Summary: Delivered from the curse of the Law
Delivered from Under the Law
It’s Time to Die!
Highland Avenue SDA Church
March 9, 2002
All through the history of the Christian church there has been a great argument about Romans chapter seven. Men like Origen, Wesley, the great scholar Wyse, Moffat, the British scholar, C.H. Dodd, all take the position that this is the unconverted person that Paul is talking about. And then on the other side we have Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and that famous Swedish theologian, Anders Nygren, the British scholar, John Stott, who say, “No, he’s talking about the Christian.” Then you have the conservative Adventist Christian who theoritically knows that they are saved in Jesus by grace alone, but still carry a load of guilt everytime they fall. And then you have the faith based Adventist who says I don’t have to do anything but believe. And God will do it all. And so the battle has been going on, on.
I do not know if you have wrestled with this but I have. There are several reasons that we would say that Paul is talking about the Christian:
1. From verse 14 onwards Paul moves from a past tense, which was predominant in the previous verses, to the present continuous tense in verse 14 onwards. That would hardly be the case if he were talking of his preconverted experience.
2. The second reason would be that what Paul is talking of in Romans 7, this tremendous struggle with defeat, completely contradicts what he says about himself as a Pharisee, in Philippians 3:6. There he says: “Regarding the righteousness of the law I was blameless.” In Romans 7:24 he cries: “0 wretched man that I am!” a complete contradiction to his preconverted experience.
3. The third reason I will give is verse 22, where Paul says: “ I delight in the law of God.” It is not normal for an unconverted man to delight in the law of God. In fact, Romans 8:7 says: “The natural man is enmity with the law of God, and with God Himself, and is not subject to the law of God.” So again, verse 22 implies that he’s talking of his Christian experience.
4. Then, look at the context of the whole section; Romans 5, 6, 7, and 8, are dealing with the Christian. Why would he suddenly turn to his non Christian experience?
5. Finally, there are statements, like Romans 8:23, where he talks about groaning, and Galatians 5:17 where he talks about the struggle between flesh and spirit which agree with Romans 7, and which has to do with the Christian experience.
But when I look at Romans 7 as a unit, I am convinced now that to ask the question, whether Paul is talking about the believer, or the unbeliever, is to miss the point Paul had in mind when he wrote the chapter. Paul did not even think of that issue. What Paul is doing in Romans 7 is proving a very important point, a point that you and I need to come to grips with. It is this: God’s holy law, which is good, which is spiritual, which is righteous, and sinful human nature, which is the same in the believer and in the unbeliever, (that’s why the question is meaningless) are incompatible. And because they are incompatible, you and I can never be saved by the works of the law.
Paul made a statement in Romans 6:14 which to the Jewish community would be blasphemy, and would be blasphemy probably even to some Christian communities. In Romans 6:14, Paul says: “A Christian is no longer under the law, but under grace.” Now he has told us in Romans 3:19 and 20 that we are under the law. And because we are under the law the whole world stands condemned.
In Romans 6:14 he says that Christians are no longer under the law and the reason for that is because we have been delivered from under the law. But for Paul to make such a statement was very risky because Paul was planning to visit Rome, and if he did not explain what he meant, and why he believed what he believed (not just because he was inspired but because there was a real reason), he would be lynched if he went to Rome without explaining. We know from reading Acts 21. Here is an experience that Paul went through. Paul had returned from his third missionary journey, and like a good evangelist he gave his report. His report was that God had blessed his ministry tremendously, so that the Gentiles all over the Middle East had accepted the gospel. And the brethren in Jerusalem, the pillars of the church, said to Paul, “Do you know, we have had a similar blessing in Jerusalem. Many of the Jews have also accepted the gospel.” And they all said, “Praise the Lord.”