Struggling with sin. 7:14-25
In the passage before us Paul deals with an implication that could be drawn from his teaching, namely, that the law is evil, that it enslaves us. Paul argues that it is sin which enslaves us such that even though we may affirm in our mind the value of God's good law, we end up acting in defiance against it.
v14. This passage has much to say about the law and so we are bound to ask, what law? Paul always has in mind the Law of Moses, or more generally, "the will of God as a rule of duty, no matter how revealed", Charles Hodge. The law is "spiritual", ie. of God, whereas we humans are "unspiritual", ie. of the flesh, carnal, corrupted by sin and against God.
v15. Paul now illustrates the human condition confronted by the law of God. The problem is that the law tells us what to do, but the sinful nature rises up against the law and drives us into blind disobedience.
v16. Sinful rebellion, acted out in defiance of "the good thing", of itself affirms that God's law is good, beautiful.
v17. Constant rebellion, in the face of God's good law, shows that our problem is not one of the human will, but rather of a deadly condition affecting humanity, namely, slavery to our sinful nature.
v18. This sinful condition leaves a person powerless when it comes to doing good. Our perilous condition is easily recognized, because although we approve God's good law, along with the value in keeping it, we are fully aware that we can't keep it.
v19-20. In these two verses Paul restates his argument.
v21. "So, this is my experience of the Law; I desire to do what is right, but wrong is all that I can manage", James Moffatt. We need to be aware that many translations use the word "law" in v21-25 with either of two meanings: i] a rule or governing principle, or ii] anything that exercises authority and control over us. It is more than likely that Paul has not changed the way he uses the way "law" in these verses.
v22-23. "In line with the considerate side of my nature, I affirm God's law, but I am also aware that God's law prompts a different reaction in the corrupt side of my nature, and this reaction overwhelms my affirmation of the law, and further enslaves me to sin." In these two verses Paul spells out, in a little more detail, the different ways ("another") we experience God's law. My considerate humane self delights in God's law, bu on the other hand, my corrupted carnal self ("sin at work within my members") powerfully reacts to my affirmation of God's law ("law of my mind") and further enslaves me to sin.
v24 -25a. Where shall a person, in such a wretched condition, find help? Through faith in Jesus Christ we are set free from the bondage of sin and death.
v25b. Paul concludes with a short summary: God's law prompts our affirmation on one hand, but the sinful self prompts servitude on the other.
The issue of indwelling sin
In the Tom and Jerry cartoons, Tom constantly faces moral dilemmas. When faced with his dilemma, an angel appears on one shoulder and a devil on the other, both suggesting a course of action. When it comes to dealing with Tweedy bird, kindly consideration does seem best, but the devil's proposal always wins out.
In our passage for study, Paul speaks as a normal person faced by God's good law. As he writes, he has in mind those believers who think that by law-obedience they can progress holiness in their lives. Every human has a sense of a higher good, and yet, the greater our expectation of the good, the greater our rebellion against it. Yes, our condition is "wretched"; we are indeed slaves to sin.
We may like to think that a believer is free from the corruption of sin in the inner self, but the truth is there is no sinless Christian. As far as indwelling sin is concerned, there are a number of points we can make about this constant foe in the Christian life.
i] Every true believer struggles with indwelling sin, 1Jn.1:8.
ii] Indwelling sin is accentuated when we try to use submission to the law as a means to restrain evil and progress goodness.
iii] No believer understands why they sin, nor why they should remain in a sinful state; it is a mystery.
iv] A believer can in no way excuse their sin. We are always responsible.
v] No believer stands condemned because of recurrent sin, no matter how regularly they are plagued by it.
vi] Every believer is assured of ultimate victory over indwelling sin through their identification with the risen Lord.
All this sounds a little bit schizophrenic, but none-the-less, the next time you ask yourself "who will rescue me from this body that turns life into death?", remember the answer, "God alone can through Jesus Christ our Lord!", William Barclay.
Consider the above 6 points and relate them to your own life.
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