Romans chapter seven is one of the chapters many use to say
that the Law of God is abolished. You will see,
through careful study, that this chapter says no such thing.
This would be a contradiction in Paul's writing if it did.
Up until now, Paul has been supporting the practice of God's
law. Why would he then in chapter seven sharply contradict the first six
chapters? The specific verses
people use to support such an idea are verses one through
seven, but this article will cover the entire chapter.
If you would like to read my articles starting from chapter
one, please click
What is Law?
If you have been reading the entire article on the
book of Romans, you now know that Paul sometimes
means something different by the word "law"
than most people think. Terms like, "the
law worketh wrath" (Rom. 4:15), or being
"under the law" (Rom. 6:14) refer not
to the commandments of God, but the penal clause
"was added because of transgressions, till the
seed should come" (Gal. 3:19). This penal
clause represents God's wrath towards man, of which
all of us were under at some point in our lives.
A simple understanding of how law works will reveal
this. For example, California has a
Mandatory Seat Belt Law
C Section 27315). There is also another law
enforcing this Mandatory Seat Belt Law called a fine,
and it carries a minimum set penalty and court fees.
So, there is the first law (Mandatory Seat Belt Law)
and the second law (Fines) enforcing the first.
Scriptural law is the same. There is a law
that we are to follow called God's law/commandments and there are
laws enforcing God's law called the penal clause, or
as Paul puts it "curses" (Gal. 3:10, 13). The
law that Paul is sometimes speaking of, is the penal
clause to God's law. The context gives us a
clue to which law Paul is speaking of. As Paul
stated in Galatians, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of
the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13).
"The curse of the law," "The law [that] worketh
wrath," and being, "under the law" are
all contexts where Paul is referring to the penal
clause, and not God's commandments. This law
was added because of transgression.
For those who have faith in the Messiah, this law of penalties
(curses) is gone.
It is also worth noting that a judge can wave the fine, even
today, but he cannot repeal the Seat Belt Law. Someone
can pay my fine for me, but the law will remain.
God's law is the same. Someone can pay for my fine
(which is what the Messiah did), but God's law will be
forever (Deut. 12:28). Those who practice faith in the
Messiah need not fear the curse of the law because through
the Holy Spirit they are, "walk[ing] in the Spirit" (Gal.
5:16, Eze. 36:27).
This in no
way implies that the Law of God would end when the Messiah
came. The Messiah has replaced the "curse" of the law,
not the law. This only describes the purpose of God's
penal clause, until the Messiah came. Once the Messiah
came, did He remove the law? On the contrary, the
Messiah endorsed the law (Matt. 5:17-18), and He, "magnif[ied]
the law, and [made] it honourable" (Is. 42:21).
With this in mind, let's look at Romans chapter
We Have Become Dead to the
The point to this section is that we are, "dead
to the law" (Rom. 7:4), but what does this
mean? The Apostle starts out, "Know ye
not, brethren, ... how that the law hath dominion
over a man as long as he liveth" (Rom. 7:1).
The question to ask is, how does a law have
"dominion" over a man? The answer is
clear, the law has dominion over us through the
"curses" or penalties of that law. It is the
penalties of the law that enforce the law, or has
dominion over us. The example given is that of
a husband and wife. "For the woman which
hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband
so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead,
she is loosed from the law of her husband"
(Rom. 7:2). If a woman marries another man,
while her husband is alive, she is an
"adulteress," but if her husband is dead, she
is free from the law of adultery (Rom. 7:3).
The penalty for adultery is gone once her husband is
dead, but the adultery law is not. If she
marries another, after her first husband is dead,
does she now get to commit adultery, because the
adultery law is abolished? The answer is no,
she still has to follow the adultery laws concerning
her new husband. This is a clear reference to
the penal clause of the law (curses) and not the
commandments. To be free from the law of
adultery is to not receive the penalties of
adultery. Paul then makes the statement that
many use to say God's law is abolished,
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to
the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be
married to another, even to him who is raised from
the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God"
(Rom. 7:4). Keep in mind, this does not say
that the law is dead, but we are dead. The law
is not dead, but we died to the penalties of the law
when we put our faith in the Messiah.
Here is an example. Imagine someone is
prosecuted for a crime in court. They have
broken numerous laws, all of which require a death
penalty. The judge sentences this person to
death, but to everyone's surprise, the judges own
son, who has never broken any laws, volunteers to
take the penalty for him. This is what the
Messiah did for us. He paid for the penalty of
our sins. The judge decides to pardon him for
his crimes and says, "you are now free to go and
break any laws you want, because my son has paid the
penalty for your crimes." This would be an
absurd statement. No one in their right mind
would accept this statement, but this is exactly
what most believer's today believe God did
concerning His Law.
Paul is referring to the penalties (curses) of God's
law here in chapter seven, not the law
(commandments). He confirms this in the next
three verses. "For when we were in the
flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law,
did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto
death" (Rom. 7:5). Before we put our
faith in the Messiah, sin worked in us bringing
forth fruit unto death, which comes from the
penalties of God's law. "But now we are
delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we
were held; that we should serve in newness of
spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter"
(Rom. 7:6). We are delivered, "from the
curse of the law," for the Messiah has been,
"made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Paul
is clearly talking about the penal clause to the
Mosaic law, and not the law itself. Otherwise
Paul could not make the following statement,
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.
Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had
not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt
not covet" (Rom. 7:7). Are we now
allowed to covet, commit adultery, steal, bear false
witness, or murder, now that the Messiah has paid
the penalty for our sins? Of course not.
What about break the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8), wear mixed
fabric (Lev. 19:19), eat genetically modified foods
(Lev. 19:19), or not put the 10 Commandments on our
door posts (Deut. 6:9)? I contend that the
Messiah's death removed none of God's law, except
the penalties (Leviticus 26 & Deuteronomy 28).
"But sin, taking occasion by the commandment,
wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For
without the law sin was dead" (Rom. 7:8).
Remember, the purpose of the law was so that sin,
"might abound," but the end result is that,
"grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20).
Sin, through the commandment, caused us to sin all
the more, but without the law, "sin was dead."
This brings up an interesting point. If the
law of God is abolished, wouldn't that mean there is
no more sin. Just look around, if there is sin
still in the world, the law of God is still in
The Reign of Sin: (Romans 7:9-25)
This next section of scripture can be very
confusing. Paul will now use a first person
singular present tense to explain past events.
He uses the word "I," indicating himself,
but it is used in a generic sense and the
application is for all. We know this by the
way verse nine starts, "For I was alive without
the law once: but when the commandment came, sin
revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9). The
words "for" and "once" indicate
Paul is telling a story. Today we might start
this like, "Once upon a time, ..." The rest of
this chapter is the telling of this generic story of
how God's law affects man. We know this
because the law came 1,500 years before Paul.
He was never, "without the law," which
proves Paul is speaking figuratively. Paul is
describing what it was like for someone who lived
before the Mosaic law. When God finally
brought His law to this world, the result was,
"sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9).
"And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I
found to be unto death" (Rom. 7:10).
Imagine the surprise. God finally gave His law
to the world, but instead of bringing life, it
brought death. It is important to remember,
the law has been here since the Garden of Eden.
Otherwise Abraham could not have followed God's law
(Gen. 26:5). When Moses received the law of
God in writing, it also came with the penal clause.
This penal clause was, "added because of
transgressions, till the seed should come"
(Gal. 3:19). It is the penal clause that
brings death and deceived us. Which is why
Paul said, "For sin, taking occasion by the
commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me"
(Rom. 7:11). Despite this, Paul's conclusion
of the law is, "Wherefore the law is holy, and
the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom.
7:12). Though the law does not serve the
purpose we thought, it does have a purpose, which is
why it is, "holy, and just, and good."
The law, with it's penal clause, does exactly what
God wants it to do, which is to identify sin and
make it to, "become exceeding[ly] sinful"
(Rom. 7:13). The law (penal clause) gave sin
the power to convict us and make us guilty.
Paul then explains the difference between us and the
law. "The law is spiritual: but I am
carnal, sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14). Keep
in mind, we are still speaking of the past, though
using the first person. Paul was not at the
time of this epistle, "sold under sin."
If he was, how could he have just stated that we are,
"dead to sin" (Rom. 6:2), that we are,
"freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7, 18, 22),
and that, "sin shall not have dominion over you"
(Rom. 6:14). Paul clearly is not speaking of
the present, but of the past. Man was
,"sold under sin" when the law (penal clause)
came. When the Messiah came, we were,
"freed from sin." Then an explanation is
given of how the law accomplishes it's purpose.
"For that which I do I allow not: for what I
would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I"
(Rom. 7:15). When, "sold under sin,"
though we know what is right, we do not do so.
Since we do what we don't want to do, it proves that
the law is good, or has accomplished it's purpose
(Rom. 7:16). "Now then it is no more I
that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom.
7:17). Sin, through the penal clause, has
caused me to sin exceedingly (Rom. 7:13). This
does not remove the responsibility from man, but
rather explains how the process has happened.
We still made the choice to sin, but God's law has
made us aware of our sin. For in man,
"dwelleth no good thing," which is why we chose
sin. Though the will to do right is,
"present with me," I still cannot, "perform
that which is good" (Rom. 7:18). "For
the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I
would not, that I do" (Rom. 7:19). Man
makes the wrong choice even though he knows right.
This is sin working through the commandments (Rom.
7:20). This then is a law, that, "when I
would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom.
7:21). Please remember, Paul is still speaking
of the past using a first person present voice.
Paul is now going to transition into the present.
"For I delight in the law of God after the
inward man: But I see another law in my
members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which
is in my members" (Rom. 7:22-23). This is
the final explanation of man under the law.
Before the Messiah came, two laws were present
warring against each other. The law of my
mind, which wanted to follow God's law, and the law
of sin, with brings us into captivity. We are
now in a predicament where we may want to follow
God's law, but we can't. Enter in, the
Messiah. "O wretched man that I am! who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So
then with the mind I myself serve the law of God;
but with the flesh the law of sin" (Rom.
7:24-25). The work of the Messiah has brought
us His Spirit. This Holy Spirit takes away
sin's dominion over us (Rom. 6:14) and gives us the
power to follow God's law (Gal. 5:16, 25, Eze.
36:27). The result is that, "there is
therefore now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but
after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). Now we are
in the present, and this problem has been solved.
The Messiah has conquered sin and given us His
Spirit to help us follow God's law.
To sum up chapter seven is difficult, but simply
put, the Apostle Paul is telling the history of man
and God's law. From the Garden of Eden until
Moses man knew God's law. They had to or
Abraham could not have followed it (Gen. 26:5).
This law was not written down, but it was known.
How else could Noah have known the difference
between a clean and unclean animal (Gen. 8:20).
When God gave the law to Moses, He also gave the
penalties as well. These penalties gave sin
the power to convict us, and as a result, we were,
"sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14). As Paul told the
Corinthians, "The sting of death is sin; and the
strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to
God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:56-57). The
Messiah came and conquered sin for us (1 Pet. 2:24).
As a result, He took the penalty of the law upon
Himself so we don't have to. To continue this
study in Romans chapter eight please click