{6}          Slave to sin (Ro 7:14,19)

Romans 7:14,19
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.... For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to doóthis I keep on doing.

Problem:

         In Chapter 6 we are told by Paul that we are freed from sin, but in Chapter 7 Paul confesses an apparent weakness in the face of sin, that the good that he would do he does not and the evil he wishes to avoid he keeps doing. Controversy has surrounded these passages since the first century. Who is the ďIĒ that Paul refers to: himself, or the whole community of mankind; and does he refer only to the unregenerate person or to the regenerate Christian?

         The problem is compounded: if we refer to the unregenerate Paul, i.e., the preconversion Paul, it is inconsistent with Paulís outlook as a Roman citizen and a Jew. For Paul speaks proudly of his credentials under the law. On the other hand, there is little evidence of a split in Paulís outlook as a regenerate Christian. Paul is definite in his attitude to sin: it has been defeated under Christ.

         Setting aside the controversy over Paulís status in these verses as an regenerate or unregenerate, does Paul have a deeper message: not that there is a split within the believer in his attitude to sin but that there is and always will be a tension between intent and action. If Paul has this duality, then certainly we do, for it is evident that even with the gift of the spirit, present daily in our lives, we lack the will to carry out the most basic of Christian responsibilities. We stand not on our own two feet but on those of Christ.

Context:

         In Romans 6:6, Paul tells us that ďour old self was crucified with him that we might no longer be enslaved to sin.Ē

         In Romans 7:14-24, Paul describes his wretched condition because of the impact of his inability to do the right thing in his own strength.

         In Romans 7:25, Paul gives thanks to God through Christ.

Explanation:

         The law is spiritual in that it serves Godís purposes. But we are not spiritual. We stand not in our own strength but only with the grace of God through Christ whom we serve (v.14).

         Paul expresses the central problem for the Christian: He does not know what he does. The will to act is there but he does not act, and often the evil that he does not wish to do he does (v.15).

         He does not disagree with the law. He knows that its dictums are correct. He wishes to obey but does not (v.16).

         He argues that since he wishes to do good it must be the sin living within him that prevents him from doing so (v.17).

         There is nothing good living within his sinful nature, for within himself there is no power to carry out his intent to do good and avoid wrong (v.18).

         Having been converted to Christ, he argues that sin must be living in him and controlling him as he is not living as he should (v.20).

         Paul expresses our dilemma that when we wish to act on Christís behalf we are still confronted by our sinful selves. The unregenerate nature did not disappear with our conversions. We still live in the world, but have the power, if we call upon it to overcome (v.21).

         In the inner being of man, he agrees and delights in Godís law. It is manís dilemma that in his own strength that he cannot carry it out (v.22).

         The unregenerate self still rages. He is dead within us only if we realize that Christ gives us the power, the liberation to act. We cannot act in our own strength (v.23).

         All Christians are brought to the point with Paul that they are wretched creatures for knowing what is good but being unable to achieve it.

         Paul gives thanks to God, through Jesus Christ the Lord. The victory over sin is not ours, but Jesus Christ the Lordís for He reigns over sin (v.25).

Application:

         We may argue whether Paul refers to the unregenerate or the regenerate man within us but we are all involved in Paulís struggle to carry out Godís will and to avoid transgressing against Him. It is only by acknowledging this struggle that we can overcome it by calling upon Godís power. If we pretend that this struggle does not exist, the victory over sin will not be valid for us and we will be ineffective Christians. For Paul describes the Christian life not as we would wish it to be but as it actually is. We with Paul are still in prison, but through the power of God when we call on Christ, we know perfect liberty.