By Pastor J.D. Link
In Romans seven, Paul answers the question, "Since I am now born-again; a child of God; alive in Christ - why do I still sin? Why do I do the thing I hate and fail to do the thing I love? Why is it, that even though I love God and His Word, and only want to do those things pleasing in His sight - that I often find myself doing the exact opposite?! How is it, that even though I'm a new creation with a new nature - I still somehow find myself doing things according to the old nature? To put it plainly, if Jesus lives inside of me, why do I still act like the Devil at times?"
I encourage you to read Romans seven a few times, for I cannot cover it all in detail in this space. Before we were converted, the affections of sins (which the law drew out) worked in our physical body to bring forth fruit unto death (vs. 5). The believer is now delivered from the law (that is, the law system of works-based righteousness), that we should serve God in spirit (vs.6). Our freedom from the law is to serve one another in love - not freedom to do as we please (Gal 5:13).
Is the law sin? God forbid (vs. 7). No, the law is holy, just and good (vs. 12). If there had been a law that could produce life – the law of God would have been it (Gal 3:21). The law is spiritual in nature (vs. 14). The law was ordained to life (vs. 10) – IF one could keep it. The problem is, WE are carnal and sold under sin (vs. 14) – and we can’t keep it. It must be kept perfectly to produce righteousness (Jam 2:10); and because we inherited our first parent’s corruption (Rom 5:12), this is impossible. Only Jesus – the God-Man – kept it perfectly. It took God to keep His own law. We can’t even keep our own self-imposed laws – much less God’s perfect law!
Because “in our flesh dwells no good thing”, even though we (in our spirit) always will to do good – we do not consistently do good in our flesh (vs. 18). In fact, we find that what we will to do, we at times fail at; and what we don’t will to do we find ourselves doing (vs.15, 19). This means there are two “I’s”; two wills. The will of the spirit man and the will of the flesh. Therefore, it is the sin principle that dwells in the mortal body that does the sin (vs. 17, 20).
In our inward man, we delight in the law of God. We always want to do righteously; please God and obey Him (vs. 22). However, like the law of gravity, the law (or principle) of sin that dwells in our mortal flesh always wants to do evil (vs. 21, 23, 25). Not our actual body, but something that exists within our body – of which we cannot be free from until we’re dead. It doesn’t mean we cannot overcome the law of sin (as aircraft overcome the law of gravity) – but only that this law is always operating naturally.
So, within the saint, there exists constant warfare (vs. 23, Gal 5:17, Jam 4:1, 1Pt 2:11) between the spirit and the flesh. They always oppose each other. Even though we can and should obtain victory over the flesh in large measure through Jesus Christ here and now (Gal 1:4); the flesh will have to be contended with until our spirit departs this body to be with Jesus (vs.24-25).
Now, it must be said, that this fact is not to be used an excuse for sinful behavior – as in, “I didn’t do it, my flesh did!”. That is perverting the truth (2Pt 3:16) – and that dog doesn’t hunt as far as God is concerned. However, it does greatly comfort the saint in their failure to live perfectly as they will to do. It shields us from letting the slanders of the accuser of the brethren cause despair or question our position in Christ. It answers the question, “Why did I do that?” - because the stinking “law of sin” that dwells within my purchased – yet unredeemed – flesh, still desires what it always has and always will.
What are we to do? Well, understand and accept that the sinful flesh will be with us until we die - but it does not have to rule us, nor should it. We have victory in Jesus and in Him there is now NO condemnation (Rom 8:1). Greater is He that is within us (1Jn 4:4). We are called; we are beloved; we are kept by the power of God – and we will keep believing Jesus until total victory in the resurrection! Selah.
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