The book of Romans is the one epistle that gives us a detailed description of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16), or as Paul also says, the gospel of God (Rom. 1:1). This gospel is spoken of in detail in its first eight chapters. In Romans the Holy Spirit speaks of sins, guilt, sin in the flesh, law, justification, peace with God, deliverance, life in Christ, being in Him, Christ dead and then risen, and the believer not in the flesh, but rather, in the Spirit – all these fit under the broad topic of the redemption in Christ Jesus freely given to us by God (Rom. 3:24-26). The details of the gospel told in chapters 1-7 lead to the short summary we are given in the first three verses of chapter eight (8) – the believer has no imputed judgment or condemnation (Rom. 8:1); also in Christ every believer has a positive freedom/deliverance from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2); and he has acquired the spiritual knowledge that the old Adam man – sin in the flesh – has been condemned to death by God on the cross (Rom. 8:3). For the true Christian the Adam state has died, and he exists in a new state before God. The remainder of chapter eight (8) is how the indwelling presence of the Spirit is the power of this new state and life, as well as being our present help and assurance while we walk in the wilderness of this world. Finally we see that God has always been for us, from eternity past, in the present wilderness, and in the future glory that we are destined for. So concludes the gospel and the first eight chapters of Romans.
This is the general outline of the big picture we see of the gospel in Romans. Now we will divide into two sections the large body of scripture that leads up to the summary verses at the beginning of chapter eight (8). Romans 1:1-17 is introductory. From Romans 1:18 through Romans 5:11 there a major division involving how God has dealt with the believer’s sins. Separate from this, starting in Romans 5:12 and continuing on to the end of chapter seven (7) is another major division involving how God has dealt with the previous state of the believer. These two sections are different from each other, yet they are both part of the same big picture of our redemption. Separately they represent two distinct aspects of our redemption in Christ, while together they give the total picture of what our redemption is. They are two very different ideas which are meant, by the knowledge and understanding of them, to come together and form a whole.
The first section (Rom. 1:18-5:11), as we said, deals with our sins. Let us identify all the biblical thoughts and topics that can be properly associated with this word. “Sins” are the acts we commit as well as the wrong thoughts we think. They are man’s works. This may also be defined as creature responsibility. As an unbeliever I am a child of Adam, and I have responsibility as a creature before my Creator. The things I do, the thoughts I think, are my responsibilities. These are my works, and we know that if any child of Adam is judged by God for his works, he will be condemned. All his sins are imputed to him. For the Gentile not under the law, his acts of sin are his lawlessness. For the Jew with the law, his acts are considered transgressions or offences of the law. Both these cases are taken up in the early portions of this first division.
“Sins” are also seen as fruit growing or produced on a tree. They are seen as bad fruit or failures in responsibility. Sins are when we do our own will instead of the will of God. By committing these acts, whether actions or thoughts, we accumulate guilt before God. Personally this guilt is felt in the human conscience. With Adam’s disobedience the human race gained the knowledge of good and evil. When we commit “sins” our conscience knows we have done so and tells us we are guilty. Along with the guilt there is always a lack of peace with God. The unbeliever is very uncomfortable with entertaining any thought of standing in the presence of God. He knows his quilt and that he cannot possibly stand there – not in God’s very presence. So then all his life he avoids God, and only speaks of Him from a distance, or not at all. He has no peace and no confidence before God. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) The sinner does not ever enter the presence of God.
By the redemption in Christ Jesus the believer’s sins are pardoned. They are all forgiven. Jesus has borne away on the cross all the believer’s sins (I Pet. 2:24). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Eph. 1:7) Being justified freely by His grace is the same thing (Rom. 3:24) – the believer is justified from his sins and there is no judgment or condemnation for them. So in chapter four (4) we have David’s testimony:
Romans 4:7-8 (NKJV)
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
Romans 4:25-5:1 (NKJV)
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Here we have the positive results of God dealing with the believer’s sins and the first aspect of our redemption – pardon and forgiveness, justification from all sins and guilt bringing in peace with God. Other blessings are brought out in the remainder of this division, the good results and consequences of our justification (Rom. 5:2-11). Chief among them is that the Holy Spirit is given to us so we may comprehend the fullness of God’s love for us, a love that God showed towards us even when we were still sinners and enemies. However, the main thought of this section is God dealing with our sins by means of justification.
These truths or realities are the first things that every new believer must have settle concerning his redemption, otherwise he will not progress any further. He must fully understand that God has dealt with his sins completely and finally, or he will never have peace. Without this settled comprehension he will only doubt God; he will never have confidence to stand before God, or confidence in God. He will doubt whether God will actually save him from His wrath to come (Rom. 5:9). This first understanding is crucial.
The second division of the gospel written here in Romans (Rom. 5:12-7:25) deals with the second major aspect of our redemption – it involves how God has dealt with our fallen state in Adam. This state may be described in various biblical ways. In this second division the word “sin” in its singular form is often used to describe this state (Rom. 5:21; 6:14; 7:8, 13). It is the fallen nature that came into the world through the disobedience of the first man, and this nature has passed on to the entire human race (Rom. 5:12). It is the state that all men in Adam are in. They are children of Adam and are naturally born of him. This state is known as sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). It is also known as being in the flesh (Rom. 7:5; 8:8). For the believer the previous Adam state is known as the old man (Rom. 6:6). The scriptures often speak of the believer as being “in Christ”, who is the last Adam (Rom. 8:1, II Cor. 5:21). This justifies the use of the term “man in Adam” or the “Adam man”, as does the whole passage from Romans 5:12-21 which contrasts the differences and effects of the two Adams.
In the first division God deals with the believer’s sins. In the second division God deals with sin. Again, the two divisions refer to the two great aspects of our redemption in Christ Jesus. In the first God deals with our sins by forgiveness and justification. However, His dealings with our state in Adam, with sin in the flesh, is quite different. Sins may be forgiven; a state of existence cannot; if the state is bad, it has to be condemned. Therefore death comes in to end the believer’s existence in the Adam state. Death comes in to break all our previous relationships. Through dying with Christ, by death we are delivered from our previous existence and relationships. Then if we live beyond dying, and as believers we certainly do, it is by being raised up with Christ from the dead. Yet here it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). It is the resurrection life of Christ we have as believers, a life in the power of resurrection.
Romans 6:7 (NKJV)
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.”
This is the first part of the key understanding of our deliverance – we are freed from sin, delivered from its power, by having died with Christ (Rom. 6:1-11). Our death has broken all previous relationships (Rom. 7:1-4) – those with sin (Rom. 6:2, 6, 7, 14), those with the law (Rom. 7:1, 4, Gal. 2:19), and those with the world (Col. 2:20). It also may rightly be said that the deliverance of the believer is from the power of Satan (Col. 1:13). Jesus Christ went down under the power of death, Satan’s power, and so we have died and are raised with Him. Therefore we are delivered from the devil’s power as Christ has been raised out of death – death could not hold Him (Rom. 6:9, Heb. 2:14-15). So in all cases, death has delivered us.
Romans 6:5 (NKJV)
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,”
Here is the second part of understanding our deliverance – after dying with Him, we are raised up with Christ into a new life. It is His life, one in resurrection power (Eph. 1:19-20). Believers are united together with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. This is the believer’s new life – it is Christ. This is the believer’s new state – “in Christ” the last Adam. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). He is the new creation of God in this resurrected life (Rom. 6:10). Believers join Him in this as new creations of God; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new…all things are of God…” (II Cor. 5:17-21) Believers walk in a new existence and a new life (Rom. 6:4). So we die with Christ to be delivered from all our previous relationships we had in the Adam man – those with the flesh, the world, and the devil; for those who were under the law, dying with Christ breaks this relationship as well. Being raised with Christ brings us into a new life, which happens to be a new state, a new existence, a new creation. God has taken us out of Adam and placed us in the second Adam – we are now “in Christ.”
Life is not power. The real power of our new life in Christ is the same Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead (Rom. 8:11) – this same Spirit dwells in every true believer. The principle is stated here (Rom. 8:2): “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” The Holy Spirit is the power of the life of Christ which we possess. The knowledge of this principle makes the believer free – this is real deliverance. The practical effect it is to have in our walk in the wilderness of this world is shown here (Rom. 8:4): “…that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” In the believer’s walk it might be fulfilled – “walk” is always a responsible cooperation of the believer with the grace of God. And we know that in the believer’s walk the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. So there is a struggle between the two and there is a struggle for the believer. However, we must comprehend that there is now real deliverance in Christ for every true believer.
Rom. 6:11-14 (NKJV)
“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
“Reckon” is a faith term. We do not see with our physical eyes that we died with Christ; we know that He physically died, and God says that we were crucified with Him; we believe that this is a spiritual reality, reckoning it to be true; by faith we now participate in the results of His work – deliverance from the dominion of sin (or the world, or the devil, or the law). By our death and resurrection, spiritual truths of Christ’s redemptive work, we have the resurrected life of Christ and the indwelling Spirit as the power of that life (Rom. 8:2).
We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, that is, we who have the indwelling Spirit, eagerly wait for the redemption of our physical bodies (Rom. 8:23-25). The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is the earnest or down payment assuring all the glory we will enter into as believers (Rom. 8:18). To enter the glory of God our bodies must be glorified. God’s counsels concerning the believer are spoken of here (Rom. 8:29-30) – they end with the glorifying of our body, conformed into the image of God’s Son. However, this is strictly the work and power of God. It is not a mixture of God’s grace and human responsibility. And again we see the Holy Spirit as the direct agent of all God’s operations (Rom. 8:11) – “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
It is interesting that the glorifying of the believer’s body is mentioned four times in this eighth chapter (Rom. 8:11, 23, 25, 30). If we include the more obscure references of the chapter (Rom. 8:18, 29) we count six. The glorifying of our bodies in known in scripture as the end of our redemption, the end of our salvation. It is an event of great importance in the counsels of God for us. By it we are physically changed into the image of the Son, and physically brought into the very presence of God. In a sense it is the end of God’s counsels for the believer. Not an end to our relationship with Him as sons, or His use of us in our responsibilities throughout eternity to come, but our being glorified in body will bring His workmanship through redemption to a certain point of conclusion – His work concerning the believer will now have the same perfection that all God’s workmanship must have in order for eternity to be associated with it. From that point on (the rapture of the church) all our responsibilities as sons with our Father will be done to His perfection. But this cannot be the case while we remain in these bodies of flesh. This section from chapter eight (Rom. 8:4-28) gives us the understanding of various ministries and operations of the Spirit on behalf of the true believer.
The end of our redemption, the glorifying of the body, is what the true believer eagerly waits for with perseverance (Rom. 8:23-25) – it is perseverance because even we ourselves groan within ourselves at this present time as we walk in this world. While in this world the true believer’s portion is to suffer with Christ (Rom. 8:17-18). So Paul says (Rom. 5:3-5), “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God (for us) has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” The Holy Spirit is the guarantee given to us by which we may now rejoice in the glory of God (Rom. 5:2; 8:11, 15, 16, 17, 23). But the indwelling Spirit also makes known to us how God has loved us, evidence by the redemptive work of Christ (Rom. 5:5-11), and how God is always for us, enabling us in Christ, in all our sufferings in our walk in this world (Rom. 8:31-39). We must remember, God did not spare His own Son in demonstrating His love for us, so then, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Yes, we must wait for the “all things.” But we have the earnest of the Spirit guaranteeing them. And more than this, by the presence of the Spirit we may comprehend God’s love and Christ’s love for us – love which time and this world, and everything there is in them, cannot separate us from. Certainly not suffering with Christ while we eagerly wait with perseverance.
This ends the general outline of the gospel of God presented by Paul in the first eight chapters of Romans. The main thought in this was the two divisions which represented the two aspects of our redemption in Christ – justification and deliverance. But many Christians have difficulty getting through the first aspect and on to the second. Many stumble at justification – they have the hardest time believing that God has forgiven all their sins. They never have true peace with God. Therefore they cannot rejoice in their future (Rom. 5:1-2). If this is the case, these believers never have the chance or the knowledge to progress on to deliverance (the second division). And their Christian walk will suffer, because the things God has delivered them from will still continue to have their dominion and take their toll (Rom. 6:14-22). In every case of failure and at every place along the progression where failure occurs, it is a lack of spiritual knowledge of the truths surrounding the redemption in Christ Jesus freely given to us by God (Rom. 3:24). In the critical chapters on deliverance, Paul often asks the question, “Or do you not know…” It is the knowing, and then the reckoning from such knowledge that makes the difference as far as holiness in our Christian walk.
God deals with sins in the first division. He deals with sin in the second. Sins may be forgiven by God, but sin in the flesh (man’s existing state) must be condemned to death. I hope you can see the difference. The first division is a matter of forgiveness, while the second is a matter of condemnation. The man in Adam is the bad tree that is producing nothing but bad fruit. The first division is God dealing with the bad fruit. The second is God dealing with the bad tree. Sin is the state that came into the world because of Adam’s disobedience, and this state passed on to every man. But the state of sin in man is what produces the acts, the sins, the bad fruit. A bad tree can only produce bad fruit.
In our justification, Jesus is seen more so as a pure substitute for us. He bore all our sins away on the tree; He took them all down into the grave; He leaves them there under death. When Jesus is raised from the dead He doesn’t have our sins any longer. He ascends to the right hand of God, entering into the most Holy place in the heavens (Heb. 9:12). He cannot go in there with our sins, not into the presence of God. He goes in because our sins are no more, they are gone forever. The blood of Christ is now always before the eye of God, and so, God can never impute any sin against us.
In our deliverance things are slightly different – we identify with Christ. We are not just watching Christ as our substitute – bearing our sins away. We must understand and believe the spiritual truth that we died with Christ, and then, we were raised up with Him (this is as far as the book of Romans takes us, while other epistles have us looking at Him in the heavens or going there with Him.) For deliverance we identify with Him in His death and resurrection. In a sense, we go through it with Him – we die, and we are raised up with Him into new life.
The two divisions of our redemption are not without their types found in the Old Testament. The first division is the forgiveness of our sins and justification by God, the first part of the gospel as portrayed in Romans (Rom. 1:18-5:11). This is seen in the Passover experience of Israel when they were still in Egypt. God comes as a Judge, passing over the guilty when He sees the blood of the lamb. This is justification from sins in the type. It is forgiveness and freedom from guilt, therefore peace with God. His passing over is mercy and grace shown in God’s love to the guilty (Rom. 5:1-11).
For Israel it was only an outward justification – one in type/shadows and in the flesh. The lamb only served as a type of the true Lamb of God who would come years later. The reality or substance of the type is Jesus Christ and His shed blood. Only this provides true redemption, while the blood of an animal cannot. The blood on the doorposts symbolizes another’s life given for the guilty sinner. But again, all for Israel was only in types. The true reality of justification, or we might say redemption as the larger topic, had to wait for the cross of Christ.
In our example we need to see the other types involved. Egypt represents the world and Pharaoh represents Satan, the god of the world. Israel was in bondage in Egypt just as any unbeliever is in bondage in the world. The Passover experience represents the forgiveness of Israel’s sins, the clearing of their guilt, and their consequent justification. But we all know that Israel was still in Egypt. Their state of existence hadn’t changed. They still were part of Egypt. They had been justified, but now they needed deliverance.
The second part of the gospel in Romans (Rom. 5:12-7:25) is the real and practical deliverance of the believer. This is represented by God bringing Israel physically out of Egypt through the Red Sea. This experience symbolizes the believer’s deliverance from the world and the god of the world. Since it was also a change in state or place, the experience also is a type of the believer’s deliverance from sin – the state of sin in the Adam man. If it is only the Passover, Israel would have been left in Egypt. If the believer is only forgiven and justified, we are left in our original fallen Adam state. Our sins may be gone, but we are still left under the dominion of sin, the world, and the devil – left in the same miserable place. But, as we know, the next day the Jews were taken out of Egypt to a new place before God. This is deliverance from sin and the world in type. Our redemption in Christ is not just justification, but includes this second aspect – deliverance, and the realization of a new state, a new place before God. It is a new life and a new state of existence in which Egypt is left behind along with its Pharaoh.
Here is another type that shows the two different aspects of our redemption. The sacrifices of the law are all types reflecting different aspects of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The sin offering represents how God deals with sins. The burnt offering alone takes the ground of sin – man’s state in Adam being addressed for approach to God. This is why we see burnt offerings preceding the law, even preceding the flood in Abel. But until the law was given, sins were not imputed (Rom. 5:13). When you have the law, you have the sin offering, that is, the offering for our sins.
I feel that before ending our outline of the gospel we need to address the difficulty many find in properly understanding chapter seven (7). Theologians and teachers have been, in a manner of speaking, all over the map with their interpretations of the meaning and viewpoint of this chapter. However, a little discipline in our reading of it will go a long way in facilitating a better understanding. Let’s speak of the concepts in the background of the passage which give us a general understanding of the whole and should dictate the meaning of the details in the verses.
1. This entire chapter is found as part of the second division of Paul’s gospel presentation, and so, it involves the second aspect of our redemption – that of deliverance. Being in the second division we correctly reason the passage is about sin – man’s state in Adam. It is not about sins, except to use the committing of sins as the proof of the existence and presence of sin residing in the flesh of man (Rom. 7:12-20). In the midst of the struggle and misery taking place with this man in the chapter, there also is a discovery he makes in his understanding – the existence of sin residing in the flesh, and that he has no power or strength to resist its dominion (Rom. 7:17-20).
2. In the second division itself (Rom. 5:12-8:39) there is a general outline. Rom. 5:12-21 contrasts the two Adams. It shows how through the first man’s disobedience the sin state came into the world, and death came with it, spreading to all men. This was the beginning of the mortality of the human body. Death spread to all men because sin had spread to all men (Rom. 5:12). The second Adam is brought in as the answer or solution to all the miseries and consequences caused by the first man. The solution is God’s grace which comes through Christ’s obedience to the cross. The law was brought in as an afterthought (Rom. 5:20), so that transgressions would be known by those given the law, so that sins could be imputed to them (Rom. 5:13). The law excited the passions of the fallen state of man (Rom. 7:5), therefore sin abounded; sin being aroused by the knowledge of what was forbidden, produced plenty of sins (Rom. 5:20). The law certainly identified what sins were, but in doing so, it exposed the presence of their source, sin in the flesh (Rom. 7:7-8).
Chapter six (6) of Romans speaks of the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ, and entrance into a new state and life in Christ. This new state and life has given us deliverance from our previous Adam state (Rom. 6:14): “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” But even in this verse we see how the law is connected to sin, and even though the law is holy and good, it becomes the real power or enabler of sin (Rom. 7:7-16, I Cor. 15:56). Since there is such a close connection between sin and the law, then it stands to reason those who have the law would need deliverance from it as well. This we get in the first part of Romans seven (Rom. 7:1-6) using the analogy of marriage. It is the same means used by God to deliver the believer from sin in the previous chapter – by our dying to our previous relationship and that ending, so that we are free to begin a new relationship by wedding a new husband, Christ raised from the dead. All the same components are necessary for our deliverance in principle from sin, the world, the devil, and the law – death with Christ and our resurrection with Him. And notice it is not the law that dies in our example (Rom. 7:1-6). The law goes on just like the world, sin, and the devil go on. It is Christ who dies and we die with Him. We stop existing in the Adam state, and therefore our relationship to these four things has ended. The believer is no longer under their dominion or influence. We are delivered from all four. Specifically concerning the law it says (Rom. 7:6), “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by…”
As we said above, our general deliverance from sin discussed in chapter six (6) resulted in a new existence in Christ, the last Adam, and our possession of His resurrected life. But it is chapter eight (8) which shows us the indwelling Holy Spirit every believer is sealed with, as the real power of this life of Christ (Rom. 8:2): “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (See also Rom. 8:4, 5, 9, 10, 11)
This leaves out the section from Romans 7:7-25 – the specific passage that so many have difficulty understanding. The proper view of this section is the Adam state of an unbeliever, the misery and hopelessness of this state, even when there is a genuine desire to be something different for God (Rom. 7:22-23). There should be no doubt in any reasonable spiritual mind that the passage fully describes a person still under the dominion of sin (Rom. 6:14; 7:15-23). And the last verse is a definite crying out for deliverance which this wretched man does not have, and cannot find within himself no matter how hard he tries (Rom. 7:24). It should be noted that this section (Rom. 7:7-25) under our scrutiny is completely void of the mention of Christ, His resurrected life, or the Holy Spirit.
There are clues to identifying, at least in a general way, who this man is struggling and discovering all through the passage. “When we were in the flesh…” is descriptive of the Adam state of any unbeliever (Rom. 7:5). This thought concerning this phrase is confirmed in the next chapter (Rom. 8:8-9): “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” So when Paul uses the same descriptive phrase at the beginning of our passage (Rom. 7:5), it is safe to say it is descriptive of the man in question throughout the passage. “When we were in the flesh…” is the state of the Adam man that is under the dominion of sin. This is what the passage speaks of in detail and this is confirmed as true by verse fourteen (14).
I do not doubt that a true Christian could undergo a similar experience as this man. Many Christians stay ignorant of the knowledge of the truths of their redemption in Christ. Many struggle with having anything settled in their faith. As I said earlier, if a believer never becomes sure that God has forgiven all his sins, he will never know how God in Christ has delivered him. The one proceeds from the other to a great extent. A young Christian, an unsettled Christian, often with zeal places himself under God’s law, only to find he has no realization of the means of deliverance. He finds that he has no strength within himself to be able to please God. He struggles, he is miserable, doubting the reality of his salvation, and becomes disappointed and depressed with himself. Often this is a necessary experience. Until the believer realizes that it is all of God, all His grace, all His work, all Christ and His life, and the indwelling Spirit the power of that new life, he will continue to look to himself.
As believers in Christ, we have been blessed with so much that it is beyond description. It all comes from God; it is all that God is for us. It is never what we are for God. This later thought was tested by God for four thousand years – whether man could be anything for God. The outcome of God’s testing was that He found man to be utterly depraved. Man could never produce any decent fruit for God. Man could never obey the will of God. A great part of this four thousand year testing was Judaism – the religion of Israel. Judaism is a test of what man can be for God. In this respect it was like all the other religions of the world, except that Gentile religions worshipped false gods. Still, all religions of the world are the efforts of what man can be for his god. In this way Judaism is the same; it is a religion of the world. Now consider Christianity. This is the place the Christian must come to – Christ is everything; I am nothing. This is the truth of Christianity. It is the only religion about what God is for us.
3. Scripturally, there are two different ways to view the state of this man in chapter seven (7). Paul’s reference in verse five (Rom. 7:5) to himself and those believers reading his epistle in Rome is referring back to the time when they were in the flesh. This is definitely the Adam state of the unbeliever. This particular state is confirmed as applicable for the entire passage in the fourteenth (14) verse – Paul says, “…but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Here the word carnal refers to being in the flesh and a slave to sin. Having established this, we know from experience that most unbeliever’s are not attempting to live for God (Rom. 7:21-22) – “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” Yet we find this in the passage and we are so tempted to assume this is a Christian believer. We are at a loss at how to rectify these things.
Both chapter six (6) and seven (7) have the same question being asked of the believer early on (Rom. 6:3; 7:1) – “Or do you not know…?” The lack of knowledge about our redemption privileges could put a young or immature believer in a similar struggle that we find in the man in chapter seven. Unknowingly, many Christians will put themselves under the law in an effort to please God in their own strength. This never works. But we certainly can see how a young or unsettled believer, through a lack of knowledge, could have similar experiences to that of an unbeliever who is trying to improve himself.
4. I do not believe it is proper to attempt to totally divorce the terms “in the flesh” and “sin in the flesh” from thoughts of the physical body. I simply cannot see how this can be a legitimate understanding from scripture, nor do I see the profit in doing so. Romans 7:5 says, “For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins…were at work in our members…” Also Romans 7:23-24: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members…who will deliver me from this body of death?” Also see Romans 6:13, 19. But a critical verse is Romans 6:12: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…” Sin is in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). It is in the body. It has residence there. It is what makes the body mortal, that is, subject to decay and death. Sin entered the world by Adam, and death entered through sin, and therefore death spread to all men (Rom. 5:12). What this means is that sin residing in the flesh makes the human body mortal. There seems to be an undeniable connection between sin and the human body in scripture. We don’t need to dance around it. I’m not saying the body is evil, but it is where sin resides in the human being. As Christians we are born of God and new creations (John 1:12-13, II Cor. 5:17). At this time only our souls and spirits are new. Redemption has yet to occur for our bodies. But soon Jesus will come for the church, His bride. He will catch us up in the air. At that time for those in Christ who are living, as the scriptures declare (II Cor. 5:4), “…mortality may be swallowed up by life.” Our bodies will be glorified by God removing sin from them – that which makes them mortal.
The present Christian state is this: “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” There remains a direct connection between our bodies and sin – it is where sin dwells, while our spirits and souls in Christ are holy and righteous (Eph. 4:24). So then we have, the Spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit. This is a general statement – we know the believer has been given more than just the Spirit. We have Christ, His life, justification, deliverance, salvation, hope of glory, present grace to walk in, which is always sufficient for any situation or infirmity, a great High Priest and Advocate in Christ, etc. But in Himself, the Spirit is a great and awesome gift. In His warring against the flesh He is the power of the life of Christ in us. He is the strength of the believer’s present walk (Rom. 8:4; 6:18-22).
Much more could be taught concerning the details of verses found in the first eight chapters of Romans. This article serves as a general outline of the gospel of Christ as Paul brought it out in these chapters. It will always serve the believer more in his study of scripture if he would seek to first understand the big picture, to comprehend biblical principles, to know the character of the book or epistle, before attempting to understand the detail of verses or the minutia of words. Only by the Spirit of God will we ever have divine teaching.