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Commentary on Romans
by Michael Bugg
Dying to the Law
Rom 7:1 Surely you know, brothers - for I am speaking to those who understand Torah - that the Torah has authority over a person only so long as he lives?
Rom 7:2 For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of the Torah that deals with husbands.
Rom 7:3 Therefore, while the husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress if she marries another man; but if the husband dies, she is free from that part of the Torah; so that if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
Rom 7:4 Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah's body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, the one who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for God.
i. Acts 23:6 - But knowing that one part of the Sanhedrin consisted of Tz'dukim and the other of P'rushim, Sha'ul shouted, "Brothers, I myself am a Parush and the son of P'rushim; and it is concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am being tried!"
ii. Rom 7:12 - So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good
iii. Regarded the Torah as binding on Jewish and proselyte believers (Acts 21:20ff, Gal. 5:3)
iv. 1Ti 1:8 - We know that the Torah is good, provided one uses it in the way the Torah itself intends.
1. Gal 5:14 - For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Rom 13:8ff)
2. Gal 6:2 - Bear one another's burdens - in this way you will be fulfilling the Torah's true meaning, which the Messiah upholds.
v. Did not see the Torah as being in opposition to the promises of grace (Gal. 3:21), but as pointing to Messiah, the source of God’s grace (Rom 10:4)
vi. Cited the Torah in making Messianic halakha (1Co 9:9, etc.)
i. The Written Torah points us to Yeshua, the Living Torah
1. Rom 10:4 - For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.
2. John 5:39f – “You keep examining the Tanakh because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to me, but you won't come to me in order to have life!”
ii. The Written Torah is the Messiah’s shadow (cf. Col 2:17),
a. A kosher Torah scroll is the Word of God written on lambskin, nailed to two pieces of wood (the rollers) which are called the ‘Eytz Chaim (Tree of Life; cf. Pro 3:18), robed in splendor, wearing the breastplate representing that of the High Priest, topped with a crown or a pair of finials that represent crowns.
b. Yeshua is the Word of God come as the Lamb, nailed to two pieces of wood that are to us a Tree of Life, now robed in splendor, interceding for us as our High Priest, and wearing many crowns upon His head.
a. In the Torah’s histories are the prophetic types of Messiah (Isaac, Joseph, Moses, etc.)
b. In the Torah’s ceremonies, we continually reenact God’s plan of Redemption, past and future (see The Feasts and the Exodus; Col 2:17)
c. In the righteous moral commands of the Torah, we see the righteousness of the Messiah and learn to become more like Him day-by-day (cf. Rom 8:29)
iii. And while we love Messiah so much that we love even His shadow, we do not mistake the shadow for the person.
Letter vs. Spirit
Rom 7:5 For when we were living according to our old nature, the passions connected with sins worked through the Torah in our various parts, with the result that we bore fruit for death.
Rom 7:6 But now we have been released from this aspect of the Torah, because we have died to that which had us in its clutches, so that we are serving in the new way provided by the Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law.
i. Not “the law has been abolished” (cf. 3:31; same root word for “abolish”), which would contradict the earlier statement that we uphold the Torah.
ii. Rather, we have been abolished from the particular aspect of the Torah that inspires us to sin more, because we have died to the Torah as a end to itself and been born anew to the Messiah that Torah points to.
i. Putting a fence around a command to avoid breaking it is all well and good (cf. Avot 1:1) – but when the fences themselves become regarded as a kind of Torah, we end up with endless fences around fences.
1. The additions to the kosher commandments in ways which would have been impossible for the vast majority of 1 st Century Jews to keep—like having separate refrigerators and dishes for meat and dairy—and which only serve the purpose of promoting division in matters of table fellowship, even between different groups of Orthodox Jews.
2. Conversely, it is the “letter of the law” that allows many Jews to employ a “Sabbath gentile” to perform the tasks that they consider to be forbidden on the Sabbath, like turning on the lights.
i. The Apostles extended table-fellowship to even Gentiles who would have been barely aware of the requirements of Biblical kosher—they would not have countenanced rabbinic additions that made such fellowship between believers impossible.
ii. Nor would they have encouraged Gentiles to perform actions that they considered sinful for themselves for the purpose of making their lives easier.
Torah Defines Sin
Rom 7:7 Therefore, what are we to say? That the Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid! Rather, the function of the Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if the Torah had not said, "Thou shalt not covet."
Law Promotes Lawlessness
Rom 7:8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, worked in me all kinds of evil desires - for apart from Torah, sin is dead.
Rom 7:9 I was once alive outside the framework of Torah. But when the commandment really encountered me, sin sprang to life,
Rom 7:10 and I died. The commandment that was intended to bring me life was found to be bringing me death!
Rom 7:11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me; and through the commandment, sin killed me.
i. The Sermon on the Mount has the same effect: “I’m not hurting anyone just by looking at a woman. Why shouldn’t I? It’s perfectly natural!”
ii. If you want to see people walking through your yard, just put out a “Keep off the grass” sign.
iii. People raised in families who outright forbid drinking are more likely to abuse alcohol when on their own than those who were allowed to drink in moderation and under supervision growing up.
The Goodness of the Torah
Rom 7:12 So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good.
Rom 7:13 Then did something good become for me the source of death? Heaven forbid! Rather, it was sin working death in me through something good, so that sin might be clearly exposed as sin, so that sin through the commandment might come to be experienced as sinful beyond measure.
The Struggle of the Redeemed
Rom 7:14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave.
Rom 7:15 I don't understand my own behavior - I don't do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate!
Rom 7:16 Now if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good.
Rom 7:17 But now it is no longer "the real me" doing it, but the sin housed inside me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me - that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can't do it!
Rom 7:19 For I don't do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don't want is what I do!
Rom 7:20 But if I am doing what "the real me" doesn't want, it is no longer "the real me" doing it but the sin housed inside me.
Rom 7:21 So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse "torah," that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me!
Rom 7:22 For in my inner self I completely agree with God's Torah;
Rom 7:23 but in my various parts, I see a different "torah," one that battles with the Torah in my mind and makes me a prisoner of sin's "torah," which is operating in my various parts.
Rom 7:24 What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death?
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God [, he will]! - through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord! To sum up: with my mind, I am a slave of God's Torah; but with my old nature, I am a slave of sin's "Torah."
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