Romans 7 includes a powerfully honest confession from Paul. I've read this chapter many times, but this morning it was like reading it with new eyes...I got it more then I did before...though I'm sure someone can debate me on the understanding issue.
In this chapter, Paul is trying to help his fellow Jesusians in Rome to find a metaphor that they can grasp by which they can stay loyal to the One. He opens the chapter with this verse: "...for I am speaking to those who know the law..."; thus he is addressing those who are either faithful Jews or faithful Gentile converts to the Judaism of the day. These men and women would know the Torah, they would have memorized the Psalms, and they would be inspired by the Prophets and Writings. And all of this was very attractive to them, sufficient for their spiritual journey...almost. Jesus pushed their buttons of unsatisfaction, opened their eyes more to reality, and offered them a Way for those that were blind, deaf, crippled, dead, hungry, thirsty, forsaken, ridiculed, hated, abused.
For these Roman Jews and Gentile/Jewish converts, they believed the gospel of Jesus. But they were having a hard time reformulating how they related to the Torah, to the laws and instruction of God, and the teaching of Jesus. And Paul centers in on the issue of sin, wrongdoing, transgression of the commandments, violation of the laws, disobedience to the instructions.
To those that know that law, who care about the law, who desire to please God, who delight in the direction and way of God as revelaed in the Torah, the Way of Jesus is the next step for them. Jesus' death symbolizes their death to the Way of the Torah, and the resurrection symbolizes their Way of Christ. This tomb they have to enter through doesn't negate the Torah, it does reveal how essential it is, but how it is not the end, but a beginning.
Paul writes vs4
"So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law thorugh the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God."
In regard to the issue of sin, of transgressions, disobedience, rebellion by our bodies, he writes this, on the heels of his concept of bearing fruit: vs5
"For when we were controlled by our flesh/sinful nature the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death."
This is an important concept: controlled by our flesh...such that we bear fruit of death.
One of the sinister signatures of sin is death of what is good, beautiful, right, noble, pure, innocent - most notably in relationships between husband and wife, father/mother and children, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. Sin, left unchecked, ignored, or untended bears wild berries of misery.
For those that faithfully adhere to the law, this is there dilemma: the more they follow the Way, the more awful they realize they are, the more commands they seek to follow, if they are honest, the more of a lawbreaker they realize they are becoming. And they struggle so mightily: in their mind they want to delight in God and his instructions, they want to obey the Way of Life, but there is something in them that they cannot control that bursts out of them and by it they say the wrong things, they rebel and transgress and sin. What are they to do?
Paul goes on to write in vs21:
"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our LORD! So then, I myself am a slave to God's law, but in my flesh/sinful nature a slave to the law of sin"
What are you to do when you don't do the right thing you want to do, and what do you do when you do the wrong thing you don't want to do?
Understand the struggle going on inside your soul: your will, your mind, your desires are to please God and bring joy to others; but there is an evil bentness in your life that rears its ugly dragonhead, breathing fire onto your best efforts. But rather then flog yourself for impurity, recognize the good that does come out of you through Jesus's Spirit; and then as one who is penitent, recognize that the evil that comes out of you is not the Renewed You, it is the corrupt flesh of this world - that part of you that keeps you yearning for the Restoration of All Things.
Thanks be to God who daily delivers me over a lifetime through Jesus the Rescuer, my Leader.