin’s lure and captivity.
How do you deal with this struggle?