What Is Romans 7 About? – Part 5

Posted: January 22, 2011 in bible, exegesis, theology

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

So, How Does This Apply To Us?

Paul’s primary purpose in Romans 7 is to explain the relationship between sin and law.  Although it seems clear that he is referring primarily to Israel and the Mosaic Law, Israel’s failure to obey the Law serves to illustrate the failings of all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Moo writes, “If Israel, with all her blessings, could not obey the law God gave directly to her, no person can hope to obey whatever law they put themselves under.”[1]

No human, save One, has ever lived up to the standards that God has set, and thus those standards do nothing but condemn all humanity.  This realization should remind Christians of the futility of relying on their own efforts to earn favor with God, even in the slightest way.  Although most Christians wouldn’t openly claim to be deserving of God’s kindness, the subtle mindset of merit remains all the same.  Paul’s words in Romans 7 should serve as a wake up call to the futility of this kind of thinking.  The depravity of human nature is so deep that even if God were to give us commands meant for our good, if not for His grace, we would only desire to break them even more.

We must constantly ask God to enable us to follow His commands.  And we are no less dependent on His enabling power and indwelling Spirit after we become Christians.  It is still He who “works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

This passage also helps to remind us to be thankful for God’s gracious activity in revealing our own sinfulness to us.  If it were not for the Law, we would not be fully aware of our utter inadequacy to truly obey God.  And if we are not aware of our sin, we will not understand our need for, let alone seek, our Savior.  Thankfully, we have a merciful God who not only reveals our sin to us, but also reveals how we can be saved from it.  For “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In his book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, Tom Schreiner lists four reasons for why it is important for Christians to understand the role of the Law in the Bible:

First, one’s understanding of the law determines how one puts the whole Bible together
Second…those who study the role of the law will have a firmer grasp on…theological systems [i.e. dispensationalism, covenant theology, theonomy, etc.] …
Third, the role of the law is closely related to justification
Fourth, the law is related to the will of God[2]

I hope that this series of posts on Romans 7 (a crucial text on the New Testament understanding of the Law) is helpful as a beginning step toward a fuller understanding of this complicated topic.

[1] Moo, NIV Application, 232.
[2] Tom Schreiner,  40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010), 13-14.


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