In these verses you’ll meet someone who’s struggling with the law. He’s converted and has life from God. This is clear from verse 22 where it says he delights in the law of God. An unbeliever would never say this, but the man of Romans 7 struggles with sin living in him. While struggling, he’s sinking deeper and deeper. He’s like someone who is stuck in the marshes. When you become stuck in marshes, you begin to slowly sink. Every attempt to get yourself out only causes you to sink faster. Marsh-walker, as we’ll call this man, tries to free himself from the power of sin by obeying the law of God, but time and time again, he’s defeated. He always does what he hates to do when he’s trying his best to do well.
Can you relate to this struggle? I think struggling like this is a necessary experience when you earnestly desire to live with God and with the Lord Jesus. This doesn’t mean you’ll be struggling for the rest of your life. There’s a way out, but someone who doesn’t know about this kind of struggle is often just a superficial Christian. This war teaches you the tough reality that in you, that is in your flesh, there is nothing good.
V14. How does this war start? It starts when the law is used incorrectly. What then can you to do with the law? In a general sense you know the law is spiritual – that is, the law makes you God-centered and tells you how to serve Him. Why then don’t you succeed? Because you are “of flesh [or: fleshly], sold into bondage to sin”. This is where the troubles come from.
V15-16. You can’t do it; you’d like to serve God, but you don’t. Rather, you do what you hate to do. This experience tells you something. If you do what you don’t want to do, you recognize the law is good, for the law doesn’t want you to do wrong either. So you and the law agree.
V17-20. Then there must be something else that does the wrong. Well, there is something else and it is sin living in you. But you can’t blame sin for the wrong you are doing because it’s your fault when you let sin use you. This is because you don’t have the power in yourself to resist sin. You want to do what’s good, but in your flesh, the old sinful nature, there is nothing good. For this reason, you get to the point where you do wrong, but then it’s not you who’s doing it, but sin living in you.
V21-22. What are you experiencing? If you desire to do well (and that’s a good desire!), evil is present in you. In your heart you feel joy about God’s law and you desire to live according to it. This desire results from the new life you have, but you still have the old nature which wants to assert itself.
V23. This old nature, the law of sin, makes you its prisoner and is fighting to keep you under control. This fight is taking place in the members of your body. What is at stake is who is exercising authority over your members. Since your conversion, your hands, eyes, feet, mind and body are in God’s service (see Romans 6).
V24. But while struggling, it feels as if sin still has them under control. This makes you feel like the most miserable person on earth. Your body is a body in which death is working and from which you’d like to be delivered. How can this go on? Notice the word “who” in verse 24. It’s as if Marsh-walker starts to look around for someone else to save and deliver him.
V25. This is the end of all the struggling. His eyes look to God. He sees that God has already prepared the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. One who sees this immediately starts to thank God. (Now you can read again how this salvation was brought about in the beginning of Romans 7.)
The last part of this verse gives a conclusion of the characteristics of the two natures within a believer. You’ll keep these two natures as long as you’re living on earth, but this shouldn’t be distressing since the old nature no longer has authority over you. In the next chapter you’ll see many more things that God has given you to lead a victorious life.
Now read Romans 7:14-25 again.
Reflection: Do you sometimes have the feeling described in these verses? What should you do?