What Law was Paul talking about in Romans 7?
Hey Jim, I was reading a Romans passage. Do we serve the LAW [ie ten commandments] of God from the inner man somehow? Are we talking about the same “law” or is there a different law being stated here. Its always thought he’s referring the mosaic law because of the massive amount of reference he did to it prior to these statements in the book of Romans…but is it? Adam
For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:22-25
There is a long-time misunderstanding regarding the distinctions Paul referred to between the Law written on stone and the Law written in the heart. I find it absolutely amazing how much gnat-straining and camel-swallowing goes on as people try to figure out which parts still apply and which don’t. I just read an explanation from one of the experts on the Christian Living portion of a web site as to which laws we’re still under as Christians…and it made me cringe! This horse crap is so prevalent that no wonder so many people are so confused about the simple distinctions between life and death in relation to the Biblical verses. It is blindness indeed that keeps preachers and teachers spewing their legal garbage, for in their attempt to explain the Scriptures they have to ignore the prime distinction between the external law and the inner reality.
The Law of Moses was a set of standards for Israel (based off the reality of God) that was able to be recorded on stone plates in an attempt to govern from the outside. Why from the outside? Because there was no governance from the inside. The truth of the matter is that throughout their long history Israel recognized the total failure of an external governance to compensate for the inability to govern oneself…but they dare not let this inability be known because it would blow their cover!
Littered throughout the history of Israel were many prophecies, rituals and miraculous interventions that spoke of, hinted at and/or demanded an inward reality of self-governance. This distinction of self-governing was glaringly foretold in, among other places and by other prophets, by Jeremiah who made the distinction between the inability of Israel’s keeping of an outward set of standards leading to the coming miraculous intervention by which God would put his spirit into the heart making it so that the law was kept.
Of course, Israel was still blinded to this reality of what Jeremiah spoke even though they could read, discuss and ARGUE the writings of the prophets. It took the very life of God being put into a man to make it known…and known it became when the Spirit came into those men waiting in that upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Even after that time the sheer distinction between the ministry of death (law written in stone) and the ministry of life (law written in the heart) could easily become confused when Jews would argue it after the fashion of their forefathers. It took one who was born through the line of Israel but displaced through rejection of his own people and sent among those considered outsiders to really make the distinction we knew in our hearts so clear. Yep, that would be Paul.
All through Paul’s writings, which expressed the insight given him to share with those not of Israel, he made the simple distinction between life and death. The technicalities of external commands had been his specialty, but in being sent to share the life of Christ to those who were raised outside the framework of the Jew’s heritage he was forced to recognize that the same Spirit that had been given to the Jews was also given to the non-Jews in equal measure.
In other words, in being removed from his zone of understanding he had been prepared by God to understand that the stuff upon which a true keeping of the law was made was NOT from an observance of any of the technicalities of that standard, but was the very life of God…the same life of God that temporarily drop in from time to time upon people in times past in Israel’s history.
Remember when Jesus was asked which was the greatest command in the Law? He quoted no technicality but only the under-riding reality of LOVE (Love God, love your neighbor). You see, all those meticulous commands were only shadows of a life lived that did not harm one’s fellow man. The added commands had been formed around their community and had been established for specific reasons as the need arose, to either protect some from a real harm, to provide for those left out, to judge against those who intentionally or unintentionally injured others, etc, etc.
But it all came back to a life that is not built upon falsehood, deceit, greed and hatred, etc, but upon honesty, truth and caring, etc. This is a concept that is professed even by those who do the opposite. Nobody wants to be cheated or hurt or lied to, but will cheat, hurt or lie to those that are being judged as cheaters, murderers and liars. The very stuff of the law had to do with a true goodness that could only be broken down into categories and specifics, but the very reality of a life that embodied a goodness that didn’t need a rule to make it happen was perpetually witnessed to. This is the very sense behind having the law written upon the heart…and it would have been recognized as being testified to by that written in stone of the Law.
The very fact that Paul would play the word for law against itself only made it obvious that he was describing the very difference between an external shell that did nothing and the inner reality of a life made alive by God himself. Remember, if anybody could rattle the legalist for preaching law and shake up the religious community around him, it was Paul. So, in contrasting law with law he was only making his point stronger by contrasting the lie held by religious, self-righteous man with the promised miracle of life of God that causes a person not to need the external command that could never do anything but condemn in the first place.
The clear distinction found in Paul’s CONTRASTING use (always notice this) is the difference between what he called the ministry of death and the ministry of life. No, he was not suggesting that we now had to figure out WHICH of the 10 commandments might still apply, but that the love of God that made for a true life had now been put within us so that the need for an outward governance only denied the very life of God. This reflects Paul’s statement to Timothy as to how those who want to be teachers of the law simply don’t know what they’re talking about!
This means that even in quoting any one of the commands it could be shown that Christ did what the Law could not do, for the commands themselves only judged and condemned those under it. I mean, who is going to deny that evil intentions reflect something other than life or that the true goodness behind the written Law’s commands is something to be despised?
I am glad that enforced, written laws have protected me and my family from harm by those who may intend otherwise…but I am under no illusion that the absence of specific matters of injury is only a band-aid against the intentions of the walking dead. I am instead convinced that the miraculous work of God’s Spirit without the need for external rules is as far superior to an externally controlled behavior as life is to death!
Anyhow, I hope this gives some sort of answer to your question! :)
Hi Jim, I wanted to know what this meant [where you wrote]: This means that even in quoting any one of the commands it could be shown that Christ did what the Law could not do, for the commands themselves only judged and condemned those under it. I mean, who is going to deny that evil intentions reflect something other than life or that the true goodness behind the written Law’s commands is something to be despised? Adam
Many are often confused or troubled by the inclusion of Biblical laws contained in the letters and accounts of the apostles, especially since they have been tagged by the religious mentality as being a re-affirmation that those in Christ are still under the particular laws mentioned. I will admit that I also found this constant quoting of OT laws quite intimidating as I began to realize our freedom from the law.
The simple fact is that the real culprit behind a legalistic mentality is not the law itself, but instead is the constant obsession that we need it as an outward set of standards to follow, knowing full well that those who had been under it could not. Remember, Paul is the one who stated that the Law is holy and righteous and good, but that the problem was in the weakness of the flesh.
Because love himself has been put within us we now not only recognize the imperative need or demand for love in any true relationship our very being rejoices in its reality. To have it included in a letter from Paul or Peter, etc would not have hit those who heard it as being the standard by which we must now operate, but would have been a witness to the reality of its embedding within them through God’s Spirit.
Instead of making the usual assumption that a quoting of specific laws in the NT letters are somehow legalistic in nature so that they either have to be danced around or else written off as a product of the apostles’ legalistic tendencies we should rather expect that they would have been constantly including them here and there as a testimony to the far superior reality of a life lived without their former futile demands. In other words, the hearts of the believers would be reassured that though they were never able to keep such standards that the true life demanded by the former inability was more than met in Christ. Instead of us reading the NT writings in defensiveness every time we come to an OT quote we can rest in the overwhelming relief that Christ has more than fulfilled the former false sense of law-keeping, knowing that Christ in our hearts has actuality brought the goods into us so that the former concepts of good vs. evil have been replaced by a real life that needs no such rules to make love happen…especially since such commands never did.
Does this help at all?