As believers, it is crucial to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the foundational truths of biblical Christianity. Paul lays out the basics of faith in Romans. The study of this amazing book has had a profound influence on my life. Paul’s teaching in Romans 7 has led me to walk in freedom, as well as in Christian victory.
Those who have accepted salvation through Jesus Christ have been justified and are being sanctified. Those in Christ are saints. Positionally we are 100 % righteous, but practically there is still a struggle this side of heaven. The struggle is with the law’s demands or otherwise stated temptation. Paul discusses the struggle and the basis for victory in Romans 7.
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul begins with a wedding metaphor to describe how believers have died to the law and are alive in Christ. Two things happen when people accept Christ as Savior. (1) They become dead to the law (first husband). Paul describes that the marriage vows are “until death do us part.” To be able to marry another and keep the marriage vow, there needs to be a death. The believer has died with Christ. Then, (2) They become married to Christ (second husband). The believer is united with the risen, living Savior, who gives her new life, freedom, and victory.
Then, Paul proceeds in Romans 7:7-13 to describe himself before He became a believer. Paul writes about his life before his bar mitzvah and what happened immediately after. The term “bar mitzvah” means “son of the law.” Before a Jewish boy came of age (around 13), he was not officially responsible for keeping the commandments. In a sense, Paul was “once alive apart from the law” (v. 9) before the conscience awoke, and moral responsibility came in. However, when this occurred (as a result of his bar mitzvah), the innocent stage was over. He writes I was conscious of sin, of violation of the law. Paul declares, “I was dead before, but I did not know. Now I found out that I was spiritually dead.” The law brought Paul the knowledge of sin and the need for a savior. Therefore, the law is “holy, righteous, and good” (v. 12), certainly not to be blamed. John Stott notes: “The extreme sinfulness of sin is seen precisely in the way it exploits a good thing (the law) for an evil purpose (death).”
Paul then writes in Romans 7:14-24 that, at times, as a believer, he is trapped by being law-focused or self-focused. It is of some importance to note that Paul does not mention the Spirit in this section. The section describes a “Law-focus” or “Self-focus,” which by its very nature prevents a person from focusing on Christ and His salvific work. Therefore, I believe the Christian life described in Romans 7:13-24, although it may be described as average, certainly is not normal. In fact, it’s abnormal. If you were to go through a hospital wing, the average temperature could be 103, but we call this temperature abnormal because we know that a normal temp is around 98.6. Similarly, the passage may describe the average situation you have observed that Christians find themselves in, but this is abnormal. God has a better way, which is normal for the Christian life.
Paul is frustrated that now that he has experienced salvation and is no longer a slave to sin, he finds himself still struggling with temptation and sin. Through Christ, we have become justified before God. The Word of God informs, calls, corrects and encourages us. The problem is that we, in the flesh, are still part of the fallen world. Legally, our problem of guilt before God has been resolved – we are acquitted. However, we still await the full redemption that will occur when Christ returns. We are justified. We are being sanctified. We will be glorified. However, in our present reality, we battle with temptation. The individual described by Paul in Romans 7:14-24 is a Believer who has turned away from focusing on Christ. Instead, he is focused on self and the law, grieving or quenching the Spirit, rendering him impotent. With genuine transparency and honesty, Paul has given us an analysis of this “perspective” as he has sometimes experienced in his Christian life. Paul cries out for relief from the struggle, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (v. 24)?
Finally, Paul provides the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). Paul describes that a believer’s deliverer is and always has been Jesus Christ. The answer to the question of “who will deliver me” (v. 24) is found only in our Lord. There must be yielding to the power of Christ. We must look away from oneself and onto Christ. This “focus” upon either the law or Christ can change from moment to moment. Therefore, it is imperative to be mindful of where your focus is centered. This life of faith allows for the fantastic sanctifying work of God to be established in our lives. For the believer, the issue is our focus. We are to be focused on Christ (NORMAL CHRISTIAN: Christ-focused). We get in trouble when we look to self or law to live rightly (ABNORMAL CHRISTIAN: Self or Law focused). The cure is to stop looking at self or law and focus once again on Christ (NORMAL CHRISTIAN: Christ-focused). Only through focusing on Jesus Christ can we find victory over temptation and a feeling of condemnation, which Paul addresses in Romand 8. Only through focusing on Christ can the believer win the battle against sin. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!