Romans 7:14-25- The Dilemma of the Flesh

Explanation- The Law is spiritual; it is from God and represents the ‘code’ by which He desires all men to conform. The Law did not come through the will or working of man, but it was given by God to man in order to expose what is in man. By nature, we are fleshly and are under the dominion of sin and death. Even now, having been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and obtaining peace with God, there is still a dilemma of indwelling sin in the believer. Paul says that ‘I do not do what I want,’ which is the good of the Law which the inner man desires to obey (not as a means of justification, but as the natural desire that flows from our new nature), ‘but I do the very thing I hate.’ Namely, there is still sin within my members that seeks to do that which the Law forbids. The difference now is that we live in the sight of God and are no longer seeking to live free from the commands, but we acknowledge that they are good, perfect, and holy. Sin is present within my members, but there is an inner war against that sin. There is an acknowledgment of its utter sinfulness before God and a desire to be rid of its bondage. Paul then says that, in light of this, ‘it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.’ God has justified us in spirit and granted new life. In this mercy, He calls us to walk in the newness of that life and, for the sake of Christ, He treats us as if we do. Nevertheless, there are still times in which I act contrary to that new life that I have been given and fall short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness. Yet in these times, my inner man is in rightful agreement with God and His Law so that my justification remains a stable and fixed reality. Truly there is nothing good that dwells within man, even a saved man. The flesh and its desires have been greatly weakened, but not yet entirely diminished. The desire of my new nature is to do what is pleasing in God’s sight, but I find no ability to perform this in my own strength. Therefore Paul comes to this amazing conclusion, ‘it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Paul then states a law that exists in the life of the believer; when I desire to do good, evil is with me. Sin’s desire is to do that which the Law forbids, and since there is still sin dwelling within my members (i.e., my flesh or earthly members), there is still some ungodly desire that dwells in me, yet is somehow separate from me, that seeks to do what the Law condemns. Although the new nature of the inner man delights in God’s Law and is strengthened by the Spirit to obey it, there is another law within me that wages war against what I so desperately desire to do and seeks to draw me back into the bondage of sin and death. ‘What a wretched man that I am!’, Paul exclaims, but, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the Law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.’ (Rom. 7:24, 25). Paul is placing no confidence in the flesh, for he knows that the flesh is wicked and sold under sin’s power. There was no ability to keep the Law in our own strength before coming to salvation, and there is no way to do so now after being saved. All of our hope and security rests in the work of Jesus Christ, our Lord, to finish that which He began in us. Though these two natures of flesh and spirit exist within us, God will ultimately prevail over the flesh and continually sanctify us in spirit until we are once and for all free from the flesh in glory!

Application- Paul speaks in Romans 7 about a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members. And though it has been said by many that Paul was speaking of his pre-converted state, note in verse 24 that he says, ‘O wretched man that I AM.” Paul uses the primary pronoun of the first person in the PRESENT tense. He is not pointing to a former way of living before salvation at all but identifying a present state of affairs that he is currently experiencing. This becomes even more clear in verse 25, where he says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” With this in mind, I believe it is safe to say that sin is entirely contained within the corruption of the flesh and does not affect who we are in spirit (being clothed in the righteousness of Christ) before God. Peter gives a beautiful definition of what this means; he says, “Seeing that ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth THROUGH THE SPIRIT… Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God…” (1 Pet. 1:22 KJV).  Here we see that we are purified by obeying the truth through the Spirit (namely the Holy Spirit at work within us). This compliments Paul’s previous statement that with the mind, I serve the law of God. So although we still wrestle with sin that dwells in our earthly members, it no longer has the power to bring us into our former bondage. One of the great shreds of evidence that the believer has is that His mind is steadfast on the Law of the Lord despite the fleshly interference that seeks to draw us astray.