In the first six chapters of Romans the Apostle Paul repeatedly contrasts what it means to live under the law and what it means to live by faith. He says a person will either have a nature that is governed by the law or a nature that is governed by grace. He will not have both at the same time.
The sin nature is governed by the law. The born again nature is governed by grace. We receive the sin nature when we are born into this world. We receive the born again nature when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The born again nature cannot co-exist with the sin nature.
The born again nature replaces the sin nature.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The word “new” means something that has never existed before. The sin nature we had before being born again no longer lives inside of us. Paul drives home this point with the phrase “passed away”. When a person “passes away” we know she is dead. The person ceases to exist, except in our minds. The same can be said of sin because
The born again experience does not affect our minds or our bodies.
The blue statements – we must know, believe and accept these truths to truly understand Romans 7. Christians who commit sin do so because they refuse to bow the knee to their new nature. They choose instead to bow the knee to rebellious unsubmitted minds and bodies that lust after the flesh.
Romans chapter seven
Most Christians read this chapter as Paul giving his testimony as a born again believer who is struggling with the flesh and committing sin even though his born again spirit does not want to commit sin. If we believe this lie then we have destroyed the power of the new nature to deliver us from sin and we are playing in Satan’s sandbox.
(1) Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
When we read the first verse, the subject matter should be readily apparent. Paul is talking about the law’s dominion over a person. And remembering what we learned in the first six chapters, the law only has dominion over a person who has a sin nature.
Paul doesn’t waste any words in this first verse. “Know you not, brethren” – “You know the law and you should know this already.” This is significant. The church had both Jewish and Gentile believers and he’s using Romans 7 as a “teaching moment” to illustrate just how powerful the new nature in them truly is.
(2) For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. (3) So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Paul is illustrating a spiritual truth with a natural example. The sin nature “marries” us to the law and death is the only thing that can change it. Here’s the message and some will not like it: as far as God is concerned only the death of a spouse can end a marriage. The word “loosed” drives this point home. It’s rendered “destroyed” in Romans 6:6. When we are born again all the authority and power associated with living under the law is terminated. This is not a divorce. This is an annihilation of the relationship.
(4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Now what does this mean?
We cannot be dead to the law and still have a sin nature. Plain and simple. We have no sin nature “marrying” us to the law. Ladies and gentlemen, the sin nature no longer has dominion over us!
With verse five Paul begins to explain the life of the person under the law (“we were in the flesh”). In verse seven he says the law shined a spotlight on the sin nature. “Is the law the source of sin? God forbid. If it hadn’t been for the law I wouldn’t have known that I wasn’t supposed to covet. But because of the sin nature, I had no problem coveting. Boy, was I wrong!”
(8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
“For without the law sin was dead.” “Before God gave the law, I didn’t know I was living in sin. I did whatever I wanted to do and didn’t feel guilty at all.” “...but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” “Once the law was given I had a holy standard to follow. But I began to see very clearly how the power of the sin nature in me made it impossible for me to obey that holy standard.”
(10) And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
The law revealed the righteous nature of God that would exist in man if he were born again. But instead of bearing witness of God’s life in man, the law exposed what was really there: the death of the sin nature.
(11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
The language Paul uses, “deceived me and by it slew me”, depicts the sin nature luring a person off the main street into a dimly lit alley and murdering him. “The sin nature,” Paul says, “blinds deceives us into believing we’re okay until we stand before Jesus on our day of judgment and find out we’re not.” Too late. Lake of fire for all eternity. Imagine the Jews response to hearing this. They believed the law produced spiritual life (John 5:39) but Paul says it only magnified the spiritual death working them.
The sin nature is more powerful than the law.
In verses 13 and 14 Paul agrees that the law originated in the spirit, came from God, identified spiritual life, and revealed God’s character and nature. But he says “I am carnal, sold under sin.” “I see the law and I know it’s from God and I know it’s good. But I was born with a sin nature. I can’t keep the law.” And with verse 15 he begins to outline his struggle as a person with a sin nature who is trying to keep the law. In other words, he’s putting himself in the place of the person who is not born again.
(15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.
(16) if I then do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
(17) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
(18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
(19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
(20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
(21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
What Paul is describing takes place in the mind. “What I wish to practice I can’t,” he says, “I am an unwilling slave to the sin nature living inside of me. But I don’t understand. If I keep lusting and coveting – things I don’t want to do, it just proves that the law is good. I want to do what is right. I want to follow the law. But there is something more powerful at work in me that seems to stop me in my tracks.”
Reminder: the sin nature needs the law.
And the more Paul thinks about it the more frustrated he becomes. “I want to do the right thing. I want to keep the law. I don’t like lusting. I don’t like sinning. But I can’t stop. No matter how much I want to obey the law, the sin nature stops me. I am forced to continue doing what I don’t want to do. I hate this!”
Paul knows he’s powerless against the sin nature. “If I am forced to constantly do the things I don’t want to do, then it’s not me, but the sin nature that lives in me. I can make up my mind not to sin anymore but the sin nature is stronger than my will and overpowers me. It’s even stronger than the law!”
(22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
(23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
The “inward man” is not the born again nature.
Paul’s delight comes from his desire to live for God. Desires – good and bad – originate in our minds. In other words, the “inward man” is speaking of the mind, not the new nature. But the sin (“the law in my members”) is warring against the law in Paul’s mind and winning.
The law was “written” on the mind of every Jewish male. Starting as a child, it was committed to memory and resulted in the law continually filling the mind. This is what Paul is describing. He wants to follow the law that’s in his mind. He wants to please God. But he can’t. The sin nature is too powerful.
A law that’s governs from the outside cannot overpower a nature that rules on the inside.
That’s the key point of verse 23. And that’s why Hebrew 8:10 says “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
A person with a sin nature is the true walking dead.
In this new covenant, the law is no longer an outside influence. It is who the person has become as a result of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Now look at verse 24.
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The body is the sin nature and the death is spiritual death. The lake of fire death. Eternal separation from God death.
Paul is painting a horrible picture of the sin nature and the death it produces. It’s an allusion to the ancient custom of tyrants who bound a dead body to a person as punishment. The person has to drag the offensive smelling dead weight wherever he goes. Eventually he dies from the disease produced by the rotting and decaying flesh. This is how Paul describes the sin nature! And the law is powerless to deliver him from this horrible death! Do you see this?
Jesus is the answer to the dilemma of the sin nature.
(25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Jesus is the salvation of all man, woman and child. And we see this as we read into chapter eight. I want you to remember something I’ve said before: verses, chapter breaks, chapter headings and punctuations were added by the translators. Some are good. Some are not so good. But we must read into chapter eight or we will miss Paul’s summation.
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
(2) For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
(3)For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
(4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
Paul ends Romans 7 with a declaration of victory. Jesus Christ is the only one who can rescue him from the sin nature. And that’s why Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” The condemnation was the sin nature and with the “condemning sentence” was eternal death.
The “therefore” begins a concluding statement that says because of the new nature we received through Jesus Christ [being “in Christ Jesus”], we’re no longer condemned! We’re no longer carrying around a rotting and decaying nature! We now have the spirit of life working in us that freed us from sin and death [the sin nature and the law].
Romans chapter seven is not a discussion of a Christian struggling with both the sin nature and the new nature. It’s a logical argument showing the utter futility of a person with a sin nature trying to live up to the standards of the law, which show the character and nature of God.
The impossibility of living as the law demands is seen most clearly as Paul acknowledges its goodness but his inability to live by it because of the sin nature dwelling in him. That sin nature forced him to disobey the law over and over again no matter how hard he tried to “will” himself to obey it.
But thank God for Jesus! It’s through the redeeming work of Jesus that Paul says we have been made dead to the law through the death of the sin nature. And because we’re dead to the law, we are no longer under its condemning sentence. That condemning sentence was removed the moment we received God’s life.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have been delivered from sin and therefore we should not practice it, make allowances for it or make excuses for it. We now live under a new law: the law of the spirit of life. And that law has made us free from sin! Glory!!!