Romans 7:14 "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin."
Introduction: The Christian Is In For The Fight Of Their Life
When we pass through the start of Paul's discussion of sanctification in Romans 6:1-7:6, we understand the urgency to understand our Christian identity. The blueprints of Christian growth following one's justification by faith are laid out in those verses. We find that not only is our relationship to Jesus Christ changed relative to pre-conversion versus post-conversion, but our relationship to sin is changed as well. Romans 7:1-6 illustrates Paul's discussion in Romans 6 by showing how the believer in Jesus Christ break with the former life before Christ is likened unto the death of an old spouse. Freedom enters into the picture, meaning that the Christian is free to live rightly for God.
The design of sanctification has been laid out by the Apostle. The question of the hour is of course: "what will occur when the Christian is put into the context of working out their salvation with the internal conflict of left-over indwelling sin and this new-found nature in Jesus Christ? It is in answering this question that we will consider what I'm calling: "the fight of your life".
What Life Is Like Before Salvation With Respect To Sin And God's Law
As we come to The Holy Spirit's ongoing discussion of the victorious Christian life through the pen of Paul, we see Paul sharing his pre-conversion life in Romans 7:7-13. Recognizing who he was before Christ, Paul changes the tenses of his verbs from "things that were" to "things that are now" in his life. Why does Paul first mention his life before salvation in Jesus Christ? The mention of the law of God in these verses serves to remind us of the one way we become aware of the fact that sin is sin.
Much like traffic traveling down the interstate, many of the drivers will travel above the speed limit. However, whenever a police cruiser is sitting along the highway or is in their midst, all the drivers suddenly become "law-abiding" citizens. Why? The presence of the "law", so-to-speak, heightens the work of the consciences of the drivers, reminding them to "slow-down". Does it follow that the absence of the police officer meant that speeding was any less unlawful? Not at all. But now consider the funny thing that happens when the officer is seen by the drivers. Some of them will feel resentful, and the impulse will still be to try to speed!
Is it the officer's fault if they still speed? Not at all. Rather, the presence of the "law" stirs up the impulse to want to rebel against authority. That impulse and bent toward unlawfulness was in that driver already.
Paul's mention of his interior spiritual condition before salvation (and really, the spiritual conditions of all human beings born into this world) reveals the treachery of sin. God is not to blame for the sinner's sin. Rather, the sinner is the source of blame. Before we can ever get saved, we must first see that were lost. Sinners are in a war but don't know they are fighting on the side of the enemy. Only when we see sin as sin will we see it as our enemy. This determination, only made possible by the Holy Spirit working His convicting work through God's Word or Law will bring this point to roost in the heart of the sinner.
The Fight For One's Sanctification Begins From The Moment Of Justification or Salvation
A wise pastor once told me that in order to understand the ramifications of Christian sanctification in Romans 6, you have to grasp the conflict of it in Romans 7 in order to experience the victory of it Romans 8. As Christians, we would prefer, I think, to skip having to fight the world, the flesh and the Devil (see 1 John 2:14-17) and just get on in becoming more like Jesus. Scripture of course doesn't portray Christian growth in this way. The Christian life is not to be conceived as developing in a serene, sterile test-tube environment free from conflict.
In Romans 7:14-25 Paul is describing his Christian life as a boxing ring, wherein two opponents are sparing with one another. There is "the law of sin" or "the old man, nature" (7:23) versus "the law of my mind", the "inner man" or the operations of the new nature in Christ. (7:22) As you go down through this verse, Paul describes the interior of His Christian life in relationship to sin:
7:15 "For I am doing the very thing I hate"
7:18 "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not."
7:19 "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want"
7:22 "for I joyfully concur with the law of God in my inner man"
7:23 "but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war..."
Clearly there is conflict, a 12-round all and all out fight. The underlined phrases tells us that sinning for the Christian is a matter of choice. To sin as a Christian is not "I have to", but rather "I want to". Even the Great Apostle Paul dealt with this inner boxing ring. Christians are by position and experience counting themselves dead to the voice of the sin still resident in their flesh (please read Romans 6:11). However that voice that needles daily in their "old man", if not dealt with and regarded as dead by the believer, will as it were get off the cross and attempt to live. The fight is on.
Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world
In the context of Romans 6,7 and 8 we discover one important truth about this boxing match in the Christian life: greater is the Holy Spirit that is in me than Satan that is in the world (see 1 John 5:4-5). Paul's argument, though showing the boxing match between "the old man" and "the inner man", reveals that the inner-man (that is, me in the the Lord and the Lord in me, my new nature) is much stronger and more skilled than the old man (the left-over remnants of sin that plague me in my sanctification). The Holy Spirit says through the Apostle John in 1 John 4:4 "greater is He that is in you, and he that is in the world". The argument carries on into Romans 8 and we read in Romans 8:2 "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death."
So is there a boxing ring in the Christian? Undoubtedly! Are the opponents evenly matched? Hardly. My inner man has with Him God the Holy Spirit, living in and through me and expressing Himself by way of my mind, emotions and will. Even though the presence of sin is still in me, it is weakened and its power to utterly imprison me was taken away.
Closing thoughts and final applications
Today we have focused upon expounding on Romans 7:7-25. We've considered the fight one has in wrestling with the left-over remnants of sin whilst having the internal new nature acquired in saving faith. The Christian life is an ongoing-internal boxing match. The question is: when it is all said and done, how can one get through to victory? Consider the following three exhortations for our application:
1. Determine your enemy: sin. Romans 7:7-13
2. Determine to fight sin. Romans 7:14-20
3. Determine to win against sin in Jesus. Romans 7:21-25
The argument of Romans 6 for the victorious Christian life requires the conflict of Romans 7 to demonstrate that victorious Christian living is a real thing and not a fiction of some pious imagination. Its not easy, but it is worth it. Let's fight the good fight of faith!