Romans 7: The Real Me
In G-d it is Mashiyach alone who is our salvation (Yeshua) and our transformation, all else is idolatry.
An examination of Romans 7
In the previous chapter Paul/Shaul has presented a death to life argument that is best understood by the Greco-Roman members of the Roman ecclesia, now he turns the conversation toward his own people the Y’hudim (Jews). Shaul does not change the premise for his argument, rather he changes the delivery and the allegory associated to it. Formerly he spoke of death as a result of slavery to the personification of sin (former master), here he speaks of death to sin (former husband) by Torah through Messiah. Previously he spoke of life through joining in Messiah’s death and of submission to the new Master Righteousness, here he speaks of remarriage to G-d in Messiah and the fruit (progeny) of that new marriage. Many place their entire focus on “Law” here, I believe this takes our vision away from the center of belief/trust which Shaul/Paul is addressing. That belief/trust being in Messiah Himself and His saving work.
The Torah is like a mystical mirror that filters out self-delusion and exposes humanity’s true nature. Apart from Messiah (which is not to say separate from but in rebellion to) that nature is observed in the Torah’s reflection as sin addiction (used by the yetzer ha-ra) leading to death. However, in Messiah Yeshua the Torah reflects life and blessing. When we gaze into the mirror of Torah we see ourselves as we truly are, in sin we reflect darkness, in Messiah we reflect light.
Some have suggested that Shaul/Paul is putting an end to Torah for the believer in this chapter of Romans. “We are no longer under Torah but under grace,” they say, foolishly thinking that no longer being under something means the cessation of relationship to that thing. Paul here speaks of husbands dying and wives being set free to remarry but we would be unwise to neglect the fullness of his teaching. The fact is that the very analogy upon which he premises his argument is subject to the Instruction of Torah. Shaul/Paul is not doing away with Torah, as we will soon see, rather he is asking the hearer/reader to allow Messiah to change the way they think about Torah. Instead of presenting Torah as punitive law—Greek: nomos—Paul reveals it, in Messiah, as an inner instruction that must become central to our thinking.
In order for an English speaker to learn the Hebrew language they must learn to think differently. An English student of Hebrew must do away with the notion that English is read from left to right and that Hebrew is read backwards. Hebrew is not read backwards, it is read from right to left: the Hebrew consciousness thinks from East to West, the characters are different, the songs are different, the food is different, and the Hebrew perspective is entirely of another world to the English mind. This is similar to what Shaul/Paul is attempting to convey here by the Ruach ha-Kodesh. The Roman ecclesia is being challenged to receive a different Spirit to the spirit of human sin addiction, that different Spirit (The Holy Spirit) does not cause death but exposes it and its cause.
As we begin, let’s agree together with the words of Shaul/Paul:
“I agree with the Torah, confessing that the Torah is good.” 7:16b
This verse doesn’t say that the Torah was good, it says, “The Torah is good.”
7:1 Or are you not aware, ami--my people--(for I am speaking to those who know the Torah), that the Torah has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the specific instruction concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress (according to the Torah); but if her husband dies, she is free from the instruction regarding marriage, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
As I have previously stated, in the previous chapter of Romans Shaul/Paul explored the meaning of dying in Messiah and sharing in His resurrection, he also addressed the concept of slavery/servitude to sin verses servitude to righteousness in Messiah. Therefore it is interesting to note once again that he is now moving on to another death metaphor, this time regarding marriage.
Marriage is used throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) as an allegory for G-d’s relationship to Israel and in the New Testament it is used as an allegory for Messiah’s relationship to the Ecclesia. It is therefore both an important teaching tool and a physical covenant that is of great significance to us, and of sacred value to G-d. With this in mind we must understand that even in regard to our prior marriage to sin, the Torah plays a pivotal role in determining the just separation from that previous marriage, all be it an illegitimate marriage. G-d, in Messiah must be seen here as legally qualified to enter into a new marriage covenant with those who were previously illegitimately married to sin.
This same teaching regarding freedom from Torah at death is found in a number of rabbinical sources:
“Rabbi Yochanan said, ‘What is meant by the phrase, “With the dead, free,” (Tehillim/Psalm 88:6)? Thant when a man dies he becomes free from the Torah and from the commandments,’”(Shabbat 30a; similar passages are found at Shabbat 151b, Niddah 61b, and in one of the oldest collections of midrashim, the Pesikta diRav Kahana, Supplement 1:20)
—Quoted from JNTC by David H. Stern © 1992 David H. Stern
4 Therefore, ami--my people, you also were made to die with regard to the Torah (written instruction) through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another (The Living Torah Messiah/G-d, the second husband), to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for G-d. (A marriage bears children/fruit)
In English we've heard it said, "He's dead to me," meaning, as far as I'm concerned the person in question doesn't exist (even though in fact he does). This verse expressess a similar idea: from the Torah's perspective we are dead regarding the instruction concerning marriage as it relates to the allegory being used by Shaul/Paul in the previous verses.
It’s not the Torah that was made to die, rather it is we who have been made dead regarding it. We have not been made dead to the entire instructional nature of the Torah but only to a certain aspect of the Torah. In particular we are dead with regard to our marriage to sin (As Shaul/Paul clarifies later in this chapter). The reason for this is that unless we are dead to sin (our former husband) through Messiah's sacrifice, we are unable to remarry according to the Torah's instruction regarding marriage (that is, allegorically). This verse then is directly related to the previous verses which use marriage as a physical example of our spiritual relationship to Messiah. We must conclude then, that we are dead to the Torah in the sense that the Torah recognizes us as dead according to the instruction of marriage (spiritually speaking) and therefore we are now free to remarry, that is, to be joined to the Messiah Yeshua in marriage.
It is also important to note that Shaul/Paul is here being specific in defining Torah as only the books of Moses, it’s literal definition, as opposed to the entire Tanakh.
Although we have been made dead in regard to the punitive legalistic observance of the Torah, we are none the less still instructed by the living nature of Messiah, Who is, the Author of the Torah. In Messiah we have been made dead to the penalties of Torah, but we remain subject to its convicting (not condemning) purpose through the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
We have been set free from our former marriage to sin for the purpose of remarriage to righteousness Himself, Yeshua (ha-tzadik) our new husband of righteousness. The result of the marriage bed is the progeny of righteousness. Therefore we are seeded with righteousness and that righteousness joined to our humanity produces fruit for the Kingdom of G-d. This is what it means to be raised from spiritual death.
5 For while we were in the body (of the whole sin addicted human being—spirit, mind, physical body = nefesh, soul), the sinful passions, which were governed by the Torah, were at work in the various parts of our body to bear fruit for death.
Once again Shaul/Paul uses an argument of juxtaposition by using the phrase, “fruit for death,” to correspond to the phrase, “fruit for G-d.” Notice that by doing this Shaul/Paul is personifying death as the antithesis to G-d, Who is life.
“While we were in the body,” does not separate the physical human being from the spiritual human being. The body here is the whole being, that which is sin addicted, body, mind, spirit and soul. Any other reading is born of a nonsensical Greco-Roman misunderstanding of the Hebrew consciousness. Shaul/Paul is not saying, as some have suggested, that the physical body is sinful as opposed to the pure spirit of humanity. These are the lies that became the foundation for Christian Gnosticism. This error is easily avoided by a correct, contextual and holistic Hebrew reading of the text.
Notice that the Torah governs the sinful desires of the sin addicted human being, it does not inspire them.
6 But now we have been delivered because of the Torah, having died to that by which we were bound (we died to the first husband, sin), so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in the former legalistic way.
The Torah in fact, has played an important role in our deliverance. Torah showed the need for death to sin and proposed the means of life from death. Therefore there is great truth in the colloquialism, “we are following the spirit of the law.”
7 What shall we say then? Is the Torah sin? A curse on it! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin if the Torah had not exposed it; for I would not have known about lust if the Torah had not said, “You shall not lust.”
Torah doesn’t cause sin, rather, it exposes it for what it is. If we are unclear as to what is and isn’t error we have been given a very practical and life enhancing guide to help us make the distinction. This is added to the guidance of the Ruach ha-Kodesh and not in place of Him.
8 But sin, taking advantage of the commandment, produced in me lusting of every kind; for apart from the Torah sin is dead.
Sin does not prosper because of the Torah, it misuses the Torah in order to produce lusting of every kind. The Torah shows us that sin leads to death, therefore without the Torah we end in death, apart from the clear knowledge of its cause. OR, when we die to the punitive aspects of the Torah sin dies also because it can no longer misuse the Torah to inspire lusting in us.
Simply put, we become dead to the negative mitzvot (commandments) and alive to the positive mitzvot. An ancient form of positive reinforcement.
9 I once lived apart from the Torah; but when the commandment came, sin was exposed and (the just punishment revealed) I died (Just as Adam did not die instantaneously);
The Torah once it was imparted to Israel, made a clear observational statement concerning the lives of all who had sinned prior to it being given, thus affirming the already manifest result of sin, that is death.
10 and this commandment, which was intended to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking advantage because of the commandment, deceived me and misusing the commandment it killed me.
Notice that the Mitzvah (commandment) was intended to result in life. G-d’s purpose for Torah was to bring life through repentance (returning) based on the revelation of sin gained by a right understanding of the written Torah (Instruction).
In what way did the Torah, “prove to result in death?” In that by failing to keep it, I died. Sin took advantage of the mitzvot and by misusing Torah it deceived me, leading me to death.
“Rabbi Tanchuma said, ‘Ha-Kol (The voice) of HaShem went forth from Sinai in two ways: it killed the Goyim (Heathen, non-believer), who would not accept it; but it gave life to Israel, who accepted the Torah.’” (Exodus Rabbah 5:9)
“Rabbi Yehoshuah ben Levi said, ‘What is the meaning of the verse, “And this is the Torah which Moses set before the children of Israel” (D’varim/Deuteronomy 4:44)? It means that if a person is meritorious, it becomes for him a medicine that gives life; but if not, it becomes a deadly poison.’ That is what Raba meant when he said, ‘If he uses it the right way it is a medicine of life for him, but for someone who does not use it the right way it is a deadly poison.’” (Yoma 72b)
12 So then, the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good (the Torah) become a cause of death for me? A curse on it! Rather it was sin (that became the cause of death), which is shown to be the cause of my death by that which is good (the Torah), so that through the commandment sin would be shown to be utterly sinful.
Note that the Torah is not the cause of sin or death, it simply calls a spade a spade. The Torah is holy and the mitzvot are holy, not was but is, not were, but are!
The good Torah exposed the result of the action of the sin nature, which is death.
14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit, but I am of the body/humanity, sold into bondage to sin.
The Torah is of the Spirit of G-d, the Ruach ha-Kodesh. Therefore as sin addicted humans we have seen in its reflection the chains of our imprisonment to sin. That is prior to receiving Messiah.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.16 But if I do the very thing I don’t want to do, I agree with the Torah, confessing that the Torah is good.
The issue of sin remains one of struggle for the believer. The difference for the believer is that by agreeing with the Torah in humility we find discipline in Messiah in place of punishment, which is the very thing we died to, in order that we might live in Messiah’s resurrection life. We have (past tense) been redeemed and are (present and ongoing) being made holy, set apart.
Apart from Messiah we are in sin, in a sin affected world: Through Messiah we are in Messiah in a sin affected world.
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my human body/humanity; for the will to do good is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I don’t do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I don’t want, I am no longer the one doing it (I have become a slave to sin), but sin which dwells in me.
In sin, we become slaves to sin, having sold ourselves into bondage to sin in order to be mastered by it (Romans 6). I believe Paul is impressing upon us the need to recognize who we are in Messiah, when he says, “I am no longer the one doing it,” he means that the real me is a child of G-d now, purchased by the blood of Messiah, a gift that I have already received, therefore I must see myself as G-d sees me outside of time, complete in fullness of life. That’s the real me. Whenever I allow myself to give in to sin I am putting on a costume, the sin costume is not the real me. Because I have been redeemed I must allow Messiah in me to strengthen my hand in removing the costume of sin which is a misrepresentation of who I really am. The costume is worn from the inside out, we are challenged to be on guard against allowing ourselves to be deceived into returning to slavery. Why? Because we are no longer slaves to the costume of sin, we are now servants of the King of Righteousness.
21I now understand this principle, that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the Torah of G-d in the inner person,23 but I see a different instruction in the members of my body, waging war against the Torah of my mind and making me a prisoner of the instruction of sin which is in my members (the parts of my body).
The yetzer ha-ra—evil inclination—is present still, but the Torah is in my inner being and is able to govern the parts of my entire being from the inside out, as opposed to the written Torah which was only able to guide me from the outside in. The “Mind” here is not intended to be understood as separate from the body, rather it infers the mechanism for the guiding of the body’s nervous system. Therefore it is a metaphor for the fact that the Living Torah of G-d in me, is equipped to wage war against the anti-torah of sin which seeks to divert my attention and cause me to forget my identity, the real me, a child of Righteousness.
24 Wretched person that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (That is the body of sin addiction)
Without humility no one can receive the gift of G-d which is salvation in Yeshua our Adonai. In the light of HaShem I admit my wretchedness.
25 Thanks be to G-d through Yeshua Mashiyach our Adonai (Lord)! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the Torah of G-d, but on the other, with my body/humanity (sin addicted) the anti-torah—instruction of sin.
Thank G-d through Messiah! My intention (mind) then, is to serve the Torah of HaShem which seeds my action from the center of my being. But on the other hand I am also aware that the spiritual battle against sin continues and that I must continue to resist it in the strength that has been given me through Messiah Yeshua.
As I have stated previously, the Hebrew consciousness understands the human being in a holistic sense. While the human being has parts or members and various components that make up the whole, separation in an entirely detached sense is not acceptable to the Hebrew understanding of the person/human being.
Notice that Shaul/Paul is showing that sin attempts to achieve the opposite of unity in us. G-d’s purpose for us is unity in Messiah, in G-d, and that unity will bring unity to our inner person so as to affect our entire being, our whole. We are to be echad (one) just as Messiah and the Father are echad. The Adversary seeks to pervert, destroy, sever, separate and detach us from the unity of G-d. In Messiah we find the means by which we can return to unity, not as assimilated non entities but rather as parts/members of a greater body.
We are constantly challenged to retrain our thinking to come in line with our identity in Messiah. Shaul/Paul is reminding us that Messiah lives in us and that His Torah fills our minds for the purpose of distinguishing between who we are (servants of the good Torah/Messiah/G-d) and who we are not (slaves to sin). Thus, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” (Romans 12:2) not by controlling our own thoughts but by allowing the Torah/Messiah to renew our minds and redeem our humanity.
It has become popular in our time to teach a sort of pseudo psychological renewing of the mind by one’s own will. This teaching has permeated the present Ecclesia of G-d and has now become quite prolific. By misusing the Scripture, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” (Romans 12:2) the false teaching presumes that we are the mechanism for that action. This could not be further from the truth, in fact, it is anti-Christ in nature because it sets the individual up as his or her own means of transformation: this is idolatry/rebellion, the root of sin. We must hold tight to the truth that we are saved by trust alone and not by our own efforts, lest anyone should boast (as many are now doing) that they have transformed themselves.
In G-d it is Mashiyach alone who is our salvation (Yeshua) and our transformation, all else is idolatry.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
This article was so helpful and I thank you for taking the time to write it. I am an American and I am learning Hebrew, and one of the hardest things I am having to learn to do is change my way of thinking. This article has brought so many things to light for me and again I thank you.
Shalom achoti (my sister),
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Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,