Romans Chapter 7 Bible Study and Commentary

Today, we will take a look at the meaning of Romans 7, a chapter that serves as a mirror to our own spiritual battles. In this letter from the apostle Paul, we find ourselves confronted with the raw honesty of a man wrestling with his own nature, a struggle that resonates with believers across the ages. We’ll get into the heart of this message, discovering the hope and redemption that await those who dare to confront their innermost struggles and find strength and transformation in the power of Christ’s love.

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What is the Main Point of Romans 7

In Romans 7, Paul vividly portrays the tension between the law’s righteous standards and humanity’s innate inclination towards sin. Through his own introspective reflections, Paul illustrates the experience of wrestling with the desires of the flesh and the longing to live in obedience to God’s law. 

Yet, amidst this struggle, he emphasizes the hope found in Christ, who frees believers from the bondage of sin and empowers them to live victoriously through His Spirit. Ultimately, Romans 7 serves as reminder of humanity’s desperate need for salvation and the profound grace and mercy extended to us through Jesus Christ.

Romans Chapter 7:1-6 Summary – Released From the Law

Paul uses the example of a married woman to explain how we were once bound to the law, but have now been released through the death of Christ. This segment of Paul’s letter to the Romans shows the tension between the law, sin, and the redemptive power of Christ.

Verse 1

Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

The apostle Paul begins with another rhetorical question, directing our attention to the principle of legal authority. He reminds us that the law’s jurisdiction extends only as far as life permits. 

This greek word for “jurisdiction” means to be lord of. Law has rule or reign over a person only while they are living. Death ends all contracts and obligations.

Verse 2

For the married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.

I love how Paul uses the illustration of marriage to help us wrap our minds around his main point.

He shows the relationship between the believer and the law. Just as marriage vows endure until death, so too does the law’s hold on us—until Christ intervenes.

Romans 7:3

So then, if while her husband is alive she gives herself to another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress if she gives herself to another man.

Here, Paul shows the consequences of breaking the law. Adultery, a breach of marital fidelity, parallels our violation of God’s law. However, through Christ’s death, we’re freed from the condemnation of sin.

Verse 4

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in regard to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Here, Paul unveils the heart of the matter: our deliverance from the law through Christ’s sacrificial death. 

This idea takes us back to the ideas that were discussed in Romans 6 about our union with Christ. 

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all time; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:9-11

Sin and death no longer rule and reign over us. By dying with Christ, we’re released from the law’s dominion and ushered into a new covenant relationship with Him, one characterized by grace and empowerment for righteous living.

Verses 5-6

Romans 7:6

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were brought to light by the Law, were at work in the parts of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

We learned back in Romans chapter 3 that the ultimate purpose of the law was to point us to our need for a different kind of Savior. The law of Moses did a great job at exposing sin, but it couldn’t make us righteous. Paul will discuss this further in the next section of chapter 7.

because by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:20

Under the old covenant, our sinful nature prevailed, leading to spiritual death.

In Christ, we have been freed from the law’s condemnation. We are now empowered to live by the Spirit, not by rigid adherence to legalism. It’s not about following rules anymore; it’s about embracing a dynamic relationship with God through His Spirit.

Romans 7:7-11 Summary – Sin’s Enticement

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In this passage, Paul begins to show us how believers still wrestle with the tension between sinful desires and our new nature according to the new life and new way of the Spirit.

Verse 7

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Far from it! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 

Paul confronts a crucial question head-on: Is the law itself sinful? His emphatic response is a resounding “No!” Instead, he highlights the law’s role as a moral instructor, shedding light on the nature of sin. 

The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals what is there but hidden. You can’t blame an x-ray for what it exposes. – David Guzik, Enduring Word Commentary

Verse 8

But sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

Paul unveils a sobering truth: the law, while exposing sin, also provides fertile ground for its growth. Like a cunning opportunist, sin capitalizes on the law’s commands to incite desires contrary to God’s will. 

Once God draws a boundary line for us, we are immediately enticed to cross it – which is no fault of God or His boundary; God’s boundaries are meant to protect and keep us from evil.  The fault is our own sinful hearts.

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death. – James 1:14-15

Verses 9-11

I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin came to life, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it, killed me.

The law, intended to guide us towards righteousness and life, instead becomes an instrument of death. It highlights our sinful nature and shows our inability to fulfill its righteous requirements. 

Sin is full of false promises. It tells us that it will provide pleasure, but instead, it leaves us wanting more. It promises an escape when it, actually, puts us in bondage. It promises a life of excitement and enjoyment, but, actually, it leads towards death and despair.

Sin is a cunning predator. It distorts our understanding and entities us into disobedience ultimately leading to spiritual death.

Romans 7:12-21 Explained- Sin and The Law

Now, Paul explains two spiritual conflicts at work within us.

Verse 12-13

So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? Far from it! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by bringing about my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

Paul confirms, again, that the law itself is not the problem. Paul clarifies that the law’s role in exposing sin doesn’t render it inherently evil. Instead, it magnifies sin’s true nature, and shows us our desperate need for a Savior.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. – Psalm 19:7-8

Verses 14-15

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.

Here, Paul candidly confesses the internal conflict that plagues every believer—the tension between our desire to do what is right and our propensity to sin.

We read in Galatians chapter 5:

For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want. – Galatians 5:17

God could have very easily removed our old sinful nature from us at the moment of salvation. But He didn’t. Why?

God wants us to remember and recognize our weaknesses of the flesh. This battle between the Spirit and the flesh keep us dependent on His grace, and it reminds us of what we have been saved from. Our weakness reminds us to be thankful for the work of Christ on the cross.

Verse 16

However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. 

Despite his struggles, Paul affirms the goodness of God’s law, recognizing its authority and righteousness.

Romans 7:17-21

Romans 7:18-20

But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.

Here, Paul captures the frustrating reality of his condition—a cycle of sin and failure despite his earnest desire to do what is right. Paul reiterates the dichotomy between his renewed inner self in Christ and the evil nature that dwells within him. Despite his identity in Christ, sin’s influence remains.

We must be careful that we don’t use this battle between the flesh and the Spirit as an excuse for sinful behavior. Not only do we still have the sinful nature, but we also have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The spiritual force of Spirit is more powerful than the spiritual force of sin. 

Galatians 5:16 says, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Verse 22-23

For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts.

Here’s the deal: deep down in the inward man, we genuinely love God’s law. It resonates with us at our core. As image bearers of God, we’re wired to desire what’s right and good. This desire is even more energized when we receive the Spirit of God.

But let’s be real—there’s a constant battle going on. The desire of our human nature clashes with our desire to do the good thing we desire.

Verse 24

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?

Ever felt like you’re just stuck in a rut? It happens to the best of us. But here’s the good news: we’re not in this fight alone.

Verse 25

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Boom! Victory shout right here! Our Lord Jesus Christ is our ultimate rescuer. He breaks the chains of sin and sets us free from the grip of death. It’s all about Him and His incredible power to save.

Yes, we still struggle with evil desires. It’s part of being human. But here’s the thing—we’re not defined by our struggles. We’re defined by our Savior.

So, my friend, take heart! In Christ, you’re not just a struggling sinner. You’re a redeemed child of God, empowered by His Spirit to live victoriously. Keep pressing on, keep leaning into His grace, and keep walking in His ways.

Though the struggle against sin may seem insurmountable at times, let us take heart in the truth that we are not alone. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has conquered sin and death, offering us freedom and newness of life. So, let us embrace the hope found in Him, leaning on His strength to overcome every obstacle and pressing forward in the journey of faith. As we continue to walk in the light of His love, may Romans 7 serve as a reminder that our struggles are not in vain, but rather, they point us toward the ultimate victory that awaits us in Christ.

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