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Paul shifts gear in Romans 7 as he tackles how we can escape the penalty of sin. In verses 1 to 12 Paul presents sin as a contract. This contract simply can’t be broken because God’s righteous demand is that the penalty of sin can only be paid with blood. But this is how we break the contract: either the blood of Christ that leads us to heaven, or our own blood that leads to hell.

In the second half of the passage, verses 7 to 12, he tells us that it is the law that points us to our sin. Sin is subtle and caused Paul to sin by his following of it. his problem was he was depending on the law for his salvation and this led him away from God and thereby to sin. We are cautioned to avoid sin and any attempt to think our works and good merits will contribute anything to our salvation. To break the contract with sin we need to trust in the sacrificial blood of Jesus.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

Romans chapter 7 verses 1 to 12. If you thought Romans was easy so far, chapter 7 is the turning point. There's actually really two, two turning points in this book. Chapters 1 to 6 are pretty okay. We get what Paul's talking because it is the heart of the gospel. Chapter 7 to the end of chapter 11 are a little bit more hard for us. Because of the language Paul uses, the illustrations he uses and the logic he uses, um, it's a little bit distant from us and what we're particularly used to. And then he changes again in Romans 12, where having finished all of the theology that he wants to do in the first 11 chapters, he then moves into the practical outworking in chapter 12. I hope along the way we've been able to take some practical outworking, uh, with us as we've looked at what the text's saying, but it's really from chapter 12 onwards of how Paul teaches us to live all of this out, and so Romans really should be read and taught on in one sitting, but that could be days of one sitting. So we have to settle for a week at a time. And even as we've discovered in recent weeks, a week here and a week there. But Paul has attempted to be logical. He remember he's a solicitor. He's a lawyer. This is what he does. He's presented with an argument, and he responds to it. And tonight we see him responding as he's done a little bit before, but as will become more his habit in this letter. He will respond by anticipating what the other person is thinking. And sometimes that's helpful for us. Sometimes it's not. And tonight's passage is particularly hard. I'm, I'm, I'm gonna say that from the outset. I will do my best to try and navigate us through it. But there's simply things that, in this, that might be above us too much. And so, uh, we'll, we'll make our way through to see what God has to say. In the build up to this in chapter six, before we have this little bit of a shift in, in really Paul's drive, uh, we looked at the difficult idea that we are slaves to God as we trust in Christ. If you remember, that's how we finished off and as we saw back in chapter 6, being a slave to God was in fact freedom for us as we live within his righteousness that he gives to us through his son Jesus. And without almost a breath, Paul takes us into chapter 7 and gives us an understanding of how we can be released from the law. And when thinking about the law, Paul is not simply talking about one commandment, or indeed the ten commandments. He is talking about the full instruction, the full counsel of the Lord, of how we are to live well for him. And particularly in this New Testament age in which we live, what it means to live the gospel. And to help us out, Paul gives us the example of a contractual agreement. And I'm sure that you, like me, have been bound by a contract of some sort. It might be in your work. You sign a contract that confirms the number of hours per week you're to work and the duties that you're to undertake. And in return, you will be promised a certain remuneration. You'll be promised certain benefits, including holidays. And that's how a work contract works. Or it might be a mortgage agreement which is another contract with the bank. The bank promises to lend you a certain amount of money and then in return they say how you pay back that money monthly over a period of time. Contracts are important so that everyone knows exactly where they stand and that there's no question of what the agreement was. And there are usually ways to get out of these contracts. To end an employment contract, because you've found a new job, that usually entails a period of notification before you can leave. You can end your mortgage contract early by making the full payment and perhaps a hefty fee to complete that transaction to get you out of your mortgage. And so there are ways of legally getting out of contracts without breaking them and then incurring even more penalties. Well, Paul views the law as a contract, and he wants to let us know how we can be free from it. And in verse 1 of chapter 7, he speaks to those who know the law by saying, 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. Now remember who Paul is talking to. Yes, it's a church in Rome that is It's potentially multicultural, but it has a strong Jewish root. A strong Jewish source. And so that's how his argument is. He's trying to see how the whole of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That Jesus isn't simply a new add on or a new addition to the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods. What he's trying to show is that Christ fulfills. And what he's doing here in beginning in verse 1 of this new shift in what he's writing, he's making the foundational assertion that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives. He's saying that a person is freed from the law if he or she dies. Freedom from the law then and from its condemnation, to which we're all exposed due to our sin, is possible. But the price is too steep. It's so steep, in fact, that it would seem impossible and even undesirable to pay it. What benefit could anyone enjoy from a possession that cost them their lives to acquire it? And because, as we have thought, the only way that God's wrath for lawbreakers, the only way that his wrath can be satisfied, is with blood. Ours in eternal death, or Christ's as our substitute. And in verses 2 and 3, Paul gives us the practical working of this by giving the example of a marriage contract. And most people know how marriage works. And in this case, Roman law and Jewish law, as the laws of the Old Testament, they all agree. A lawfully wedded wife is bound to her husband as long as those vows are in effect. Till death do us part, is what we would, in our English language, traditionally say. Paul says that a wife is released from the law of marriage if her husband dies. Now, we shouldn't press on this too much to mean that Paul, um, sort of recognised no other ground for the dissolution of a marriage than the death of a spouse. He's speaking in broad terms for the sake of the illustration that he wants to make about the law, not outlining rules for the complexities of marriage and divorce in extreme or unusual circumstances. In general terms, a woman who is married but cohabits with another man is by definition an adulteress. For the law that bound her to her husband is still in effect. On the other hand, if the husband dies, then things are different. In this case, the husband's death frees her from the law's authority. She is free from her vow to her husband in accordance with the law of marriage and without being regarded as an adulteress. Now, the action of this theoretical woman A is the same in both scenarios. She cohabits with man B, but the difference lies solely in the status of man C. While he is still alive, her marriage runs afoul of the law. Once he dies, his wife's vows to him under the law is no longer in force, and so she is free from that law and its penalty, and can lawfully pledge herself So Paul uses this illustration, and in verse 4 he goes on to explain it, and in explaining it he gives two important pieces of information. First of all, that there's a fact here to be understood, and then there's an implication. So the fact that Paul gives us, uh, and to the Roman believers, is, um, that they have died to the law through the body of Christ. This is factual, in that Jesus of Nazareth the Christ most certainly died on the cross, crucifixion. Believer's death with him is mystical, in that it is God who reckons believers to have been present when Jesus's body expired. This is the case because Christ doesn't die over and over again for each believer. That's why it's worded like this. In effect, when Christ died, we were there. How that works, we do not know, because no human power can affect it again or fully comprehend that act. And it's doubly mystical in that the death sentence of the law and sinners, who thereby deserve to die, was also applied to Jesus, who had never broken the law and whose death for sinners was thereby totally of pure grace. Jesus didn't deserve to die, but he had to die. He's the only one who could die so that we would know that pure grace. So that's the fact. Jesus died for us. But the implication that Paul wants to point out is that believers formerly wed to sin and death. This is where the marriage illustration comes in. Wed to sin and death by the verdict of the law are now freed by Christ's death so that they can belong to one another and that is to be raised from the dead. And this implication has a purpose. The purpose of all of this is that we may bear fruit for God. Jesus's death and resurrection for sinners is not merely a rescue from eternal punishment by Christ's absorption of what the law decreed. It is, at the same time, like a, a rehabilitation for God's glorification by God's sovereign release of believers from condemned bondage to what Paul will later term in Romans 8 and verse 21, freedom of the glory of the children of God. And so it's no wonder that Paul is going through all of this, because this is what it's cost. And so he has a high expectation of how we will respond to it, and how we will live in it. We have been bought at such a price to be free from the law. Yes, someone had to die for us to know that freedom. Because if that person had not died, then we could not save ourselves. In verse 5, Paul makes it clear what it means to remain under the law. And again, in hearing this term, we must be aware that remaining is anyone who is depending on their own merits for their salvation. To remain in such a state will only lead to death because the sinful self and sin itself reign in our lives and not Christ. The only outcome of remaining is literally eternal death. Paul again is making it very clear. Perhaps he could have made it a wee bit clearer in how he gives his illustrations, but they were obviously relevant for that time. He makes it clear who we are, and he makes it clear what it has cost for us to know freedom. And so he continues with great news in verse 6 where he says, 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. Paul says there's a new way for us. Pentecost came, that day that Jews celebrated, and to many Jews was just a normal annual celebration of Pentecost. But as we know it recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles, that day was different. Because it was the day in which the Spirit of God came to dwell among his people. To be the comforter, to be the one who would urge us on. Who, who would give us unction from above that, that we would know and trust and believe. And so now we, we serve in this new way that is spirit led and spirit filled. And it's not the way of the old written code. And the written code wasn't something secret that had to be figured out. It's simply another way of saying God's law. The law was never meant to save. It was always to point us to a loving God who is the only one who can save us. The law told us. That we needed saving. It was not the code to salvation. And in many of our Bibles, there's now a natural break at this point. And Paul moves on with his question, What then shall we say? He's very good at asking that question. And you could ask, well, what, what shall we say about what? It's all a little bit confusing for us. And Paul is about to go deeper, but before he does, let's, let's see if we can simplify what we've just looked at. What Paul is saying to us is quite simply that, from birth, We are bound by sin. We're under the law of sin. Ephesians 2 verses 1 to 3 tells us, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. That's our state. A simpler way to put it that I've used in many an evening sermon has been we're born in sin and shaping in iniquity or by iniquity. That's who we are. That's our problem. That's what the doctor diagnoses to us that we need healing from. And it's a sin problem each and every one of us. None of us are born perfect. We're born little sinners that grow to be bigger sinners, who have the problem of sin throughout all of their lives, but where there is someone who can come and set us free from the death. that our sin requires. And so Ephesians 2, as a summary perhaps of what Paul has been saying in Romans 7, is saying that we need a solution to our problem that really has been with us from birth. And Paul says that we are contracted as it were to sin. We're bound to it. We, we can't get out of it on our own merit. And the only way to end that contract is in death. To remain in our sin means that it is our own death that will get us out of that contract. And then what good will it be? You see, trusting in Jesus and His death means that we are released from the penalty of sin and we can enjoy eternal life. And if I'm honest, I don't understand how anyone can refuse this. I was sitting this afternoon going through this and thinking again, How, how can we refuse this? It seems so clear that there is only one way to be saved. There's not multiple ways. It's not that many roads lead to God. There's only one and it's through the cross and Jesus Christ. Please don't think this is an automatic thing either because of church attendance, because of good works or the culture that you happen to be born into. Knowing Jesus is not head knowledge, but a living relationship. Acknowledging that he died for you and for me. And that's why Paul continues in Ephesians 2 and verses 4 to 6 by saying, But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved and raised us up with him. and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. God has made a way for us and it's all by his grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve and God gives us this grace so that we can be alive in Christ and not simply expire at the end of our human lives. There is an eternity. We don't simply die and nothing happens. There is an eternity. The question is where will you spend it? Will it be in heaven because of Christ? Or will it be in hell because of yourself? So having dealt with this, this idea of contract and how we get out of this contract with sin, Paul moves on to further talk about, about the law and to challenge, uh, that comes back to us, that we would say, that the law then is sin. If this is what we believe, surely then the law itself is sin. And once again, Paul says to this challenge that might come, by no means. And he wants to tell us that there is indeed purpose for the law. And what Paul says in verse 7 should fascinate us because he says, 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 When you read this, you understand what Paul is saying. The law is not sin. But what it does, is it tells us what sin is. Again, I go back to what I said just a few minutes ago. The sin, or the law, pointed us to the need of a saviour. Because it pointed us to what the sin was. Because we could never, we can never live fully the Ten Commandments day and daily. We will break them every single day. And so what they do is they teach us what sin is. Would we have known that covening was bad if the law hadn't told us it? Paul, by personal testimony, tells us that. And in verse 8 he goes on to confirm this by saying that he once knew what was sinful he wanted to do. He knew it was wrong to do it, but he did it. It's like a three year old who touches, pulls, grabs at any object within reach. And if anyone is foolish enough to say to that three year old, don't touch that, what do they do? They run and touch it. So it is with sin and its subtleness. By telling us not to do something, we naturally want to do it. And if we're honest with ourselves, isn't that what we want to do? Sin is attractive. Sin lures us away. We're never satisfied. The human condition is never satisfied. And so we pull ourselves to what we shouldn't. At the end of verse 8 and into verse 9, Paul now talks about his life apart from the law. And here he's looking at an alternative to the law where he can live freely with God. And when we live with Christ and not the law, then sin lies dead. In verse 9, he addresses original sin and its impact on humanity. That because of that original sin, it weaves its way throughout all of life and none of us are exempt from it. And through the commandment, just one tiny portion of the law said to contain 613 commands, sin came alive. It was no longer dormant, lying dead, apart from the law in verse 8. And so Paul says because of that, because of the subtlety of sin that came through the law, he effectively died. He died because of that sin that came through the law. And what Paul is talking about is the deception that sin crafted through the law. The law within itself wasn't and isn't sinful. It points us to the need for a saviour. Paul thought by living by the standard of the law he could save himself. But he couldn't. That was sin telling him, making him believe something that wasn't true. And so he needed a saviour. But when we refused a saviour because the saviour didn't let us do what we want, then the law kills us. And in verse 12, Paul states, So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and righteous, and good. It's a strange way to finish a passage that is difficult, that is seen to be condemning the law. But yet he says the law is holy because it expresses the will of a holy God. It does so in broad principles, such as Mark 12 and verse 31, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. But it also does it very precisely, such as you shall not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block before the blind. In Leviticus 19 and verse 14. The law is righteous because it commands justice. Under normal circumstances, a thief shall pay double when caught stealing. That's what Exodus 22 tells us. This means that the thief loses precisely what he would have gained. One sheep. And that his victim gains precisely what he would have lost, one sheep. Meanwhile, harsh man made legal codes have dictated that thieves lose a hand, or that they spend years in jail. And the law is good because it is just, but it is also merciful for it tells lawbreakers that they can be forgiven. Moses gave Israel prescribed sacrifices to be offered in the tabernacle and the temple to, to atone for sins. These offerings pointed to Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, as Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 4 stresses, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats and indeed lambs to take away sins. But John the Baptist identified Jesus, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, in John chapter 1 and verse 29. So, the sacrificial law leads to Christ. He provides righteousness apart from the law, as Romans 1 verse 17 and 3 verse 22 has told us. So, all this talk of law means that the law then ceases to bring burdens and condemnation. By faith, we can sing the Psalms of old, such as Psalm 1, Blessed is the man who walks in the way of the Lord. Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, for all its length of just how good God is, that we would be guided by God's light and by his word. They can be sung as our praises of the law for teaching the covenant household to walk in God's ways. Yes, we sin. And our habits and desires can seem to range beyond control. And Romans 6 and Romans 8 teach us to hope for moral and spiritual progress through our union with Christ and the presence of the Spirit. But it's chapter 7, this moment, that tells us we can trust in the one who died for us. Paul wants us to know that the law can have no hold over us. It is good. Because it points us to a savior. And so when we read the law of the Old Testament, do not think you can follow it and thereby save yourself. You can't. No one who's good will ever get into heaven. It is only through the goodness of Christ and his sacrifice that we can enter. I wonder, I wonder do we try to do a mixed model, a hybrid as it were. We think that our works will, will do something to elevate us more. And we can easily slip into that because remember sin is subtle. That's what Paul says. Whenever he tried to live by the law, he thought he was doing right. But sin came in and made it impossible to live right under the law. It is only under Christ as we submit to him fully. And so as we finish this evening, the question comes as we hear the heart of the gospel. Who do you submit to? Do you submit to Christ in every area of life? Or are you withholding something? Are you holding back a part of your life that you're unwilling to give up? Because if you are, you need to give it up. Christ can be the only head, he can be the only authority in our lives because he is the one who breaks the power of the law, who breaks the power of sin, and who leads us in his ways everlasting. So Paul challenges us in what is a tricky passage of Romans chapter 7 to trust in Christ so that we will know true freedom. But as we trust in Christ, to make sure no one else has authority over us. To make sure that our headship is Christ and Christ alone so that as we live for him So will we so we will be assured and we can give thanks that Jesus Forgives all such failings that we may have and that we can come to him in faith and live for him forever Will you live for him forever? Will you count each day? Will you put sin away? Forget trying to do good and living by the law because it won't work Will you love him more and more, and trust in him as your only salvation? I hope you will, as together we respond to twelve verses that aren't easy, but yet a message that is loud and clear. Trust in Christ, and him only. Let's pray. Father, we have looked at a passage that goes deep and human offerings this evening are not sufficient to its full meaning. But what we have looked at and the message that rings clear to us. Father, help us to understand. Help us to know that there is a way for us. That it's not about rules and regulations as society wants to teach us, but it's about your goodness in Christ and him alone. So may we know his fullness. May we know His grace. May we be people who are not found in sin, but who are alive in Christ. Who, who know what sin is, and avoid it at all costs, that we may live well. Know the law to be holy, and to the commandment to be holy and righteous and good, so that we will be drawn ever so close to You. Help us to respond well, in Jesus name. Amen.

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