Imagine that you were given a car, but it wouldn’t start. Then someone said, you need a new alternator, so you put it in but it still balked at starting. Next, a friend suggested better tires. A mechanic said the new advanced computer control system, and finally the parts store suggested their top of the line battery. All of which you did, but you cried, “The go that I desired, I don’t go, but the stop that I don’t want, I accomplish. Who will rescue me from my distress.” That is Rom 7 in a nutshell. (Rom 8 says, “You are out of gas, fill the tank.”)
Rom 6 and 7 is really divided awkwardly. The divisions were added hundreds of years after Paul. Rom 6 gave two illustrations of why we are separated from sin and united to God. First we died and were raised to new life. The second is that we were slaves to sin but are now slaves to God. The first part of Rom 7 has a third illustration that really belongs with ch 6. That is of marriage. If you are married and get in bed with another person, you have committed adultery. You are bound to the person. If the spouse dies, the covenant ends immediately. You are released from the law. You are now free to be joined to another.
We were joined to the law. We were bound to it. Remember, we call the two parts of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. We could have equally called them the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Before Jesus, everyone was bound in the Old Testament or Covenant. Once the spiritual death occurred for any one man, the old covenant ended for that man. He was now free to join a new covenant. He was married to (joined to) Jesus so that we might bear fruit for God.
While we were bound to the law, sinful passions were aroused by the law. Now comes more “May it never be” questions. If the law caused those passions, it must be evil. May it never be! The Law is good. It teaches us how to live, but sin, taking opportunity, entices us to evil, and kills us. Was the good law a cause of death for me? May it never be! Sin is shown to be evil by effecting my death through the good law. We recently had a politician claim that when a man commits adultery, it is the wife’s fault for not supplying his needs. That is the same false argument that blames the good law for what sin does. The man did the evil deed. If there was a problem in the marriage, they could have gone for counseling, but he chose not to and chose sin instead.
Now we are ready for the heart of Romans 7, the depths of the valley that will lead us to the mountaintop of Rom 8. Our heart cry is “The go that I desired, I don’t go, but the stop that I don’t want, I accomplish. Who will rescue me from my distress.” We have been justified, given the gift of righteousness, and finally grace reigning to eternal life. This is like all those changes we made to the car, changes that will make it run great, but don’t yet. The good that I want to do, I don’t do, but the evil I don’t want to do, I am powerless to stop. I have died to sin, I am enslaved to Jesus, I have a new covenant, so why does sin still have power over me? Notice a similarity to the law; The law was good, but powerless to stop me from sinning vs. the gifts of God are good, but powerless to stop me from sinning. Remember the story of Peter. He saw Jesus die and went and locked himself in the room. He saw the resurrected Jesus and locked himself in the room. He saw Jesus taken up to heaven and locked himself (always along with the other disciples) in the room. Then something happened to change him completely. That is Rom 8.