5. Man without Christ always Fails before Sin (Romans 7:14-25)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin. 15 For I don’t know what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. 16 But if what I don’t desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. 17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don’t find it doing that which is good. 19 For the good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice. 20 But if what I don’t desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. 22 For I delight in God’s law after the inward man, 23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God’s law, but with the flesh, the sin’s law.
Paul shows us how the natural man lives without Christ under the fearful nightmare of the law. He does not clarify this reading, which is the peak of self-realization, through philosophical imaginations, or ideologies, but he uncovers the natural man through an exciting personal confession. The Holy Spirit had softened his apostolic conscience so much that he felt that even the smallest distance from the will of God as a deadly event.
Paul says, “I am carnal, as long as I look at my own abilities. Every man is carnal, because he has lost the image of the glory of God already given to him. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They have together become corrupt, and the spirit of the law punishes them in their consciences for their boasted selfishness. The saints particularly lose hope of the word of God, because they hear the statement: “You shall be holy, for I am holy”, or they become broken by Jesus’ command: “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. Paul confesses with psychological suffering that the natural man is unable to fulfill the will of God by his own power. How terrible it is to confess the inability of human power!
In spite of that, there is a great longing in every man to do good, and to live purely and holy. Even the lowest of people have this longing. Therefore, we must not only speak about sin and its power, nor should we be haughty with other people, but it is necessary to recognize the remainder of the law of God in the minds of all, since no man is so evil that he does not want to be good. It is regrettable that he who seeks to respond to this longing fails continuously, and acts against his good will. This is the strange thing about man. He is an enemy to himself. He betrays his good will, and surpasses the voice of his conscience. The sin in us is stronger than our mind, and the law of God rules over each man in spite of his good intent.
Why can’t we live purely, and continue in the love of God? Because man without God is possessed by sin. Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. The probability of doing evil is also found among believers if they are not kept by Christ. We do not have, in our bodies, the power to carry out the will of God. Such decision entails the greatest confession of man’s bankruptcy. Paul himself confessed this truth when he said, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells… For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Do you confess this fact with Paul, and admit that you are a criminal? Will you commit your polluted self to the grace of the eternal Judge?
The apostle calls every man a slave of sin, because its power was developed to a kind of law, which he calls the law of sin. Our captivity to evil became a law, and this bondage became painful to us, because in our minds we know our duties, and want to do them, but we cannot. This causes despair, because your self shakes the bars of the prison it is in, and cannot leave it. We are all captives to our selfishness. However, Christ calls you, at the same time, to nothing less than the perfection of God. Do you recognize the schizophrenia in every man? He wants to do good, but he cannot do it by himself.
Is there no help? Paul guides us into the last depth of knowing the polluted self, this being that salvation is not found in sources such as your self-righteousness, your uprightness, your abilities, or the law itself. Has the testimony of the apostle freed you from your superficial faith, and driven you away to pessimism concerning all kinds of humanity? The educators are liars, and the philosophers are foolish if they lack the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They do not recognize their limit. Blessed is the believer who knows, before the holiness of God, that he in himself is untrue, sinful, and perishing. Blessed is the man who has recognized the severe judgment of the law on his enslaved self, and has become free from all inclination to human righteousness, and who does not believe in the championship of man, but trusts Christ alone.
Thank God! For Jesus Christ is the Victor, without whom we are lost and self-deceivers like all others. He has given us truth and a new power. His Holy Spirit gives us life and comforts us, giving us certain hope in the only Savior.
PRAYER: O holy Father, we worship you and glorify you with all our hearts, because you did not leave us in despair, but you sent your Son Christ to us, a Savior and Redeemer to all, and through his righteousness your Spirit came to us. We open our minds to him that he may open the prison of our sins, and consecrate us to holy conduct, together with all the believers in our nation and throughout the world.
- What did Paul confess about himself, and what does this confession mean to us?
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.