I used to believe that in Romans 7, Paul was describing the struggle of the Christian against sin. I don’t believe that anymore, for reasons I’ve detailed here (Romans 7 Is Not About Christians), and here (Romans 7 Is Not About Christians (Part Deux)), and here (So What’s Really Up With Romans 7?). Now, just to be clear, I have lots of good friends who are way more godly than me who believe Romans 7 IS about Christians, and this isn’t a hill I’m going to die on.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Romans 7 again, particularly the most common objection to my position, which is this: If Paul was not a Christian, how could he say he “delighted” in the law of God? After all, doesn’t Paul say in the beginning of Romans that every non-Christian is an enemy of God?
However, the more I’ve thought about the question, the more I’ve wondered if we shouldn’t be asking the opposite question: If Paul WAS a Christian, how could he say he delighted in the law of the Lord?
In Romans 7, it is clear that when Paul uses the word “law”, he is referring to the Mosaic law. He is not referring to the law of Christ, or the more general moral law of God revealed to unbelievers through creation. He is using “law” in the technical sense, the Mosaic sense. Throughout his epistles, Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, that the Mosaic law has been eclipsed by the new, wonderful covenant we have in Christ, and that anyone who tries to be justified by the law is under a curse.
Some scriptures to consider in which Paul talks about the relationship between Christians and the Mosaic law:
Romans 4:14-15 - For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 7:6 - But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 8:2 - For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 10:4 - For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Galatians 2:19 - For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
Galatians 5:18 - But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Ephesians 2:14-15 - For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.
Paul’s consistent, repeated point, is that Christians are in no way under the Mosaic law. We are not obligated to obey the commandments of the Mosaic law, we are not required to observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law, and we are totally justified apart from the law.
If these things are true, how could Paul possibly say in Romans 7 that he “delights” in the Mosaic law? As a Christian, how could Paul say that he delights in the Old Covenant, along with all it’s ordinances and sacrifices? Contrary to what many writers have said, Paul doesn’t distinguish between the moral, civil, and ceremonial aspects of the law. He simply states that Christians are not under any part of the Mosaic law.
Paul’s statement about delighting in the law does make sense, however, if he is writing from the perspective of a pious, unregenerate Jew. In Phillipians 3:4-6, Paul shows just how much he did delight in the law prior to his wonderful conversion:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
If anyone delighted in the law, it was pre-conversion Paul. He did everything in his power to keep the law. The more I consider Paul’s statements about the relationship between the Christian and the law, the more I am convinced he is describing his pre-conversion experience in Romans 7.
As Christians we are not under the Mosaic law. Period. We are not obligated to keep any of the commands of the Mosaic law, because those things passed away when Christ instituted the New Covenant.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IF PAUL WAS DESCRIBING THE EXPERIENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN, HOW DO YOU MAKE SENSE OF PAUL’S DELIGHT IN THE LAW?