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Romans 7 can be a bit confusing. I hope this summary helps explain the text.
After discussing how being baptized into Christ makes us dead to sin and free to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness unto holiness, Paul now carries the concept of death and freedom one step further by explaining to those who know the Law that the Jewish believers become dead to the Law so that they might be joined to Christ. The result of being freed from the Law is the ability to “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (1-6)
Paul does not want the Jewish leaders to think that he is saying that the Law was sinful, so he is quick to clarify that notion. The Law, he says, is “holy and just and good.” The problem is that the Law only makes known that which is sinful, but the Law itself could never fully fix the problem of sin (7-12).
To explain his point, Paul describes himself as man under the Law who finds himself in a terrible dilemma. He knows what is good, and he wants to do it. He also knows what is evil, and he wants to avoid that, but he finds a “law” (or principle) in his flesh, which wins over the desire of the mind (13-23). Is there hope? Yes, God provides the solution through His Son Jesus Christ, upon which Paul will elaborate in chapter eight (24-25).
What did I learn from the passage that I didn’t know before?
What did the passage mean to those first century readers?
What does the passage mean to me?
What verse really stuck out to me?
What changes do I need to make in my life?
What verse gives me comfort or wisdom in my trials and difficulties?
What is God’s will for my life?
Is there a verse that I would like to memorize?
1Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
The Law and Sin
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 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? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.
- Romans 7:5 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.
- Romans 7:7 Exodus 20:17; Deut. 5:21
- Romans 7:18 Or my flesh
- Romans 7:25 Or in the flesh