This review of Romans 7 is provided by KatyJane, a former-mormon now emergent Christian.
This chapter starts out by talking about why we are no longer bound to the Jewish law. When we take on Christ’s name, when we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound by the written law, but by the law of the Spirit.
He then continues to talk about the law, and the relationship between the law and sin. Paul says that while the law is not sin, without the law we wouldn’t know what sin was.
For apart from the law, sin is dead.
And honestly, I don’t follow Paul’s logic in verses 11-12. He says:
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
I guess I don’t see that it necessarily follows that the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good, but Paul indicates that it is with the ‘so then’.
This chapter also makes me question whether the death that Paul is talking about is physical death. I think it makes more sense to think about it as separation from God.
But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Earlier, he gave an example of coveting, and said that with the commandment against coveting, Paul coveted all sorts of stuff. And it would seem that applying that example here would mean that Paul knew that he shouldn’t be coveting, and so he was separated from God in all the ways he coveted. It produced separation from God in him through the following of the commandment not to covet.
I think that when looking at Paul, it is a mistake not to look at him as a man, and to see what his possible motivations might have been in the things that he wrote. I don’t ascribe to the theory that every word in the Bible is perfect and transcribed from God’s lips to our eyes, but rather that it was written by normal people doing their best to get stuff right.
I feel like when reading this chapter, I see Paul as being full of shame. The things that he expresses are perhaps felt by everyone more or less with regards to different things. For example, where he says:
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
I personally find myself wasting time on stuff that doesn’t bring me nearer to my personal or spiritual goals, and then ruing the fact later on when I don’t have time or energy to do the things that I am passionate about. And I might even go so far as to say that that wastefulness could be considered sin, especially if it is drawing me away from the things that I might be doing that would make me a better Christian, a better wife, a better mother, sister, friend, daughter, person.
It’s possible I’m reading into Paul wrong, but I just can’t bring on self-loathing, nor do I think it’s appropriate. It seems like if I spend all my time hating myself, I will never treat myself as a temple of the Lord, I will burn out my candles and I will bury all my talents. But if I see myself as someone who has a little bit of a spark, I can take that spark and the oxygen that is Jesus, and grow the light into something worthwhile.
I get the impression that Paul thinks that we are not inherently good or even inherently neutral beings—but that we are inherently evil. And I just can’t get on board with that. Now don’t get me wrong–I think salvation through Jesus Christ is necessary and without it we’re sort of screwed (although I would be hesitant to define ‘screwed’ because I am fuzzy on what the afterlife entails). But I think that people are basically good, and it gives me hope. Through Jesus Christ, with His help, I can do the things that I want to do. I can overcome. I might have to work hard. I might have to set hard limits for myself in order to reach those goals. But I am not incapable of any good. I don’t think I have to be sold as a slave to sin. And while the glory of any good that I do I give to God, I believe that I worked for it, and did it to glorify God.
Because, as Paul says at the end of the chapter, Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!