Have you ever pondered Paul's tormented, heart-felt, gut-wrenching writings in Romans 7, concerning our carnal, human nature which sometimes tends to get in the way? I was going to do a short article on Romans 7:13-21 today, but I became so immersed that I decided to simply go ahead and discuss the whole chapter, to show the context of this confusing, often-misunderstood passage.
Here we go:
Romans 7:1. Or do you not know, my Brothers (for I am speaking to them who know Torah) that Torah has dominion over a man as long as he is alive? 2. Just as a woman, by Torah, is bound to her husband as long as he is alive: but if her husband should die, she is freed from the Torah of her husband. 3. And if, while her husband is alive, she should adhere to another man, she would become an adulteress: but if her husband should die, she is freed from Torah; and would not be an adulteress though joined to another man.
NOTE: Paraphrasing the footnotes on this chapter from the Aramaic English New Testament (AENT), the context of the first three verses reveals Paul’s attempts to show that “Torah” is intended as “Instruction” - as in the instruction pertaining to marriage alone, and not the whole body of the Covenant. When a marriage partner dies, the surviving spouse is no longer contractually bound to the marriage covenant, but this does not mean that THE RULES of marriage no longer apply to the survivor, or to the rest us.
4. And now, my brothers, you also have become dead to Torah by the body of Mashiyach; that you might be joined to another, (even) to him who arose from the dead, and might yield fruits to Elohim. 5. For while we were in the flesh, the emotions of sin which are (listed) by Torah, were active in our members that we should bear fruits to death. 6. But now we are absolved from Torah and are dead to that which held us in its grasp: that we might from now on serve in the newness of the spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
NOTE: The term “Dead to Torah” refers to being “dead to the penalty for sin,” which is death, followed by destruction. Believers still tend to sin; however, those who are “in Mashiyach” (Messianic Yeshua) have atonement in him. This, of course, doesn’t mean we are free to sin at will. No! It means, the Ruach (Holy Spirit) within constantly reminds, warns and admonishes us whenever we do things we shouldn’t. From the beginning (Gen. 3:15) YHWH established a defense for His people against haSatan (the adversary)! Today, Believers have the privilege of adhering to Torah and “believing in” Yeshua our Divine Intercessor, who martyred himself on our behalf.
By the way, to “live in the spirit” and be “in” Mashiyach means to live a life pleasing to YHWH and NOT break Torah (see also Romans 8:1-10). Those who think that they can repeatedly break Torah without consequence because Mashiyach died for them, are very deceived because – as we see in places like Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 6:4-8, Hebrews 10:26, Romans 1:18-32 and 2 Peter 2:19-21, there is NO sin sacrifice for DELIBERATE and CONTINUED sinning!
Verse 6 is often misused by anti-Torah types who haven't grasped the concept of YHWH/Yeshua/Torah! You see, faith in Mashiyach and Torah observance brings eternal life, but the consequence of sin is death. This does not mean Torah is “released” because, with or without Mashiyach, the penalty for willful sin still remains! If the penalty for sin remains, then Torah also remains.
The “oldness of the letter” in verse 6 speaks of old religious ways which do not recognize Mashiyach as bringing the Living Word of YHWH to mankind. Y’shua brought the correct understanding of Torah which is to be written upon the heart, so we don’t continue in sin. (See also 6:12, below.) Some might say they have Faith and claim to be “Believers,” but if they continue in sin their faith/belief is irrelevant.
MOVING ON, we see Paul adamantly confirming Torah!
7. What will we say then? Is Torah sin? May it never be! For I had not learned sin except by means of Torah: for I had not known lust, had not Torah said, You will not covet: 8. And by this Commandment sin found occasion and perfected in me all lust: for without Torah, sin was dead.
9. And I, without Torah, was alive formerly; but when the Commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10. And the Commandment of life was found by me (to be) to death. 11. For sin, by the occasion which it found by means of the Commandment, seduced me and thereby killed me. 12. As a result, Torah is Set Apart; and the Commandment is Set Apart, and righteous, and good.
NOTE: Halleluyah! Please re-read verse 7 until it sinks in that we cannot know YHWH nor His Divine Messiah unless we grasp the concept of Torah, His Divine Instructions in Righteousness, without which we would have NO blueprint for moral, holy living!
13. Did that which is good, therefore, become death to me? May it never be! But sin, that it might be seen to be sin, perfected death in me by means of that good (Torah); that sin might the more be condemned by means of the Commandment. 14. For we know, that Torah is spiritual; but I am carnal, and sold to sin. 15. For what I am doing, I do not know: and what I would, I do not perform; but what I hate, that I do. 16. And if I do what I would not, I testify of Torah, that it is right.
NOTE: Paul says “Torah is spiritual”; therefore, while those without Torah might be very religious, they are not “spiritual” according to Paul and Messiah Yeshua! Yeshua haMashiyach is the goal and we are to be like him, which means that when our spirits are awakened to Messiah we will proceed to welcome Torah to be written upon our hearts.
MOVING ON … we’re now getting to the passage that has kept coming to my mind lately, concerning our carnal nature:
17. And then, it is no more I who do that thing, but sin which dwells in me. 18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) good dwells not: because, to approve the good, is easy for me; but to do it, I am unable. 19. For I do not perform the good which I would perform, but the bad which I would not perform, that I do perform. 20. And if I do what I would not, it is not I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 21. I find therefore a Torah coinciding with my conscience which agrees to my doing good, whereas evil is near to me.
22. For I rejoice in the Torah of Elohim, in the inner man. 23. But I see another instruction in my members, which wars against the instruction of my conscience and makes me a captive to the instruction of sin which exists in my members. 24. O, a miserable man, am I! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25. I thank Elohim by means of our Master Y’shua the Mashiyach (I will be rescued.) Now, therefore, in my conscience, I am a servant of the Torah of Elohim; but in my flesh, I am a servant of the instruction of sin. (AENT)
NOTE: The above passage should resonate with all who read it, because we’ve all experienced the endless struggle with “ourselves” and our desires to follow our carnal will.
Concerning the word "instruction in verse 22, the Aramaic word "namusa" could refer to the Tanakh, particular instruction within Tanakh, or an earthly instruction from the heart of man that may or may not be righteous, as it does here. The key context here is “in my members”; i.e., the flesh.
The phrase "instruction of sin" in verse 25 actually refers to two instructions; one from YHWH, the other from flesh, and they are in direct opposition to one another.
So, the “million dollar question” is this: Since YHWH gave us all the choice to follow His Instructions, or not; which “instructions” are YOU going to follow?
How many more times and in how many more ways does He have to say: "I give you good instruction: Do not forsake my Torah!" - (Proverbs 4:2)