Sin’s got a hold on me
We’re not married to the law anymore1 I want to talk to my fellow Jews now. You know that the law applies to us only while we’re alive. Right? 2 That’s why it’s okay for a widow to remarry. The law ties her to her husband, but when her husband dies, she’s not bound by that law anymore.
3 It’s another thing entirely if she’s still married when she hooks up with another man. She’s committing adultery then. But if her husband dies, she’s free of the law that tied the two of them together. It’s okay for her to get married again.
4 Here’s the point I want you to get, my fellow Jews. You married the law. But the law died when the body of Christ died. You’re free to remarry the resurrected Christ and give birth to good things for God. 5 Before this, what we produced was good for nothing but dying. I’m talking about sin. We did what our bodies told us to do. We followed our passions into sin. And the law actually contributes to this by telling us what not to do. 6 But now we’re free of the law. We’re dead to it. It doesn’t apply to us anymore. We’re free to get a fresh start. We can follow the lead of the Spirit instead of a bunch of laws written a long time ago.
It’s not me doing what I’m doing7 What does all this mean? Is our Jewish law sinful? Absolutely not. It’s the opposite of sin. Without the law, I wouldn’t know what sin is. I wouldn’t have any idea that it’s wrong to want something that someone else has, and to obsess over it. But the law clearly said it’s wrong to covet. 8 But once I read that law, sin gotta hold of me. It stirred up all kinds of obsessive desires. When we break free of the law, we break free of sin. Sin is dead to us.
9 The law wasn’t always part of my life. But when I let it in, with its command, sin came with it. 10 I died because of that sin. Think of it. The law promised me life. But it gave me death.
11 Sin tricked me to death. It killed me with that commandment against coveting. 12 The law is good and right and sacred. So is the commandment against coveting.
13 Did the law, which we know is good, actually kill me spiritually? Absolutely not. Sin killed me. Sin used something good—the commandment against coveting—to do something bad. 14 The law is spiritual. We know it. I'm not spiritual. I know it. I'm all too human—a slave, in fact. Sin is my master.
I don’t want to do what I do, but I do.15 I don't understand what I'm doing. I'm not doing what I want to do. Doggone if I'm not doing what I hate. 16 But if I'm doing something bad, the fact that I know it’s bad is because of the law. That shows the law is good.
17 By now, it's clear that I'm not the one doing these terrible things. Sin is. It has moved into me and taken over. 18 I know there’s nothing good in me. I want to do what’s right. But I can’t manage to do it. 19 I don’t do the good stuff that I want to do. I do the rotten, good-for-nothing stuff I don’t want to do. 20 Think about it. If I’m doing what I don’t want to do, it’s not me doing it. Sin’s inside me, and it’s running the joint.
Who’s the boss?21 Here’s the way it always seems to work. Whenever I want to do something good, sin reminds me who’s the boss. 22 I agree with everything in God’s law. My heart’s all in on it.
23 But there’s another law inside me. This law is waging war against me and the law I love. It has made me a prisoner of war. I’m a captive to sin’s law. 24 I’m a miserable, sad-excuse of a human being. This body of mine is nothing but death warmed over. Who’s going to free me from this sinful body? 25 Thank God. He saves me through Jesus Christ. Still, I serve two laws. With all my heart I follow God’s law. But my flesh and bones still chase the law of sin.
Paul doesn’t say how the law contributes to sin. In a more literal translation, Paul simply says that sinful passions were “aroused by the law.”
Paul may be referring to the one and only command gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:3). Don’t eat the fruit from the tree in the center of the garden. What did they do? Ate the fruit. “The fruit opened their eyes; they saw themselves differently. But instead of finding themselves instantly shrewd, they found themselves instantly nude. Embarrassed, they grabbed some large fig leaves and stitched them into clothes” (Genesis 3:7).
Paul worked up a creative argument while attempting to convince Jews they don’t have to follow the Jewish law anymore. He says “the law applies to us only while we are alive” (7:1). Well, that seems obvious. He goes on to say that a widow is no longer obligated to follow the law that had bound her to her husband. She is free to remarry. Paul says that since Jesus died, the Jews are “free to belong to another” (7:4). What do you think of this flow of logic? Would it have worked on you?
Paul argues that the Jewish law actually led people to commit sin. He wasn’t saying that the law was sinful. “Is our Jewish law sinful? Absolutely not” (7:7). But he did seem to be saying that because the law told people what not to do, people for some reason did it anyhow. “Once I read that law, sin gotta hold of me. It stirred up all kinds of obsessive desires” (7:8). Does Paul’s argument make sense to you?
Romans is a book full of exceptionally engaging statements. Paul sticks his neck out time and again as he tries to get his point across. What do you think are some of the most engaging statements in Romans 7?
In one of the most famous excerpts from this letter to Roman Christians, Paul says “I’m not doing what I want to do. Doggone if I’m not doing what I hate… I want to do what’s right. But I can’t manage to do it” (7:15, 18). Bible experts debate whether Paul is talking about his continuing struggle with sin or his life as it was before he put his faith in Jesus. What do you think? Is Paul describing Christians?
Paul makes what sounds like a copout statement: “If I’m doing what I don’t want to do, it’s not me doing it. Sin’s inside me, and it’s running the joints” (7:20). How would you either defend or attack a statement like that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jews had their set of laws, and many churches have a code of behavior written into their church manuals. How would you compare the Jewish laws with the expectations that churches have of their members?
LIFE APPLICATION. What do you think are examples today that would illustrate this quote from Paul? “I want to do what’s right. But I can’t manage to do it. I don’t do the good stuff that I want to do. I do the rotten, good for nothing stuff I don’t want to do” (7:18-19).