Question 15: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose? - Romans 7:1-8:4

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QUESTION: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?

ANSWER: That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior. The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.

Have you ever done something or said something that was contrary to what you actually believe? If so, what was it? Why do you think you did/said what you did?

Romans 7:1-8:4
Romans 7
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 8:1–4
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
  • True Christianity gives real power for fundamental transformation so we can live an abundant life.
  • All humanity is born under the power of sin, which works in our lives to divide us and ultimately kill us. 
  • The gospel displaces the power of sin, through the death of Jesus, so that those in Christ now live with the power of the Spirit. 
  • Even though Christians may not always experience this, it is now true that the power of the Spirit is actually stronger than the power of sin so that the Christian no longer has to obey sin.
  • Because the divided self is a universal human phenomenon, societies have various approaches to dealing with it such as “reassure yourself,” “you need more self-control,” and “be true to yourself.”  Which of these approaches has most resonated with you? Why? 
  • How does the Gospel challenge these three approaches? 

  • The good news of Christianity is that God doesn't condemn you in your divided self while also not ignoring the obvious evil and destruction that results from the divided self.  
  • The new “law” for Christians is that the power of the Spirit is mightier than the law of sin. 

  • This week, look for expressions of the divided self and all the ways people in our society deal with it.  Spend time meditating on the reality of the “law the Spirit” and how revolutionary that really is for Christians, and how needed it is in the world today. 

Giver of All Good Gifts, your law reveals to us what is just. Though it condemns us, through it we know how great is your holiness and how perfect is your Son. Though we fall short, may we always give you thanks and praise for your law and rejoice that we have a Savior. Amen.