Romans 7:7-25

The role of the law. Misuse of the law. Nothing good lives in me. Who will rescue me?

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"7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, "Do not covet." (Romans 7:7)
This verse clarifies the apparent and immediate function of the law, which is to expose whether an action or inaction constitutes a sin. However, it does not comment on the law's efficacy in diminishing sin or its potential as a deterrent to sin.

Despite this, many individuals assume that by exposing something as a sin, the law will inevitably decrease sinful behavior. Nevertheless, as subsequent verses will demonstrate, this is not the situation, and the law may yield unforeseen outcomes.


8But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart from the law, sin is dead. 9And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive 10and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death11For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died12So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:8-13)

In contrast to the commonly held belief, employing the law results in an increase in sinful behavior and, instead of imparting life, it results in death (v. 8-10).

When an individual assumes that adhering to the law will enable them to attain God’s righteousness and consequently receive eternal life, they are profoundly deceived by sin. In reality, this misguided belief leads to death (v. 11). The truth is that the law should expose those who keep it to their complete depravity (v. 13), causing them to feel worse, rather than better.


14For we know that the law is spiritual - but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. 15For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want - instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 23But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. (Romans 7:14-23)

The verses mentioned above illustrate the truth of our corrupted state: “nothing good lives in me (v. 18).” Although one may have the desire to perform a particular action, they are unable to do so, and they often succumb to the very evil that they wish to avoid. This occurs due to the “law of sin,” which keeps them in bondage. By referring to it as a law, Paul indicates that attempting to resist it is a fruitless endeavor. This is an unchanging reality about us, that we are incapable of doing good while simultaneously avoiding bad.


24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25)

The usual guidance given to believers is to pursue good and shun evil. Yet, as we learned from the earlier verses (Romans 7:14-23), these endeavors are ultimately ineffective because of the “law of sin.” This fact is restated in verse 25.

Therefore, our solution does not originate from our own efforts, but from an external source, from “Who.” If the law accomplishes its task of revealing our genuine sinful state, we will exclaim like Paul, “Wretched man that I am!” At that point, we will cease searching within ourselves for solutions and instead look outside for a rescuer. We will no longer boast of our capacity to obey the law and its commandments, but instead look to the one who initiated and will bring to completion our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

When we acknowledge the reality of our dire situation, it can guide us towards a genuine faith in Christ and provide tranquility to our spirits. This is because the only path to reconcile our relationship with God is through Christ, not through any actions of our own.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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