Sin, law & death in Romans 7

  • Sumo

Romans 7 is astoundingly moving. Paul speaks of an awful internal conflict: loving right while doing wrong.

Romans 7 is also a bit tricky. Exactly who is the person feeling this internal conflict? Is it a Christian? Perhaps it’s a Jewish person who loves the law but does not yet trust Jesus. Or someone else altogether.

I’m not trying to solve that here! I want to make a smaller observation – knowing that getting the details clear will help us eventually answer the bigger questions.

My observation is this: in Romans 7, Paul is at pains to honour the goodness of God and God’s law.

It’s clear there’s a relation between God’s law, and sin in us, and death. But what kind of relationship? If we err in answering this question, the mistake will lead us into danger. I believe avoiding serious error is part of Paul’s concern in this chapter.

Hence, Paul excludes: he rules out two wrong relationships in these three terms. Check out his questions.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! (v.7)

Did that which is good [the law], then, become death to me? By no means! (v.13)

We¬†cannot say that God’s law is sin.

There is a link between sin and law. It’s a relationship not easy to put into words. In Romans 8:3, Paul speaks of the law as ‘weakened’ by the flesh. From 7:7, we could say that sin is ‘enlivened’ by the law. But whatever we say, we never have reason to say the good law from God is sin.

Likewise, we cannot say that God’s law becomes death.

Death is not the overflow of God’s law. Death is the overflow of sin. As with Adam, it’s sin that leads to the judgement of death (see Rom 5:12-14).

The law of God is good. And when we learn this law – which is important for every Christian – we have Paul’s example of right thinking. We are to steer clear of assigning evil and death to God, or to his good gift. Instead we remember:

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.