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?