Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017
- First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Romans 7:15-25 | New Living Translation (NLT)
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
We are continuing our walk through Romans this week. We come to a passage that is a troublesome one for Wesleyans. For those from other theological persuasions, it is not nearly as troublesome a passage. But as we look at this passage in the greater context of the whole letter and the whole of scripture, I think we will see what Paul is getting at.
Paul has already declared that sin’s power is broken through by the grace of God. We are reminded that we are not under the law anymore but under grace and God’s grace rules over sin. Paul asks a rhetorical question, should we then go on sinning so that God’s can show us more and more of his grace? Paul’s answer is an emphatic, “No!” He goes on to say that how can we who have died to sin, continue to live in it.
God’s grace is not an excuse to sin and now Paul starts talking about the law. We are free from the law and now makes the case that the law only shows how sinful we are. If we were still under the law, we would be just as incapable as the Hebrew were at following the law. God’s law only reveals how sinful we are.
This is the point that Paul is getting at here in the latter part of Romans 7. I really believe that Paul is making the point that without Christ working our lives, without the help of the Holy Spirit living in us – and yes, I’m getting a bit ahead of the text here – we remain in our old sinful state. Paul makes the case that it was not the law that was the problem. The problem is the sinful state of humankind. Paul states that it is the sin that lives within us that causes us to sin. James echoes this:
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. – James 1:14-15
Sin comes from the depths of our heart and that is the point that Paul is trying to make. The law is not the problem – the law only reveals how sinful we really are. The point in this passage is that without some outside, intervening force, it is impossible to please God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-6 we have these words:
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.
Jesus tells us that this is the greatest commandment – and yet the people of Israel were unable to follow it – even though they loved God and they were God’s chosen people. What hope do we have of following it?
At the very end of this section, Paul gives us the hope and the answer and we will look at it more next week. But for now here is your sneak peek:
Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:24b-25a
The answer to our troubles – the answer to our sin trouble is Jesus Christ who will free us from this life – and I like the way that Paul puts it “dominated by sin and death.” Jesus Christ is the key.
By the way, I don’t think Paul is making the arguments that many say that he is making here. He is not saying that believers sin in thought, word, and deed everyday. That would be a sad state of affairs. How are we supposed to look different from the world if we sin in though, word, and deed everyday? Paul has already told us that if we are in Christ, we can’t keep sinning and remain in Christ. Paul here is telling us that the reason the law was given was to show how sinful we are and the reason that Jesus needed to come to earth.
Do you want freedom from the law? Do you want freedom from sin? Do you want freedom from death? Then place your trust in Jesus.