Which Paul? (Rom. 7:14-25) Part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 07 September 2017

What did Christ do in this regard? He had to do something both externally and internally. Externally, Christ had to set us free from the condemnation of the law. He did this by taking our sin upon Himself and suffering the punishment of our sin. How wonderful this is for someone who understands the gravity of his wrongdoing and the punishment he rightly deserves! (Leslie Yoder’s story.) That’s nothing compared to the forgiveness Christ procured for us! The certificate of our debt to God has been nailed to the cross. We are rescued from the eternal torment of hell. Surely, this is good enough to make us rejoice all the days of our life here on earth and for all eternity in heaven!


Sin, by nature, is destructive. As Midas’ touch turns everything into gold, sin destroys everything it touches and there’s no exception--whether we can see it or not. The cancer that grows in us without us knowing is far more dangerous than breaking a leg. As a violation of the moral law without, sin brings humiliation and criticism and banishment and even prison terms, not to mention all the harm it does in our relationships. But more than anything, sin separates us from our holy God: “Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2). Sin cannot sever our relationship with God—the fact that He is our Father and we are His children in Jesus Christ. But sin can and does disrupt our fellowship with God in profound and powerful ways, like estranged father and children who hardly communicate with one another. What good is it really to be rescued from hell if we are still estranged from God? God is the Fount of life and every blessing; He is our salvation, our life, and our all in all, without whom nothing means anything. How foolish it is to be content with our escape from hell if we are estranged from God! It would be like living in a big mansion, all alone, or watching a gorgeous sunset all alone.

Which Paul? (Rom. 7:14-25) Part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 05 September 2017

Do you see how there are now three laws, not just two--not just "the law of sin and death" (v. 2) and the law (of God, v. 3) but also "the law of the Spirit of life" (v. 2)? This third law makes all the difference in our spiritual battle against sin. This third law--the law of the Spirit of life—is able to do what the law of God, though "holy and righteous and good" (7:12), could not do—to set us free from the law of sin and death. You can see why this is important to point out. Living under this third law—and the freedom from the law of sin and death we now have under it—is what characterizes our Christian life, not the description we see in the previous section! How did this come about?

 It had everything to do with the coming of Christ and what He accomplished for our redemption. Christ did what the law could not do. The law can tell us what is right and wrong. The law can threaten us with its curses and encourage us with its blessings. The law can also show that God, who gave it, is "holy and righteous and good," worthy of our love and worship and obedience. But the law cannot help us defeat the law of sin and death. The law cannot give us a new birth from above. The law cannot change our heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh to beat with faith and love and devotion to God. To put it starkly, our problem is not ignorance but wickedness: "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18). You see, our problem in our sinful condition is not that we don't know what is right and wrong, however imperfectly. Our problem is that we don't want to do what we know is right. We don't even do what we know is good for us--such as our daily devotions and exercising and quitting bad habits.

Which Paul? (Rom. 7:14-25) Part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 05 September 2017

As Dennis E. Johnson suggests, the person is the Old Testament saint living under the law ("Romans 7:13-25--Paul's Argument for Law's Impotence and Spirit's Power," in Resurrection and Eschatology, p. 7). Because he is born again (as we are), he is able to love God and delight in His law—something that an unbeliever cannot do. But while he received the same salvation as ours, his experience of salvation was quite limited for two reasons: 1) Christ had not yet come; 2) until Christ came, externally, he still had to live under the Old Testament administration of the law with all of its demands and threats.

 And there’s the undeniable transition from today’s passage to Ch. 8. Notice what the struggle is in vv. 14-25: it is between two laws—the law of God (v. 22) and the law of sin (v. 23). As we saw, the general experience of God's people in this condition is that of defeat, which culminates with the heart-wrenching lament, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death" (v. 24)! How can Paul go so quickly from that to a triumphant praise in the very next verse, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 25)? And from that he moves on to say, as quickly, "So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin" (v. 25)—all in one verse! It is easy to see that his triumphant praise is a premature interruption in the flow of his bleak descriptions. It is as though he could not wait to move on from these depressing thoughts to what he really wanted to talk about—our  new condition in Jesus Christ! Indeed, that's exactly what he talks about in Rom. 8! 

Which Paul? (Rom. 7:14-25) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 05 September 2017

The key to understanding this passage may be how Paul uses the word “alive” in association with sin—that sin came "alive" when the commandment came. This certainly doesn't mean that there was no sin before the giving of the law. Sin had been alive and active ever since it came into the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve. So then, being "alive" here cannot mean coming into existence. Rather, it means becoming "official," if you will. What had been experientially true--man's sinfulness--was becoming legally and officially recognized by the law, God's official standard of righteousness. So Paul says in v. 13, “[What brought death to me] was sin, producing death in me through what is good [i.e., the law], in order that sin might be shown to be sin…,” such as covetousness. Maybe we can liken it to Newton’s discovery of gravity. It had been at work all along and we’ve been under its influence all that time. But when Newton discovered it, it came to be alive in our consciousness. For Israel to be alive apart from the law, then, doesn't necessarily mean that they lived in a sinless state. Paul's emphasis here is the impact of the law--specifically, making clear the sinfulness of sin and its deadly consequences.

So then, what is described in our passage seems to be the condition of God’s people after the law came. But here is what makes this complicated. Paul says, “…when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Rom. 7:9); “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me (Rom7:11). But the person in our passage is not quite dead. What he wants to do is what the law of God commands: "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" (vv. 15-16); "I have the desire to do what is right…" (v. 18); "I delight in the law of God, in my inner being" (v. 22). Can a totally depraved sinner delight in the law of God and desire to do what it commands? Paul says, no: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God " (Rom. 8:5, 7-8). Is the person in our passage a believer or an unbeliever?

The Method of Sanctification: the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 11 August 2017

The goal of biblical teaching is transformation, not just transmission of information. It is to make us complete in all of our being, not just knowledgeable about the Bible and its doctrines. It is to make us equipped for every good work, not just fluent in articulating what we believe. So, when we hear the Bible read and preached, or when we read it ourselves and study it with others, our question should not stop at "What is God saying here?" to "How does God want me to respond to it?" When we receive teaching, believe and trust. But don't forget that the biblical teaching is not just to inform us but also to transform us. So, when we receive reproof and correction, confess and repent.

We need to have more of this growth mindset in our approach to sanctification. When it comes to our sanctification, we tend to give up too easily, don't we? Since we will never be perfect, the point is to grow and not stop growing. Failures and setback may be inevitable. But there's no training which does not include such things. What matters is that we learn from them and grow through them. Let us not be discouraged even when our progress seems slow. Let us preserver. God's will is our sanctification and He will not fail. Let it not make us lazy and idle. Let it spur us on to an indomitable hope and unbreakable will to persevere in our discipleship--until we shall be made complete in our holiness on that glorious day!  


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