Romans 7

Chapters seven and eight demonstrate the wrong and right ways, respectively, of living out in practice what chapter six taught in theory. Continuing his theme from chapter six, Paul used marriage as an illustration of a Jewish believer’s tie with the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:1-6). Just like a marriage bond is broken when one spouse dies, so too when a Jewish person believes and is baptized into Christ and his death, that Jewish believer is no longer bound to the Law. Instead, he “may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.”

The rest of chapter seven is hotly debated as to whether Paul was speaking of himself before his salvation or afterward. Some find it difficult to see a regenerated Paul struggling with sin and the Law, especially given what he had just written in chapter six. However, as a highly respected Pharisee who was zealous for the Law and rising in the ranks more quickly than those around him (see Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:14), even his encounter with Jesus en route to Damascus would not have caused Paul to drop the “baggage” from being so deeply entrenched in Judaism.

It seems more likely that Paul was remembering his early days as a believer, still trying to obey the law on his own (Romans 7:9). Instead of successful obedience, though, he found himself struggling even harder with sin. He knew that God’s law was “holy, righteous, and good,” but he could not force himself to obey it, because his sin nature rebelled harder against more rules that were put into place. So, he found himself doing exactly what he did not want to do, not because he was not trying to obey, but because he was trying too hard. In a sense, obedience had become his god. This led him to his famous cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)