The Evil of Chapters and Verses
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Romans 7: 14-25 (English Standard Version)
How Good Things can Hide the Truth
That’s right, the last paragraph in the quoted scripture above is actually the first part of chapter 8; but it follows directly on from the end of chapter 7 without a break so I have included it here! And when we read all of chapter 8 in this way we see something we would normally miss. Remember that Paul wrote this letter as a single document without any chapter breaks, also without any verse numbering and without foot-notes and comments. Having chapter and verse notations is good for scholars and students when referencing or finding Bible passages, but it can steal from the original meaning – as it does here in Romans.
So what do we see in the above passage that is different now that chapter and verse notations are removed? Something conveniently passed over by numerous evangelical Christians for many generations. In chapter 7, pardon my use of chapters and verses, we see a vivid description of the law of sin and death (Romans 7: 19) which Paul illustrates in detail. Many Christian apologists declare that this is also our condition because Paul uses present tense to say that he continued to suffer from this situation (Romans 7:23). But nothing could be further from the truth.
Paul now declares that the law of the Holy Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death (Romans 8: 2). And this is again reinforced in numerous verses to follow (Romans 8: 4-5).
Having a chapter break between chapters 7 and 8 creates a mental block in the minds of readers preventing Paul’s real message from getting through. We have a natural inclination to assign different themes to different chapters. So at the end of chapter 7 we naturally assume the context of the message has been completed and that chapter 8 starts off with a new and different theme. This explanation may simplify things a bit but the inclination to assign new contexts robs us of the understanding Paul is trying to convey. In all honesty we should read this important section of Scripture from chapters 5 through to 9, without any chapter breaks.
If we are freed from this “sinful condition” in chapter 7, as indicated in chapter 8, why did Paul use present tense in his text? After all it indicates that he continued to live this way, unable to break free of it, or so it would seem. The answer lies earlier in chapter 7 where he asks and answers the question, “is the Law sin?” (Romans 7: 7) Paul then goes into great detail explaining how sin motivated by the Law operates in our bodies. His illustration is greatly enhanced by the use of present tense which many readers wrongly interpret, especially when they quote the last verse of chapter 7 (Romans 7: 25) without continuing directly into chapter 8. But by reading into chapter 8 we see that chapter 7 is only an illustration – because Paul makes it indelibly clear how the law of the Spirit frees us from this law of sin and death.
Other Reflections on the Bible
Ephesians 4: 11-16
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2 Peter 3: 3-13
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Galatians 5: 13-25
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1 Corinthians 12: 12-29
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Romans 8: 18 – 27
Charismatics and Pentecostals make a big deal out of praying in the Spirit. They will take verse 26 out of context to excuse a practice which is often suspect or false (Romans 8:26).
There was a televangelist recently who broke into praying in . . .