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Commentary on Romans

by Michael Bugg

Chapter 7

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.

  1. “those who understand Torah” – speaking to the Jewish believers in Rome in particular.
  2. Dying to the Torah
    1. Sha’ul’s attitude towards the Torah destroys the idea that he is advocating ceasing to practice it

                                                              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.)

    1. Rather, he is speaking of dying to the Torah as an end to itself

                                                              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),

1.      Symbolically

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. 

2.      Practically

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.

  1. The Torah inspires us to sin because of the dominance of our yetzer hara – see below
  2. “released from this aspect of the Torah”
    1. lit. “we have been abolished (κατηργήθημεν) from 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.

  1. Letter vs. Spirit
    1. To those who are still “wed” to the Torah, the letter can be all-consuming.

                                                              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.

                                                            ii.      Examples: 

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.

    1. To those wed to Messiah and having Torah written on our hearts (Jer. 31:31ff, Heb. 8:8ff), and to non-Messianic Jews who focus on the spirit of the Torah, a different set of priorities emerge.

                                                              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."

  1. A syllogism:
    1. Premise 1:  The Torah defines what is sin and what is not.
    2. Premise 2:  We are not to deliberately sin just because we are under God’s grace.
    3. Conclusion:  Therefore, though no longer married to the Torah as an end to itself, we should still keep it in all ways.
  2. Yeshua commanded us to keep even the least commandments of the Torah (Mat 5:17-19)

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.

  1. Human nature has the perverse urge to violate any law that confronts it
    1. Adam and Eve had only one negative commandment—not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—and yet it was so easy for the Serpent to temp our first parents into doing just that.
    2. This is not unique to the Torah of Moses

                                                              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.

  1. “alive outside the framework of Torah”
    1. “In Romans 7 Paul divides his life into three periods: roughly they are as follows.  First, a period when although sin was latent in him, it was ‘dead’, and he was able to live a full life without restraint, the age of innocence as we should call it.  Secondly, the period when the commandment came and with it sin sprang to life.  Hitherto sin was not known as sin; it was revealed as such by the Law.  The latter, moreover, not only brought into being the awareness of the sinfulness of sin but also, on the principle that forbidden fruits are sweetest, actually gave an impetus towards sin.  Paul is driven into the painful state that Aristotle called ακρασια (incontinence) in which a man knows what is right and desires it and yet cannot do it.  He becomes a Jekyll and Hyde.  The third stage in the Apostle’s life is that in which the Spirit come to deliver him.”  (Davies, Paul 24)
    2. Among the rabbis, it is commonly taught that until the age of thirteen, the yetzer hara has full sway, but at thirteen (the age of bar mitzvah), the struggle between the yetzer hara and the yetzer hatov (good inclination) began.
  2. Paul speaks of “sin” as a personal being here (cf. Gen 4:7), synonymous with the author of sin, the Adversary.
    1. He parallels his own innocence, deception, and death with that of Adam and Eve.

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.

  1. If the Torah is holy, and its commandment holy, just, and good, should we not seek to follow it just as Yeshua did?
  2. The problem is not, and has never been, that the Torah is impossible to keep (see notes on 10:6f below) – it is that the sin in us rejects God’s commandments.

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."

  1. Sha’ul here openly and honestly speaks of the agony of the follower of Messiah, seemingly torn almost in half between two natures.



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