Sunday, May 29, 2011

Commentary on Scripture: Romans 7

Or do you not know, brethren, (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

Romans 7:1-3 ~~ The Law has jurisdiction over the living, though not necessarily over the second life (the resurrection).

Romans 7:5-6 ~~ In the flesh, sinful passions work in the body, aroused by the Law.  In the newness of the spirit, we are freed from the Law and dead to Law.

Romans 7:7 ~~ Sinful passions may be aroused by the Law, but the Law is not sin. It does not drive us to sin, but educates and informs us about the nature of sin. Here again, Paul speaks to the relationship between salvation and knowledge.

Romans 7:8 ~~ Sin takes advantage of the Law, and of our rebelliousness. Without standards, there can be no rebellion against standards.

Romans 7:9 ~~ "I was once alive apart from the Law": Paul's sin (or more specifically, his culpability) depends on knowledge.  Compare to Romans 2:12. "When commandment came, sin became alive and I died." Sin was present, but not in a morally culpable sense, and therefore not in the sense of "death" (as in, damnation).

Romans 7:10-11 ~~ "Sin... deceived me" by warping and distorting the commandment and "through it killed me."  Sin is by definition a corruption or deprivation of virtue.

Romans 7:12-13 ~~ The Law is holy; sin is proven to be sinful by its capacity to pervert the Good.

Romans 7:14 ~~ The Law of "spiritual" (in the sense of the Holy Spirit or 'spirit' of God), but sin is "of flesh."

Romans 7:15-16 ~~ "What I am doing, I do not understand" nor does Paul seem to want it...? This verse is extremely ambiguous.  Either this means that the Law serves as my better judgment and makes me do what I do not want or my fleshly natures drives me to sin, even though I want and desire the Good.

Romans 7:17 ~~ "No longer am I the one doing it [i.e., what I don't want to do?] but sin which dwells in me."

Romans 7:18 ~~ "Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not." I will to do good, but cannot do it.  Our humanity consists of our limitation and finite nature. Since evil is the absence of corruption of good, sin may consist of the ability to live up to the full life of virtue.

Romans 7:19-20 ~~ If I don't do what I want, I am not ruled by my will, but by sin.

Romans 7:21 ~~ Evil is present in me, in my "fleshly" nature, even though I by nature desire good!

Romans 7:22-23 ~~ Our renewed spirit desires God, but my members/body/actions do not.

Romans 7:24-25 ~~ Christ sets me free from the body of death, and the members of sin.

This seventh chapter of Romans contains one of the most confusing and confounding passages in Scripture. I've never been fully satisfied by the explanations I've read and heard of this, but I've never been able to offer a convincing alternative. One possible gloss on the passage: the "sin that dwells in me" consists of our finite nature, not our active rebellion against the Law but in our inability to act in a fully virtuous manner. I'd appreciate any other explanations or glosses of the passage in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment