Consequences for our Salvation by Faith – The Spirit Battling the Flesh ROMANS 7-Part 6 (concl)
Paul starts talking about the consequences of being saved and yet we’re still in this fleshly body. He describes the conflict in the next passage:
Romans 7:15-20 (NKJV)
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will (want) to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If then, I do what I will not (do not want) to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will (want) is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will (want) to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not (do not want) to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not (do not want) to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Paul speaks of himself here, but he is describing the experience of every Christian. First, we see ourselves sinning. Coming to faith and coming through that process, we come out of that process and we go back to regular life so to speak. You get done with the altar call and you start going to church and you fall into regular Christian life whatever that looks like for you.
And then you notice you are still doing some things you aren’t supposed to do. Because people told you that you shouldn’t do them or the Bible says you shouldn’t do them. Or the spirit in you says stop doing those things. And you may wonder why do I still have these desires to do the wrong thing? Paul says in verse 15 that we do things we don’t understand. You know that feeling…it usually hits you right after you’ve done or said something you shouldn’t have done or said. And you thought. why did I do that? I know I’m not supposed to do that. We aren’t practicing what we want to do and we’re continuing to do the very things we hate, Paul says. What he’s doing, of course, he’s describing the frustrations we all know of living with a sinful nature.
But what Paul asks us here is to think again about this. Take another look at this for a moment, at these experiences that we all share. It says in verse 16 if you are doing something you don’t want to do, then you’re demonstrating that you agree with God’s Law and confessing what is good. My dislike for my own sin is evidence that my spirit shares the mind of Christ. I know now something I didn’t use to know. Previously I would never have felt that way, and in fact, I couldn’t have felt that way before I was born again.
Before I came to faith in Christ, using foul language was not necessarily a thing I did on a routine basis maybe, but I did it without too much worry. I did it whenever I felt like it. Today the world uses it far more often than I did when I was younger. But I did use it. I didn’t think anything of it, it felt good. Or I didn’t even notice. And then I come to faith and in a relatively short period of time a word like that might escape my mouth, I felt bad about it. I mean it was suddenly something I no longer liked about myself. Where did that come from? No one ever sat me down to give me the 10 rues to being Christian. There was no point at which somebody said I should stop. You can find the Bible telling you that in James and it’s not like you can’t see it. The point is whatever caused me to do it had to be something different than who I was before. Because before I didn’t have that concern. So, as I do that thing I don’t want to do, what Paul says it is your recognition you don’t like it, you are showing evidence that there is something inside you now that knows what the right thing is. That’s that sinless spirit affecting your thinking. Showing itself in your thinking.
That recognition leads to an important conclusion: I’m not the one seeking to sin, but it is sin dwelling in me that is driving that behavior. That’s not an excuse by the way. This is not the way you excuse your sin by saying I didn’t sin, it’s that other thing in me that sinned. No Paul is talking here in very technical terms spiritually that he is not giving you license to sin. Paul uses the first person pronoun (me, I), ‘I noticed this’ — that this dwells in me.’ The first person pronoun here is referring to your spirit. Specifically, that part of you that is spiritual. That new spirit you get when you are born-again. Paul says that part of you agrees with the Law and confesses it’s good. So he says, I (my spirit) is not the one doing the sin.
It’s impossible for your spirit to sin because you were given Christ’s sinless spirit when you were born again. You were born-again into His image, into His spirit. But then where is the desire to sin coming from? All that’s left is our body, our flesh, which Paul calls “sin.” So when he says it is not I who sin but sin that dwells in me. That sin is a reference to your physical body. Paul says in verse 18 that sin dwells in my physical fleshly container, my body and that container is absolutely 100% sinful. Nothing good dwells in it, Paul says.
It is the source of your desire for doing wrong and it is opposed to your spirit. The result is that the willingness to do good is in “me” (my spirit) but the actual doing of good is often fleeting. That is the Christian struggle. The Christian struggle is we live in ways that are contrary to our confession. As Paul neatly summarizes in verse 19…we do not do the good we want, and we do the evil instead that we do not want to do. How is this even possible? Why aren’t we in control of ourselves? Paul gives you the answer, he says how are we not in control of ourselves at all times and do exactly what we want at all times. The answer in verse 20 is that there are two sources of power working inside you. You have a spiritual will and you have a physical will. Your spiritual will wants to do what God wants, while your physical will wants to do what the enemy wants. It can cause you to go against your own wishes if the physical will has the upper hand in any certain situation. It gets its way when you listen to its desires and give in to its requests. What you are learning is a principle that the spiritual will, that is, the true identity of you, has to yield to the physical desires of your flesh in order for sin to take place. You are always yielding at that moment. It may not come across in a conscious way for you. You are not thinking of it that way. It’s not that mechanical. It happens in an instant. But spiritually what Paul is saying is you got to that outcome because the spiritual will of you was subjected to the physical will of you at that moment. Which is why we see in the disciplines of the faith. The Bible says we should pray, we should fast, we should study the scripture, we should be in the council of others who can correct us when necessary. We need those tools helping us discipline the body so that its voice doesn’t override our spiritual voice. That is the will of the spirit. Because if the spiritual will was in control at all times, if that were possible you would literally be sinless. It is not possible, that is why we walk around not being sinless yet. It is also why when you lose your body you are going to heaven sinless. Because you lose the one part of you that is not sinless.
That sums up a principle here:
Romans 7:21-23 (NKJV)
21 I find then a law (principle), that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Since we can see plainly that we do things we don’t want to do, then we have our proof that those evil desires are not of our true self. We don’t agree with them. We are mad at ourselves when we sin. They are part us, for now, but they are not us. Evil is something that is present in us even as we want to do good. In my spirit, the inner man Paul says, I love what God loves and want what God wants. But in my physical body, I find another source for the evil that is actively opposing my efforts to follow God and serve Him.
It isn’t merely a bad influence on me…it’s more significant than that. It is actively working against me. It’s a foreign invader, a virus, something that fights back. Paul says it makes me a prisoner, preventing me from being completely free of sin. So with what you’ve learned from chapter 6 and now what you’re learning in chapter 7, we have a powerful insight if you want to go to battle. You now know that you have all you need inside you to please God. The spirit inside you is capable of telling you the right thing to do under every circumstance. You don’t need laws written on stone, you don’t need rituals, you don’t need religion. You need the word of God because that is the information source that your spirit grows with. But you have the mind of Christ, you have the spirit of God and you have the will of God present in you.
But, You also have an enemy living in you, an enemy that always wants to do the opposite. And that force is never at rest. It’s always at war with your spirit, and it will tempt you into lusts of one kind or another. And It wants you to fail in your service to God. You are a prisoner of sorts of this enemy because he lives in your physical body, and obviously, you can’t exist on earth without a physical body. So you are a prisoner to it in that sense. It’s like being locked in a ai cell with it and you can’t get out. Not right now, not yet.
But you are not without defense in this battle. The stronger your spiritual will grows, the more control you can exert over the physical will. And Paul talks more about that in chapter 8. Meanwhile, he finishes this chapter with the ultimate question, the one you would naturally ask at this point: how do I get rid of this stupid, evil body?
Romans 7:24-25 New King James Version (NKJV)
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
We are wretched in this present state. We’re all like a walking Greek tragedy. We’ve been equipped to know God, we know what He wants and we have a desire to please Him. Yet we’re shackled to a body dedicated to opposing Him. It seems like a recipe for frustration. But in reality, it’s a temporary situation. Paul says we need someone to set us free from this body of death, meaning a body that just wants to lead us into sin. And he follows that with thanks be to God which is to say that is exactly what’s going to happen through Jesus Christ. For just as Jesus gave us a new spirit, He will also one day bring us into a new body.
This idea we have to be freed from our body, that is at the heart of the whole New Testament. When you hear of the hope of Christianity. The hope we have in Christ. That’s not some general phrase that means being hopeful. Hope means something very specific in the New Testament. The hope of our faith is our hope in resurrection All believers from all time look forward to the coming moment you receive a new body. That’s always what hope means in the Bible. The hope that death is not the end of our body, that we will have a new one.
The Bible teaches that each distinct group of saints throughout history will receive their new body at the same moment. All Church saints receive their new bodies in a single moment at the resurrection (we call it the rapture). All Old Testament and Tribulation saints receive their bodies at the same moment at Christ’s Second Coming. So the receiving of new bodies is not trickled out over history as people died. They are mass moments in which God presents a group of saints from some period of history with their new bodies in a mass moment. That’s the way God has planned it. We hope for that moment.
Our resurrection is the moment of our glorification, but even before that moment, we will be freed from the scourge of this body. Even before you receive the new body you will be freed from the scourge of your current body. Because at your death your spirit leaves your body behind, you enter into the presence of the Lord, Paul says in 2 Corinthians. So the only thing standing between you and heaven is the sinful body you occupy which cannot go into heaven. Once the body is gone your spirit is free to enter. Which by the way, is further proof your spirit is sinless. Because there is nothing more that has to be done to bring you into heaven, but to drop the sinful body that you have.
Finally, Paul summarizes the main point of the chapter in verse 25. With our mind (or we could say with our spirit), we serve the law of God through our life lived in Christ. But through our flesh, I’m serving the principle of sin, that is in opposition to God. So when you sin, you’re watching your flesh win the day. When you live in a holy and pleasing way, you’re watching your spirit maintain control. Watch for which one is winning the day more often, and you’ll have a measure of how sanctified you are in your walk with Christ. The life goal of every Christian should be to build up the spiritual strength of the spirit and to discipline the flesh. In working on these things, we bring glory to Christ. We show His love to other people and we serve Him faithfully as His ambassador. That should be the mission of every Christian life and it begins with understanding how the war is fought and won. Unfortunately, it has been lost in a lot of the church life these days but that’s exactly why you go to church. That’s why we have church. That’s why we are in a body of believers. So collectively we are getting better in serving Christ.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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