A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
Sanctification: The Wrong Way by Works of the Law (Romans 7:1-25)
However difficult this seventh chapter of Romans may be, no trouble will be encountered whatever if we have actually mastered what the sixth chapter has taught. In the sixth chapter, God gives us the right way to be sanctified, and in the seventh chapter He gives us the wrong way. Of course, God has a purpose in this chapter. But why should we not learn the right way first? And the question is, have we learned it? Those three key words in Romans are crucial: know, reckon, yield.
One would think that these key words would be sufficient on this whole subject, that after He has given us the right way, what further need for anything else to be taught on this subject? Human nature is a perverse thing. The old nature loves to "do" things. It loves to depend upon its own works. It loves to merit what it receives. Human nature loves to trust God. Human nature, after it know the right way, will very often take the wrong way; ans so it is not surprising that sometimes the very man who has been brought face to face with Jesus Christ and has discovered that there is no righteousness or justification in the law, and has settled in the heart that he had to come to Christ and receive righteousness by faith alone - that even then, that very same person will then sometimes try to go back to law for holiness!
God has given this chapter of Romans to warn against acting in such a way. If we are not satisfied to get our holiness and sanctification just as we got our justification, trusting in Jesus, knowing that we died with Christ, reckoning it to be so, yielding ourselves to Him - if we are not satisfied with that, then this chapter is for us.
There has been a terrific controversy raging in Christendom over this chapter and over this question: was the apostle Paul converted or unconverted when he wrote the experiences recorded in the seventh chapter of Romans, when he said, "I am carnal"? Was he converted or not? I am inclined to believe he was converted, and that we have here a picture of a saved man trying to be holy by keeping the law. But the whole question as to whether he was converted or unconverted is immaterial and unimportant. it does not make any difference which view we take, for God did not introduce this chapter to give us a psychological analysis of either the sinner or the believer, to satisfy our curiosity. God wrote this chapter to warn men and women whether believers or unbelievers. He wrote this chapter to teach all men that there is NO holiness by works of the law. Paul was writing from the standpoint of a converted man, who has tried sincerely and earnestly to attain holiness in life and break the power of sin by keeping the law.
There is one view of this chapter that is terribly mistaken, and that view is the one that says what we find in here is the Christian's normal experience. That is the devil's own method. Some people in churches every Lord's Day stand up and recite, "O, Lord, we have done those things we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which we should have done," and sit down very well satisfied with themselves, as if they had done something very virtuous.
If you ever must say that (and, of course, a great many of us do sometimes); if you are meeting defeat in your life (for that is what it is in this chapter), then at least be concerned enough about your defeat and your lack of victory to cry with Paul, "O, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death" No one ought to repeat that as a litany without the cry of despair that the apostle Paul uttered when he said it. He certainly did not say it unconcernedly.
No Christian need ever enter into the experience that is recorded here in the seventh chapter of Romans, if he only receives with the heart what the sixth chapter has to teach him. But if we cannot know what God has done for us in Christ; if we fail to reckon it t be true; if we fail to yield ourselves to God - then there is nothing for us but the dreary, depressing, desperate experience which we find in the seventh chapter. And it is for such that God has caused it to be recorded.
Notice several outstanding characteristics in this chapter. The sixth and seventh chapters will be considered together in contrast and comparison.
"Sin shall not have dominion over you:for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (6:14). In that verse is the key to these two chapters, for the sixth chapter deals with the first half: "Sin shall not have dominion over you." The last half, "You are not under the law," is dealt with in the seventh chapter. The sixth chapter is about the believer and sin, and the seventh is about the believer and the law.
Following those two thoughts, you will discover that the key word of the sixth chapter is "sin." The word "sin" occurs seventeen times in the sixth chapter. In the seventh chapter the key word becomes "law", occurring eighteen times. The two are very closely related - sin and law. Paul says, "The strength of sin is the law" (1 Co. 15:56).
To contrast or compare these two chapters, read the first six verses in each. The first six verses of the sixth chapter teach that we died with Christ and are dead to sin; the seventh chapter, that we died with Christ and therefore are dead to the law.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 50)