Reboot: Romans 7-8: More Good News

Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick

I have to say I’ve loved our time together in Romans. Hasn’t it been a great way to prepare our hearts for next Sunday? The resurrection is far more than a nice holiday when we get to dress our kids up. It’s the realization that everything about us has changed. Our old life characterized by disappointment and sin’s domination has been overcome by the power of God in the good news. In chapter 6 Paul makes the connection between our new life and our daily grind.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (6:12-14).

More Good News

Here’s more good news: God promises that “sin will have no dominion over you.” It’s easy to turn that verse into a command. But it isn’t a command. It’s a promise. Sin can’t dominate us anymore because we’re no longer under the law. What does being “under the law” have to do with it? Everything! As we’ll see in chapter 7, the law has no power to free us from sin. In fact, it incites us to sin. Don’t misunderstand: the law is not sin (7:7); rather it’s indwelling sin that responds to God’s good commandments by producing the opposite effect in us. Paul said he wouldn’t know what it was to covet,“…if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). Is the law good? Yes, in fact it reveals God’s beautiful character to us. Does it promise life? Yes, but only to those who obey it. Otherwise it produces more sin and ultimately death, as Paul writes, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (7:10) because of the sin that dwells in my heart. It’s only when we know the law no longer has the power to condemn us that we begin to obey it as it should be obeyed—in grateful response to the good news that we are forgiven, righteous and loved no matter how we fail. Before we believed the good news, the law hung over us with the power to kill us. We couldn’t be freed from sin’s curse because all our attempts at obeying were done selfishly, not out of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Therefore they counted for nothing. In chapter 7 Paul describes how all the law (which is holy and righteous and good) could do was condemn him and bring him death—because of the sin still residing within him even as a believer. As you read over that chapter this week, try to envision Paul practically pulling his hair out in despair...

…I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Our Struggle with Sin

Paul was very aware of his ongoing battle with indwelling sin. Sin’s loss of dominion over him didn’t mean Paul never struggled with sin once he believed the good news. He just was no longer under its complete rule. He believed the good news and that news had the power to break guilt producing bondage and give Paul (and us) the faith to continue to war against the sin that makes us cry with him, “Wretched woman, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” This is where Romans 8:1 comes to our rescue! No matter how you fail today, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Right now. None. No condemnation. Have you believed the good news that you are his? Have you believed that he died for you? That he was raised for you? Then you are completely free. You are free from the law’s condemning judgment and you will learn to be free from your heart’s incessant failure to believe that he continues to love you no matter what. Which brings us to the end of our reading:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?...For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That, my friends, is the best news you’ve ever heard. Yes, you will continue struggling with sin’s pull, but he’ll never stop loving you. Good news? You bet. Why not take few moments at the end of your reading and pray a simple prayer of thanksgiving for all this good news? If you’re just jumping in to this series, be sure to read the introductory post and the posts for week oneweek two, and week threeClick here to download the reading plan.
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the head of Counsel from the Cross Ministries. Fitzpatrick has authored over 15 books, including Because He Loves MeGive Them Grace, and Comforts from Romans.