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 2222For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 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.
V1414For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.. 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.
V15-1615For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I [would] like to [do], but I am doing the very thing I hate.16But if I do the very thing I do not want [to do], I agree with the Law, [confessing] that the Law is good.. 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.
V17-2017So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good [is] not.19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.. 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.
V21-2221I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,. 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.
V2323but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.. 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).
V2424Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?. 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 2424Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?. It’s as if Marsh-walker starts to look around for someone else to save and deliver him.
V2525Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.. 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?