Paul is using the laws of marriage as an example of dying to the law and belonging to Christ. The laws of marriage are only binding as long as a person lives. When a man and woman are married and one spouse dies the other spouse is released to marry again. They are free from that law. In the same way Paul is saying if you have accepted Christ you are no longer bound to the law but you belong to Christ because your old self died through the blood of Jesus. You are released from the law.
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:6
Many people may not understand this and in some ways it feels contradictory. The law was given to us as a gauge to sin. So how do we reconcile all of this thought and rhetoric about the law and sin and what we should and shouldn’t do. I have often said many times. This christian life is not about a list of rules and regulations nor a list of dos and don’ts. Yes there is a Mosaic law that we should pay attention to but the fact is we can never live up to the expectations of that list. The most important thing is Jesus! And that my friends is what Paul is saying here.
“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said. ‘You shall not covet.’” Romans 7:7
The law was given to us before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins so that the people of Israel could know what to steer from. But in some ways the law is enticing too to our own sinful nature. You know how there are some children you can tell not to touch the hot stove all day long but by golly because you told them not to they are going to touch it. It’s like Eve in the garden of Eden. She had to have the fruit from the forbidden tree just because she was told she couldn’t have it. What do we say about that? Sometimes knowing something is forbidden makes it more enticing to us than if we didn’t know it. But Paul also points out that it is not the law that is sin or bad but what it does is magnify our sinful nature.
“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Romans 7:12
The law itself is good, but it’s what lives inside of us, the sinful nature that is bad and it shows us all of the things we do that are in the flesh and not of the spirit. I listen to a few podcasts. One of them is Annie F. Downs – Annie and Eddie Keep Talking. Annie has coined the phrase on this podcast, “Let me back up and be the person I wish I were.” I have used that a couple of times lately. I confessed that my mouth gets me in trouble a lot. And sometimes it’s because I don’t think before I speak and sometimes it’s because I have been dwelling on something that hurt my feelings or made me mad. At any rate there are times when I spew things out of my mouth that when I think about it later, I wish I could back up and be the person I wish I were. I think that is what Paul may have been feeling when he penned these verses.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:15-20
Was that confusing enough? Paul is basically saying I know what I want to do but in my human flesh I cannot carry it out. He ends with the question and the answer.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25
Lord, help me to be the person I wish I was. Help me to control my thoughts and my tongue. Lord help me to think on the things that are yours. Help me to use your law as a gauge but to listen to the Holy Spirit as my guide!