It is written:
We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not. I am so human. Sin rules me as if I were its slave. 15 I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I hate. 16 And if I don’t want to do what I do, that means I agree that the law is good. 17 But I am not really the one doing the evil. It is sin living in me that does it. 18 Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is not spiritual. I want to do what is good, but I don’t do it. 19 I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do. 20 So if I do what I don’t want to do, then I am not really the one doing it. It is the sin living in me that does it. 21 So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. 22 In my mind I am happy with God’s law. 23 But I see another law working in my body. That law makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. 24 What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? 25 I thank God for his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord! So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25 ERV)
The Apostle Paul here teaches us some important lessons about the Christian struggle with sin.
Now, some may object to this, claiming that in this passage, the Apostle is addressing the status of unsaved individuals. It is true that Paul addresses his status here when he became sinner. Notice that he was born spiritually alive (Romans 7:9), yet at the point of his first sin, he became a slave of sin. In this passage, he describes the sorrow and heartbreak of anyone not set free by the blood of Christ. This sinful lifestyle is described by the words “the flesh” in the New King James Version of the Bible. It has reference to the old form of life that a person lived before becoming a Christian.
If this passage, therefore, is about individuals before they are saved, then what does it have to do with the struggle of sin that believers face after they are saved?
Very simply: saved Christians can go back and live according to the old way of life!
That was an issue that Paul was elaborating here in his Epistle to the Romans:
Romans 6:1-2-What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Some in Rome were going back and living in sinful lifestyles, which was contrary to the doctrine of Christ. Therefore, in Romans 7, Paul is going to illustrate some of the reasons why the Christian life is superior and why we must continue to struggle against sin in this life instead of throwing up our hands in despair and living according to the flesh.
First, Paul is clear that people are not born as sinners. Romans 7:9 forever refutes the notions of original sin and total depravity. People are born spiritually alive, in fellowship and communion with God.
Second, when we choose to commit sin, we are putting ourselves back under the dominion and power of sin. Paul reminds the Christians here how desperate that was. Notice that sin is a cruel taskmaster indeed. It crushes, it humiliates, it devours and consumes, and it finally destroys. When we live under the dominion of sin, we forfeit hope and redemption. As such, sin is not something to be welcomed and cherished. It is something to be hated, starved, destroyed, and crucified.
Third, when we are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation as long as we continue walking in the Spirit:
Romans 8:1-There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Yes, there will be times that we sin as Christians. Romans is filled with examples of this! These times of struggle and sin do not define us and take away our identity in Christ. We still have the knowledge that we were saved when we were baptized (Romans 6:3-4). Yet it is also a reminder to us that we will continue to struggle in this world.
When we repent of our sin as Christians (as these Romans were doing), God forgives and shows mercy (cf. 1 John 1:7-9).
Yet God has left us great help in our struggle with sin!
Romans 8:12-13-Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
The Holy Spirit will strengthen us in our troubles and weaknesses.
Romans 8:26-Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
The word “helps” here is a very interesting word in the Greek Old Testament. Notice how it is used:
Exodus 18:22-And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.
Numbers 11:17-Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
The word had reference to someone who aided by helping a person bear a burden that he could not bear alone. Sometimes the hardships of this world are too much for us, and the temptations of the old way of life are more then we can bear. Yet we do not need to despair, for God has promised to give us Divine help in our struggle with sin. When we fall short there is forgiveness as we repent; but there is strength promised from our Father and growth through the trials (cf. Romans 5:1-5).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.