I believe another reason we like to see Romans 7:14-25 held up as normative for the believer is the difficulty we have with leaving the old covenant way of life behind. The old covenant method of law and its consequences just fits our natural way of thinking. New covenant living does not seem natural because, quite frankly, it is not natural! It is supernatural at its core! But it is a supernatural that is not only available to us but is, in fact, who we really are in our heart of hearts as a child of God.
What does old covenant spiritual formation – if those words should even be used together – look like? Paul calls it a ministry of condemnation as opposed to a new covenant ministry of life. Look with me at II Corinthians chapter 3, “But our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Cor 3:5-6). The old covenant eventually ended in death for there was no resurrection power to overcome the sin that the law so clearly made us aware of. The new covenant gives life, and according to Jesus in John 10:10, life to its abundant fullness.
Paul goes on in II Corinthians 3 to call the old covenant a ministry of death (vs 7) and a ministry of condemnation (vs 9). “For if the ministry of condemnation (old covenant) has some glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness (new covenant) abound in glory. For indeed, what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away (Greek word, katargeo, literally ‘brought to an end’) was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.” (II Cor 3:9-11). The old covenant was temporary and ineffective in changing hearts and resulted in condemnation. The new covenant is permanent, filled with resurrection power, and gives life. (ESV Study Bible Notes).
Paul finishes the chapter with, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (II Cor 3:18). We are being transformed into the image of God that was distorted in us at the fall. One aspect of the restored image is a moral character that resembles God Himself.
May I encourage you to examine your own ministry? Is it a ministry of condemnation or a ministry of life? I am speaking to myself here as much as anyone. We are so prone to see the sin in people and think, “This is the real you.” It doesn’t matter how much good we have observed, when we see the worst, we think “this is who you really are” and label people accordingly. How much more should we, as ministers of the new covenant, see people at their best and say, “This is the real you.” The sin is the anomaly. I am convinced that we have let the ministry of condemnation hold way too much sway in our Christian message. It tears down believers and keeps the unsaved totally disinterested in our message. The ministry of the new covenant offers rescue for sinners, builds up believers, gives life, and spurs our fellow saints on to new heights. Won’t you join me as a minister of the new covenant?
“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve (minster in the here and now) in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:6).