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On one hand Paul seems to be saying in Romans 7:6:

We have been delivered from the LAW, that being dead wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter

On the other hand he says in Romans 7:14:

But we know that the LAW is spiritual, but I am carnal sold under sin (KJV)

Is there a contradiction? How can we be delivered from the LAW since it is spiritual?

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6 Answers 6

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No, I don't believe they do.

While one meaning of "deliver" is to rescue or liberate, when the KJV was written it also had a softer meaning of being handed over or "discharged". A few years after the KJV was published, for example, Shakespeare wrote "O that I might not be delivered to the world till I had made mine own occasion mellow" (Twelfth Night). The RSV, for example, translates 7:6 as:

But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

That is to say, that the Law was not something evil that we needed to be "rescued" from. It was, in fact, spiritual (7:14) and holy (7:12). What has changed from Old is that whereas before we were guided by the letter of a Law written of God's Spirit; we are now ourselves personally imbued with His Spirit, which came down upon us at Pentecost, and is now written in our hearts (viz. Jeremiah 31:33, Isaiah 59:21; also Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).

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I would say that the (Jewish) law (Torah) is spiritual because it was given by God to the Jews. Paul is here talking to Jews who are still living under the law. That is a big problem, but the problem does not lie with the law.

When Christ came, it meant the end of or expiration day of the Law. Righteousness is no longer measured by observing the Law (or trying to observe it), but by receiving the righteousness from God. Paul explains it again in chapter 10, directed to the Jews in Rome:

For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes. (10:2-4 NET).

That the coming of Christ meant the end of the law is also clear from

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. (Gal 3:24-25 NLT)

The tricky part of 7:14 is where Paul writes: "but I am carnal, sold under sin."

Paul is talking to Jews who still wanted to be under the Law. The crucial part of Romans 7 is:

5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter. (7:5-6 KJV)

Paul is using a comon Hebrew way of speaking which is circular in the sense that he gives the headline first and then comes back to the details. Romans 7:5 is developed in detail in two rounds: (1) verses 7-13 where he explains that the Law was not bad. However, it did not work because of the power of sin. (2) 14-25 explain how a person who is relying on his own strength without the help of the Spirit of God, will fail. The result is a hopless situation of defeat which he calls "death". 7:6 is then expanded and explained in chapter 8.

Why does Paul say that he is "carnal, sold under sin" when he has said earlier in the same letter that he is no longer carnal and no longer sold under sin? It is a rhetorical device he uses in order not to offend his Jewish audience. If he said: "You are carnal, sold under sin", it would be too confrontational and could cause the reader to not even listen. In addition, Paul does not say that this applies to all in his audience, but he hopes that those it applies to will understand that he is talking to them. He puts himself in their shoes and use what is called the Greek "representative I". Many cultures do this. In order not to offend, they speak as if they themselves had the problem, hoping that the hearers will get the hint.

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THE BASIS OF PAUL’S ARGUMENT:

To understand the two statements in terms of how they relate to each other, we need to consider Paul’s argument in this section of the epistle.

THE LAW IS SPIRITUAL:

“But we know that the LAW is spiritual, but I am carnal sold under sin” (Romans 7:14)

The apostle has been arguing that believers are no longer subject to the law of Moses, not because the law itself was at issue, the problem was the flesh, which is unable, due to its weakness, to respond to the righteous demands of the law. It is to the flesh that the law speaks and demands a flesh response (1 Timothy 1:9).

Although the law, written on tables of stone, was given through Moses, it’s origin was the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It was the word of God, given through the Spirit, to his covenant people. It is in this sense that the law is said to be spiritual.

THE LAW CANNOT SAVE – IT CAN ONLY CONDEMN:

The law promised life and righteousness (Leviticus 18:5; Psalm 119:9; Deuteronomy 6:25) if kept perfectly. However, to offend the law in just one point, is to break the whole law and receive condemnation (Deuteronomy 27:26; James 2:10).

DELIVERED FROM THE LAW:

“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6).

Paul argues that since we are no longer living in the flesh (Romans 8:9), having now a new life in Christ (Galatians 2:20), being partakers of a new and better covenant relationship with God (Hebrews 7:22), we are no longer under the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant law which spoke to the flesh, yet to which the flesh, due to its sinful nature (Romans 7:18), was unable to rightly respond.

We are therefore delivered, by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8), from the condemnation of the law (Romans 8:1) our life being no longer in the flesh, now considered dead because of sin (Romans 6:11) yet, through the Spirit we are alive to God in Christ (Galatians 2:20).

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    Romans 8:1 does not refer to the condemnation of the law. It is referring to the condemnation that resulted from the transgression in the Garden (see Ro 5:16,18).
    – user15733
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 19:46
  • So when you refer to the "condemnation of the law" you are referring to the law of sin (7:23), and not the law of Moses (7:6)?
    – user15733
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:42
  • The connection between the passage you refer to and the one under discussion is the subject of "the flesh", which Paul illustrates well in this particular section of the epistle (Rom 7). The sinful flesh against which we struggle is indeed a result of the fall of Adam and which holds us captive to sin as Paul reveals in (7:23). It is the judgement of the law against us however, which Paul refers to in chapter 7 and is still thinking of in 8:1. Of course this judgement is directly related to the fact of our sinful nature.
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:43
  • It is Paul himself who refers to the law of Moses, being the law of the Old Covenant, as "...the ministration of condemnation..." (2 Cor 3:9).
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:48
  • Not that it is terribly significant, but the Greek word translated as "condemnation" in Romans 7:3 and 2 Corinthians 3:9 (κατάκρισις) is not the same word that Paul chooses in Romans 5:16, 5:18, and 8:1 (κατάκριμα).
    – user15733
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:49
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The thing is that the condemnation spoken of in 8:1 is the condemnation based upon the law of sin and death (8:2). Pay close attention to the greek word Gar, which shows the the true relation between 8:1 and 2. This is what James Denney says about it:

There is no condemnation, for all ground for it has been removed. "The law of the Spirit of the life which is in Christ Jesus made me [thee] free from the law of sin and death." It is subjection to the law of sin and death which involves condemnation; emancipation from it leaves no place for condemnation.
-- Expositor's Greek Testament (BibleHub)

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  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site operates. I have added formating for the quote ('>' as first character of a new paragraph) and a link to a source. Please make use of such in future answers.
    – enegue
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 0:08
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Romans 7: 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

The point in verse 5 shows that a person who does not cooperate with the sinful passions is released from the law. They do not serve God through the oldness of the letter or the sacrificial law. In other words, their service to God is not interrupted due to sin (at which point they have to rely on the letter of the sacrificial law to obtain forgiveness and reconciliation).

The reason they are released or are not accountable to law is that they have kept Gods law and have not (by sinning) made themselves liable to the sacrificial law.

When a Christian keeps the Laws of God there is no need to appeal to God for forgiveness (through either the old or new covenant sacrifices) because God's law has not been violated. In this case the law of Moses is not the authority over them (they are not under the authority of the sacrificial law). When they put the sinful passions to death they are under the Grace of God.

They have cooperated with God's grace, which has taught them to deny ungodliness or the sinful passions, Titus 2:12.

14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

A person married or joined to the fleshy nature (which is motivated by sinful desires) has not died to the law. They are still joined to sinful passions and thus will have need of the sacrificial law for reconciliation purposes.

He then shows that Jesus will through God's grace, free him from sinful passions.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death. 25 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.

Thus the phrase -

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

Why did God send Jesus?

Romans 8:4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God's grace teaches us not to sin so that the requirements of God's law will be fulfilled by/in Jesus followers.

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Nope, Paul is using present tence in Romans 7:6 the word, "Now" is used. Romans 7 goes on to explain who Paul was because from Romans 7:7 onward Paul is telling us who he "was" without Christ and not who he "is" in Christ. The beginning verses of Romans 7 Paul uses the law of divorce and marriage to show you one had to be dead before you can marry another. Sin has to be dead in your life before you can marry Christ Jesus in the spiritual. Christanity are walking around as adulterers still married to the devil to their sin while proclaiming to be married to Christ. Married in their darkness of sin while claiming to be married to the light. It doesn't work that way can't have light and darkness at the same time. Can't serve two masters, can't serve the devil sin and Jesus righteousness at the sametime.

Paul for 33 times uses the letter, "I" to show you that if you are in his shoes stuck in sin you are in a mess. Paul finally ends his message that he was a wretched old man in his sin. When you are in Romans 7: 7-24 stuck in your sin, you are a wretched old man. Paul leads us out of this by saying he serves the law of sin. Paul is not breaking the law he serves the law if Paul broke the law then he would be a sinner. If I walk by my neighbour's house and mind my own business I am serving the law not breaking it. If I threw rocks and stones at my neighbor's front window or car then I am now breaking the law. Paul takes us out of all this in Romans 8:1 and takes us from the "then" to the "Now"

Romans 7 :14 Paul is telling us that the law is spiritual, but he was dead in his sin so he would have been carnal dead in his sin and trespasses. This is what it is today Christians who are still carnal dead in their sin and trespasses have no clue what the spiritual is saying. Verse 15-18 Paul is telling us the motions of sin he was going through. It goes back to Genesis 4:7. No good thing dwelt in me as a sinner, I cheated, lied, stole, gambled etc. Man will pierce their ears and belly and do all sorts of things beyond their wild imagination because of their sin. Look at the mess the whole world is in right now because of sin.

Paul is talking about the law the ten commandments what Moses had the law of sin and death. Jesus came with a new law the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1-2.

Romans 7:[1] Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? [2] For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

[3] So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

[4] Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. [5] For ---》when we were《---- in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. [6] But ---》now《--- we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. [7] What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I ---》had not《--- known sin, but by the law: for I ---》had not《--- known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8] But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. [9] For --》I was 《---alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

[14] For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. [15] For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. [16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. [17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. [18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. [20] Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Genesis 4:[7] If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Romans 8:1] There is therefore--》 now 《---no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

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