Surprised By Joy

Why did Paul write Romans 7?

Paul never left his readers high and dry…hanging in mid-air by theological threads. If he had stopped at Romans six, we would all soon feel hung out to dry, hopeless, and wretched because of the pull of our own sin nature.  How wonderful that he wrote chapters seven and eight!  We find ourselves surprised and joyful.

In Romans 6, Paul explains that we who are living by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have no excuse for continuing in sin.  “Well, I’m only human, after all!” falls flat because of the favor and power of God in our lives.  He tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin–unresponsive to its lure and our desires to have, do, and be something God forbids.   Paul teaches in Romans 6 that we are to look to the power of Jesus’s very life and Spirit in us to overcome sin.

“Likewise, reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:11-12 KJV).

Amazingly, Jesus guaranteed His Spirit, indeed Himself, to defeat sin and comfort us:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever;  even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him:  but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you” (John 14:15-18 KJV).

That is why Christians are not to be defeated by sin, Satan’s temptations, or the universal troubles of life.  We forget this so easily, don’t we?  We are not the only ones. In Romans 7, Paul explains how the Moral Law shows us how to please our Father. Then he describes the hard lesson of what it is like to be pulled down by the strength of his own sin nature.

“For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I….Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me…For the good that I would I do not:  but the evil which I would not, that I do….O wretched man that I am!”  (Romans 7:15-16a;19;24 KJV).

All of us have experienced this, haven’t we?   Just picture a relationship that has been difficult for you over the years.   How many times you have intended to keep your mouth shut, but responded harshly instead!   Why do we experience such failure?  We know we have been declared righteous, and are, even now, under no condemnation.  Yet, we find ourselves crying for help.  “We cry,” Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15) or to put it more frankly, “Help, Daddy!”  And, of course, He does.

But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11 KJV).

When feelings overwhelm us and wretchedness sets in because we know we are not pleasing our Father, our cry for help then has real meaning.  We can go back to the doctrine of Romans 1-6 and consider ourselves unresponsive to those desires to have, do, or be what is wrong.  When it happens, we are surprised by our renewed spirit and joy. We become more aware of God’s unwavering love and mercy.   Our strength is renewed like an eagle’s.  We watch it happening with wonder.

What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?…Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  …Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us”  (Romans 8:31;25;37).

Once this happens to us, we know we can cry for help again.  To be set apart from worldliness and dedicated as a useful vessel for service to the King gives us hope for the future.  Paul’s description of his own wretchedness in chapter seven shows us the power of our sin nature, but hope makes all the difference.  We cry, “Daddy, Help!” and then we are surprised at our own joy at being servants of the King.

Won’t you read Romans 5-8 again?



It Is All About Relationship

Romans 5 is a resounding summary of the gospel.  Those who believe in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and have faith that His perfect life and His suffering and death are sufficient to save them from their guilt and shame are declared righteous. They are standing in grace; they have peace with God; He favors them freely without their earning it.   They shall conquer sin.  They shall not be destroyed by trouble, sickness, or death.  Their relationship with God makes all the difference!

“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:  that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21, KJV).

If this all is true, why not just live joyfully without worrying about sin any longer?  You could do whatever you wish since you have been declared righteous and are on your way to eternal life.  After all, God looks upon you with love in His eyes!

Paul shows this as ridiculous logic.  If we have trusted in Christ, our old life of sin has been buried and we have been raised to a new life focused on our special relationship with God.  Our life no longer consists of fulfilling our own desires or pursuing pleasures, but seeking to please the One who looks upon us with love and gives us strength.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof…but yield yourselves unto God..for sin shall not have dominion over you:..” (Romans 6:12-14, KJV).

There is no room here for “Second Blessings,” or “Saints,” or two classes of Christians, one “Carnal” while the top class is “Spiritual.”  These are gross misrepresentations of this passage.  Instead, this relationship applies to all people of faith.

Everything changes when you look at yourself in the light of this special relationship with God.  You know you are not perfect…otherwise you have no need for imputed righteousness.  But, you don’t want to do anything that would offend your Father.  You do not desire to keep on sinning nor to be devastated when sin pops up again.

That is why Paul wrote Romans 6.  He wanted to encourage you to live as God’s servant, seeking to please Him by doing what is right.  The result is a life set apart from worldliness and dedicated to God.

“…even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness…you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:19,21, KJV).

An old hymn describes this relationship and this process of sanctification well:

“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way!  While we do His good will, He abides with us still.  And with all who will trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay; Not a grief or a loss, Not a frown or a cross, But is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove The delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows And the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet We will sit at His feet Or we’ll walk by His side in the way; What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey” (John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).

Living in a loving relationship with God is no excuse for sin.

Then why did Paul write Romans 7?