Romans 7–8: Law & Grace

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 4: Sunday

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.
Romans 7:6

Today’s Bible reading is Romans 7–8. If you’re reading this post and you’ve never read Romans before, take the time to read the prior chapters of this letter. To understand the freedom, slavery and conflict of these chapters, you must first comprehend the plight of each of us before God without the grace that is only found through faith alone in Christ Jesus.

I wrote last week that chapter 7 continues an explanation Paul began in chapter 6. I want to backtrack to that chapter and review. In chapter 6, Paul answered the charge, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” with “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” He goes on to explain that Christians have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection, and in the last part of chapter 6, he writes about what that means to us in terms of living in obedience to God.

(This is why it’s so important to read the prior chapters to follow what Paul is now saying. He has already written that the whole world is accountable to God, for all have sinned, and no one is justified in God’s sight because of their works. The good news of the Gospel is that the righteousness of God is revealed through faith in the Lord Jesus for all who believe in Him. In Romans 4, he talked about Abraham as he further explained justification by faith and the relationships between the Law, faith, and righteousness).

Picking back up in chapter 6, Paul teaches we have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection. In Christ we have died to sin. In Christ we are alive to God.

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:10–11

We have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection so that we might now walk in the newness of life. We are now freed from slavery to sin and enslaved to God. Paul commands: “Do not let sin reign…” “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin…” “Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead…” “[Present] your members as instruments of righteousness…” Why? “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” The very reason sin shall not be our master is that we are now under grace!

The last part of  chapter 6 then leads into chapter 7. In Romans 7:1-6, Paul again details for believers in Christ their relationship to the Law—through Christ we have died to the Law and we are released from it. In verse 6, there’s a key point: “…we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Remember that!

In Romans 7:7-13, Paul reiterates that the Law is good, and that it was sin taking opportunity through the commandment that produced in him coveting of every kind, deceived him, and killed him. Do not do this—being sinners, we do it. Do this—being sinners, we refuse. If we see a sign saying, don’t touch the wet paint—we doubt the sign or defy it, and we want to touch the wet paint. Our sin doesn’t make the Law wrong—the Law reveals God’s standard of righteousness, and it also serves to reveal our rebellion. Francis Schaeffer states this is a good purpose of the Law—to show us our need for Christ.1 He writes (emphasis added):

“The law is spiritual. It has a good purpose. I am free from the law when I accept Jesus as my Savior, in the sense that it no longer binds me (7:1-4). I am no longer condemned by the law. Still, however, the law sets before me the character of God. The law sets before me what it means to love God. And as I look at the law, I realize that “I am carnal, sold under sin.” The problem is not the law. The problem is me.

“Beginning with verse 15, Paul describes his own ongoing struggle with sin even after becoming a Christian.”2

Read Romans 7:14–23, to understand Paul’s cry in 7:24–25:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 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.
Romans 7:24-25

In introducing Romans 8, Schaeffer writes (emphasis added):

“…the law is not enough to save us, and it is not enough to sustain us after we have been saved. Both before and after we become Christians we need the power of Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. In chapter 8, Paul introduces us to the Holy Spirit specifically as the agent of Christ’s power in our lives.”3

Paul has clearly shown us two things about ourselves: as sinners we have no righteousness of our own that can save us, we must have Christ’s; as believers we have no righteousness of our own that can sustain us, we must have Christ’s.

Have you realized that not only must you have Christ to be righteous before God, but you must have Christ to live righteously before God? Have you understood your inability to walk and live rightly before God? For those who cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?” we can also cry out with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Paul speaks words of grace to those who know their need for deliverance:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1a*

Only those who know they need grace, are ready to hear grace. Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord!


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
1Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 179–180.
2Ibid., 182.
3Ibid., 187.
*I will have additional posts on Romans 8.

Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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