So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ,that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:4-6
There is a strong then/now comparison going on in Romans 7:
- Now we belong to Him who was raised that we might bear fruit for God
- Back then we lived in the flesh and the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so we bore fruit for death
- Now we’ve been released from the law and live by the Spirit
- Now is the new way of the Spirit. Then was the old way of the written code
The infamous struggle expressed in Romans 7 relays that the ‘back then’ is really ‘right now’ for Paul. He personifies sin as it springs to life and brings death to him. “Sin deceived me” Paul writes (vs 11).
Paul doesn’t quite shift blame away from himself, but it seems that he comes pretty close. He is still responsible, but sin is a force.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. Romans 7:4-6
Sin is an accomplice. “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” So the ‘back then’ and the ‘right now’ are both right now.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25
This is the human condition, even for those redeemed by Jesus. The way of the flesh is then and the way of the Spirit is now… but back then is still now and what’s now is yet to be.
We wrestle in the flesh, like Paul did, because we are literally in the flesh. The struggle points us to Christ and we look forward to the salvation that is yet to come. By God’s design, I think, we are led to yearn for that redemption. We long for Heaven.
In the meantime the question is what will govern us. Will the flesh rule us or will the Spirit? (Romans 8 is next.)
If the flesh dictates, it will bring death to us and we will not be fruitful for God. If the Spirit directs us, we will experience new life – even while housed in the flesh – and we produce good fruit for God.
Isn’t this a demonstration of God’s power? He is not worried about overcoming the flesh in us.
Holy Spirit, reign and rule over me today! Lead me in Your way that my life will produce good things for Your glory.