All scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
This isn’t written for “believers” who are trying to get away with something. This is for true Believers (capitalized on purpose) in Jesus Christ; those who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior and who, at one time, were living for Him …
… and then did something wrong. Everything came crashing down.
If you’re that person, you’ve probably claimed verses like 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You’ve asked for forgiveness and God has cleansed you. But you still wonder about yourself, “how could I have done such a thing?”
Even more distressing is when you repeatedly struggle with certain sins. You know what you’re doing isn’t pleasing to God and you seem to do well for a while … but then fall back into it. Heartbroken, you ask for forgiveness, and the cycle repeats. But again, you wonder: “what’s wrong with me?”
The fellow who can answer that is the Apostle Paul. Yes, the same Paul who seemed so strict at times … but he makes an amazing admission in the book of Romans.
Many Christians are familiar with Romans chapter 8; it contains that oft-quoted promise in verse 28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
You’ve probably quoted verses 37-39 as well: “37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly (the Greek word here literally means, “hyperconquer”) conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But chapter 7 is just as important. It explains and leads into the powerful promises contained in Romans 8.
Let’s take a closer look.
As usual, I’ll urge you to read the entire thing for yourself. It won’t take that long, and it’s well worth it.
In Romans 7:7, Paul starts by talking about the law, and it’s no coincidence that he chooses the last of the Ten Commandments for his example: “You shall not covet” (i.e., have a wrong desire).
You see, one of our problems is that we don’t really understand what “sin” is. We don’t realize how completely even the tiniest infraction separates us from a perfectly Holy God.
We think that if we stop smoking, drinking, wearing the wrong clothes and cussin’, we’re suddenly “holy.” But the Bible says that even our righteousness (i.e., the good things that we try to do) is like “filthy rags” before God (see Isaiah 64:6).
Before his conversion, Paul (or Saul) considered himself a Pharisee. He followed the Law as closely as is humanly possible. But once he had met Jesus, he knew that his “righteousness” was totally inadequate.
Jesus pointed out in the Gospels that to “lust after someone in your heart” was the same as adultery, and that to be angry enough to cause harm to your brother is the same as murder. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, deliberately chooses another “mental sin” here: “you shall not have a wrong desire. Don’t want something that isn’t yours to have and don’t envy those who have it.”
Read the entire chapter. Paul makes it very clear that the Law, in and of itself, is good. But the true purpose of the law, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, is to show us how sinful we are, to drive us to Christ.
You cannot be good enough to satisfy God. It’s not possible. But God, being merciful, sent his Son to die for our sins, taking the penalty in our place.
Back to Romans 7: “14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”
Wow! Paul says, “I do the very thing I hate!” What an admission!
Now read this: “17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 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. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Wow again! I am not the one doing it; the sin which dwells in me (that is, in my flesh) is what drives me to do the wrong things!
Paul finishes Romans chapter 7 with this: “24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
This amazing admission and explanation is what leads into Romans chapter 8.
Did you hear that? You are no longer under condemnation if you have truly believed and have truly given your life to Jesus.
If you’re struggling, keep believing. Remember that through Jesus you are an overconqueror. Your flesh might get in the way, but He kept the entire law for you; all you have to do is embrace and accept it.
Pray for forgiveness and deliverance and let Him change you … knowing that He will do it. When He was on the Cross, He died for all of your sins … past, present and future. Believe it!
Soli Deo Gloria