Saturday, 21 November 2009

Romans Seven

Romans Seven has been and will no doubt continue to be a chapter in Scripture over which controversy will rage. Who does it describe?

Does it describe a Christian? But how can it? In the light of Ch 6:14, how can a Christian possibly say, 'For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin'? Does it describe someone who is not a Christian? Seems highly unlikely. What non-Christian is described in Scripture as someone who, 'delights in the Law of God in the inner man'?

The key to Romans Seven is 7 v 6.

'But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. '

Paul's concern is not distinguishing between two anthropologies (Christian or non-Christian) but between two epochs (Law and grace). His concerns are redemptive-historical, that is, he is describing the difference between life under the old covenant of law and life in the new covenant of grace. It is, as 7v6 makes eminently clear, a question of 'how we serve'. Romans Seven describes service under 'the old way of the written code'. It is equivalent to Gals 3:23-4:3. It is a service of effective slavery. Romans Eight describes service 'under the new way of the Spirit'. It is Gals 4:5,6. It is the freedom of sons.

The key to the transformation between the slavery of Ch 7 and the freedom of Ch8 is 8:1-4

'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For jGod has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son nin the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.'

In the parallel passage in Galatians the key to the transformation between the infancy (effective slavery) of Gals 3:23-4:3 and Ch 4:5,6 is 4:4

'But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.'

The decisive change lies in the death of Christ. There a key redemptive-historical act takes place. The old age of flesh finishes and the new age of the Spirit arrives.

Romans Seven describes OT believers under the old covenant of Law. Romans Eight describes NT believers under the new covenant in the Spirit.

Do you agree?

1 comment:

Nick said...

Yes, I largely agree.

I would just note that this is the heart of Paul's understanding of salvation, not a forensic imputation. The notion that Paul switches over to 'sancitification' in Rom 6-7 (sometimes 8) is unsupported. What Paul is doing is explaining what happens to the individual's soul by justification.