O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24 NKJV
Does it seem to you that the apostle Paul sounds just a little frustrated in this passage? One of the reasons I enjoy studying the life of Paul and reading his letters is the fact that he is experiencing much the same things we all as believers experience. In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul’s lament is having to live his life as a believer in a body controlled by a sin nature. Of course, as a believer in Christ, Paul and anyone else who has made the same decision to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is forgiven, yet the frustration of wanting to live up to God’s standards while trapped in this worldly body is evident not only in Paul’s letters, but to us every day.
Paul spends the entire seventh chapter of Romans explaining and expounding on the struggle all believers face attempting to live up to the standards God has set for us. In terms that often resemble an argument in a court of law, Paul not only shows us why we struggle, but explains in no uncertain terms that although at times the struggle seems hopeless, there is in fact hope for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 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. Romans 7:7-13 NKJV
In his own way, Paul tells us that the law shows us how high a standard God has set before us. Unfortunately, the result is the knowledge that we can never live up to that standard. Although the law is good, and we can use it as a guide for our actions, because of our sin nature we also realize the ultimate futility because sooner or later we will stumble and fall because of the sin which lives inside of us. We often think that if we can control our actions we somehow have achieved success but Paul makes it clear here that our thoughts condemn us as well. No matter how hard we try, because of our sin nature it is impossible to live a sinless life.
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 no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. Romans 7:14-20 NKJV
Did you know Paul was a sinner? As holy of a life as he tried to live, and in spite of all the good he accomplished in his lifetime, in the end Paul was a sinner just like all of us. Have you ever wondered just what types of sin Paul was struggling with? I believe most of us tend to think godly people struggle with different sins than the rest of us, but in reality all of us share the same sin nature and are tempted by the same sins. Have you ever had these same thoughts go through your mind that Paul shares with us here? You want to do good, you try to do good, but in the end you fail. Yet Paul also sheds some light on this struggle we all share by the revelation that it is our sin nature that is responsible for the sin we commit. We sin because it is our nature, and it is for this reason Jesus forgives us of our sins whenever we ask Him to.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one 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. Romans 7:21-25 NKJV
Do you notice how Paul differentiates between our inward mind and our outward flesh? Inside we desire to do right, but outwardly the sinful body just keeps on sinning. The one thing the law will always do is show us that we cannot save ourselves. Knowing that, God has made a way for all to be saved from the penalty of death by having His own Son, Jesus Christ, pay that penalty for us. Yet because He was the Son of God, he defeated death and rose again so that we might spend eternity with Him, in a new body devoid of this sin nature. This then, is the hope that lives in all of us as believers.
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. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 NKJV
Have you ever seen the reaction of accused people when they hear the words “not guilty”? Think about that for a minute and then tell me why there will be so much rejoicing in Heaven. Shouting, praising God, singing and dancing, it all makes perfect sense when you consider that not only will we be saved and forgiven, but we will also receive a new body that has no sin nature. In the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed. Come quickly Lord Jesus.