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Sabbath School Insights
2010 Quarter 3: Jul - Sep
Insight #08, August 21, 2010
Third Quarter 2010 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Man of Romans 7”
For the week of August 15-21, 2010
Paul approaches his teaching with what we call building blocks. The idea is that one block, or teaching, supports the next one. We see this concept demonstrated in mathematics. Each concept in math supports the one to follow. For example, misunderstanding division leads to not understanding fractions, and therefore not understanding decimal points and percentages. Thus, the basic building blocks support the more complex ones.
Paul starts with the simplest concepts to build to the more complex ones. This explains why he elaborates so much on his points. It is to say, "Do not miss this. If you do, you will not understand what I say after this." Therefore, to really understand the dilemma and struggle of "the man of Romans 7" – “O wretched man” -- you must first understand the dilemma and struggle of the woman in the opening verses of Romans 7.
The Woman of Romans 7
In our passage of Scripture, Paul has been writing to the Jewish Christians in Rome about an essential truth. They know the law (Torah) – they can recite it from heart, both individually and collectively, but they do not understand its true meaning. They know that they are under the jurisdiction of the law, and that it has dominion over them as long as they live, much as a country’s laws have jurisdiction over both its citizens and visitors. Yet Paul is telling these Jewish Christians that God has not only given them freedom to choose to obey, but that He has put an end to the law’s dominion in their lives. To illustrate this, Paul makes a statement in Romans 7 verse 1, and then provides an analogy in verses 2-3.
The woman in the first three verses of Romans 7 is in a similar situation as Paul’s readers. Let us look at the passage in Romans 7:1-3.
Vs. 1 Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Vs. 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Vs. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
In the above passage, a married woman finds herself attracted to a single man. She wants to leave her husband and marry him, but knows she cannot for she is already married. Perhaps we can infer from the verses that follow Romans 7:3 that her current husband is a cruel man whose intent is to kill her. But no, that would not be accurate, for in fact, he is a loving husband. It is just that he cannot sympathize with her weakness in not carrying out his commands; neither can he help her carry them out.
In contrast, her new love interest is a sweet, kind and loving man who not only wants her to be His, but also sympathizes with all of her weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). This man is also able to help her to do what she is incapable of doing on her own (Hebrews 2:17, 18). Thus, our woman of Romans 7 has a dilemma. She cannot leave her current husband and marry her new found love without committing one of two crimes: 1) breaking the law of marriage which says ‘until death do you part’ or 2) killing her spouse.
She cannot leave her husband, and she cannot stay. Daily she is suffering a cruel existence. What can she do? The only way out is through a death. However, it cannot be through murder. She cannot murder her husband, for that is illegal. If he kills her, she will not be free to marry, as she would be dead.
So she goes to her new love interest and presents her dilemma to Him. It’s true that neither He nor she can do away with her husband, which represents the law, for it is ‘just and holy and good’(Romans 7:12). He can not nail her spouse (the law) to the cross. But He and she can die together, thus freeing her from her first marriage. In effect, He tells her He will nail her (us) to the cross in Himself, and thus when He dies, she will die and when He is resurrected, she will be resurrected in Him. This solution fills her with hope. In gratitude, she consents.
As Paul has said, “Therefore my brethren, you (the wife) also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ.” It is not the law (former spouse) that dies on the cross. It is us (the entire human race) that died in the second Adam, Jesus Christ (cf. I Corinthians 15: 21, 22; 44-47).
Let us deal with the first issue. We (mankind) are represented both individually and corporately in Romans 5. Accordingly, we had no say in what Adam did to plunge us into sin. We also had no say in what Christ, our divine lover, did to rescue us from sin. We do, however, have a choice. We may agree to individually receive that gift by grace through faith.
Consequently, the woman in Romans 7, who makes the choice to die in Christ and be resurrected in Him, becomes part of the corporate bride of Christ. She is a part, but not the whole. It is she (both individually and corporately) whom our divine Lover has been waiting for all of His life.
You see, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). Christ as the divine lover has fulfilled all of that law. Thus, when our woman of Romans 7 dies and is resurrected with Him (Christ), she also fulfills the law in Him. The Law has been described as the supreme love to God, and love to man as He has loved us (John 13:34, 35). Therefore, while we can not obey the law in our weakness, nor can the law help us obey, we have become obedient through Christ.
In sum, when by faith we accept our death in Christ, recognized through the symbol of baptism, we are liberated from the ‘dominion and jurisdiction’ of the law. It is not abolished, but is placed in the mind and on the heart as promised by God (Jeremiah 31: 33; Ezekiel 11:19; Hebrews 8:10). This is what it means to be under grace, in Christ. We can now bear the fruit of our union together. Glory be to God!