God’s law, the Law (2)
Romans 7 is one of the most difficult chapters. The reason is because there is a lot of controversy over whether Romans 7 is the story of the Apostle Paul before he believed in Jesus or after he accepted Jesus. Personally, I believe Romans 7 is the story of Paul after he believed in Jesus. So, was Paul in Romans 7 a new believer or a man of growing faith? Look at 1 Corinthians 3:3 – “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” Here, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the “fleshly” among them while writing a letter to the Corinthian church members, and the “fleshly” here refer to new believers in the Corinthian church. The Apostle Paul in Romans 7 wrote the letter to Romans when he was in Corinth for three years after leaving the rest of his second missionary life as a missionary who had grown in faith rather than a new believer.
Look at Romans 7:25 – “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” The Apostle Paul rejoiced in God's law. Look at verse 22: “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Here, “the law of God” that the Apostle Paul rejoiced refers to the law given by God. The Law has three uses: (1) The law tells us sin. Look at Romans 7:7 – “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET.’” The law acts as our tutor. In other words, the law leads us to Jesus Christ, who solves the problem of sin. Look at Galatians 3:24 – “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (3) The law serves as a rule of life for Christians to live [Three uses of Calvin's law: (a) Political usage: restraint (prevention) of sin, coercion, (b) Educational usage: mirror-like usage, accusing man of sinfulness, (3) Didactic usage: a guide, a lamp-like role, a guide to sanctification (Internet)].
Like the Apostle Paul, we too should rejoice in the law. We should enjoy obeying Jesus' twofold commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:37, 39), which is the fulfillment of the law [(Rom.13:10b) “… therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”]. Although the Apostle Paul rejoiced in the law (Rom. 7:22), he saw in his members the law of sin waging war against the law of God, the law of his mind, making him a prisoner of the law of sin (v. 23). In other words, because the law of sin attacked Paul, he had to fight the law of sin. But he realized that the law of sin took hold of him. For example, the Apostle Paul wanted to love his neighbor because he loved God in obedience to Jesus’ twofold commandment of Jesus, the law of God, but the attack of the law of sin was so severe that he saw himself not loving his neighbor but hating him. So the Apostle Paul lamented, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death” (v. 24). Here, “Wretched man” means a person who is suffering, or a person who is miserable. Paul lamented because he knew that the law of sin within him was fighting the law of God and still making him a slave to sin. And since he became a slave to sin, and the result was death, Paul lamented, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (v. 24). Paul lamented/groaned, “Wretched man that I am,” because he knew that not only he could deliver himself from that body of death, but that no one could rescue him from that body of death. Like Paul, we, too, are people who cannot help but cry out these sighs when we look back at ourselves. When do we think the most reverent time is? Is it dawn? Is it the middle of the night? Is it time to be alone with God? Is it time to pray? Is it time for worship? Is it time for praise? Can we really have a time of blameless reverence at that time? We find ourselves failing countless times. That's why we have no choice but to confess, "I can't do it."
This was true not only for us, but also for the prophet Elijah in the Bible. He went to King Ahab and boldly said, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, whom I serve, lives, there will be neither rain nor dew for many years without my word" (1 Kgs. 17:1). In obedience to the words, “Go and show Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth” (18:1), he went to King Ahab (vv. 2, 17). And the Prophet Elijah defeated the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah (v. 19), a total of 850 who ate at Jezebel's table on Mount Carmel (vv. 21-38). And Elijah took the prophets to the brook Kishon and killed them all (v. 40). Then Queen Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time” (19: 2). So Elijah was afraid and fled as far as Beersheba (v. 3), and sat under a broom tree and prayed to God to die (v. 4). Isn't the figure of the Prophet Elijah similar to that of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24?
God saves! The Apostle Paul lamented/groaned, “Wretched man that I am!” because he could not rescue himself from this body of death and no one could rescue him from that body of death. But he gave thanks to God through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 25). The reason is because God saved Paul through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus our God is the God who saves us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ bruised the head of the old serpent, Satan, on the cross as Genesis 3:15 says. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who won the battle with Satan, took on all our sins and shed His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Therefore, we are saved through the merit of the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have no choice but to give thanks to God and give praise and worship. We must win in this evil world with the assurance of salvation and sing the victory song with thanksgiving.