Still Serving The Law Of Sin?
December 3, 2015
Rom. 7:7-25 is a passage which many use when they teach that Christians (who they acknowledge as being Christ-followers) will continue to sin. They claim that, yes, even as we are submitting to Christ, we will, in our sinful nature, be submitting (uncontrollably sometimes and deliberately at other times) to sin. These teachers, in spite of what verses 24 and 25 actually state (as well as what the next two verses, 8:1,2, state) –that Jesus has rescued us from the law of sin and death– they often finish their declaration by quoting the last part of verse 25 as if it supports their doctrine. It doesn’t.
If we read Rom. 7:24,25 directly from the Greek/English Interlinear, with no words added or omitted, it reads like this: “O wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks, moreover, to God through Jesus Christ, the Lord of us! So then, I myself, with the mind, indeed serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.”
These two verses conclude the passage about humankind’s struggle with sin by giving the answer for it. The answer, these two verses tell us, is Jesus! The answer is that Jesus has rescued us from the law of sin and its realm of death! Rom. 8:1,2 repeat this wonderful news: Those abiding in Christ Jesus are no longer under condemnation from God, because, through Christ, the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death. Verses 3 and 4 in ch. 8 go on to affirm that God’s moral law, which in ch. 7 is described as good yet impotent in delivering us from sin’s power, can be met (conformed to / followed / obeyed) by those who live by the Spirit! Scripture confirms this doctrine repeatedly (such as in Rom. ch. 6, Gal. 5:16, Col. 2:11,12 & 3:1-3, 1 John 3:6-10, etc).
Instead of Rom. 7:7-25 being a supporting passage for the doctrine that Christ-followers will, until physical death, continue struggling in (with / against) sin –thereby continuing to be wretched (corrupt / pathetic / wicked / sinful) people, this passage draws a word picture that proclaims how wonderful our emancipation from sin is! It is describing that in ourselves, being yet separated from the Deliverer, we are “unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” (v. 14) Indeed, we cannot carry out the good we want to do (v. 18,19) because the flesh –our own being without Christ– has already been claimed by the evil one, worked on by him to become increasingly decayed and corrupted, and are thus, along with him, under condemnation, the death realm, and Hell. We are prisoners of the law of sin which is abiding and at work within us. (v. 18,21-23) However! This horrid situation is not the reality for the person abiding in Christ!
Instead, Romans chapter 7, as well as the two chapters surrounding it (chapters 6 and 8), are proclaiming to us the Good News of Deliverance! Rom. 7:6 says that “by dying to what once bound us… we serve in the new way of the Spirit…” which means to be controlled by the Spirit alone. (8:9) Truly we have “died to sin” (6:2) and so cannot live in sin any longer (same verse), nor any longer be controlled by the sinful nature (7:5), for we have crucified our old self by being united with Christ. (6:5-7 & 8:13) This is the Christ-follower’s reality, for we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (6:18) Although we used to offer ourselves to sin (sinfulness), we do so no longer (v. 19) for we have been freed up to be controlled by righteousness –which leads to holiness. (same verse) Therefore, instead of reaping death (v. 21) because of sin’s subjugation of us (v. 20), we now, because we “have become slaves to God” (v. 22), reap holiness (same verse), with the result being eternal life! (same verse)
Rom. 6:16 tells us plainly that we are slaves to the one we obey. It says that if we obey sin (if we commit sin), we bear fruit for death, whereas if we follow obedience, we walk the path of righteousness. Doing righteousness reaps holiness (v. 22) and eternal life (same verse), as I’ve already pointed out, and this is the only way to abide in and with the Lord. (Heb. 12:14 // 1 John 3:10,24)
Let’s again look at Rom. 7:24,25 from the Greek/English Interlinear: “O wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks, moreover, to God through Jesus Christ, the Lord of us! So then, I myself, with the mind, indeed serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.” Someone may say that the word “indeed” in the last sentence should be changed around so that it says, “So then, I myself, indeed with the mind, serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.” That’s okay. But these are the only two ways I believe it could be said if we do not add or omit any words.
So, does Rom. 7:25 say that those serving God’s law are also, with another part of their being, serving the sinful nature remaining within them? No, but many people read the extra in. Is the verse teaching that delivered (saved) people serve God and serve sin? It’s not. Does this verse, along with verse 24, tell us that Jesus delivers us from sin? Yes. So can verse 25 legitimately be used as support in declaring, “I’m saved, but I’m still a slave to my sinful nature”? No, it cannot, and the Greek shows it. Even so, this, or close to this, is how several Bible versions render the last sentence of the chapter: “So then with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my sinful nature, I serve the law of sin.” (Some have “flesh” rather than “sinful nature”.) Either way, the translators are adding words to say what the text is absolutely not saying. The NLT says, “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.” Wow. Now that’s called paraphrasing the Greek according to one’s bias!
Rom. 7:7-25 needs to be read in its context. And if any statement seems to be contradicting other statements from God’s Word –especially within a verse of each other! –then we should interpret it in light of the rest of Scripture, compare different translations, and even look up how it is worded in the original Greek –things biblehub, by the way, makes available for internet users. (For this post, I began here: http://biblehub.com/romans/7-25.htm )
Let’s not let our biases dictate for us how we interpret the Word of God. Regarding Rom. 7:24,25, therefore, as well as the whole often-misrepresented chapter, let’s teach it correctly –that Jesus has delivered us from our servitude to sin –from struggling with it, obeying it, committing it.
Then we can progress into holiness (Heb. 6:1) and focus on encouraging one another in how to abide in our Deliverer proactively (John 15:1-10) –that it happens by feeding on the Word (6:53-63) and walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) through praise, prayer, and doing what He commands.