Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Three Aspects of the Law as Found in Romans Chapter 7

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm

There is perhaps no more pressing subject in contemporary Christianity, then the relationship that exists between the law and the gospel. What is the law? How does it relate to the unconverted? How does it relate to the converted? These are huge questions. I dare say some of the most important questions that must be understood if we are ever to make sense of our Bibles. Romans 7 is perhaps the lengthiest answer to some of these questions within the entire New Testament. It speaks of the law in almost every verse (over 20 times in 25 verses). It is in many ways “the NT chapter” on God’s law. It describes three aspects of the law:

1. The law as a covenant (vv1-6).

2. The law as a schoolmaster (vv7-13).

3. The law as a rule of life (vv14-25).

1. The law as a covenant (vv1-6). All men by nature are under the “dominion of the law.” This means: (1) we are under its commanding power. That is, as a covenant of works. The law commands and demands perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. “The man who does them shall live by them” (Gal 3:12). Yet, our native hearts are at enmity with God, “for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:6). Thus, our sinful passions are aroused or irritated by the law (v5). The law commands what we are unable and unwilling to do. This is what it means to be under the authority or jurisdiction of the law. But (2) we are under its condemning power. That is, we are under its curse (Gal 3:13). The law condemns us. It demands perfection and condemns every transgression. Man by nature is under the law in this twofold sense. Jew and Gentle. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom 3:19). All men, as they are born in relation to Adam, are born under the same law. Not the civil or ceremonial law given only to Israel. No pagan was ever condemned for trimming his beard, wearing mixed linen, or eating pork. But he has been condemned for violating the eternal moral law of God as summarized in the Ten Commandments.

2. The law as a schoolmaster (vv7-13). Here the apostle speaks autobiographically. The law revealed (v7), revived (vv8-9), and condemned him for his sin (vv10-11). “For apart from the law sin was dead…but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (vv9-10). The law revives sin in a passive sense. That is, because it is holy it exposes sin. The law came into Paul’s darkened and dead heart like a floodlight. It shut his proud mouth (Rom 3:19-20). It drove him outside of himself to another (Phil 3:1-11). It showed him his need of righteousness comparable to the law (Gal 3:24). This is why we need the gospel, to be saved from the law. The law tells us what we need and the gospel provides it. It establishes the law (Rom 3:31) and answers it (Rom 10:4). Thus, where the law is unknown the gospel is meaningless. “How can today’s sinners, who are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, look at themselves as condemned sinners? The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to their minds” (Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel, 37).

3. The law as a rule of life (vv14-25). Throughout this final section, the apostle extols the law. He now delights in it and longs to obey it (v22). In serving God “in the newness of the Spirit” (v6), with the mind, he served the law of God (v25). The apostle begins the chapter under the law and ends under grace; grace alone saves us from the curse of the law. Yet, it is grace that also (and equally) saves us from a lawless life. It is grace that enables us to live lawfully, to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law (8:4). It is the grace of God that enables us to love both Him and our neighbor, and thereby fulfill the law of God (Rom 13:8-10).

Mike Waters, Pastor
Heritage Reformed Baptist Church
North Canton, OH
  1. Brother, I find your article very helpful, clear and short. Would you mind if I translate it to spanish so that I can publish it in my blog?
    Alexander León, Elder
    Iglesia Bautista Reformada Los Lagos
    Heredia, Costa Rica

  2. Alexander Leon,

    Yes, dear brother. Free free to use it any way helpful. Thank you.

    M. Waters

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