“What is Paul up to now?” 

  Romans  7:14-25 is a passage that has caused some confusion among Bible students  because of the strong language Paul uses to describe himself. How can the  greatest of the Apostles characterize himself, and by extension, all Christians,  as “unspiritual,” a “slave to sin” and a “prisoner of the law of sin”? Aren’t  these descriptions of unbelievers? How can Paul describe himself in these terms  if he is truly saved? The key to understanding this passage is Paul’s  description of the two natures of a Christian. Prior to salvation, we have only  one nature—the sin nature. But once we come to Christ, we are new creations in  Christ (2  Corinthians 5:17), but we still abide in the old flesh which has the remains  of the sinful nature within it. These two natures war constantly with one  another, continually pulling the believer in opposite directions.

The  desires of the believer’s spiritual nature pull him in the direction of good  while the flesh in which he lives pulls him in the other. He wants to do one  thing, but has something within him that does the opposite. So how do these evil  desires differ from those of an unbeliever? Simply put, the believer hates the  evil flesh in which he lives and desires to be freed from it, whereas  unbelievers have no such desire. So strong is Paul’s desire to live godly and so  frustrated is he that his flesh wars against his spirit that he finally cries  out in desperation “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body  of death?” Of course the answer is Jesus Christ our Lord (v. 25). One day  believers will be completely freed from the body of death in which we live when  we are glorified with Christ in heaven, but until that day we rely on the power  of the Spirit who indwells us and gives us victory in the ongoing battle with  sin.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul puts into practical language the  fact that he is a redeemed sinner who still has a carnal body, the flesh that  wars against the indwelling Spirit. In another place the Apostle says, “That  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief” (1 Timothy  1:15). The personal pronouns in these passages are not just an artifice but  a statement of reality and the honest evaluation of a man who examines himself  in the light of who he is and Who our Lord Jesus is and comes to the conclusion  that he is a wretched man in need of deliverance. This is not the deliverance  from the penalty of sin—that was paid for on the cross—but deliverance from the  power of sin.

As a faithful teacher, the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25 uses his  own experiences and what he has learned through them to teach other believers  how to use God’s provision and our position in Christ to overcome the struggle  with our carnal nature. Praise God that we have such a wonderful thesis that not  only truthfully exposes the struggle between the spiritual nature and the flesh  in which it resides, but most importantly presents us with the tremendous hope  and confidence in our salvation: “There is therefore now no condemnation for  those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans  8:1).

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