Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Romans 7:1-8:17 – summary of study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 8:51 am on Monday, March 3, 2008

If in the previous chapter Paul tried to persuade us why, after been justified, we should stop sinning, he now discusses the subject of law and its role in Christian life.

1) Is the law good or bad?

That is a tricky question. On one hand, “the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death” (Rom 7:5). But one the other hand, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12). So which is it?

The law is good in itself but it was bad for us as it was use by the sin to produce sinful passions in us, see Rom 7:8.

2) What is the solution?

We need to die to the law through the body of Christ, to belong to him (Rom 7:4). We are released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, not the old way of written code (Rom 7:6).

4) What is Paul trying to say in Rom 7:14-20?

We all have split personalities. There is a part of us which is good and a part that which is not. Paul calls the good part the mind or inner being and the bad part – the members of the body.

Commentators disagree on the meaning of “I” in these verses. Does Paul talk about himself prior to conversion or after? My personal opinion is that Paul is trying to say is that we all have good and bad parts, whether before or after conversion. These are waging war against each other (Rom 7:23). However, after the conversion the inner part is transformed by the Spirit and now has the power to overcome the sinful part.

So, to summarize, these are two that we have as Christians to help us live a godly life:

Our sinful nature is weaker than before because it’s lost its most powerful weapon – the written law.
Our inner being is stronger than before because it’s gain its most powerful weapon – the Spirit of God.

5) So, then, how should we live?

We should serve in the new way of the Spirit, not the old way of written code (Rom 7:6). Live by the spirit, not by written law.

What does this mean exactly is debatable. Clearly, it cannot mean that Christians should stop obeying the ten commandments, as this clearly contradicts the desires of the Spirit (Rom 8:5). John Stott’s commentary on Romans was of great help to me here. According to him, not living by the written law means two things:

a) Do not use law for justification
b) Do not use law for sanctification

Point a) is quite clear – no one can be justified by obeying the law (Rom 3:20). No one can earn salvation by trying to live a good life.

To understand what Paul means by not using the law for sanctification, it is helpful to read through Colossians 2:13-23

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


According to John Stott, the right way of applying Romans 7–8 is to recognize that some church-goers today might be termed ‘Old Testament Christians’. The contradiction implied in this expression indicates what an anomaly they are. They show signs of new birth in their love for the church and the Bible, yet their religion is law, not gospel; flesh, not Spirit; the ‘oldness’ of slavery to rules and regulations, not the ‘newness’ of freedom through Jesus Christ. They are like Lazarus when he first emerged from the tomb, alive but still bound hand and foot. They need to add to their life liberty.

Verse 8:4 is of great importance for our understanding of Christian holiness. First, holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and the atonement. The end God had in view when sending his Son was not our justification only, through freedom from the condemnation of the law, but also our holiness, through obedience to the commandments of the law. The moral law has not been abolished for us; it is to be fulfilled in us.

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