What role does the Law of the Old Testament play in the lives of Christians? What exactly are we supposed to do after we get saved? Why does it seem that being good is so difficult? Paul addresses all of these questions and more in the book of Romans, and it turns out that the situation is more complicated than you may think.
The Three Laws in Romans 7
For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me a captive to the law of sin which is in my members.
In these two verse, Paul marks out three distinct laws: the law of God, the law of the mind, and the law of sin. Whether Paul is referring to his experience before he was saved or after (a big debate among some Christians today, which I chose to not participate in during this post), almost all Christians can easily read themselves into this chapter, encountering the same struggle in their daily life.
These three laws explain why our situation can be (and usually is) so complicated and pitiful today.
The Law of God
The law of God refers to the law of the Old Testament, specifically the Ten Commandments (Josh. 24:26; 1 Chron. 22:12; Ezra 7:14; Neh. 8:8). This law was given through Moses:
For the law was given through Moses…
While it may not seem important at face value, we must pay close attention to the fact that the law was “given.”
This law is outside of us. It is an objective standard of righteousness, testifying of God’s righteousness and demanding man to match that righteousness. This law’s origin is at Mount Sinai around 2000 BC, not eternity past or at the garden of Eden.
The Law of the Mind
The law of the mind traces its origins further back than the law of God. Man in his original, created nature was good and even longed for the Good. This longing was used by Satan in his tempting man to eat from the tree of knowledge, which would supposedly enable man to be like God, the ultimate good. The source of this desire is the law of the mind or we can call it “the law of good.” This is the law in man that wills to do good. It corresponds to the law of God, and it is within all of mankind.
Everyone desires to do good. We all know that we should do good. Romans 2 testifies that there isn’t a need of an objective, outward law to condemn, for something within man wills to do the good of the law without even knowing that it exists. This is the law of the mind or the law of good.
The Law of Sin
There is another law “in my members” that wars against the “law of my mind” (v. 23). This law is the law of sin (v. 23, 25; 8:2). The origin of this law precedes the law of God but supersedes the law of the mind, both in order and power. The law of sin came into our flesh after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Sin entered into man’s flesh and became a law that subjected him to sin’s power.
This law of sin is what prevents us from being able to fulfill the law of God. It overpowers the law of the mind that wills to do the law of God.
For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but to work out the good is not. For I do not do the good which I will; but the evil which I do not will, this I practice.
Man, in Romans 7, has three laws influencing him: the law of the mind within the soul of man, the law of sin within the flesh of man, and the law of God outside of man. The law of good within man corresponds to the law of God outside of man. This is why Paul says that to will the good is present with him. However, the law of sin directly opposes the law of God and wars against the law of the mind. This prohibits man from practicing what he wills. “Wretched men that I am! Who can deliver me from the body of this death?” (v.24).
God’s Solution – A Fourth Law
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 7:25a; 8:2
Praise God! A new law has been added into man. This law is referred to as “the law of the Spirit of life.” This law frees us from the law of sin and of death which is in our members. This law came along with the Spirit when we first believed into Christ. This law is not within the flesh of man, where the law of sin is; nor is this law within the soul of man where the law of the mind is. This law is in the spirit (lowercase) of man, where the Holy Spirit dwells (v. 16).
As the laws of aerodynamics overcome the law of gravity, so the law of the Spirit of life overcomes the law of sin and of death, thus enabling us to fulfill the law of God.
For that which the law (of God) could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (where the law of sin and of death dwell), God, sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.
Though the law of the mind is unable to fulfill the law of God because of the flesh, the law of the Spirit of life overcomes the law of sin and of death, enabling man to fulfill the law.
Where is Your Mind?
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.
Where is our mind set? Is it set on ourselves, our abilities, or even our failures? All of these result in death. Sin takes the opportunity given by the law and kills us (7:8-9). The law, when our mind is set on the flesh, exposes and kills us.
The mind needs to be set on the spirit, where Christ dwells (8:10)! When we set our mind on the spirit within instead of on ourselves, the law of the Spirit spontaneously fulfills the law of God, and we have life and peace.
Don’t try to do good. Don’t try to fulfill the law. Many Christians day by day pray that the Lord would help them love their wife, submit to their husband, be kind to their classmate, share the gospel to their coworker, etc., only to find that their prayer resulted in them doing worse than before! Don’t pray that the Lord would help you do good. Simply set your mind on the spirit, enjoy the wonderful life that has been given to you, and afford the Lord the opportunity to transform and renew your mind (12:2).