Have you ever felt powerless to overcome your long-time sins? Join the club! According to Romans 7.14-25, the Apostle Paul felt the same way.
In verse 14, Paul contrasts God’s law and our sinfulness: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” Sin is a ruthless master.
How ruthless? According to verses 15-20, sin drives a wedge between our desires and our deeds:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.Â I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
How masterful is sin? For Paul, the fact that sin drives a wedge between desire and deed shows that it is in full control of us. Verses 17 and 20 repeat the same idea: “it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” Our good intentions are helpless bystanders to the crimes sin commits through us.
Or rather, not bystanders but prisoners of war and slaves. In verses 21-23, Paul writes:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
And in verse 25, he adds: “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Sin is in control of us. It drives a wedge between our desires and our deeds. It makes us helpless bystanders of our own crimes. It holds us as prisoners of war and as slaves. No wonder Paul exclaims in verse 24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” In other words, who will integrate my thoughts and actions? Who will arrest the criminal in me? Who will liberate me?
Verse 24 gives the answer: “Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Through faith in Christ, who died and rose again for us, we begin to experience the integrity and freedom our soul desires.
As we head into the JulyÂ 4th weekend to celebrate our nation’s freedom, we ought to keep this most basic freedom uppermost in our minds.