God can’t help it when it comes to His grace!
God’s grace in our union with Christ is one of irresistible, hopeful progress that works for the believer’s good and protects from despair in the midst of our struggle with sin. Through defining the believer’s relation to the Law, Paul provides several dynamics that benefit the Christian in their struggle with the Law and sin:
Distance, (v.7): Paul explains that if the Law reveals sin. “Sin” simply being the aspect of our will that seeks fulfillment apart from God’s will which the Bible expresses as opposition to God and a alienation from Him. Paul explains that once He became knowledgeable of the Law, it “produced sin” in him and he became aware of both his desire for sin. The grace of God in our union with Christ provides us with the knowledge of the distance between ourselves and God, the Law’s standards and our inability to meet them.
Affirmation, (v. 12): For the Christian, the Law not only functions to reveal the distance between a God and Humanity, it also reveals God’s good character. Paul says the Law is “good and right”, a reflection of who God is in Himself, (Ex 34:6-7, Ps. 119:68, 71). The grace of God in our union with Christ provides us with a fresh, life-giving view of the Law where we affirm that the Law is good.
Frustration, (v.15): Ultimately, the Law reveals our sin and reveals the character of the One we love and are grateful for—because He saved us by His pure loving grace, (Eph 2:5, Rom 5:20)—but that leaves the believer in a state of frustration. The frustration stems from the tension of affections—to demonstrate love for God by following His commands, and the desire to fulfill oneself outside of what pleases God. The grace of God in our union with Christ provides us with this frustration as it indicates the presence of the Spirit within us whom will certainly “win the war” in the end, (Phil 1:6).
Gratitude, (25): The frustration that is a part of every Christian’s journey leads Paul to come to the end of himself, “Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” This cry of desperation is the perfect place for Paul to be in his continual struggle with sin—it is a desire for help outside of his resources. Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”, and this verse illustrates that the grace of God in our union with Christ calls us to lift our cries and praises to God who has saved us through Jesus Christ the Righteous One.
Victory, (3-4): The posture of gratitude and dependence on the Lord is not only the place of forgiveness and acceptance (Rom 8:1), but it is also the place where God empowers the believer to be His righteousness in the world by His indwelling Spirit. Paul teaches that the condemnation Jesus took on our behalf simultaneously empowers us to walk daily in His righteousness—we become His representatives! The grace of God in our union with Christ produces a stunning turnaround—that sinners became saints.
How does this teaching shape our hearts today?
This painful, yet wonderfully hopeful passage provides us with a practical snapshot of union with Christ at a practical, emotional level. The tension between our desire to live for God versus ourselves is a daily battle, and Paul’s testimony in Romans 7 is extremely helpful. In Romans 7, we understand that this struggle is not native to ourselves individually and that it is this process of struggle is also a process of hopeful progress in the faith. This teaching shapes our hearts to know that this frustrating process is one that helps me view the Law differently—not as a burden to obey, but as a reflection of the character of the God who loved us and gave Himself up for us. Where we can’t help ourselves in our stumbles, God can’t help but use these frustrations for our good, (Rom 8:28). Moreover, there is so much consolation in that the frustration we face is an indicator that we are alive by God’s Spirit and are not just sinners, but truly saints in God’s eyes.