In our passage this evening, Paul continues his defense of the gospel. The context of the passage is that he is still addressing the Jewish members of the church in Rome. They had been taught all of their lives that obedience to the law is how you maintain a right relationship with God. Paul’s argument is that we are not saved by the law or by obeying the law; we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. Walking in faith is how we enter and remain in a right relationship with God.
You cannot trust in the law for your salvation, because the law does not have the power or authority to save. Still the law is God’s word so it is true and it serves God’s purposes. In our passage last week, Paul used the illustration of marriage to show how through faith in Jesus Christ, we are released from the law to serve the Lord in a new way. Just as a person is released from their vows of marriage when their spouse dies, the believer is released from the vows to the law when they die to sin through faith in Jesus Christ. God imparts the righteousness of Christ to the believer. He declares us to be righteous so that the law does not condemn us to death.
But the law is still a part of God’s word. It is still the absolute truth and it reveals God’s will on how we are to live in order to honor him with our lives. We please God when we live by the spirit of the law but not when we trust in our ability to live by the letter of the law. The law instructs us. It identifies actions and attitudes that are sin. It convicts us when we sin and it guides us into righteous living.
So for the born again believer who has been released from the power of the law, the law still has an effect. The law sets up a conflict in the believer’s mind and heart. It stands in opposition to the sin nature. It causes an internal war between the flesh and the Spirit. In the Spirit we want to live our lives perfectly to the glory of God, but in the flesh we cannot reach our goal because the law stands to convict us of our sin. It proves our guilt.
Every born again believer experiences this struggle on an ongoing basis. We get sick and tired of the struggle. It beats us down and even breaks our hearts. But it is this struggle that helps us to grow in our relationship with the Lord. We continually turn to the Lord in faith, confessing and repenting of our sin. We learn more and more to trust in Jesus and not the law. In our failures we turn to God to receive His grace. We come to learn the depths of our sin nature and the height of God’s love for us. While the law condemns us, our faith brings forgiveness and eternal life. The reality of the law forces us to trust God more.
Don’t ever think that you are the only one who struggles with the sin nature. I struggle and so does everyone else around you. What’s more, even the great Apostle Paul struggled, as we will see in our passage this evening. Please read along with me Romans 7:7-25
In verse 7 Paul once again anticipates the arguments his Jewish readers might present based upon what he has already said. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? His answer is that the law is holy, righteous and good in verse twelve, and it is spiritual in verse 14. It is from God and it still serves an important role in the life of the believer.
In chapter three we learned that the law makes sin known and in 7:5 we learned that the law arouses sin itself. We see these truths repeated and amplified in this passage. Paul says that he would not even know what coveting was if the law had not said do not covet, but the sin nature seizes the opportunity provided by the commandment to produce every kind of covetous desire.
This is how the devil works. We know that something is wrong through God’s word, so that is where Satan attacks. He tempts us, entices us to do what we know we ought not to do. He takes advantage of the weakness in our sin nature. He deceives us, and promises to satisfy our desire when in reality he is trying to put to death the Spirit of Christ in us. For a person who does not have faith in Jesus, sin leads to physical death as well as eternal death. For the child of God, unconfessed and unrepented sin leads to the death of the power of the spirit in their lives.
Now consider verse 13. Did that which is good, that is God’s law, become death to me. again Paul anticipates the argument of his Jewish audience. We see a pattern in his writing with the response, by no means. He goes on to explain that through the commandment and the struggle it produces in our heats, we become aware of how utterly sinful sin really is.
A lost person can steep himself or herself in sin and think nothing of it. They are not familiar with God’s law or they do not embrace it so that they give themselves permission to do whatever their sinful hearts want to do and they will condemn anyone who tries to tell them that what they are doing is wrong. They will look at a believer as some kind of religious freak.
But if a believer falls into the same sin, the law condemns the action and the Holy Spirit convicts the believer. We become miserable over our sin and we are able to see and understand just how destructive and awful our sin is. We see our sin the way God sees it. We realize that our sin is killing our relationship with the Lord. We see the destructive nature of sin and it leads us to repentance so that we can have victory over sin and so that we may have a righteous witness before a lost world.
Paul’s pattern has been to make a theological point and then give an example to make it easier to understand. In verse 14 he makes himself the example. Look again at what he says in verses 14-20. The law is spiritual, but he is unspiritual. He hates himself for doing the very things he does not want to do. He is incapable of living according to the letter of the law because sin lives inside of him. His point is if we trust in the law, the law will totally destroy us because we are incapable of living a sinless life before Holy God.
Paul uses this whole argument to show why even self-righteous Jews need Jesus and why Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was necessary. If we could live in sinless perfection, Jesus would not have to die. But he bore our sins. He became sin for us. By His stripes we are healed. He lives a sinless life and sacrificed Himself so that through faith in Him we might be saved. The law does not have that power or authority. The law convicts us and condemns us so that we realize we need our Savior.
In verses 21-24, Paul confesses his own struggles with his sin nature and surly we all can identify with him. When he says in verse 21 that he finds this law at work and in verse 23 another law at work, he is not talking about the law as revealed in God’s word, but as something that he has discovered through personal experience. It is the law of the reality of the influence of the sin nature. He says that when he wants to do good, evil is right there with him.
It is easy for us to see this law at work in our lives today. It is a universal problem. We live in a sinful world, we are all sinners, and we have a sin nature. As children of God we want to always do what is good and right, but our lives and circumstances are so conditioned by the sin in the world, both our sin and other’s sins, that evil is an ever-present reality.
Sometimes the decisions we make are not as black and white as we wish they might be. No matter what we decide to do our choice can have a negative effect. Strong desires conflict with the clear teaching of God’s word. Human logic that is corrupted by the sin nature can lead us to not do what is right in God’s sight. We live in an evil world so that evil is an ever-present reality for the believer as well as the non-believer.
Paul refers to our struggles in verse 23 as the members of our body waging war against our minds. This is the war of the flesh against the Spirit that every Christian has to endure. We want to do one thing, because we know it is the right thing to do, but the desires of the flesh which have been conditioned by our sin and the evil in the world, is so strong in us that it sets up a conflict and we really have to fight in order to have victory over sin.
An example of this is something that I have shared with the church family on a number of occasions. When I made a commitment to the Lord to be a man of God, totally sold out to Him, God had to do some house cleaning. God spoke to me and said, “Greg, I can’t use you so long as you are drinking.” God was so clear about what I must do, but my flesh was so weak because I had conditioned my flesh for so long in the abuse of alcohol. I remember how badly I wanted to quit drinking and how sick and devistated it made me to not be able to stop.
My drinking was sin before Holy God, but I had justified my drinking in my mind. It was sin, but I reasoned in my mind that it was OK. I developed every possible argument to give myself permission to drink, much like a legalistic Pharisee who forces and twists the law to give themselves permission to continue in their sin. But all of those arguments that I had in my arsenal had no power to relieve me from the conviction I experience when God said get that out of your life.
That same struggle takes many forms based upon our individual lives and circumstances. When we are in the heat of the battle we want to cry out like Paul, “What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death? We all face these struggles no one is exempt.
But I hope that you can see that these struggles are necessary. It is not God’s will that we should continue in a life of sin. If I went on my merry way thinking that it was all right for me to abuse alcohol, I would have continued in my sin and disqualified myself from being of any use to God. I would have missed out on His purpose for my life and the many blessings of His grace that have come as a result of my obedience. I would have continued down a road that ultimately led to my destruction and premature death. If I had never struggled against my sin nature, I would not have had victory over that sin in my life and I would not have grown deeper in my relationship with the Lord.
When Paul cried out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” he confesses that we cannot resist the power of sin in our own strength. A lost person has little or no desire to get sin out of their life, but a born again Christian is convicted by the word of God and the Holy Spirit so that we are miserable until we get that victory.
But we can have that victory and we cry out, “Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The struggle is necessary, because until we become so miserable and broken over our sin, we won’t cry out to God for forgiveness and deliverance. If we do not struggle against the sin nature, we will continue to trust in ourselves, and our own abilities. We think I can handle this. I’ll get through this, when we should be crying out Lord help me. My sin is eating me alive and I cannot get rid of it without your help. Lord, deliver me from my sin so that I may live for you.
To say that Jesus sacrificed His life so that our sins may be forgiven, doesn’t give us the whole picture. Yes, Jesus took our sin upon Himself so that we might be forgiven, but a part of God’s purpose in saving us is that we might also have victory over our sin. When we are saved, God does not turn us into mindless robots, rather we are individual people who have entered into a personal relationship with Him. We still have a sin nature and the struggle against that sin nature helps us to see the utter sinfulness of our sin. The more we face conviction, the more likely we are to draw upon the Lord’s strength to give us victory over sin.
The other side to this is that the more we resist the Lord’s conviction, the deeper into sin we plunge so that the battle must become greater, more intense, in order for us to come out of that sin. Sin destroys our lives, it ruins our witness, it makes us miserable, it breaks the hearts of the people who love us. But when we struggle against the flesh, we see sin for what it is until with God’s help we break free once for all.
Once the Lord set me free from alcohol, I have never had another drink, nor have I had the desire for another drink. But that does not mean that I do not struggle with my sin nature. God gave me victory over that one sin in my life, but now I move on to the next one and then the next one. It is a process of spiritual growth where we learn to grow closer to the Lord with every victory. We learn how to more and more draw upon His strength and become better equipped to live the Christian life. But the struggle with the sin nature will stay with us all of our lives, because it keeps dependent upon
These are the sermon notes from Wednesday Evening, August 20, 2014. For the next several weeks they will be available to copy, print or save from the download page, listed as Romans 7-7-14