7: Romans Seven Reckoning

  "Unbind him" is the call of this chapter.  We are made aware of that which restricts us need restrict us no longer.  Can you imagine being Lazarus coming out of the grave and hearing Jesus say this?  John 11:44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."   
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This is a review of the fourth book in The Green Letters series with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to answer questions or ask your own in the comments to enrich our learning. To go to the start of this series click here.

7: ROMANS SEVEN RECKONING

If believers knew more fully the deliverance of the first part of Romans Seven, they would experience less of the defeat of the latter part! This vitally important chapter has to do mainly with the principle of law.

Positionally, in Christ, no believer is under law. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”; “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (John 1:17; Rom. 10:4). Conditionally, almost all believers are to some extent under the principle of law “as a rule of life.” The all-too-general attitude is: I must love the Lord and others; I must maintain my testimony; I must witness and work for Him; I must resist self; I must stop this sinning. The feeling of constraint expressed in “I must” makes for Romans Seven defeat.[1]

“The law is holy… just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). The purpose of God’s law, both in command and principle, is to bring to light and cause us to face up to the fact of our sinfulness, weakness, and bondage. Its faithful ministry, negative though it be, is all-important. Law does not make us sinners; it is holy, and reveals to us that we are sinful. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Anything we seek to do, or keep from doing, in our own strength brings us under legal bondage. Any promises or vows we make to the Lord, any code of ethics or rules of conduct that we set up for ourselves or have placed upon us, are on the basis of law and therefore result in failure and ever-deepening enslavement. The principle of law applies to the self-life, and can produce nothing but self-righteousness. Thus, the law convicts of our need of life in Christ.

The years of struggle and failure we experience are not only to prepare us for liberation from the tyranny of the principle of sin, but from the bondage of the principle of law. We are brought not only to the release of Romans Six, but to the deliverance of Romans Seven. We exchange “the law of sin and death” for “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).[2]

We are given the key to the problem of law at the very door of Romans Seven: “Know ye not, brethren, . . . how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” (Rom. 7:1). Exactly! All through the years of defeat, we have been slowly learning that the harder we tried to live the Christian life the deeper we came under the dominion of the law of sin. We tried to “be,” we tried to “do,” and there was nothing but failure year in and year out.

“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit [works] unto death” (Rom. 7:5). As long as we depended on our own resources, all we produced was sin; we hungered for life, and brought forth death. But in the midst of our wretched attempts to be delivered from the “body of this death” (Rom. 7:24), our faithful Father was teaching us what we had to know for our freedom in Christ: self is our greatest enemy, Christ is our only hope. “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).

With Paul, we came to recognize an internal law: when we would do good, evil was present with us. That is, we saw another law in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members (Rom. 7:21, 23). All this has been specifically designed by the Spirit to bring us finally to the blessed condition of defeat where we cry from the heart, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). Victory is found only through our realization of defeat: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”! (Rom. 7:25).

First, we learn that our having died in Christ on the cross gives us the ground for freedom from the power of sin. But unless we learn the answer to the bondage of the principle of law, we will be right back in the defeat of Romans Seven, no matter how hard we reckon. Law reveals sin and produces bondage. The answer to the principle of sin prepares us for the answer to the principle of law. Reckoning is the key to both, and both have to do with the death of the cross and our life in Christ. “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter”‘ (Rom. 7:6, ASV). As Paul tells us in verse 1, as long as we lived and walked in the self-life we were under the principle and dominion of law.

But thanks be to God, we not only died to the principle of sin in Christ on the cross, but there we also died to (out from the dominion of) the principle of law! Further, we were not only thereby freed from the “oldness of the letter,” but were joined to Him in “newness of spirit.” “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4, ASV).

Here again we must be reminded that the power for deliverance from the law does not reside in the fact that we have died unto it, but in our relationship to the risen Liberator. “Christ the power of God” (1 Cor. 1: 24). Unless we clearly reckon upon our having died to the principle of law, we are constantly under the pall of failing to meet our spiritual obligations. On the other hand, when we rest in our risen Lord we are more aware of His sufficiency than we are of the claims of law upon us, and we are able to walk in the “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1). “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Each of us has “died unto the law” (Gal. 2:19, ASV), we were “discharged from the law” (Rom. 7:6), and we are now “not under law” (Rom. 6:14). We are completely out of the realm of the principle and command of the law, and are forever on the ground of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. “The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly: that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20, 21, ASV).

The Spirit of Truth is not only explicit and thorough in presenting the truth, but He is also exact and painstaking in preparing our hungry hearts for the appropriation of it. Most of His spiritual work He accomplishes in our lives through natural means, such as our careful, dependent study coupled with the vicissitudes of everyday life. The bondage of the principle of law finally brings us to its goal – the death of the cross. Now we are able to understand that “I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I [self] that live, but Christ [my new life] liveth in me [new creation]: and that life which I now live in the flesh [body] I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:19, 20, ASV).

As we reckon upon having died to the principle of law, and abide in our risen Lord, the Holy Spirit progressively carries out the will of the Father in our life. His perfect will becomes a delight to us, not a duty. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3, 4, ASV ) , “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16) . “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1); “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin [and law], but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11, ASV).

Questions

  1. The feeling of constraint expressed in _________ _________ makes for Romans Seven defeat.
  2. We _________ “the law of sin and death” for “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).
Click on the "The Reckoning That Counts" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

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