August 14-20, 2023
As he opened his epistle to the Romans, Paul greeted Church members by calling them “beloved of God” who were “called to be saints.” He remarked that their “faith [was] spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:7–8). Even though Paul spent much of his epistle correcting false ideas and flawed behaviors, it seems he also wanted to assure these new Christian converts that they truly were Saints who were beloved of God. His tender counsel blesses all of us who struggle to feel God’s love and for whom becoming a Saint may feel out of reach. With humble empathy, Paul acknowledged that he had felt like a “wretched man” at times (Romans 7:24), but the gospel of Jesus Christ had given him power to overcome sin (see Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 7:22–27 [in the Bible appendix]). With that power, the Savior’s redeeming power, we can “overcome evil”—both evil in the world and evil in ourselves—“with good” (Romans 12:21).
Talk about completely misunderstanding the intended message of a biblical book! This paragraph mangles what the biblical author was actually saying. In last week’s lesson, we showed how the church’s authors emphasized works over grace for the justification of a person’s sins And here they do the same thing.
Since Romans 7 and Paul’s description of being a “wretched man” is mentioned in this introduction, let’s take a closer look at this particular chapter and see what he really meant. I’ll provide the verses and give my commentary based on the context.
7 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Paul is emphasizing what he had already talked about in chapter 6. In verse 1, Paul addresses “those who know the law.” For Jews, the law was everything that mattered, over the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus. The law only has authority over someone as long as it is valid. But when Christ came, the law became null and void. It’s not by keeping the law that makes a person righteous before God but, as described in Romans 6:17, Christians “used to be slaves to sin” but now “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” As Romans 6:23 puts it, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Using Paul’s illustration of marriage, if the husband (law) died, the wife is no longer subject to him (it). Instead, as verse 4 shows, believers belong to another suitor, Jesus, the one who was raised from the dead. A Christian is released from the written code of the law and is instead married (so to speak) to the all-Triune God. It’s a new relationship and a much better way of living. We should never want to go back to the old ways of attempting to fulfill the law.
The Law and Sin
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Paul is not saying that the law is sinful. Instead, the law points out what a person ought to do–though it was impossible for sinful humans to keep the whole law.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Understanding how bad sin really is and realizing that there is no way tjat we as humans can avoid sin is important to grasp to get Paul’s point.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Read these verses carefully. The law is spiritual, as he pointed out earlier in the chapter, yet I cannot help sinning because it is a part of who I am since I was born with a sinful nature. Catch what Paul says in verse 19: “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do.” And he admits that he keeps on doing it.
Does it sound like Paul is saying that keeping commandments will qualify a person for eternal life? Absolutely not! Just the opposite.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.
Here comes the climax to chapter 7. Paul says that when he wants to do good, sin seems to always be there and he still has the desire to fall into temptation. While he says he loves God’s law, his sinful nature makes him a prisoner of sin. What a dilemma we each one of us is in!
Now, verse 27 has Paul declaring, “What a wretched man I am!”
Then he says, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Remember, this is what the lesson’s authors wrote in the introductory paragraph:
With humble empathy, Paul acknowledged that he had felt like a “wretched man” at times (Romans 7:24), but the gospel of Jesus Christ had given him power to overcome sin (see Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 7:22–27 [in the Bible appendix]). With that power, the Savior’s redeeming power, we can “overcome evil”—both evil in the world and evil in ourselves—“with good” (Romans 12:21).
Based on what I have shown in Romans 7, how can the authors say that “the gospel of Jesus Christ has given him power to overcome sin”? And “with that power” is it really possible that “we can ‘overcome evil'”? This is not what the writer is saying
We will get to 1 Corinthians in this series next week, but to give us a head start, 1 Corinthians 1 says,
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
In the next chapter, Paul writes,
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
How many Latter-day Saints who are working through this series are not reading the biblical passages as part of their lesson? And with the help of this series, there is no way they will truly understand what the passage really means. If the Mormons would just read what Paul wrote for themselves, then they will see that Paul is not intimating that Christ has given him power to overcome sin, “both evil in the world and evil in ourselves.”
Instead, the only way that Romans 7 can be interpreted is that the only one who can “rescue me from this body” is throught the faith and the grace “provided by Jesus Christ our Lord..” To even suggest that Paul is suggesting that God provides the power to overcome eveil by our own actions is opposite of what was said.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Those who follow the Spirit can become “joint-heirs with Christ.”
Even after entering into “newness of life” through the ordinance of baptism (Romans 6:4),
We talked about this last week. Paul did not say we entered into “newness of life” through baptism. Rather, Paul says in Romans 3:28 that “a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” He added in Romans 5:18b that “through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Baptism is a work and is not how a person enters in “newness of life.” The Gospel of Mormonism so misses the mark of the Gospel as presented in the Bible.
perhaps you have felt some of the inner conflict Paul described in Romans 7—the “warring” between the natural man and your righteous desires (Romans 7:23).
Of course we have all felt inner conflict. This is natural because we are humans. The things I don’t want to do still are appealing because I remain in a sinful body as long as I live. Doing the right things is not what makes me a Christian. Rather, I am a Christian even when I do not always do what I am supposed to do.
But Paul also spoke of hope in Romans 8:23–25. What reasons for this hope do you find in chapter 8? You might also look for blessings that come from having “the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9). How can you seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost more fully in your life?
Romans 8:1-4 says,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
This completes the picture provided in chapter 7. For those who are in Christ Jesus–not based on baptism or righteous works–we have been given the Holy Spirit. Thus, it was the atonement (Christ sent in the likeness of sinful flesh and becoming a sin offering) that sets believers free from the law of sin and death.
While we still struggle with sin, as Christian beleivers, we now live according to the Spirit. Verse 5 says,
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
If you are a Christian believer, the Holy Spirit has been given to you! (If you don’t have the Spirit, then you do not belong to Christ (8:9b). This comes through righteousness, but it’s not based on our personal righteousness; this only comes through the rightousness provided by God.
Verse 12-13 explain,
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 4 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Only those with the Holy Spirit are called children of God. (See John 1:12 and 1 John 3:1.) Then, as we war against the flesh and allow the Spirit to fill our lives, we will begin to display the fruit of the Spirit, not the works according to the flesh as described in Galatians 5. It is not possible to gain the spirit by displaying the fruit of the Spirit…we merely display the fruit of the Spirit because the Spirit has now been given. Mormonism gets it backwards by placing the onus on the backs of its people rather than letting Jesus pay the price for the forgiveness of sins.
The gift of eternal glory far outweighs my trials on earth.
Just a few years after Paul wrote this epistle, the Saints in Rome suffered horrific persecutions. What do you find in Romans 8:16–39 that might have helped these Saints when persecution came? How might these words apply to you and the trials you currently face?
A person who is in Christ has become “a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). To know this means that God works all things out for those who love God (Rom. 8:28). Yes, we will go through hard times, but we know that God has everything under control and He wants us to trust Him.
Look for connections between these verses and this counsel from Sister Linda S. Reeves: “I do not know why we have the many trials that we have,
That’s strange because the Bible does explain why there are trials in a person’s life. Perhaps the misue of James 1:5 has tainted the reading of this passage, but James 1:2-3 says,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Acts 14:22 says,
On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
The hard times had good results! As Romasn 8:28 says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” We go through hard times so we can depend more on God and less on ourselves.
but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, ‘Was that all that was required?’ I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter … what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?” (“Worthy of Our Promised Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 11). Decide what you will do to “daily remember and recognize” God’s love for you.
I disagree with Reeves’ statement that “those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltaton.” Absolutely not! This concept is all about words-oriented salvation and has nothing to do with grace. It completely denies the teacing of Paul according to the Book of Romans.
Romans 8:29–30; 9–11
What did Paul mean by “predestinate,” “election,” and “foreknow”?
Paul used the terms “predestinate,” “election,” and “foreknow” to teach that before this life, God chose some of His children to be part of Israel, His covenant people. This meant they would receive special blessings and responsibilities so they could bless all the people of the world (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Election,” scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). However, Paul emphasized in Romans 9–11 that all of God’s children can become His covenant people, and we all receive eternal life the same way—through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His commandments.
This paragraph is so convoluted that it makes no sense. According to this, God “elected” people to become a part of Israel (code for Latter-day Saints who are considered the true hertiage of Israel, or spiritual Jews). Notice how Romans 9-11 is completely ignored in this section of the lesson and it is completely skipped. If you are a Latter-day Saint, read those three chapters all the way throughand see if you can see why the church decided to ignore these chapters.
I do like the fact that the writers are so crystal clear that faith + obedience = eternal life. For all the times that church leaders want to appear that they are teaching in a grace-filled salvation, remember this clear statement made here.
Paul invites me to become a true Saint and follower of Jesus Christ.
The last five chapters of Romans contain dozens of specific instructions about living as Saints. One way to study these instructions is to look for topics that are repeated. How would you summarize Paul’s counsel?
You may not be able to apply all of this counsel at once, but the Spirit can help you find one or two principles you could start working on today. Share your desires with your Heavenly Father in prayer, and ask for His help.
Five chapters and this is all we get on these chapters? It’s a shame that the church decided to fly through the Book of Romans in two short weeks. At least a third week would have been helpful. Again, I recommend that the reader contemplate the Book of Romans at a slower pace and ask this question: Does Romans support or reject the Gospel of Mormonism and the requirement of obedience to gain eternal life?
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
What does it mean to make ourselves “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God”? (verse 1).
In his paraphrase of this verse, J.B. Philips in his version translated verse 2 as to not allow the “world to squeeze you into its mold.” This means that, in order to be able to determine God’s “perfect and pleasing will,” we must consider ourselves as a “living sacrifice,” fully dedicated to God and allowing the Hold Spirit to do His work in our lives.
It is discouraging to see how the writers of these church lessons distort the biblical message according to Romans. Because the mindset of the Latter-day Saint worldview is so much about what a person can do for God (through obedience) rather than what God has done in the saved individual’s life (justified by faith apart from works of the law), the writers’ interpretaton of Romans is completely mishandled and misapplied. The Gospel is not about works but about faith and grace. My plea for the Latter-day Saint is to consider reading the book in a modern language, sentence by sentence., and see what Paul is really saying. (Don’t just take my word for it!)
In fact, I challenge you to use the Romans Challenge that I’ve written previously and answer the questions in that chapter. I’m happy to dialogue (eric AT mrm dot org).