Romans - Lesson 32

Class discussion on Romans 7:7-12

The discourse illuminates the inherent inadequacy of legalism and the timeless struggle to grasp divine grace.

Lesson 32
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Class discussion on Romans 7:7-12

Discussion on Romans 7:7-12

A. Israel’s Experience with the Law

B. Israel and the Inadequacy of the Law

C. The Law Was Never Given to Save Israel

D. The Way I Research Scripture

E. Communicating Scripture Effectively Depends on the Audience

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Class discussion on Romans 7:7-12  
Lesson Transcript


Discussion on Romans 7:7-12

A. Israel’s Experience with the Law: 

Greg has asked the ‘so what’ question. This is a good question to ask so let’s address it now.

First, a general comment. I think all of us, and I include myself, are probably guilty at one time or another of what I call homiletical expediency in our interpretation. Confronted with two or three different interpretations of a passage, our tendency is to gravitate toward whichever interpretation is going to preach the best. Homiletical expediency becomes a very significant factor, whether we always admit it or not, in our decisions about what the text of the Bible means. This could come into play when trying to make a decision about what Paul is talking about here.

But let me focus here for a moment. If the text is basically about this third point of Israel’s experience with the Law of God and how confrontation with that Law brought death rather than life to them, what is the bottom line of my proclamation of the text? The main move here I would make is this one: we have talked about how Paul is in this passage, and indeed throughout Romans, focused on the issue of Torah. Now, Torah, the Law God gave to Israel, is in many ways, a one-off experience. There are no parallels; God has never given any other law like that, explicitly revealing Himself in His will to a particular people. So, in one sense, yes, Torah is unique, but there are several places in Paul, Romans 2 is one of them, where Paul makes clear that the experience of Israel with Torah is to some extent (not in every respect) also equivalent to the experience of human beings generally with law. That for me is the key hermeneutical move that I would make in thinking about the application of Romans 7.

I think Israel and her experience with the Law functions this way in scripture more broadly as well. You can view Israel’s experience with the Law as a grand experiment in which God says that He will choose a people and give them all kinds of good things; I will reveal My glory and splendor to them; I will work miracles on their behalf; I will bring them into a land that they don’t deserve to have and give it to them as a gift, and I am going to give them My law and see what happens.

We all know how that story ends up; despite all the blessings and privileges God gives His people, they again and again stubbornly turn against Him. They get caught up in idolatry and go after other gods so again and again they fail. My point is I think there are texts in scripture that justify us saying that experience of Israel with the Law is analogous to the experience of human beings in general with law, whatever law it might be.

B. Israel and The Inadequacy of the Law: 

So, as I preach Romans 7:7-25, and this applies to the entire rest of the chapter, the basic points that I am making about this text are the inadequacy of law. Human beings thinking that if they have a law, rules to live by, that this is going to be adequate for them or that they can live up to those standards. The point that Paul is making by looking at his experience in conjunction with the experience of Israel, is to say law by itself is killing, not life giving. Law exposes our problems; law doesn’t give us our answers.

This will preach in different ways to different particular people. If you have a tendency toward legalism in your congregation, there are some pretty obvious applications. If you get hung up on your laws and think that is what is going to give you approval before God, look at Israel and their experience. That isn’t going to do it for you.

Or non-Christians who think that God will approve of me because I am living a fairly good life. I am following certain rules and laws that are important in my tradition or in my culture, and by following those laws, I’m going to be okay. Again, Romans 7 exposes the inadequacy of law to accomplish that.

In many ways, I think Paul himself summarizes Romans 7 in chapter 8 verse 3 where he says, “what the Law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh.” God’s Law, or law in general, comes to people who are already locked up under sin. It isn’t able to release them; it isn’t what is going to liberate people from that condition. It is just going to make their condition even clearer by specifically laying out requirements that we are not going to end up meeting.

It’s not the law that is inadequate; it’s human nature, it’s the Adamic nature that is inadequate, not the Law. 

Dr. Moo: 
That is the point Paul is making throughout here.

I think 8:3 explains any inconsistencies that people are seeing, all the different laws, Paul didn’t know what he was talking about, he’s inconsistent in his approach to the Law, and everything else. I think 8:3 is a place to start when interpreting Paul and the law, and his relationship to the Law. I don’t think he ever said anything negative about the Law.


C. The Law Was Never Given to Save Israel: 

Dr. Moo:  
That’s exactly right. Here is the analogy that Luther gives. Luther’s illustration is that you are sick and the doctor prescribes a certain medication and you decide to take a different medication. It doesn’t make you better but instead it makes you more sick. Who do you blame, the medicine or your own stupidity? That is the point here. You’ve got this condition of sin; what is the remedy for it? Let’s try law and see how that works. That just makes my condition worse because law is never intended to remedy that condition.

God never gave His Law as a means of salvation to anybody. God gave His Law to help his people to know how to live before Him and to show by that the way in which we fail to live up to the demands of God. Leonard mentioned the other day when we were talking, the idea of the Law as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The Law in revealing our weaknesses and failures, makes it clear we have to seek a solution somewhere else.

I get tired of ministers who speak in a derogatory fashion about the Law. It’s a practice that drives me crazy because it’s never the Law that is the problem. It’s never that; it’s you, it’s the Adamic nature. Does that kind of thing need to be stopped?

Dr. Moo: 
We have to be careful about that in our own statements. You’re right.

I think the analogy would be applicable if you would say the Law is, rather than the medicine, the Law is the doctor diagnosing the problem.

Dr. Moo: 
To me the illustration works if God is the doctor. He analyzes us and says, you’ve got a problem here, friend, and let me tell you that the answer to your problem is Christ. Instead of that we say no, I’m going to take the Law as the medicine that I think is going to make me well. That just makes us more ill. We get sicker and sicker as we keep applying the Law to ourselves. Then, maybe I should listen to the doctor who is telling me it is Christ and the Gospel that is going to get me well. That’s how I was using the illustration and I think Luther uses it that way, too.

I’ve looked at this, and I’ve looked at Paul’s struggle, looked at his life. I think there would be an argument in saying, look what Paul experienced, the road to Damascus, all of those things, and when you pull all that in, persecuting the church, etc. My question is would that be wrong hermeneutically?  This is what I’m seeing and I want to be able to talk about Paul and this whole idea.

Dr. Moo: 
So, the nice thing about Romans 7 is that you can take almost any view that you want and find good reasons for it. Often when I teach on biblical interpretation and hermeneutics to people, I use Romans 7 as my illustration. Here is a passage, particularly in verses 13 -25, where all the evidence does not neatly line up in favor of one view. So, there are good biblical scholars, faithful colleagues of mine who interpret the passage the way you are arguing. I have a hard time saying that people are wrong to interpret it different ways. It’s not my preferential view, it’s not the way I tend to think the evidence leans here.

But again, one of the things that I want to be as an interpreter of Scripture, is that I want to try to be honest with the view I hold in terms of the amount of evidence behind it. I never want to say “certainly” when it is “probably,” or “probably” when it is “possibly.” I want to try to be honest with the evidence as I see it. This is indeed a difficult passage to interpret. Good interpreters have argued each of these views throughout the history of Christianity. I think it’s very difficult to say that if you preach it this way, you’re wrong and you’re being unfaithful to the text. No, I don’t think you can say that.


D. The Way I Research Scripture: 

When you come to a passage, and it happens often, and you do it in your big commentary over and over again, and there are several interpretations of one passage or verse, what do you do?  Do you look at all of them and say, I like this one the best and I’m going to start from here? How do you handle all the different views of one passage?

Dr. Moo: 
I think if we’re honest, most of us don’t come to most passages of scripture with a clean slate. Most of us have a sense of what a passage means. We’ve been taught it somewhere, we’ve heard it, we’ve read somebody, our church background has led us to view a text in a certain way. I think a lot of times we start out with a default view and then we start to read other people.

For me, what I try to do when I’m writing a commentary on Romans for instance, first of all I try to read everybody I can, and I try to read them sympathetically. It is easy to read people, to say I’m going to read so-and-so so I can show how wrong they are. What I try to do is to read sympathetically, to spend the time with someone who is trying to argue a view of a passage and say let me really understand what they are saying. Let me see how that works, let me read the passage the way they are reading it and see if that makes sense to me. I will try to read widely in doing that.

The last thing that I do when I write a commentary like this, I come back to the data of the text. That’s when I will do my own careful word studies, my own background studies, do my grammatical analysis. This is the reverse of the way other people do it. I want the last thing that I do to be the work in the text and that is where I start to make the decisions about which of these views works. This is the way I go about it.

I try to do this honestly. My wife accuses me of being wishy-washy, and she’s probably right, that tends to be my personality. I can see truth, that view makes a certain amount of sense, that view, too. I try to be honest with the evidence and draw the conclusions there may be different levels of conclusion I can draw.

I think what gets tricky is that in a thousand-page commentary, I can do that but not so in a thirty-minute sermon. If you are preaching on Romans 7:7-12 let’s say and only have thirty minutes, Here’s this view, here’s that view, here’s the third view – oh, my times up!  How do you navigate that?  There you have very strongly competing virtues. Number one is the virtue of giving our people something clear to leave the church with. so that they don’t leave with a jumble of options.

A parenthesis here – there used to me a joke told, comparing Fuller Seminary, Trinity Seminary, and Dallas Seminary. At Trinity a professor makes a point and student raises a hand and asks is it going to be on the test?  At Dallas, a professor makes a point and students write it down. At Fuller, a professor makes a point and students run to see if it’s really true or not.

There is some truth in that caricature. Some traditions have a detailed doctrinal statement, and our job is going to be to communicate that because we all know that is all true. You can preach that way. The value of that, which cannot be underestimated, is clarity and certainty. This is leaving people with a clear sense of what the text means and how it is to be put into effect.

The other virtue to me involves the honestly of the Scriptures. I want to avoid pounding the pulpit and saying that this is clearly God’s Word when I know that it is only a 55%vote. I think that isa recipe for creating divisions among churches.

E. Communicating Scripture Effectively Depends on the Audience: 

I find myself when I preach trying to navigate very carefully when I preach, trying to be honest with people and saying there are other views here and don’t think those who take those other views are demonic. But this is what I think the text means and these are the reasons why I think it means this. Then I explain what it looks like in terms of practicing the faith, or the beliefs we’re to have, etc. But I think that is a very tough balance to maintain in preaching.

So, if you were taking the passage, would you maybe give two of the views briefly, then explain for the rest of your time your own view?  You wouldn’t give fair time for each view?

Dr. Moo: 
No, I don’t think that is what a sermon is for. Now if you have an adult Sunday school class or a Bible study where you have some alert eager believers, that is a place where you can do more of that. Ministry is more than preaching, but in terms of the pulpit, when we have that limited amount of time, we have to guard it. All the stuff we need to do – introduce the sermon, illustrate it, apply it, we aren’t going to have time to work through all the options. Some of that is what we do in the study, not in the pulpit.

But the history of interpretation is interesting, even to the person in the pew, and you can hold their interest for a certain amount of time by reviewing some of the history of interpretation.

Dr. Moo: 
There are ways of doing it creatively and attractively, particularly trying to bring it to bear on the text.

I think it’s a hard row to hoe to try to say to somebody that Paul doesn’t mean “I” here. That’s a hard thing to try to convince people that he is personifying Israel, standing in their place. It’s hard to do because they are looking at it and saying, it says “I.”

Dr. Moo:  
When I’m preaching on Romans 7, I have people turn to Lamentations because that is a place where I means Jerusalem. On the basis of Scripture itself, it makes the point that ‘I’ doesn’t always mean ‘I’. This sounds like the sort of thing academics do say, this shows how disconnected with reality that we are. A lot depends on where your people are. Are they very new Christians who aren’t terribly well educated or are they mature educated Christians? Communication is always a two-way act. You have something you’re communicating from scripture, but if communication is going to be effective, you have to analyze the audience.

We do this all the time in translating the NIV. We look at people in the churches and we look at studies that say, if you want to communicate with people in our culture, you need to use about an eighth-grade level of English. People’s ability to understand a passage when they read it is declining quickly and drastically. This has tremendous implications for how you translate the Scripture. You can come up with a very accurate translation of Scripture which has great literary qualities that is not going to communicate to people. This is particularly a challenge in my part of the world; I go to a college church which is very well-educated place. I teach Sunday school and college church and the people in my adult Sunday school class are asking what about Tom Wright’s view there and the New Perspective? Those are the questions they are asking; it's that kind of a place. That combination with the academic situation at the college can lead us astray in terms of where average people are at, in terms of their ability to read and understand English.  

As good a translation as the ESV is, it is written in a level of English that a lot of people can’t follow. So, accurate it might be, but does it communicate? This is a question that we always have to ask ourselves when we preach. I might have great things to say, but do my people understand it? Am I putting it at a level and in a way that they can comprehend?  

I think this whole literacy question has huge implications for a movement like ours based on the interpretation of a word. As people have less and less ability to read and understand on their own, what does that say about a movement that we say is based on putting the Bible in the hands of people to read and understand and apply for themselves.

This is really a critical issue with the King James only crowd because it is written at the most inappropriate level of all versions, so it’s the least likely to be understood.

Dr. Moo: 
It is also such irony that in hotels you have the Gideon Bible in the King James. It is exactly the wrong version to put in that context. Precisely the wrong Bible to use in that setting.

If you’re a minister in a local church, and you plan to be there for a long time if the Lord allows, how much is your responsibility in preaching and teaching to upgrade and progress the literacy of your church, especially the biblical literacy?

Dr. Moo: 
Obviously in your preaching and teaching over the years, you can get people excited. We sort of have a foot in two different churches at this point. One of the churches I am associated with, the people just don’t have the reading ability that others have. I’ve been teaching that class for about three years now and I’ve seen their interest in reading the Bible for themselves and asking better questions has increased over time. There is a certain amount that you can do.

But when you have people for half an hour on Sunday morning and perhaps another hour during Sunday School and perhaps a few during the mid-week Bible study, how much can you do realistically? You just don’t have enough time with them to make much of an impact. Certain things you can do, get them excited, motivate them perhaps to turn off the tv and do some reading on their own. It's tough, I think.