There are numerous blessed scriptures which God was pleased to give us which preach His gospel by which we have peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. But one in particular is very under appreciated by the Church at large, and has always been such a blessing to me, though those who are enemies of the gospel seem to be largely ignorant of it as the Church is largely ignorant of it and do not preach it to the heretics as they should. So to you Romanists and you Greeks and all others who seek the righteousness of works, I dedicate this to you, I exegete Romans 7:1-13 for you so that you might come to knowledge of the truth which is the fundament of the only true gospel, that justification before God is by faith alone, and in seeing the truth might abandon your heresies and hope only in Jesus Christ. We implore you, be reconciled to God.
We must begin by recognizing the place of Romans 7 in the wider Epistle. The passage begins off the heels of chapter 6 and the encouragement that the grace of God should not be made an excuse for sin but the basis of righteousness. Whilst Paul certainly does still teach us at this point that our justification is by faith alone, this is not his particular purpose. For Paul, that doctrine was already firmly established in chapters 3 and 4, 5 was laying the foundation for 6-8 which is therefore the second act of the grand exposition of the gospel that is this megapassage. Whereas the gospel was established in the first act, we now deal with its procession. To Paul this gospel is not merely the beginning of the faith but the foundation of the whole Christian life, there is never a moment when the Christian is not being saved by Jesus, everything is built on that ground.
>Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Paul herein declares his meaning, "the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives". Therefore the objection that this is not about an individual's status in the law is invalid because Paul makes his meaning explicit. The example of marriage is given not to define the point but to illustrate it; it is a "law" which is based on the conduct of two individuals, so consequently as Paul knows it will be conceded by all the woman is free from the law when her husband dies, because this law being founded on the behavior of two is lifted when just one of them dies.
>Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Verse 4 and somewhat the passage as a whole is a direct parallel to Galatians 2:20. The idea of a double jeopardy is here invoked, namely that you are already dead to the law, so having been recorded in the ledger as executed you no longer exist in the eyes of the law, you no longer come under its judgement. "You have died to the law through the body of Christ" that is you were put to death (according to the command of the law which you broke by your unrighteousness) in the person of Jesus Christ, as he will go on to declare "Christ Jesus is the one who died". Hence, having died for your sins upon Calvary's tree, you will not do so again. It is impossible for the Christian to be sent to hell for his sins because Jesus already suffered hell upon the cross for them, so there is now no condemnation, but absolutely all of the believer's sins have been completely forgiven, past, present and future. He says "so that you may belong to another", meaning that while you previously belonged to the law by the dominion it held over you you were freed so that you would instead belong to Christ, whose propitiation is so perfect that it absolutely purchases the believer to be His forever, you are His and He will not let you go, just as you will never again belong to the law you will never again not belong to Jesus; the Lord has declared it and will not change His mind.
>What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
"For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died" he here speaks of the hopelessness of the Jewish religion which demands righteousness through the keeping of the law. When he asserts that the law causes his sin to increase he means the response of the sinful nature of man, which looks at the holy thing God has commanded and says "I will do otherwise". We must note how this demonstrates them to be in error who interpret his statement elsewhere that the law was our tutor but has been made obsolete in Christ as referring to the Church, this parallel teaching makes clear that it is in the experience of the individual believer that it is so. "I was once alive apart from the law" meaning that he was blissfully unaware of the reality of his position and of the law which condemns his wickedness. Sin was dead, that is, dormant, and subsequently he was alive meaning that he enjoyed life and was at peace with himself, but; "when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died". Here is the proof that these events occur in the experience of the individual Christian, because Paul did not live before Moses; "the commandment came" as in he came to know the commandment. "Sin came alive", that which had been dormant and lazy sprung into action, seeing that which it by nature despised. "And I died", Paul also saw that which it despised, and knew that he was a failure who stood condemned. He does not mean that he had been spiritually alive and now became dead, he has already established at length that both he and all who are in the flesh were already quite dead. Instead he describes the depths of despair that comes from sincerely seeking the righteousness which is by works, for any man who is the least bit honest with himself sees his own abject failure to satisfy the demands of the law, and knows the word is about him which says "Cursed is every man who does not keep every word in the book of the law by doing them". I know this too well myself as one who was in the Romanist religion, and while in my godless life beforehand I was happy and at peace with myself, the commandment came, and I died. To this day I distinctly recall when I recognized I would never be as righteous as I had to be to be saved and resigned myself to hell. Praise Jesus that He opened my eyes and led me to the knowledge of the truth so that I would be free from the law and enslaved to Him.
He continues "The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me", this is a reference to "The one who does them shall live by them", but it became death to him because he was not the one who does them. The righteousness of our works can only be death to us because we can never be the one who does them. Paul thus concludes this segment by declaring the proper nature of the law is not to bring righteousness through obedience but "in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure". When it was promised that "The one who does them shall live by them" it was never intended that anyone would actually satisfy that condition (save one), its purpose was to demonstrate the impossibility of doing so, to absolutely crush your soul and fill you with despair so that you would see no other hope than the work of Jesus Christ alone, so that the righteous would not live "by them" but by faith alone.