Paul has spoken negatively about the Old Testament Law of Moses, which reaches its crescendo in these verses.
- Arousing sin v5
- Keeping those under it from knowing Christ v4
- Or experiencing the new life of the Spirit v6
- Being released from the law is as big a deal as being released from the power of sin. chapter 6
So that begs the question of whether the Old Testament law itself is itself sinful or evil – of course not! The law is not sin, but they are related. The law showed him what sin was – giving the example of coveting (a very common sin given how much advertising we are exposed to!). There’s another “law” at work – the law of sin and death which means we are unable to keep the OT law even if we wanted to.
In v13-25 we come to one of the most controversial passages in the New Testament! The problem comes when we read our experience into the text to understand it rather than following the flow of what Paul is actually writing.
It boils down to 3 views.
1) Many ordinary Christians believe that Paul is describing the normal Christian life – struggling with temptation and the sinful nature within. While redeemed, the Christian lives in a body that is subject to temptation and struggle.
2) Most scholars believe that Paul is describing his life as a Jew under the Law. Delighting in it and seeking to obey it but unable to do so. Only Jesus Christ can rescue us from captivity.
3) A compromise position is that Paul is describing an immatture believer who delights in the law but not gaining victory over sin. Believers need to get out of Romans 7 and into Romans 8!
I have long held the view that the flow of Romans means that the second interpretation is the correct one. Paul is describing his life under the law before he was converted and set free! There is no mention of the indwelling Spirit empowering obedience and holiness. The person of 7:13-25 is totally different to his description of the Christian in chapter 6 and 8.
Note the contrasts
|I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin 7:14||You have been set free from sin 6:18; 6:2,4,14)|
|making me a prisoner of sin 7:23||through Christ Jesus the law of th Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death 8:2|
Paul uses the word “law” to describe the situation we were in with three “laws”:
1) The Old Testament law
2) The law of sin and death which means we are unable to obey the Old Testament law
3) In chapter 8 – the law of the Spirit of life which means we are set free from being under the Old Testaent law and release us from the effect of law of sin and death.
Hallelujah! We are free!