This is the ninth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
As we saw in our previous three installments, there are three ways the man of Romans 7 may be identified.
1. Paul describes his experience as an unconverted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the previous installment.
2. Paul describes his experience, perhaps shortly after his conversion, as he sought sanctification through the law.
3. Paul describes his experience as a mature Christian.
But as we closed part 8, we asked, “Does it matter to us as an application of Romans 7 which of the three men Paul is describing?”
Whichever of the three views one might hold, two of the same conclusions can be drawn from Romans 7.
First: the law cannot save us or sanctify us.
Second: the regenerate man is not, and must not live as, a slave to the law.
Given those two propositions, how can it follow that the regenerate man should use what enslaved him and what caused him to sin as something to sanctify him? As Lloyd-Jones writes:
The Apostle is not describing his own experience here; but, as I have continued to repeat, he is concerned to tell us a number of things about the Law, and to show us that the Law cannot save in any respect; it cannot justify, it cannot sanctify. That is his one object in the whole of the passage. His interest is in the Law. In verse 5 he says that the Law makes us sin more than ever; in verse 13 he says “the law kills me.” He knew he would be criticized and misunderstood over this, so he answers the objections. That is all he is doing; and he puts it in this dramatic form.
Paul does not speak of the law as something that produces holiness; that function is reserved for the Holy Spirit.
Instead, Paul shows us that while the Spirit of Christ may indwell us, sin still lurks in our members. To use the law to sanctify the regenerate man — the very same law that fostered sin in his unregenerate state — is to be foolish.
Thomas Schreiner writes:
Paul contrasts living under the law, where the flesh uses the law to produce sin, with life under the Spirit, where believers are freed from slavery. The Spirit works in their hearts to give them a desire to do the will of God. Life under the law leads to death because sin has free reign. Those who have died to the law through the death of Christ have been freed by the Spirit so that they will do the will of God because they are united with Christ. Returning to the law, then is to rebuild what has been torn down with the coming of Christ (Gal. 2:18). Hence, reversion to the law can only mean the return of sin and transgression. Believers died to the law by dying with Christ (Gal. 2:19–20). They live new lives by trusting in Jesus as God’s Son, and to return to the law would be a denial of God’s grace in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:21).
What, then, is the answer? Paul provides the answer in Romans chapter 8.
Next: Completed by the Spirit Part 10: The Law of the Spirit of Life Has Set You Free
________________ Lloyd-Jones, “The Law: Its Function and Limits,”http://www.gospeltruth.net/ljrom7.htm, accessed July 19, 2010.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 649.