Romans 7:1-13


Throughout chapter 6, Paul has been attacking antinomianism.  Antinomianism is the false teaching that says, since you are saved apart from the works of the Law, it is okay to go out and sin.  But this is not the case.  The believer has been set free from sin in order to live unto God.  To teach this principle, Paul uses three images:


Romans 6:1-14

Romans 6:15-23

Romans 7:1-6

Image of Baptism

Image of Slavery

Image of Marriage

We are identified with Christ and so should live His life.

We are free from sin and should not live unto it any longer.

We are free from the Law to enter a new relationship with Christ.


The key word for this chapter will be the word “Law.”  Paul begins by looking at the jurisdiction of the Law.





Every aspect of a Jewish person’s life was controlled by the Law.  The Law told him how to eat, how to dress, how to worship, how to farm his crops, how to live.  From birth until death, there was no part of his life that the Law did not address.


1.         The Axiom.


            Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1).


Paul says this as an axiom.  An axiom is a truth which is universally known.  A self-evident proposition.  A fact of life.  Everyone knows that the law only judges the living.


Imagine that a police officer observes a car speeding through town.  The officer turns on his lights and sirens and gives chase.  He is prepared to give the driver a speeding ticket.  But instead of slowing, the driver speeds up and runs through a red traffic light.  Now the officer is going to add that infraction.  As the driver continues to accelerate, he sideswipes another car and continues on.  The police officer now adds reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident to the growing list.  Finally, as the driver heads out of town, he fails to negotiate a sharp curve and he crashes head-on into a tree.  His care explodes into a ball of flame and he is killed instantly.  What does our police officer do?  Does he proceed to write up the ticket?  Not at all.  The offender is dead and the matter is settled. 


When was the last time you saw a corpse in court?  They don’t give speeding tickets in cemeteries (at least, not to the residents).  That simple fact illustrates this universal principle.  The Law has no jurisdiction over a dead man.


2.         The Analogy.


            For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.

            So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. (Romans 7:2-3).


This axiom that the law has no jurisdiction over dead people is vividly illustrated in the case of marriage.  When two people get married, they exchange vows and promise to remain together “until death do us part” (modern America seems to have rewritten this to say, “Until divorce do us divide”).


This was especially true of women in Paul’s day.  While divorce might be allowable under certain circumstances, the act of remarriage was considered to be an act of adultery.  But that changed if one of the spouses died.





Her Husband Lives


Her Husband Dies




She is bound by the Law


She is freed from the Law




If She Marries Another




While her husband lives


Once her husband dies




She is called an Adulteress


She is not an Adulteress


We must point out that Paul is NOT setting forth his doctrine of divorce and remarriage in this passage.  He is only using the binding character of marriage to make a point as regards the Law.

Note that in the first situation, a woman whose husband is still alive and who subsequently is separated from her husband to marry another man is guilty of adultery.  In the second situation, her husband dies and she marries another man, but she is free from the law.  What is the difference?  She was married the first time.  She is now married to another man.  But that is okay, because the tie that binds does not bind past the point of death.


3.         The Application.


            Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4).


In the same way that the death of a spouse releases the surviving party to remarry, so also OUR death in Christ releases us and allows us to be joined to Christ.


Paul has already described how we were joined to and identified with Christ in His death.  We saw that truth back in chapter 6.  Now he points out that the reason we could be joined to Christ is because we had first been released from a prior binding.  We were reckoned to have died so that “we could be joined to another.”


This brings us to a question.  To what were we originally bound?  From what are we released?  It was NOT the Law.  We were bound BY the Law in the same way that a wife is bound to her husband BY the Law.



Bound by LAW



If it is the Law that BINDS us, then to what were we bound?  The answer is seen in the previous chapter.  We were bound to SIN (6:22).



Bound by LAW

Sin & its Wages


We have been released from that old husband to whom we were bound.  The Law has declared us to be legally dead.  And the Law isn’t binding upon dead people.  And with that comes a release from the wages and the power of sin.  We aren’t married to sin any longer.  And that leaves us free to be married to another.  The “other” to whom we are now married is Jesus Christ.



Bound by FAITH

Jesus Christ


What is the result of this new marriage?  It is that it be a fruitful marriage.  It is that “we might bear fruit for God.”  The very first command recorded in the Bible is that man might “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).  We were created to bear fruit.  And God still desires us to be fruitful.  Not merely in the physical sense, but to bear the fruit of the Spirit.  Our new fruitfulness is designed to bear fruit to God.





            For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

            But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:5-6).


When Paul says, “When we were in the flesh,” he is taking us back to that time prior to conversion.  We were in the realm of the flesh (imperfect tense).  Now we are in the realm of the Spirit.


There was a time when we were married to sin.  It was joined to us.  We were one with sin.  The fruit of that union was demonstrated in sinful activity.  Sin begat sin which begat more sin.  We were constantly pregnant with sin.  The wages of such sin was death (6:23).  We are now in a new kind of relationship.  It is still a fruit-bearing relationship.  This time, we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit.


Verse 6 points out that, with each of these two relationships, there is a service which has been performed on our part.  We served in our old relationship and we serve in our new relationship.


Our Old Relationship

Our New Relationship

We bore fruit for death (7:5).

We bear the fruit of the Spirit.

We served in the oldness of the letter (7:6).

We now serve in the newness of the Spirit (7:6).

Under the jurisdiction of the Law.

Dead to the Law.

Our sinful passions were aroused by the Law (7:5).

Now we have been released from the Law (7:6).


There is a principle here.  It is that you will always bear fruit.  The only question is what kind of fruit it will be.  And that depends on what is the source of your connection.  If you are joined to sin in the realm of the old man, you will bear the fruit of death.  If you are joined through faith to the new man, you will bear the fruit of the Spirit of God.





                7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

            8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

            9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (Romans 7:7-9).


The antinomian seems to take the position that the Law IS sinful and to be avoided at all costs.

Paul now steps in to defend the Law.  This is a disclaimer.  He does not want to be misunderstood as saying that the law is sinful.  He approaches the subject by asking a rhetorical question.  Is the Law sinful?  Not at all!  Paul answers,            — “May it never be!”  The Law is not sin.  Rather, the Law reveals sin.


The story is told of three men who were called into a cardiologist for consultation on their X-rays.  The first man was shown his x-rays.  “They look okay to me,” said the man.  The doctor took a textbook and showed him the picture, “Here is what a healthy heart looks like.”  The patient replied, “I don’t have time to look at pictures in a book.”  The doctor explained, “If you don’t see the difference between the condition of your heart versus what it ought to be, you will never understand the problem.”  But the man refused and left.

The second man looked at the x-rays and then at the textbook and then retorted, “How dare you say that my heart is inferior!  It is the standard that is inferior!”  And he left.


The third man looked at the x-rays and then at the textbook and then asked, “What must I do to regain my health?”  The third man was the only patient which the doctor could help.  His use of the textbook is equivalent to the believer’s use of the Law.


The Law uncovers sin and shows us how serious it is.  The Law is the diagnosis which shows that little area of sin is really a cancer which shall lead to a terminal conclusion.  But the Law cannot conquer sin.  You cannot use an x-ray as a method of cure.  It is not designed to do that.  It is only a diagnostic tool.


The Law reveals sin.  But that is not all.  The Law also stirs up sin.  How is this?  Verse 8 points out that the knowledge of the Law brought with it a desire to break that Law.  The Law said, “Don’t covet!”  And I looked at the concept of coveting and reached out and grasped it.  The more the Law said, “Don’t covet!” the more I embraced coveting.  That is what the Law does in the heart of the one who is spiritually dead.  It makes my desire to participate in that which has been forbidden all the more intense.  This is not due to some fault in the Law.  Rather, the fault is in the sinful response within me.


It is interesting that Paul uses the example of coveting.  Of all of the Laws of the Old Testament, this is the most internal.  This Law strikes to the HEART.


1.         Coveting is a matter of the heart.  It is not a matter which can be judged by outward appearance.  Murder and stealing are visible sins which are immediately apparent to anyone who sees the evidence of a dead body or missing goods. Coveting is a sin of the mind and heart. We can covet, and no one may ever know it.


2.         Coveting is one of the characteristic sins of the flesh. Our flesh has its appetites which often come into conflict with God’s revealed will.  These appetites, or desires, are often forbidden lusts (see Galatians 5:16, 19; Ephesians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:10). Sin frequently overpowers our flesh by appealing to its lusts.


3.         Coveting is a root sin which is often the cause of other sins. Coveting in and of itself seems to do no harm to anyone, but it very frequently provides the motivation for stealing and even murder.


4.         Coveting is a sin which best illustrates Paul’s statement, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law” (verse 7).  There is not a legal system on earth apart from the Law of God which has a law against coveting.


Indeed, most people do not think coveting is really wrong.  In some societies, like our own, many forms of coveting would actually be commended rather than condemned.


This is why Paul uses coveting as the example of his past lawlessness.  He would not have been considered a law-breaker under any other legal code.  By all outward appearances, he was a law-keeper.  But that changed when he came face to face with the Law of God.


In verse 9, Paul presents a “before and after” history of his own life and how it was impacted by the Law.


Before the Law Came

After the Law has Come

Sin is dead

Coming of the Law

Sin is alive

Paul is alive

Paul is dead


There was a time when Paul thought that he was alive.  He was attempting to serve the Lord through the arrest and prosecution of Christians.  But then he came face to face with the true implications of the Law.


Prior to the Coming of the Law

After the Law Came

Sin was not imputed

Sin became alive

Sin was dead

I am dead

Coveting was not an issue

Coveting of every kind was produced in me


Actually, it was sin that brought death, not the Law.  This becomes clear in verse 11.  The Law can only kill when sin is there.  This is because the Law condemns sin.





            So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:12-13).


With all that Paul has said about the bondage of the Law, some might be tempted to think of the Law as a culprit  - the bad thing which demands our death.  It is true that the Law demands our death, but this does not make the Law bad.  It is not the Law that is bad, but rather it is my SIN that is bad.


His reasoning is like this:


           The Law is good.

           The coming of the Law brought death.

           Only bad things bring death.

           How could the coming of a good thing bring death when only bad things bring death?  Is the Law really a bad thing?


Did the Law bring about my death?  The answer is that it is not really the Law which brings death.  Rather it is SIN which is shown to be sinful by the Law which brings death.


Just as you do not blame an x-ray when it shows the presence of a cancer, so you do not blame the Law because it points out the presence of that which kills.  Sin is the cancer.  The Law is merely the diagnostic tool which uncovers the true killer.


In John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, he pictures a dry, dusty room into which Christian comes.  There is a thick, putrefying layer of dust filling the room.  The dust represents sin.


Into the room comes a man with a broom - he represents the Law.  As he does his work of sweeping, the dust begins to stir up huge, choking clouds.  That is was the Law does to sin — it stirs it up, showing us how sinful sin really is.


There is both good news and bad news concerning the Law.  The Law is both a blessing as well as a curse.  There is both an ability in the Law as well as a disability.


The Good News of the Law

The Bad News of the Law

  • The Law contains the “oracles of God” (3:2).


  • The Law defines sin and righteousness (7:7) and bears witness to the righteousness of God in Christ (3:21‑22).


  • The Law was given to result in life (7:10; see Leviticus 18:5).


  • The Law is spiritual (7:14); it is holy and righteous and good (7:12).
  • Knowing the Law apart from obeying its commands only makes one more guilty (1:32 ‑ 2:29).


  • The Law cannot save man but can only condemn him (3:9‑20).


  • The Law brings about God’s wrath (4:15).


  • The Law came in that sin might increase (5:20).


  • The requirements of the Law are fulfilled by those who walk in the Spirit (8:4).


  • Sinful passions are aroused by the Law (7:5, 8).


  • Sin used the Law to kill us (7:11).


Why was the Law given in the first place?  It was given...


            To reveal sin.

            To condemn the sinner.

            To constrain our conduct.

            To turn us to Christ.


It is obvious from this that sinners will have no love for the Law.  Indeed, the sinner hates the Law of God because it condemns him.


What is your attitude toward the Law of God?  You will either love it or you will hate it.  And your attitude toward God’s Law will reflect your attitude toward the writer of that Law.


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