in Catechesis

Romans 7:7-23 “Even in Christians, the sinful nature still uses the Law to stir up sin”

The following is the eighteenth week’s lesson. Apologies! The audio and video for last was not captured due to computer failure. We reviewed the section again this week. Because in Christ we have died to the law and now we serve God with a willing spirit, there is an internal “civil war” between the old sinful flesh and the new and willing spirit. Thus, St. Paul described the lifelong struggle that went on within him.

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 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. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Paul looks into his heart and sees a terrible struggle going on. Even as a Christian, he sees his sinful nature using God’s good commandments for its own evil purposes. We examine this struggle by putting an “O” or “N” in each blank to designate whether Paul is referring to his old sinful flesh or the new person created in him by the gospel.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I (_O_) am of the flesh, sold under sin. I (_N_) do not understand my (_O_) own actions. For I (_N_) do not do what I (_O_) want, but I (_N_) do the very thing I (_O_) hate. Now if I (_O_) do what I (_N_) do not want, I (_N_) agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I (_N_) who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I (_N_) have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I (_O_) do not do the good I (_N_) want, but the evil I (_N_) do not want is what I (_O_) [or the Christian viewed as a whole] keep on doing. Now if I (_O_) [or the Christian viewed as a whole] do what I (_N_) do not want, it is no longer I (_N_) who do[es] it, but sin that dwells within me.

The devil uses this internal conflict to convince us that we are irredeemable. He does this by using not only guilt for what we have done but also shame for what we have left undone or that has been done to us. At the beginning of our lesson we considered the proper distinction of Law and Gospel and their application in pastoral care for sinners/saints. We watched a brief clip from season 10 of the NBC program ER to highlight the proper response to those burdened by the guilt or shame of sin.

Christians are not condemned; they are in Christ Jesus, who is God’s answer to sin and death. The man in this clip has heard the accusations of the law and fears God’s righteous wrath. He needs to hear the word of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. His sins are atoned for by Christ’s blood. At the conclusion of our class we began to consider Romans 8:1-7 and will continue this section next week.