NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER SEVEN
The Apostle Paul has several objectives in this chapter. For one, he wanted the Christian believers in Rome to better understand the relationship they had with the Law of Moses as compared to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And second, to better comprehend the dilemma a believer faces when they chose the Law over the Gospel and try to seek justification with God by works instead of justification by faith. That justification was necessary in order to become right with God so that the condemnation of eternal separation from God, which had been announced upon all who sin, could be removed. Then they could live free of such condemnation and willingly serve God with their whole heart and mind.
Paul had previously discussed how being baptized into Christ makes us dead to sin and sets us free to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness leading to holiness. For the benefit of his Jewish readers, however, since they knew all about the Law, Paul now carries this concept of dying to sin and freedom in the Spirit one step further. Jewish believers must understand that serving the Law in their flesh is a dead thing since they are now joined to Christ in their spirit.
To do this, Paul uses the illustration of a marital relationship. They were once married to the Law and served it faithfully just as a man would take care of and provide for his wife. But the Law, like the wife, has died. So through the grace of God, they have been given the gift of being married to Christ. Their previous marriage to the Law was based on a contract as any marriage is. But since the Law has died, that contract is now null and void. They have been married to Christ under a new contract. And this was to their benefit because the Law could not bring them into a right relationship with God. All they could do when they made mistakes was making up for their shortcomings with sacrifices. But that was only temporary forgiveness. They would need something greater in order to keep them from dying and being eternally separated from God. But under grace, the power of the Gospel and the blood of the Lamb of God has brought them into union with Christ and saved them from potential eternal separation from God.
But Paul faced the danger of his Jewish readers thinking that he was implying that because the Law could not forgive them and, in fact, even worked against them, that it was somehow sinful. Paul wanted no part of such a notion. He was quick to state that the Law was “holy, just, and good.” And by being holy, it made known all that was sinful and not pleasing to God. But instead of this prompting them to get in line so they would not offend God, there was a sinful tendency inside them which rebelled against such regulations and forbidding of certain pleasures. So instead of doing what the Law said, they did just the opposite. And by doing the opposite, they sinned against God and His Law. That was a shocking revelation of how their evil tendencies took the opportunity provided by the commandments to deceived them and lead them on the path to death and eternal separation from God in the world to come.
To make this even more graphic, Paul uses himself as an example of such a man living under the Law. He was dealing with a terrible dilemma. In his mind, he knew what was good and pleasing to God and really wanted to do it. But when he went to do what he knew was right, he ended up doing the exact opposite. He knew that the opposite of the Law was evil and tried his best to avoid it. That’s when he was alerted to this sinful tendency that ruled his heart and mind through the flesh. And each time this sinful tendency got into an argument with his heart mind, for some reason the lust of the flesh always won against the desires of the spirit. So he felt like a person who was chained in their flesh as a prisoner.
This brought on an even more startling reality. No matter what he did or how hard he tried, he could not break free. He became angry that the Law could only point out his faults and failures but could do nothing to rid him of this sinful tendency. Even those around him no matter how learned they were in the Law could offer no solution. So he had to look for some power greater than his own and stronger than this sinful tendency to free him. And praise God he found it! There was still hope! The Gospel told him that God had provided the solution through His Son Jesus Christ. So he needed to call upon Him and ask Him to save this wretched man. And that experience is what Paul deals with in the next chapter