Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Romans 7:7-25 --
"The Real Problem With Me"

[The index for the series is here.]

I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text:

(NET) Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I14 would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else15 if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”16 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires.17 For apart from the law, sin is dead. 9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive 10 and I died. So18 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death!19 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.20 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.21 15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.22 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good.23 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.24 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 7:22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 7:23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be25 to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then,26 I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but27 with my flesh I serve28 the law of sin.

14 sn Romans 7:7-25. There has been an enormous debate over the significance of the first person singular pronouns (“I”) in this passage and how to understand their referent. Did Paul intend (1) a reference to himself and other Christians too; (2) a reference to his own pre-Christian experience as a Jew, struggling with the law and sin (and thus addressing his fellow countrymen as Jews); or (3) a reference to himself as a child of Adam, reflecting the experience of Adam that is shared by both Jews and Gentiles alike (i.e., all people everywhere)? Good arguments can be assembled for each of these views, and each has problems dealing with specific statements in the passage. The classic argument against an autobiographical interpretation was made by W. G. Kümmel, Römer 7 und die Bekehrung des Paulus. A good case for seeing at least an autobiographical element in the chapter has been made by G. Theissen, Psychologische Aspekte paulinischer Theologie [FRLANT], 181-268. One major point that seems to favor some sort of an autobiographical reading of these verses is the lack of any mention of the Holy Spirit for empowerment in the struggle described in Rom 7:7-25. The Spirit is mentioned beginning in 8:1 as the solution to the problem of the struggle with sin (8:4-6, 9).

15 tn Grk “I would not have known covetousness.”
16 sn A quotation from Exod 20:17 and Deut 5:21.
17 tn Or “covetousness.”

18 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “So” to indicate the result of the statement in the previous verse. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.

19 tn Grk “and there was found in/for me the commandment which was for life – this was for death.”

20 tn Or “and through it killed me.”
21 tn Grk “under sin.”
22 tn Grk “but what I hate, this I do.”
23 tn Grk “I agree with the law that it is good.”
24 tn Grk “For to wish is present in/with me, but not to do it.”

25 tc ‡ Most mss (א* A 1739 1881 Ï sy) read “I give thanks to God” rather than “Now thanks be to God” (א1 [B] Ψ 33 81 104 365 1506 pc), the reading of NA27. The reading with the verb (εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ, eucaristw tw qew) possibly arose from a transcriptional error in which several letters were doubled (TCGNT 455). The conjunction δέ (de, “now”) is included in some mss as well (א1 Ψ 33 81 104 365 1506 pc), but it should probably not be considered original. The ms support for the omission of δέ is both excellent and widespread (א* A B D 1739 1881 Ï lat sy), and its addition can be explained as an insertion to smooth out the transition between v. 24 and 25.

26 tn There is a double connective here that cannot be easily preserved in English: “consequently therefore,” emphasizing the conclusion of what he has been arguing.

27 tn Greek emphasizes the contrast between these two clauses more than can be easily expressed in English.

28 tn The words “I serve” have been repeated here for clarity.

Sermon Notes:
  • Is God’s Law the problem? No (v.7)
  • What does God’s Law do?
    1. The law shows us the reality and extent of sin.
      “…through the law we become conscious of sin.” Romans 3:20
    2. The law provokes sin.
    3. The law results in spiritual death.
    4. The law reveals that sin deceives and puts to death.
    5. The law shows the ways God wants people to live.
      Psalms 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect
      and preserves one’s life.
      The rules set down by the Lord are reliable
      and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.
      8 The Lord’s precepts are fair
      and make one joyful.
      The Lord’s commands are pure
      and give insight for life.
      9 The commands to fear the Lord are right
      and endure forever.
      The judgments given by the Lord are trustworthy
      and absolutely just.
      10 They are of greater value than gold,
      than even a great amount of pure gold;
      they bring greater delight than honey,
      than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.
      11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there;
      those who obey them receive a rich reward.
      12 Who can know all his errors?
      Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.
      13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins;
      do not allow such sins to control me.
      Then I will be blameless,
      and innocent of blatant rebellion.
      14 May my words and my thoughts
      be acceptable in your sight,
      O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

    6. The law exposes sin for what it is—showing sin to be the true cause of separation from God (“death”).

  • The law is spiritual—but I am unspiritual (“fleshly”).
  • In my “flesh”—I live a life of struggle against sin.
  • Sin lives in me—and I have no power (in my flesh) capable of overcoming it.
  • In my flesh, I cannot do the good I want to do, and I cannot keep from doing the evil I do not want to do.
  • The problem: there is a powerful presence of sin in me.
  • Christ has rescued me!
My Comments: I quote this passage a great deal, because I think it serves as one of those testimonies to why folks do not follow either their conscience, or what they know to be right. It highlights the ways in which we distort God's general and specific revelation to us through our desire to please ourselves.

One person commenting on its use made this point:
Paul's argument in Chap 7 can be viewed as much more than just the mother of all evangelical slacker-confessions.

I see it as a point-blank refutation of the widespread Greek philosophic view that true knowledge must determine conduct for the wise man. Plato and others held that it was impossible for any rational and mature man to actually do a thing he knew was wrong. But Paul sees that the righteousness that seeks conformity with the teachings of Moses and Jesus was so transcendent that its requirements transformed this kind of wisdom into foolishness.

On the one hand, the "reach" of the Mosaic Law, under the hands of the priesthood and Pharisees, extended to such behaviors as implicated the Divine Will in a comedy of external and quotidian observance.

And on the other hand, Jesus, in brushing many of these laws aside, had alluded to divine standards which challenged human nature almost to the point of mockery.

"Don’t get me started on definitions and proofs of adultery," Jesus seems to warn, "because I tell you, your guilt has already arrived with your intent to act, whether or not she consents to your wicked advances" (Mt. 5:28)

And again, how often have we heard and accepted the higher morality of love for enemies (Mt. 5:44) and the non-resistance of evil (Mt. 5: 39) and yet failed to act accordingly in the presence of an offensive one?

Paul knows what the result must be of the annunciation of these and other divine teachings. The whole strange evolutionary mix of primitive human institutions embedded in Greek philosophy and Mosaic Law have been rendered of little or no effect in terms of the true righteousness of God. But this astonishing fact can only be a part of the good news if it includes a glad answer to the question, "How then, can we be saved?"

Which answer we have, by God’s grace, in the supreme faithfulness which underlay the life and death of his Son.

Next: 7:21-8:2 -- "Rescued - and Free"

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly