For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
At the risk of offending many people out there, I must confess that I have never been a fan of wrestling. Maybe it started back in high school walking past the wrestling room and hearing all of the grunting and smelling the odors which somehow made it into the hall, but for whatever reason, I simply couldn’t ever embrace watching two people roll around the floor trying to overpower each other. If you spend any time at all, however, reading and studying the writings of Paul the Apostle you will find he spends a lot of time describing the Christian walk as a lifelong struggle between two opposing forces.
One of the most encouraging things to me about Paul is that although many might look at him as an example of a believer who had it all together, so to speak, he none the less makes clear that he himself struggled just as we do. He explains that situation and the reasons for it in the book of Romans where he describes for us his own personal struggle, and tells us that he is guilty of sinning much the same as we are regardless of the fact that we are believers. While many might believe that as long as we still sin, there is no difference between the saved and unsaved, the truth is that the struggle itself proves you are a believer.
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. Romans 7:14-16 NKJV
Paul wants to make the point that while the law of the old covenant was good to show man his need for salvation, it couldn’t save us. What it could do was to show us our need for salvation, and the grace given to us by a loving God. Therein lies the difference between the law of the old covenant and the grace of the new covenant. It is impossible to keep the law, but the law shows man the need for grace. Yet Paul still wonders, if he is a believer saved by grace, why can’t he stop sinning?
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. Romans 7:17-19 NKJV
While believing that the sacrifice made for us by God’s Son, Jesus Christ will result in our eternal salvation, Paul also makes the point that we are still stuck with our fleshly bodies which also carry the baggage we call our sin nature. While grace can provide for our eternal salvation, it can’t remove the sin nature inside of this body. This is the reason Paul gives us to explain why he himself, and we too struggle to do what is right but often fail. I think an important point he makes in this passage is found where he tells us that he cannot find the answer of how to do good when he looks for strength to do good inside of himself.
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 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. Romans 7:20-23 NKJV
Only born again believers experience this fight. The struggle inside is between our minds which are committed to Christ and desire to do right, and our sinful flesh with its sin nature which desires to do wrong. I have an old truck that I have been slowly restoring, and the best part about it is the new motor I put in. I never have any problems with the motor because it is new, but it is the rest of the truck that gives me problems because it is old and trying to fall apart on me. As believers, we have a new mind which is, unfortunately, stuck in an old body with its sin nature. How long will this struggle continue? Until we get our new bodies, delivered to us at the rapture of the Church.
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 7:24-25 NKJV
The Greek word for wretched literally means exhaustion as a result of toils and troubles. Paul wants us to know that he himself, as well as each of us, will struggle with our sinful nature as long as we inhabit this fleshly body. The law only showed man the need, but grace gives us the means to succeed. Don’t look inside for the strength to win this battle, look up. Because of grace, thanks be to God, we will not held accountable for the sins of the flesh.
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. Romans 8:1 NKJV