Romans chapter 7 vs 1 to 4 - A Passion to Serve - JS Gillespie 

“Shall we continue in sin?”  (Rom6:1) 

We considered 4 reasons: 

  1. We are Dead to Sin (6:1-6) 
  2. We are Alive to Christ (6:5-11) 
  3. Because I Serve Another (6:12-20) 
  4. Because Sin remains Sin (6:21-23) 

Because I Serve Another: 

We thought about this practically 

Consider how the whole body is used in service, start from the top: 

Our master (6:12) – Tour Head 
Our mortal body (6:12) – Our Human Desires / Lusts of the Body 
Our members (6:13) – Our Hands 
Our motive (6:17-19) – Our Heart 

Our master (6:12) – Our Head 

Who is in charge? Who is my master? 

We chose our master! 

There are only 2 possibilities: 

Sin (5:21) 
Christ (5:21; 6:10,11) 

Who is my head in this action? 

I no more control sin and Satan than I control Christ and righteousness. 

Some thought they could control sin: 

  • Noah and his wine – Lost his dignity 
  • Lot's wife and a love for the world – Lost her home, family and life 
  • Achan and materialism – Lost his life 
  • Solomon and his wives – Lost his Kingdom 
  • Samson and his fornication – Lost his life 
  • Judas and his love of money – Lost his soul 

Who exactly was in control? 

We have a great advantage here, we are able to look back on these biblical characters and take in the whole scope and panorama of their life! 

Our freedom lies in our ability to choose not in our freedom from the consequences of those decisions we make! 

Our mortal body (6:12) – Our Human Desires 

Know your mortal body 

What is driving the activities of my mortal body? 

The body itself was created by God and has God given desires that are good and right: 

  • Appetite for food 
  • Thirst 
  • Sexual desires 
  • Appreciation of beauty 
  • Love of art 

Our bodies are subject to our human nature and that nature is a fallen human nature corrupted by sin – referred to as the “flesh” 

The flesh constantly pulls me in the direction of gratifying the natural desires of the body, those desires are physical and earth bound and keep me tied to earth. 

Only with conversion and the power of Gods Spirit can I rise any higher that the desire to simply satisfy the natural desires of the body and only with His Spirit do I really appreciate that there is anything beyond the material to aim for and desire! 

Rom 8:5-13 

The desire and goal of the believer goes beyond simply enjoying the stimulation of bodily appetites satisfied: Rom 6:19, 22 – we have fruit to bring for God – our goal is “holiness”! 

Is it the flesh driven by “lust” which is using: 

My hands for its deeds? 
My eyes for its satisfaction? 
My lips for its message? 

“Our members” (6:13) – Our Hands 

Know your members 

The emphasis here is on outcome, not simply actvity! 

what am I actually achieving? 

Consider Mary and Martha (Lk10:38-42) 

Paradoxically when we apply the teaching of this section we may find that to be truly productive in the things of God we need to stop doing some things as we consider what they are actually achieving! I am a believer in that principle, of stopping service in a particular sphere as well as starting it! (Matt10:14; Mk6:11). 

“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin... your members as instruments of righteousness unto God... whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Rom 6:13-19) 

We are looking at outcome not only occupation! 

Outcome in terms of “righteousness” - does it promote righteousness and “holiness” - does it further my pursuit of deeper holiness to God and encourage others in their pursuit of holiness, and “unto God” - is it acceptable to God? 

But you say I am busy! Busy but barren? 

Tests of worth / value: 

What is the cause of my actions / activities (6:12-13). Is sin and the flesh the cause or is God the cause of this kind of action / activity / these words? 
What is the character of my actions? Could I categorise it as “righteous” (v13) and consistent with Gods Word (v18) or is it “unrighteous”? 
What are the consequences of this action (v19)? Where does it lead to? Is it “unto iniquity” (v19) or is it “unto holiness” (v19). 
What about the conclusion of these actions? Do they end in death and with death (v16,21) or do these actions have eternal and enduring consequences (v22)?    

Our motive (6:19) – Our Heart 

Surely not more about service? 

Surely this all isn't yet another message about doing more for God? 

I recall as a young believer developing a reaction of 'not another message about what we are meant to be doing for God' 

It is all very well speaking about service, exhorting to serve, talking about: 


To serve but this can leave us cold and uninspired! 

Some of the people to whom Paul was writing had known most of their life about: 


as a motive for service, but this failed to achieve the desired result in their life and in the life of the apostle. 

They knew “the law” (7:1), they knew all about their responsibility, obligation and duty under the law to serve God, but this is not the kind of service that Paul is speaking about in chp 6 to 8 of Romans. 


Simply spell ROD – and this becomes a rod for our back. 

I can't recall a time in my own life when I didn't know that God was real and that he ought to be served. 

Service took a variety of forms but particularly in the form of attending meetings! 

I can only really recall enjoying meetings on 2 occasions: 

July – when the meetings were cut down to Sunday mornings only 
One gospel meeting when the speaker was short and told stories. 

It never really struck me that it was a possibility to move from a place of have to serve to a place of want to serve. 

True service for God, true Christian service for God is not motivated, is not dynamised by have to. 

For true service I must move from: 


To the dynamic of true Christian service. 

Consider the motivating principle behind the service of Christ for God: 

“Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psa 40:6-8) 

His service was motivated by 'delight' and not by 'duty'! 





Out of 




To the 

Glory of God 

From the 



Total commitment 

This is the essence of true Christian service, motivated by delight rather than duty. 

To serve in that way I would judge that I need 3 things: 

A Passion to serve God 
An Ability / Possibility to serve God 
A Power to serve God 

In chapter 7 I see: 

A Passion to serve God (7:1-4) 
An Ability / Possibility to serve God (7:5-13) 
A Power to serve God (7:14-25) 

A Passion to serve God (7:1-4) means Freedom from the law 
An Ability / Possibility to serve God (7:5-13) – in contrast of the failure of being “in the flesh” 
A Power to serve God (7:14-25) – in contrast to Frustration. 

Therefore in Romans 7 I also have: 

Freedom (7:1-4) 
Failure (7:5-13) 
Frustration (7:14-25) 

Looked at positively we see: 

A Passion to Serve  (7:1-4) 
A Possibility to serve (7:5-13) 
A Power to Serve (7:14-25) 

Chp 7:1-4 details a service born out of the passion of relationship 


A Passion to Serve - Freedom (7:1-4) 

Death releases from the law  (v1) 

"The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth" - the principle stated 

The rule or dominion of law extends only to death, as does sin (Rom5:12) 

In eternity there is no sin and can be no sin for there is no law either! 

On the surface, a point that is straight forward enough! 

But the apostle seems to chose a very complex parable as the means of conveying this truth. So complex that some would suggest that Paul has bitten off more than he can chew! That he has mad a bit of a mess of the illustration! 

In the chapter the believer is freed (7:4), just like the woman but it isn't the woman who dies it is her husband! 

But the parable illustrates something more than just the basic truth! 

So some have said the parable is a bit mixed up! A kind of mixed metaphor! Maybe Paul has overstretched himself! 

Others holding to the inspiration of the Word of God wouldn't maybe just go as far as saying that but would perhaps tacitly acknowledge it by saying, 'don't look too deeply into the parable,' or perhaps that the parable is only meant to illustrate the basic truth, perhaps indicating that underneath the surface the whole illustration is a bit of a mess! 

But this is the inspired Word of God and "not one jot or title shall pass away" 

"the Word of God is living and powerful..." 

Interestingly there are plenty of simple examples that Paul could have used to illustrate his point that the rule of law extends only to death and then law has no more demands upon us: 

Ahithophel - was he ever called to account for betraying the Lord's anointed? No he wasn't! Why? He hung himself! 
Naomi's two sons were they ever dealt with by the law and put out of the congregation of Israel for marrying Moabite girls? No! Why? They both died in Moab! 

Eli's two sons Hophni and Phinehas were they ever broad before the law for fornication? No! Why? They both died in battle! 
Samson and his fornication and adultery? 

But he doesn't chose a simple illustration, for as we shall see a simple example of this principle just would not have done, it would have been critically lacking in at least 2 perhaps 3 key areas. 

Pauls example illustrates at least 4 key principles: 

That death releases from the law 
That in certain circumstances the death of another releases me from law 
My relationship with another is critical in enjoying that release from law 
Being released from law by death I am free to serve another 

That death releases from the law  (v1) 

"The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth" - the principle states 

The rule or dominion of law extends only to death, as does sin (Rom5:12) 

The principle stated is simple enough 

That in certain circumstances the death of another releases me from law(v2,4) 

Death releases me from the rule of law 

In the parable however the death is not my death, the death of the woman, but the death of another! 

Has Paul got mixed up? 

Actually this point is quite consistent with the context of Romans so far 

In chp 3+4 we came into blessing; the blessing of justification by faith, through death, the death of another! 

In chp 5 Divine Grace was poured out, through the death of another. 

In chp 6 our consecration to God was made possible because of our identification with Christ in His death – the death of another. 

Not only is it the case that death frees from the law but that death is significantly the death of another! 

Notice how that release by death occurs. 

Our simple illustrations would again be inadequate here. 

This is not release from the law in the same way that perhaps Hophni and Phinehas, Ahithophel, Naomis sons or Samson were released from the law. 

This is not the release of a guilty party because of the weakness of the law, unable to pursue the sinner beyond death. 

In our parable, significantly, it is the release of a guiltless individual who is now regarded as having fulfilled all legal obligations and death has now brought the claims of law to an end. 

This is the release of the righteous rather than the unrighteous! 

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Co 5:21) 

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Rom 3:28) 

My relationship with another is critical in enjoying that release from law 

My relationship with another who is dead to the law in certain exceptional circumstances can affect my status before the law too! 

The death of another to the law can release me! 

I think in the context of Roms 4 to 6 this is highly significant! 

The nature of that relationship is also very interesting: marriage relationship! 

Right the way through the NT scriptures the relationship between Christ and His church is consistently viewed as a marriage relationship: (Eph 5:24ff; Rev21). 

In verse 4 we are "dead to the law" but it is by the "body of Christ" - the death of another! 

Notice the logic of verse 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” 

Notice that nothing less than the “body of Christ” is needed to break me free from the demands of the law! 

The theme of redemption in scripture: the person of Christ, the work of Calvary, the sacrifice of the lamb, the sufferings of Christ (Ps22; Ps69; Isa53) all of this mighty work and sacrifice impacts upon my life at this point! To release me from that which binds me that I might be free to “bring forth fruit unto God.” What is this fruit? 

“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom 6:22) 

Holiness is no add on to Christianity 

Holiness is no after thought on Gods part to Christian experience 

Holiness is the very essence of Christian experience! 

Holiness is the impression of Calvary upon my being! 

Being released from law by death I am free to serve another 

In this complex parable of death releasing us from the law we see illustrated a point that could not be illustrated by a simple example of the death of the accused releasing him from the rule of law: 

Ahithophel - what happened next? - Nothing he's dead. 
Naomis' two sons - what happened next, after they were released from the law? Nothing - they were dead! 
Eli's two sons - what happened to them next after they had been released from the law? Nothing - they were dead. 


But in the parable of Romans 7 after the release from the law there is a 'what happened next...' 

The woman released from the law is ready to move on and be married to another (7:4) 

And in our case: "that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (7:4) 

So this death is not simply an end but a beginning! 

Only because of the complex nature of this illustration is this point possible! 
Some take 7:1-4 to indicate that divorce and remarriage effectively exclude people from assembly fellowship (7:3) 

That interpretation sheds more light on the thinking of those who teach it than it does on the teaching of scripture on divorce and remarriage!  

The teaching in this section relative to the woman marrying another is whilst she is "bound by the law." 

There is no provision in the law for operation of Divine Grace. Those who draw their teaching on divorce and remarriage from this section likewise draw no provision from Divine Grace. 

The conclusion of this section brings us to our true standing today of being "dead to the law" (7:4) and in our dealings with men and women we must likewise recognise that there is likewise "therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." 

There is good indication elsewhere that people from a background of divorce and remarriage were received into assembly fellowship: 1 Tim2; 1 Co7, John 4. 

Salvation isn't the end it is the beginning! 

Once you are save, you haven't 'done it' but rather God has 'begun it.'


Notes from our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically, verse by verse, through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.    

Yours by Grace in Christ    

Dr J Stewart Gillespie