A Fresh Look at the Book of Romans-Chapter 7
Romans Chapter 7
All commentators agree on one thing about this chapter and that is, it is one of the most difficult to understand in the Bible. No wonder Peter writes that some of the things Paul says are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). This also touches on a basic principle of Biblical Interpretation. Interpret difficult passages in the light of easier passages on the same subject. Keeping this in mind, several important facts come out of this chapter and related passages in Romans and in the rest of scripture.
Solid hermeneutics require students of the Bible to follow the following basic steps: Firstly what in the context of the passage. Then what is the obvious meaning of the passage. If that is difficult then look first at the same passages on the subject by the same writer. If that still does not help then go to the rest of scripture. After that there are still passages that are difficult to understand as Peter says about Pauls writings.
In the book of Romans Paul makes statements that if taken out of context can easily lead to confusion.
- In the last chapter, Paul stated clearly that eternal life is a gift from God (6:23). He also stated that the wages of sin is death. He was writing to a congregation in his time where the influence of the Law was still very strong. Many of the Hebrew believers, like Paul himself, had grown up with a great respect for the Old Testament Law and even the interpretations of the law as made by the rabbinic teachers. Religious celebrations, circumcision, temple worship, animal sacrifices and other regular rituals were ingrained in their thinking. How could they now be convinced that all that was no longer necessary? So he used the example of the marriage law of that time, showing that if someone died, a relationship that had previously existed no longer did. The danger exists in interpreting this statement about marriage as what God has instituted for the Christian. Rather Paul is using the laws that existed in his time simply to illustrate his point about the law.
- This is then followed by the statement that Christians had died to sin, a point he made in the previous chapter, where he stated that we died to sin when buried with Christ in the waters of baptism (6:3, 4). He can then hear the argument that many would make: “Of what value was the law then?” He answers that with an example of the fact that where there is no law people would not know about sin. Adam and Eve were given a law and then were tempted to break it. The idea of forbidden fruit being more tasty, comes to mind. We ;live in Adam and Eve's world and face temptation on a daily basis.
- Paul then uses one of the Old Testament Ten Commandments, covetousness, as an example. Perhaps something that everyone had battled with in their lives. “Thou shall not covert”. A temptation that moves in the lives of many a Christian. James says “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members”? (James 4:1 NKJV). John writes: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16, 16). Satan even tempted Jesus with this in the wilderness. What Paul seems to be saying is that in every person there is a war going on between the mind and the body, between the spirit and the flesh. One draws us one way and the other in a different direction. Paul here describes it as a battle/war taking place in his being (7:23 cp. Galatians 5:17). A battle that can only be won with the help of the Holy Spirit, as Paul will explain in the next chapter.
- This passage can be referred to as a demonstration of inadequacies. 1) The inadequacy of human knowledge. Knowing what is right and what is wrong is not enough, but acting on that knowledge is important. As the African proverb says;” Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand” 2) Inadequacy of human resolve. In the battle raging in every human life. The failure of Adam and Eve is also our failure. 3) The inadequacy of a solution on the basis of human will. We all need help to get right with God, and he took the initiative to provide the remedy in Christ Jesus This is because we could not do it by human effort, no matter how hard we try.
- As we now live the Christian life God has sent the Holy Spirit to help us to achieve what we need to do.
References: Scriptures taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Barclay, W. The Letter to the Romans
- Bruce, F. F. Romans an Introduction and Commentary