Re: Rom. 7.1-6

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 13:44:34 EDT

Jim Beale excerpted what I wrote, as follows:
> >
> >But the woman is not 'bound by Law to her new husband'. This is not
> >in the passage.
And responded:

> But of course it is! If, as in 7:3, she is joined to another man,
> then she is bound by law to that husband. The law has not perished;
> it was her former husband that perished, which you have labored to
> show is "husband = body of sin (not the Law)". The relevance of the
> law continues intact -- this is the tacit assumption of the passage,
> as your own exegesis makes plain. It is necessary to continue the
> analogy to the new husband.

To which I reply:

There is a danger here that we will get into a 'yes it is, no it
isn't' kind of exchange and miss the point. I now see, and am happy
to see, that you are in agreement with me about the identity
of the husband and the identity of the law in the analogy of 7.1-3,
the main thing that I was speaking about in my original response to
Andrew Goddard's points. Great.

So what are we disagreeing over? I think that you object to
the notion that for Paul the Law, as I put it, is irrelevant in God's
plan of salvation. Let me stress the last part. I did not say that
I thought Paul regarded the Law as irrelevant fullstop (or - as
Americans would say - period). Rather, for Paul the Law plays no
part in the justifying (righteous-ing, right-wising, whichever
translation you prefer) of the individual. I see this as being at
the heart of what Paul says about the Law throughout.

So in the analogy of 7.1-3, Paul is talking about the old
era in which the Law was that under which one served Sin, or
under which one was married to sin. Now, in the new
relationship with Christ, one serves not under Sin but under
the Spirit.

Last time I wrote:

> >If you want to try to push the analogy further, I
> >suppose one would have to say that in the new marriage the woman
> >is united to Christ by the Spirit - the believer now serves EN KAINOTHTI
> >regime (the Law), one was married to sin. Under the new
> >regime (the Spirit), one is married to Christ. One has died to that
> >in which one was held captive (7.6) - captive to sin, under the Law.
And Jim Beale responded:

> But this destroys the analogy which you struggled to preserve
> intact!

To which I respond:

Why does my interpretation destroy the analogy? Like any parable /
allegory / analogy, there are inevitable constraints. Paul has
fixed hO NOMOS (of marriage) in 7.2 to the Law (=Torah). In 7.3
the woman is freed from the Law because the husband has died. No
'law' is mentioned in relation to the new marriage. There is thus
only a problem if you are determined to import law of marriage
into this verse. My earlier response suggested that *if* you
want to stretch the analogy, the answer that Paul hints at in 7.6
is that in the new marriage to Christ, one is joined by the
Spirit, under which one now serves.

Jim Beale continued (some omitted):

> Here, in 7:6, the idea is not that the law is irrelevant, but rather
> that we are not under the resources of the law, but of the Spirit;
> He is the source of our ability to keep the law. Paul calls this
> the "law of his mind" (7:23) with which he "joyfully concurs in the
> inner man" (7:22).

I would respond that I think this is not far from the truth.
Before, I said:

> >I do not see that Paul ' jealously guards against the conclusion
> >which [I] draw'. 8.4 certainly does not show this. On the contrary,
> >here one walks according to the Spirit (in the new marriage to
> >Christ), not according to the flesh (as in the old marriage to sin).
> >The great irony of the new regime is that TO DIKAIWMA TOU NOMOU
> >PLHRWQH EN hHMIN - this does not contradict my reading but enhances
> >it.
Jim Beale responded:

> I think 8:4 does show it. Let's see!
> hINA introduces a purpose clause which indicates God's purpose for
> us in sending His Son. The purpose is that the ordinances, or
> requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us. TO DIKAIWMA TOU
> NOMOU are the things that the law requires of us (cf. 2:26). This
> is not something that is done hUPER hHMWN, objectively, but it is
> something that is done EN hHMIN, subjectively, in the sphere of our
> persons. It could also be taken as instrumental, "by us." PLHROW
> means to fulfill, to perform, to bring into effect. (Compare 13:8).
> The sense of the whole is that God's purpose is that, by His grace
> which is at work in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the
> ordinances of the law might be performed by us.
> Hubner, says, "Rom. 8:4 ... as a theological assertion is difficult
> to reconcile with Galatians" ("PLHROW", EDNT III, 109). Be that as
> it may (the two can be reconciled) the point is clear that the
> apostle here asserts in the clearest terms, the continued essential
> relevance of the law. As Murray, in his commentary, writes:
> The fact, however, cannot be disputed, and it is conclusive
> proof that the law of God has the fullest normative _relevance_
> in that state which is the product of grace. To construe the
> relations of law and grace otherwise is to go counter to the
> plain import of this text. (NICNT, 283)
To which I respond:

Some of this is again I would agree with and most of it does not
contradict my interpretation of 7.1-6. The most important thing to
realise is, I think, that in the new regime, the Law plays no role in
relation to salvation. That is, as Paul would say, 'a person is not
justified by works of the Law but through faith in [or of] Jesus
Christ' (Gal. 2.16).

Good wishes


Dr Mark Goodacre
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Tel.: 0121 414 7512 Email:
Fax.: 0121 414 6866

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