A Tale of Two Natures
Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is not longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 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.
Father, we just sang, “Holy, holy, God Almighty.” When Isaiah, in Isaiah, chapter 6 had a vision of You, high and lifted up, there in the throne room of heaven, the train of Your robe filled the temple, and there were beings, burning ones he called them, angelic beings that cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God; the whole earth is full of His glory!” One cried to another, “Holy, holy, holy!” God, in light of Your holiness, we see our complete and total wretchedness, as Paul declares here in this passage. And we ask God, that You would help us to comprehend it, and help us to make application from it today, by Your Spirit. Continue to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we would prove what is Your good and perfect and acceptable will. We ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
I love this section of scripture. I love it because it is so incredibly confusing that my dyslexic mind, like, totally grasps it. It’s so backwards and strange that I go, “Yeah, I totally understand what’s going on here.” We have been walking through Romans, chapter 7 over the last few weeks, and considering the goodness of the law of God in light of the question, “Is the law sin?” And it seems to be a logical question, as it stems from the reality of the law’s power in exposing our sin. I have repeated over and over again, as we’ve been going through this section of scripture, that the law of God exalts or reveals the righteousness of God, it reveals what righteousness is. And in light of that, we begin to see how completely lost that we are. So the law is very good in exposing sin, the sin of every individual, including the believer. After a person has put their faith in Christ Jesus for salvation, still their sin is evident. Not only is it evident, but we saw in verse 5 a couple of weeks ago, that sin, indwelling sin, resident within every single individual is inflamed by the law. The passions of indwelling sin, it is ignited by the law, ultimately leading to death.
So, the question then comes: How is it possible that the law is good, if the law exposes sin and then ignites sin to pour forth with great power? Well, it is good in that it is the expression of God’s character that is holy, just and good. And it is good in that it reveals the cancer of sin that is resident within every single one of us. It exposes it. It shows us what is actually there, what is causing the terrible problem. A friend of mine, one of the men who’s been a part of our fellowship for many years, he had surgery this last week to remove a tiny little 4 millimeter tumor that was behind his ear, in his skull there; it was near one of the nerves. And they had to remove it. And he was having problems about a year ago; he was having vertigo and extreme headaches, and they couldn’t tell what it was. They know that he has the symptoms, and so they had him have an MRI. And with the MRI they were able to see this tiny little 4 millimeter tumor, and to say, “That’s the cause right there. If we remove that, then you won’t have these symptoms any longer.” And so we see the symptoms; we see the reality of sin in the world. And yet the law exposes it, reveals what is causing the symptoms.
And although we have been crucified with Christ, our old sin nature is still quite active. It’s still there. And the law of God makes the old nature painfully evident. I mean we see it for what it really is. And so, after our conversion, if we seek to be made righteous, or maintain our righteous position with God by trying to keep the law, and we bring the law in, then the law is going to do what the law does. Because “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” says Romans, chapter 3, verse 20. We would not have known sin if it were not for the law. Paul says, “I would not have known covetousness or lust had the law not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” So, even post-salvation, post-conversion, the law does what the law does, and it reveals what is there within every single one of us. And sometimes we’re quite amazed at what is there, when we realize the depths of our depravity. I think of Peter. How many of you just love the apostle Peter? Always putting his foot in his mouth. Jesus is telling His disciples that “all of you are going to be offended for Me this night.” We celebrate that just a couple days from this Sunday. “All of you will be offended for Me this night, and you’re going to betray Me. You’re all going to turn.”
And Peter says, “Though they all…I will never do it.” Can you relate with that? Saying, “Lord I will never do…” whatever it is; fill in the blank. And it was just a few short hours that he was confronted with the reality that, although his spirit was willing, his flesh is weak.
And so the law of God makes our old nature painfully obvious. And if you are trying, in your own might, in your own power, even after receiving the Spirit of Christ; if you’re trying in your own might or own power to maintain righteousness by the law, you will always be convicted by the law, as a sinner. Defeated by the power of indwelling sin resident within the old nature. Sin is powerful. Sin is terribly powerful. Even within the life of a follower of Jesus, sin maintains a level of strength. And, although we that are in Christ, have this new spiritual nature, we’ve been transformed by Him into a new creation, 2 Corinthians, 5:17 tells us that. That “if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.” And we love that, and we declare that, and yet we find ourselves, at times, especially in the early stages of our Christian life, in Romans 7 – “The good things I want to do, I don’t do; the bad things I don’t want to do, that I practice.” The spiritual nature that we have, it desires to obey and follow God; it desires to do what is right. But we have something of a war going on within us. And it’s like spiritual schizophrenia. I mean, the greatest example of this, and Pastor Mark Childers reminded me of it this morning, if you’ve ever seen The Lord of the Rings. You see Gollum, and Gollum is back and forth between Sméagol and Gollum. You know, and it’s like; you see it right there. The old man that needs to die daily, Paul says. In Galatians, chapter 5, verse 17, there Paul says, “For the flesh” wars “against the Spirit;” it “lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you do not do the things that you wish,” “that you would.”
So in this last section of Romans, chapter 7 we see a tale of two natures within the life of the believer; a tale of two natures. And we see it here more clearly, perhaps, more than anywhere else in scripture. And it is my opinion that Paul contrasts these two natures in this section using two different personal pronouns, the personal pronouns: I and me. And so every time you see the personal pronoun I, you say, “that’s the new nature.” That’s who Paul really is in Christ. But every time he uses the personal pronoun me, that’s pointing back to the old nature. I call this the “I/me key.” “The I/me key.” That is a key to unlocking Romans, chapter 7. If you don’t recognize that, you’re going to have a really hard time with this, like, kind of schizophrenic passage. “The good things I want to do I don’t do; I don’t know what I’m doing; I can’t figure out. Oh, I’m doing this!! I can’t believe I’m doing…. Oh, I’m…” It’s just this back and forth; you go, “What in the world is going on Paul? Are you on something?”
Yes!! Sin; the old nature. And so, the I/me key. Thirteen verses we have here, and in thirteen verses 33 times he uses one of these personal pronouns. And if you add the personal pronoun my, then it’s 37 times here in this passage. This is one of the most personally focused passages of Paul’s writing. Which blows away the theory that Paul is setting a hypothetical here. There are commentators, Bible teachers that say that this section of Romans, chapter 7 is not Paul’s personal struggle; this is something that he kind of made up. That may be one of them weird carnal Christians out there experiences this, but certainly not the apostle Paul. No. This was the experience of the apostle Paul at some point in his life, and I would say it was probably early in his conversion that he experienced this whole setting here. It is the dreadful internal struggle of an individual, a Christian experiencing what Galatians 5:17 says. And the eye-opener is that this individual, I believe, is the apostle Paul. And when you recognize that, then you understand why he would say, in 1 Timothy, chapter 1, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” He recognized his sin. And this is the experience of many within the church. This is not the experience of an unbeliever. This is what a Christian, who has this war between the Spirit and the flesh, experiences.
Look at verse 13, Romans, chapter 7: “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not!” God forbid! May it never be! “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” So it is, I believe, that it is important to recognize that the key in this passage is to see that when he uses that personal pronoun “I”, he’s referring to his nature in Christ; that spiritual, reborn nature that he has from God. He opens this section by anticipating another inevitable question. Because at the close of the last section, in verse 12, he said “the law is holy, just and good.” And yet the law, being holy, just and good, it exposes sin in us, and ultimately brings about our death, a spiritual sort of death. The vitality of the Spirit’s work in our life is gone. The witness for Christ is gone. The fruit of the Spirit no longer is evident. Although you’re a believer, and although you’ve been transformed by the renewing of your mind to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, there’s still is this carnal, sinful self. And so the question from verse 12, where he says the law is good, then someone says, “Well then, if the law is good, then how did something that is good bring death unto me?”
But he reveals that death is the result of sin. Sin always brings death. “For the wages of sin is…” What? It’s death. That’s always what it is. Our flesh, which is indwelt by sin, is brought under bondage and death because of sin. And so it’s as if the new man that is “created in righteousness and holiness after God,” as Ephesians, chapter 4 says; we have this new creation in Christ, this new life in Christ; that new man that’s alive to God, it’s like it’s carrying around a dead body. And burdened by the stench of the deadness of sin. Can anyone here today relate to this in any way in your life? Sin is always a killer. And the problem always was and will be sin. And so we will fully comprehend the power of indwelling sin, the law exposes and inflames it. God wants us to recognize just how deadly and bad it is.
And so Paul says, “sin, that it might appear sin.” It’s really a strange reality that after salvation our sinful flesh often tricks us into vainly imagining that we, by our own effort, by our own might, would be able to maintain righteousness, to keep the law that we were never able to keep before, but we, after our new life in Christ, we seem to think that, “I can now do this! I can handle it.” And so we foolishly assume that somehow by our great ingenuity, by our wit, by our strength, we can bring about this great work of maintaining righteousness by the law. But the law effectively draws out sin into the open. It makes it come right out into the open, so that we see what it is, that we might once again be driven to Christ. And this is why I said last week that the gospel is necessary in the life of the Christian whether they’ve been a Christian for 5 days, 5 years, or 50 years. We need the gospel every single day. Because we need to come to the recognition constantly that we’re need of grace, and Hebrews says that the throne of grace is open to us. He’s given us access so that we can come and “obtain mercy and grace for our time of need.” And as we walk with Jesus, the closer we draw near to Him, we realize our need of grace is constant. There’s never a time that you don’t need the grace of God; you go, “No, I think I’ve got this. I think I can handle this.”
The law gives opportunity for us to recognize what we truly are. We’ll always be sinners, saved by grace. There is something special and spectacular in the equation of salvation, but it’s not us!! It’s Jesus!! And so he says, “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal.” So, now not only is the law holy, and just, and good, but he says the law is spiritual. What does it mean that the law is spiritual? Well the law ought not to be relegated to just a mere moral code to live by. It is more than an ethical system. Adam Clarke says this: “The law of God is a spiritual system; it reaches to the most hidden thoughts, purposes, and dispositions and desires of the human heart and soul; it reproves and condemns everything, without hope of reprieve or pardon.” So, the law is not just a codified ethic, that, “Just do these things, and everything should be okay.” No, the law, it reaches deep within and exposes just how desperate we are. And this is why it is impossible for carnal humanity to be able to fulfill the righteous requirement of God’s holy, just, and good, and now spiritual law. It’s spiritual. But we, Paul says, are carnal.
Now, again, each time we see the pronoun “I”, we need to recognize that this is the new nature speaking. This is the new nature, the spiritual nature from Christ that is speaking. And when we see “me,” this is Paul referring to his old man. So, now here, he says the spiritual nature is the one that recognizes “I am carnal.” We, in our flesh, will never say that. In our flesh we will always say, “No, no, I think I’m pretty good. I’m a pretty good person.” But it is the spiritual nature that recognizes our lostness. And so you have this inner turmoil going on, where the spiritual nature that is created in righteousness and true holiness from God, it recognizes, “I am fallen, I am a sinner, I’m in need of salvation, forgiveness, and the grace of God continually.”
And then you have this other part within you, within your members, that’s going, “No, no, no, no, no, everything’s okay. I got this. Don’t worry, we can justify this whole situation.” And it’s this back and forth within. It’s there, and every Christian here knows it. You’ve experienced this at some level. And so we are carnal. And the spiritual nature that we’ve received from Christ recognizes our carnality. And the believer needs to recognize that, even though they have been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, they are still carnal. And this flesh that we carry about, it will not go with us into the next life. There is a next life, there is that experience of being in the presence of God, the place that we most commonly call heaven. And when we go there, this [our flesh] is not going with us. Yeah, thank God for that!! “This corruption,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, “will put on incorruption, this mortality would put on immortality.” And we’re going to be celebrating what brings that about next Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because His being raised from the dead makes it possible for us to rise to walk in newness of life with Him, glorified. When we see Him, we’re going to be like Him, and this old body is gonna be gone. Salvation is always by God’s grace. It’s never anything that we are able to accomplish by our own strength, or in keeping of the law.
Look at verse 15 – “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” So every time we see the “I” here in verse 15, this is that new nature, the new man, if you will, saying, “I.” “In Christ, this is where I am, but what I am doing, being led by the me, by the flesh, I don’t understand it. I don’t want to do that, and yet I find myself doing the very thing I don’t want to do, saying the very thing I don’t want to say.” Guys, don’t worry, I’ll get to you ladies in a second. Guys, have you ever had that experience that the words are coming out of your mouth and as they’re coming you’re going, “Why am I saying that?!” Ladies, you’ve experienced it too. We all have. And there’s a part of us that’s going, “Why… I don’t even…”
Your spouse says, “Why did you say that?”
And you say, “I don’t even know why…I…said that!! Where did that come from?!”
And God says, “That was always there…always there. You just got a chance to see it.”
Why? So you can confess it, repent, be forgiven, and be cleansed. And that’s the power that we find in Christ. But “what I am doing, I don’t understand. For what I will to do,” the very things… I want to do what is right. I want to do what is righteous. We’re going to see, down in verse 22, that “I delight in the law.” So the “I” here, the spiritual nature, delights in the law, it wants to do what is right. But, then he goes on, “but I’m not practicing that.” “All of a sudden I’m being led along into something that I don’t want to do; I actually hate to do it, and yet I am doing this.” So the new nature, “I”, wants to do good, but it is overpowered by the “me,” the old nature, and it stands confused, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on!!”
Now this was the experience of the apostle Paul. I’m convinced of it. Here was this former Pharisee, who kept the law, and everything was right, to the point where he said, “According to the law, I am blameless,” Philippians, chapter 3, verse 6. And then he gets saved, and he goes, “The things that I want to do, the law, I can’t do those anymore. I find myself completely tossed to and fro, and devastated by this.” But it’s even worse than just wanting to do good and not doing it; the new nature actually hates to do bad, and yet finds itself doing what is repulsive and wrong. JB Phillips, in his translation, he translates this, “My own behavior baffles me.” Can you relate with this? “My own behavior baffles me.” “I just don’t even know what’s going on.” It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde existence.
Or, even better – Hulk. [laughter] “You don’t want to see me angry.” Right?
And then all of a sudden it’s unlocked, and you’re just going, “Well that’s scary. That was in there?”
“Yes, that was in there.”
Now, we all can relate to this as a Christian. If you find yourself in this moment, in this experience, just this last week, where: the good things you want to do, you don’t do; and the bad things you don’t want to do, that’s what you practice; what can you do? Well, I’ll give you the four Rs; the four Rs. This is what you’re to do. This is what we find in scripture.
First thing that we do is recognize that sin and sinful passions in us, they desire to bring us into bondage. Recognize this reality. Recognize that what Paul is saying here is true. There are, within us, two natures. Until we’re set free by the death of this physical nature, this physical body, there are two natures. Recognize that.
Secondly, remember that Christ has set you free from sin’s hold. You no longer have to be held in the clutches of sin. Recognize that it’s there, but remember that Christ, by His power, has set you free. That’s what we saw in Romans, chapter 6.
Thirdly, repent. Repent from the sin that you are currently practicing.
And then fourth, return to following Christ by faith and walking in the Spirit. Now, I realize that the idea, the concept of walking in the Spirit might sound a little ambiguous, and, you know, kind of flowery, spiritual language, but we’re going to get into, we’re going to spend a five-week series, after Easter, looking at Romans, chapter 8, and looking at victory, by walking in the Spirit; to the point that Paul will say, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
So we see the turmoil of being beat down by the flesh here in Romans, chapter 7. God’s aim in Christ is not that we would live a Romans 7 existence, but that we would live the victory of Romans, chapter 8. And I know many, many, many, many people in this church that are walking in victory by walking in the Spirit. And that is a good thing to know, because there are some in this room that you find yourself in this place of the turmoil of being beat down by the flesh.
Verse 16 – “If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.” So again the “I” here in verse 16, is…what? …the new nature; the new man; which Ephesians, chapter 4 tells us is “created according to God, in righteousness and holiness.” So we have a completely new nature. “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; all the old has passed away, everything’s become new.” So, created in righteousness and true holiness, that is the “I” of verse 16. So then if “I”, the new man, do what “I”, the new man, will not to do, “I”, the new man agree with the law that it is good, that it is good.
Now, not only do we have the “I/me key” of Romans, chapter 7, but we also have another key. If you’re taking notes, you want to write this down. It’s called the “good key,” the good key. Paul uses the word “good” 8 times in this section of scripture. We’re going to see 7 of them, because the first one we saw last week – “the law is holy, just and good.” Now in our English translations of the Bible, those 8 uses of the word “good” are always just “good.” But in the original language, there are two Greek words that are translated “good” here in this passage, and they have a different meaning. One of them is the Greek word agathos, from which we get the name Agatha, and that name means good. But agathos, it means good intrinsically, deeply, internally good. The law is holy, just and internally good. The second word that’s used in this passage for good, is the Greek word kalos, and that word, it means beautiful or externally good. Now notice what Paul says here in verse 16 of Romans, chapter 7, he says, “If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.” Now this good is the Greek word kalos, which means externally beautiful. Previously he said the law is good, agathos; it is internally and intrinsically good. So what he is telling us here, now in verse 16, is compounding or adding upon what he said in verse 12. In verse 12 he said internally the law is intrinsically good, now he says, not only that, the law is beautiful. It is good on the outside too. It produces good things. It is good through and through, is what Paul is saying here. So five times in this section, he’s going to say something is internally good, and three times he’s going to say something is externally good. Now you may say that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and why does it matter? When we get to verse 18, we’re going to see why it matters.
So Paul says, “If I,” the new man, “do something that I,” the new man want to do, then I’m agreeing with the law, that it is good, it’s righteous, it’s externally beautiful. I’m agreeing with what it says.” Verse 17 – “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Now there are some people at this point that get incredibly confused. They go, “What a minute, is this like a ‘devil made me do it’ sort of thing?”
“It’s not my fault mom, I didn’t do it.”
I remember doing junior high ministry for four years, as a junior high pastor. And you would see a junior higher do something wrong, and you’d say, “Hey, don’t do that!”
And they’d go, “I didn’t do anything.”
“I just saw you do it!!”
“I didn’t do anything.”
But now, having kids, I recognize that it doesn’t start in junior high; it starts when they’re like ONE; as soon as they can manufacture any sort of words. And you say, “Don’t hit your sister.”
“I didn’t hit her.”
“I saw you.”
“I didn’t do it.”
“I saw you.”
“No, I didn’t do it.”
I think they’re completely convinced they didn’t do it, but they did it.
So now it’s no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within… What? …me. What did I tell you? The “I” represents the new man, the “me” represents the old flesh. It’s no longer the new man, “I”, that am doing this, it is sin that dwells resident within my old nature. Again, Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 24: “The new man,” Paul says, “is created according to God,” in the likeness of God. The new man is created according to God, “in true righteousness and holiness.” Now two verses before that, he says of the old man, in verse 22 of Ephesians 4, “the old nature which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts,” epithymia; the same word that Paul used when he said, “You shall not covet,” when he said, “I find in me covetousness.” So the old nature is corrupt according to lust, deceitful lust. So with this in mind, look again at verse 17. When the Christian steps into sin, it is not the new nature that is doing it, but the old nature that still has sin dwelling within.
Well how do we explain this? Verse 18: “For I know that in me (that is, my flesh) dwells no good thing.” See the I/me? Apply the key. “For I,” the new man, “know that in me, (that is,” in the old nature, “my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me.” The will is not resident in the old nature; the old nature doesn’t want to do good. The old nature actually wants to sin. But, the desire is present with the old nature, in the new man. So the will is present with the old man, but “how to perform what is good I,” the new man, “do not find.” Why? Because apparently the old nature, at this point in Paul’s experience, was rather strong. We talk about this in our School of Discipleship class, course 2, when we talk about the Spirit, our Helper. And we look at the reality that when you’re born again by the Spirit of God, you are spiritually called a babe in Christ – you’re a baby. And you’re quite defenseless against the giant that is your flesh. And so when the opportunity, or the temptation to sin comes, then you find that the giant that is your flesh just kind of carries along the new nature, kicking and screaming, and saying, “I don’t want to do this!” And unfortunately, there are people in the church, that have been in the church for 20 or 30 years, and they’re like Baby Huey Christians. They never put to death their flesh, they never stop feeding it, and so, as a result, they are always led about doing the things that their spirit, their new man, does not want to do. And they are perpetually in Romans, chapter 7. They know nothing of Romans, chapter 8, and the victory of Christ. It’s a terrible, terrible situation. And I’ll tell you, I’ve had a number of counseling appointments with people where they don’t even know Romans 7, and they’re essentially saying, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of this death?”
And I go, “Here, let me show you what Romans 7 says.”
“I didn’t know that was in the Bible!”
“Yeah, and that’s right where you’re at.”
“What do I do?”
“Well, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, the desires of your flesh,” Galatians 5:16. Which is what Romans, chapter 8 is all about.
So “I know, that is in me (that is in my flesh) dwells no good thing, for the will is present with me, but how to perform I do not find.” Now notice the use of the words “good” in verse 18. Remember, I said the “good key” – agathos and kalos, here in the Greek. In verse 18, he says, “For I know that is in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” What do you think he’s saying – intrinsically, internally good, or externally good? Internally good. That is, in me there is nothing good resident within me. And since there’s nothing good resident within me, it can’t produce anything externally good. Why? “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and evil actions.” So, at the end of verse 18, he says, “but how to perform what is good,” what good do you think that is? Externally good. How to perform what is good, I do not find. Why? Because it’s coming from within, the evil thoughts and the evil actions. That part needs to be put to death. So if you are looking at pornography; or you are lusting after someone or something, and you are acting out in a sinful way; or if you’re raging on someone; and you just keep saying, “I’ve got to stop lusting, and I have to stop raging on people. I’ve just got to do away with that symptom.” It’s symptomatic of what’s inside; you need to deal with what’s inside, or else you will always have the problem on the outside. You’ve got to put to death the members of sin or you will always be overcome.
Verse 19 – “For the good that I will to do…” What good do you think that is? Externally good – kalos. The externally good and beautiful things that I desire to do, which are in accord with the law that is externally good, I, the new man, desire to do that, “I”, the new man, “do not do it; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Now there’s a cool play on words happening here in this verse that we don’t see in English, because Paul is using some great Greek poetry here. Because he says, “The good,” kalos, “that I will to do, I don’t do; but the evil,” kakos, “I do.” Yes, you’re right, “kaka.” [laughter] I knew you heard it. You thought you heard it; and you did. The evil that I don’t want to do, that’s what I practice, that’s what I do, perpetually – present active indicative. It’s continual action.
Now verse 20 – “Now if I…” What’s the “I”? The new man. “If I do what I,” the new man, “will not to do, it is no longer I,” the new man, “who do it, but sin that dwells within…” What? “…me,” the old man; sin that dwells within me. Now, of course, some have looked at this passage without understanding the “I/me key” and they say Paul is on something. I actually heard a pastor say that. “Sometimes Paul writes like he’s on drugs.” Well, if you understand what it is he’s saying, and you apply the key, then it makes sense.
You go, “Okay, I get it now. I, the new man, do what I, the new man, does not want to do; it is no longer I, the new man, who’s doing it, but sin that is dwelling within my old nature, the old man.”
Let’s remember what we’ve seen so far. “Sin should not reign in your mortal bodies, that you should obey the passions of indwelling sin,” Romans 6:12. “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members,” that is any part of our body that we have control over, “to bring forth fruit unto death,” that is to do sin. “But now we’ve been delivered,” that’s Romans 7:5 through 6. “Therefore,” knowing this, “do not present your members,” all that you have control of, your faculties, your mind and your body, “do not present them as instruments of righteousness to do sin,” Romans 6:13. Why? “For, do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey,” Romans 6, verse 16. You see the progression? The new heart, granted every single believer at the new birth, brings new desires; a desire to obey and follow God; to do what is right before Him. That’s what the new nature wants to do. Those new desires, for righteousness and against sin, they’re resident within the new nature.
And in our zeal we think that we can reject sin. Our new born zeal: “Okay, now I’m gonna do it! I got the power ta do it! I’m just gonna reject sin and do right, according to God’s righteous standard, according to His law.” But His law, it just reveals the depths of sin within us. We quickly learn that applying the law to the sinful passions resident within our old nature only ignites or inflames those sinful desires to do what is sinful.
Look at verse 21, Romans 7:21: “I find then a law,” or a principle. “I find then a principle, that evil is present with…” Who? “…me,” the old man, the one who wills to do good. So I, the new man, desires to do good, but I find this principle resident within me, that there is evil, sin, kakos, kaka, resident within me. It’s there.
Verse 22 – “For I,” the new man, “delight in the law of God according to the inward man;” this new man that’s been created in righteousness and true holiness. “I delight in the law of God.” But there’s all this dirt inside; there’s all this evil inside. So, I delight in the law of God, “but I see another law,” verse 23, principle, “in my members,” my sinful flesh, “warring against the law of my mind.” So now he’s saying the sinful flesh is his members, but then there is this new mind in Christ, and it’s bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. So the old man is being brought into captivity by practicing sin. And the new man, in the mind, says, “I don’t want to go into captivity, but I see it happening, and what do I do?”
And so what’s the response to all this? “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The original language actually reads this: “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” …this death? It is said that in the city where Paul was born, remember his name was Saul of… What? …Tarsus. In that Greek city in which Paul was born, one of the ways that they would deal with a murderer was, if someone was found to be a murderer, they would take the body of the individual that had been murdered and they would bind it, they would lash it to the individual, the murderer as a judgment, as a punishment. And so that murderer would go about carrying about the dead man, the old dead man. And it would not take very long for the death and decay to bring about illness and sickness, and ultimately that murderer would die, carrying about the old man. And it seems as though Paul has in mind that picture, that very, very clear picture here, when he says that “I’ve got this old wretched man – O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” This is the cry of the new man created in Christ. How do we know that? Well notice he says, “O wretched man that I am.” The new man recognizes this! The old man doesn’t see this. The flesh doesn’t go, “Man I’m wretched, I gotta stop being wretched.”
No, the new man created in righteousness and true holiness says, “I’m wretched! Who will deliver me, who will deliver me?” Notice he does not say, “What” or “how” or “when,” but “who?” “Who will deliver me?”
And Paul is obviously not ignorant of the answer, and nor should we be.
Verse 25 – “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” “Who will deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God,” the Deliverer, “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” the means. God is the Deliverer, Jesus is the means whereby we are delivered. This is why He is named Jesus. Remember Matthew, chapter 1, verse 21, Joseph is told by an angel, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And He will come forth, and you shall call His name Jesus.” Why? “For He shall save His people from their sins.” What does Jesus mean? It means: God is Salvation, Jehovah is Salvation. So God is the Deliverer, and Jesus is the means whereby we are delivered.
So Paul says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God,” the Deliverer, “through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Listen, Christian, every day of your life as a Christian, until you breathe your last in this life and step into eternity and shed this fleshly tent, every day of your life, my life, we will have to come to the recognition that Jesus is the only way whereby we can deal with our sinful flesh. If we try to apply the law to it, to bring or maintain righteousness, and we’ve just got to “try harder and press through, and try harder,” then we’re always going to be cognizant and aware of the continual kakos in us.
And so look at how Paul concludes the end of verse 25 – “So then,” because of all of this, “with the mind I myself serve the law of God,” new man. “In my mind I am serving the law of God,” and that’s my desire, I delight in the law of God, verse 22, “but with the flesh.” Notice he doesn’t say anything before that, just, “with the flesh,” the old nature, “the law of sin.” This is the reality for the Christian; that they have been created, as a new creation in Christ, all the old has passed away. They’re created in righteousness and true holiness, the new man is; God sees us in Christ as holy and blameless. But we have a second nature – the old nature. And that old nature, if you walk in that old nature, perpetually feeding that old nature, it will be strong to the overcoming of the new nature. And you will serve the law of sin in the flesh. In the flesh; you will never be able to accomplish the law in the flesh. You will always serve the law of sin in the flesh. Until we come to the place of recognition that we need to put to death daily – “I die daily,” says Paul in another passage – put to death daily the old nature. “I have been crucified with Christ; I no longer live, but the life I now live I live by the Spirit, by faith by the Spirit; by faith in the Son of God who gave His life for me.”
So then “walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” 1 Timothy 1:15.
Let me finish with this, a reading from a very good friend of mine, David Guzik, says this, “Even though the law is glorious and good, it can’t save us – and we need a Savior. Paul never found any peace, any praising God until he looked outside of himself and beyond the law to his Savior, Jesus Christ.
“You thought that the problem was that you didn’t know what to do to save yourself – but the law came as a teacher, and taught you all what to do and you couldn’t do it. You don’t need a teacher, you need a Savior.
“You thought that the problem was that you weren’t motivated enough, but the law came as a coach to encourage you on and to tell you what you needed to do and to say, “Press on.” And yet you still didn’t do it, because you don’t need a coach or a motivational speaker, you need a Savior.
“You thought that the problem was that you didn’t know yourself enough – but the law came in like a doctor to perfectly diagnose your sin problem – but it couldn’t heal you. You don’t need a doctor, you need a Savior.”
And Jesus is the Christ! …that is, the Savior. And He is the Christ, not just on the day that you receive Him as Savior and are saved from your sins, He is the Christ and the Savior in your life 50 years from now, and you will need Him as Savior every day of your life. And the law’s purpose is to drive you to Him all the time. This is why it’s not a bad thing to continue to meditate in His law day and night. Why? Because it will push you closer to Jesus.
It was on that day, 2000 years ago – Palm Sunday – that pilgrims from all around the nation of Israel were heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And as they would begin to climb the hills, the mountains to go up to Jerusalem, they would begin to sing the Psalms of Ascension, and the very last Psalm of Ascension is Psalm 118. It was not an abnormal thing, nor was it a peculiar or a special thing that they were singing, “Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” when Jesus entered into Jerusalem. That’s what they did every year. But they also sang there in Psalm 118, “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And what they did not recognize, and failed to recognize just a few days later, was that that day that Psalm was being fulfilled, as Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and they said, “Hosannah!” which means, “Save now.”
We need Hosannah every single day! And He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He’s the Savior.
Let’s stand and pray.
Father, I thank You that You are our Deliverer, and that You have made a way by which we can be delivered, that we can be saved. You sent Your Son, You spared not Your Son. “How shall You not freely give us all things?” Lord, we thank You for the forgiveness that we have in You. We pray, God, that we would today rejoice in that forgiveness, and walk in Your truth by walking in the Spirit. We praise You, Jesus, that You love us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, by grace You save us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.