Some consider Paul’s epistle to the Romans to be a key, theology-teaching book in the New Testament. At this point in my study, I strongly agree. Quite a few verses at Fragrant Grace have been from Romans, and that seems to speak to the rich understanding of or the undeniable emphasis the author placed on grace. I love that—Paul gets it!
Romans 7 has always been affectionately known as the “Do-Do Chapter” to me. (Yes, there is more than one way to “hear” that when it’s said out loud, and at times I can be flexible in how I’m thinking about it.) If your Bible is like mine, you see large or bold print headings on the page. The one that grabs my attention in my NIV translation reads “Struggling With Sin.”
The beauty of this part of the chapter is Paul’s fairly clear (though maybe not concise) explanation of the major “players” in everyday life: God’s law, sin, the natural nature we all have, the internal battle that rages, and Jesus Christ. Starting at verse 7 through the end of the chapter is where I find myself reading and re-reading. I’m constantly reminded of the battle in my soul between knowing what is right and doing it.
Here’s the portion that stood out to me:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 7-8 NIV
God’s law, with its own special glory, is holy and is designed to point toward holiness. It cannot make a person holy, even in near flawless obedience to it. We’ve discussed that before in other posts. But, we were given the law in order to know what sin is, just as Paul points to the example of coveting in verse 7. We wouldn’t know right from wrong clearly without the law.
It’s verse 8 that gets me, and maybe you can relate. When I know what’s right and wrong, it seems inevitable that I am seduced to the wrong somehow too often. The natural, sinful desire in me leans toward the very thing spelled out in the law as wrong. Why, oh why, does this have to be so? More and more this chapter awakens me to the battle within me and the “doo-doo” in the “Do-Do.” Know what I mean? (Is that a bit “too real” right there?)
I don’t want to continue in old, unhealthy, or flat-out wrong ways. I find myself and others around me hurt, and I’m more keenly aware of the emotional condition of the heart of God. There’s the hook on which change hangs right there! When I realize the wrong is more painful to me, others, and God than making the right choices, I’ll begin to change. Deciding what’s honestly painful is the trouble, I think. When it’s “not that painful” to continue in the patterns I’ve got in place, I’m reasonably comfortable. Probably too comfortable.
So, those patterns can be called sinful and wrong when held up to the perfection of God’s law. Eventually it becomes obvious that I’m doing things I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do (Romans 7:15). The reality of the life we live is that we are going to continue to sin until the moment we step into eternity and everything changes. That’s one of the most difficult tensions we exist in here and now. (But, dear Lord, don’t let me continue in selfishness or obliviousness to my peril!)
What do we do with that? Look for the fragrant grace wafting before your Holy God on the throne.
My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. ~ 1 John 2:1 HCS
John’s epistle is dripping with truth and grace! Surely, we don’t want to sin, and as far as it depends on us, we should avoid it. Simply put, when you know what sin is, don’t sin. But—
But is one of those “hinge words” on which everything turns. I know John says “if” in the text; I’d be tempted to say “when” in my own words. If or when sin happens, there is an advocate. My favorite printed resource on the names of God offers the Hebrew translation for Advocate: Malakh Melitz (advocate, intercessor), though I had to do a little online legwork to share in this blog.*
The grace is in Jesus, the Messiah, our Advocate before the Holy God who cannot be in the presence of anything unholy. I need to sit with that because that is the point at which sin is separated from the law and dies (Romans 7:8b).
An innocent God-man nailed to a criminal’s cross at Golgotha—all for me—to become the one and only possible Advocate before Holy God. The One who defends me, argues on my behalf, presents me innocent by his own blood shed for me. When he died, everything changed!
I find myself ever thankful for grace, Jesus!
Mmmm. The sweet fragrance of “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)!
THE NAME: HaShem: Daily Devotional Worship by Dr. Barri Cae Mallin