Romans 7:14-8:4 A Saint's
Struggle with Sin
A great liberation has
come to the believer in Jesus Christ. We have been
emancipated and set free. Sin no longer has to
dominate and master the believer. The Christian has
the freedom to have an intimate love relationship
with Jesus Christ. I speak to many believers who
still think they are slaves. They do not know that
they have been set free to love and serve Christ.
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject
again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
OUR POSITION IN CHRIST
Let's review for a moment
where we have been in our studies in Romans chapters
three through six. Paul is writing to believers in
the church at Rome.
We have a new standing
with God. By God's grace we have
complete acceptance with God in Christ. We are at
peace with God; God is at peace with us! "Therefore
having been justified by faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also
we have obtained our introduction by faith into this
grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the
glory of God" (5:1–2). We have a new relationship in
which we are reconciled with God. The result is we
experience His peace.
We are members of a
new family. The disobedience of
Adam brought death. All men die in Adam. However, we
have a new head of the family who is Jesus Christ,
and He gives eternal life. "For if by the
transgression of the one, death reigned through the
one, much more those who receive the abundance of
grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in
life through the One, Jesus Christ" (5:17).
We have a new
identification in Christ. We have
been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of
Christ. We have died to the old life, have been
buried with Christ and have been raised to new life
in Him. We are now identified with Christ. We are as
men who have been raised from the dead. "Therefore
we have been buried with Him through baptism into
death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, so we too might
walk in newness of life" (6:4).
We also have a new
master. We are no longer slaves to
sin. We now have a choice; we do not have to obey
sin any longer. "For just as you presented your
members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness,
resulting in further lawlessness, so now present
your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting
in sanctification" (6:19b). Our new master leads us
in God's righteousness. Sin has a payday and death
is its wages, but Christ gives us life every day.
We have a new love.
Our old husband died and we have married Christ. We
now have an intimate abiding love relationship with
Jesus Christ. A new relationship demands my love, my
loyalty, my obedience. We obey Him because we love
Him. "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to
die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that
you might be joined to another, to Him who was
raised from the dead, in order that we might bear
fruit for God" (7:4).
We have a new motive
of service. "But now we have been
released from the Law, having died to that by which
we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the
Spirit and not in oldness of the letter" (7:6). We
have been set free from the bondage of the Law and
are now free to serve Christ. I am a free person,
united with Christ, free to serve Him (Galatians
5:1; Romans 6:11-14; 7:4, 6).
In spite of all that God
has done for me in Christ I still have a problem.
How do I translate my eternal position in Christ to
my every day practice? How do I live Christ in my
daily life? We still have a daily struggle with sin.
We are called upon to make daily decisions that
effect our relationship with Christ. In most
situations, we do not make a long analyzed decision
whether to sin or not to sin. We don't get up one
Monday morning and decide we are going to throw away
our Christian life. It is usually quick, flash of
the moment of poor judgment and the deed is done.
In the paragraph before
us the Apostle Paul feels condemned, hopeless,
trapped and tired. He is sensitive to the pull of
indwelling sin. Robert Haldane wrote: "The more
sensitive we are, the more do we feel pain; and the
more our hearts are purified, the more painful to us
will sin be. Men perceive themselves to be sinners
in proportion as they have previously discovered the
holiness of God and His Law."
Paul discovered there are
two principles at work in the believer. "In every
believer, and in no one else, there are these two
principles, sin and grace, flesh and spirit, the law
of the members and the law of the mind . . . It is
the experience of every Christian," observed
OUR DAILY PRACTICE IS
A CONTEST WITH SIN (7:14-24)
I have a problem.
In spite of all that God
has done in His grace I have a problem. I am fleshy,
"I am of flesh, sold into the bondage of sin"
(7:14). Paul uses the present tense from verse 14 to
the end of the chapter. He is describing the daily
battle of the Christian. Moreover, he uses the
plural "we" to remind his readers that all believers
face this problem. He is talking to the regenerate,
born again believer. Paul describes for us something
that every believer will go through again and again
for the rest of his life on this earth. Paul opens
his heart and shares with us his own personal
feelings. It was not something Paul went through
only once and would never have to face again. It is
not like he moves on to Romans 8 and never goes back
to Romans 7 experiences. Paul went through it again
and again in his life because sin has the power to
deceive us. Only true believers go through what Paul
speaks of here. The unbeliever does not because he
is a slave to sin. He is dead in trespasses and
The Law is not the
problem; it "is spiritual" (v. 14). It is the
product of the Holy Spirit because it comes from
God. It always does its job. Every time I sin, I
prove the law is spiritual. I prove it true (v. 16).
The Law exposes the evil drive within us that still
makes the wrong choices. The deception of our
nature's response to sin is still a present reality.
Sin has the power to deceive us and cause us to
trust in ourselves. The Holy Spirit uses the Law in
the believer's life to cause us to see the
wretchedness of our current situation and to cry out
to the Lord Jesus for help. Here is the only way of
deliverance for the Christian. We still need the
Law. We need it because sin deceives us and causes
us to choose to respond to its pull. Like Paul we
can say in verse 22, "For I joyfully concur with the
law of God in the inner man . . ."
However, remember the Law
does not deliver us from sin. It doesn't have the
power to do so. It job is to cause us to see our
true selves and bring us to Christ who can deliver
us. Sanctification in this passage is not a once and
for all thing. Positionally we are set aside to God
once and for all. That is what we have been studying
in Romans chapters five and six. Sanctification is
also a daily practice. Paul also speaks of
progressive sanctification. Sin dulls my spiritual
perceptions and it takes the Law to open my carnal
eyes. The more sensitive I am to the Holy Spirit
working in my life the more sensitive I am to sin
present in my life. Therefore, the Law does its work
under the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
The problem is "I am of
flesh." "Flesh" is the material from which our human
nature is composed. It is the weaker element in
human nature (Matt. 26:41; Rom. 6:19; 8:3). The
apostle Paul also describes it as the unregenerate
state of men (Rom. 7:5; 8:8-9). The "flesh" is that
weaker nature within us that responds to the
downward pull of sin. It is in opposition to God and
all that which pleases Him. It is the unregenerate
state of man.
The Apostle Paul says, "I
am sold under sin" (KJV, NIV). The NASB reads, "I am
sold into bondage to sin." The word for sold [pipraskoµ]
is a verb to sell. It is perfect tense emphasizing
the state of completion, or condition. It has been
sold. A. T. Robertson notes, "Sin has closed the
mortgage and owns its slave." Indwelling sin pulls,
like a master demanding servitude even though the
mind longs to be free.
The Law fulfils its
spiritual purpose because it reminds me of a daily
war. I am a believer, but I am not perfect. See if
you can't identify with what Paul is saying here.
"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. But if I do the very
thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law,
confessing that the Law is good" (vv. 15–16). We are
saints who sin.
I fail to do what I know
will please God (v. 15, 19a, 22). I want to do what
is right and I don't do it. In my inner man, I want
to serve Christ. "I am not practicing what I would
like to do." In verse 19a, "For the good that I
want, I do not do."
I do the very thing I
hate (vv. 15-16, 19b-23). "I am doing the very thing
I hate." "I practice the very evil that I do not
want" (v. 19b). In my flesh I want to serve self. I
want to please my selfish desires. I want to make
myself look good.
The problem of
indwelling sin (vv. 17-20).
Look at Paul's analysis
of what is going on.
"The sin which indwells
me" makes me do it (v. 17-21).
"So now, no longer am I
the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" (v.
"Nothing good dwells in .
. . my flesh" (v. 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" (v. 18).
"Flesh" is that capacity
to serve and please self and leave God out of my
life. It is the desire to please my own wishes, and
exclude God. I glory in self instead of God. My
flesh responds to sin's pull.
"For the good that I
want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that
I do not want. 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" (vv. 19–20).
Can you identify with
Paul? I sure can.
The principle of
evil present in me (vv. 20–24)
"I find then the
principle that evil is present in me, the one who
wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law
of God in the inner man, but I see a different law
in the members of my body, waging war against the
law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law
of sin which is in my members" (vv. 21–23).
"Wretched man that I am!
Who will set me free from the body of this death?"
The closer you get to
Christ the harsher the reality of ever-present sin.
Power, position, pride, passion, etc. comes clearly
in focus. Our sin problems boils down a simple
formula: I, ME, MINE = SELFISHNESS.
"O Wretched man that I
am, Who will set me free from the body of this
death?" This is a cry for help. It has the emotional
pain of wailing in anguish of spiritual poverty. It
is the miserable, distressed cry of every Christian
who reflects on his own real condition under the
illumination of the Holy Spirit.
This is the passion of
Isaiah when he cried out, "O woe is me!" He is a man
under conviction." Isaiah acknowledged his sin
crying out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I
am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people
of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the
Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5).
The Hebrew Psalmist
declared, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The
Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). And in 139:23-24
another Psalmist confesses: "Search me, O God, and
know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead
me in the everlasting way."
Jesus gave a promise to
those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He
said, " Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew
5:6). This knowledge and awareness of our spiritual
poverty is essential if we are to come to the place
where we realize that we cannot live the Christian
life in the power of the flesh. We have to come to
the end of ourselves and cast ourselves upon Christ
alone. If left to ourselves we fight a losing
Have you come to the
place where you are tired of everything the flesh
produces? Are you getting tired of techniques,
programs, conferences and meetings? Have you come to
the place where you cast yourself unreservedly on
the all sufficiency of Christ and cried out "O
wretched man that I am"? You have to come to the end
of yourself before the Holy Spirit can take over.
You have to come to the end of the flesh. "I am sick
and tired of trying to live the Christian life in
the power of the flesh."
It is a sense of
spiritual poverty. The immature Christian is
characterized by self-confidence. We never move on
to spiritual maturity until we come to this sense of
poverty in the spirit. In the flesh dwells no good
thing. Carnal believers always have an arrogance
about them, an obsession with power, position,
praise, pride, passion etc. The Holy Spirit honors
that which exalts the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
There is only one
solution. "God alone through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Thanks be to God!" (v. 25a, New English Bible).
OUR POWER FOR DAILY
CONQUEST OF SIN (7:25-8:4)
Only God can
deliver you and me (7:25; 6:11; 8:1).
"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" (v. 25).
The duality remains and
the war goes on until Christ returns. Therefore, it
must ever be a daily reckoning on Christ for His
grace. "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to
sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (6:11).
"There is not even one
bit of condemnation" because of my perfect position
(8:1). The opposite of condemnation is
justification. The condemned person is under
judicial sentence awaiting the execution of the
order. No so the believer in Jesus Christ. He has
been acquitted and set free! There is no waiting for
the punishment for us because our punishment has
already been paid in full by Jesus Christ.
Works says that we must
perform and then God will be impressed with us.
Legalism is obsessed with trying to impress God. But
God is not interested. Grace and grace alone enables
us to live the Christian life. Grace sets us free.
Satan works hard to
convince you that you are a good-for-nothing,
worthless, unacceptable, sin-sick person who will
never amount to anything in God's eyes. In contrast,
God says to every believer, "There is therefore now
no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"
(Romans 8:1). That is how God sees you. Accept it.
Reckon upon it. Believe it. Act upon it. Live the
Christian life depending upon that great truth about
We have been set
free from the law of sin and death (8:2).
Do you feel trapped? The
old nature prefers to be in a box. It is so
Who set us free? The "law
of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." "For the law
of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you
free from the law of sin and of death" (8:2). God
sees His Son, and then He sees me in the beloved. I
am accepted because I am in Him! A missionary friend
of mine in Colombia weaved a beautiful desk mat for
my office that reads: "GOD + ME = A WHOLE
PERSON." That says it all!
"For what the Law could
not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the
flesh" (8:3). The Law was powerless to deliver us
from sin. It could only convict us of our
wrongdoing. It could not come to our aid and give
the strength and power to overcome the very sin it
convicted us of doing. It could not lend us a hand.
It could not deliver us.
However, what the Law
could not do, God did by sending His Son to die for
us. The second person of the God–head became man, in
doing so became our representative and died in our
place on the cross. Jesus was sinless. He was made
in the "likeness of sinful flesh." He never
experienced personal sin, but He was willing to take
the responsibility for our sins. He paid the penalty
of our sins and died in our place on the cross. He
bore our penalty as our substitute. He became a sin
offering on our behalf. "And as an offering for sin,
He condemned (punished) sin in the flesh." [Emphasis
mine]. Jesus was our sin offering. The LORD God
condemned our sins in the sinless flesh of His Son
who bore them on the cross at Calvary.
I am free to be
habitually dominated and controlled by the Holy
Paul adds, "so that the
requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who
do not walk according to the flesh but according to
the Spirit" (8:4).
Because Jesus Christ
satisfied the justice of God, the Holy Spirit now
resides at the control center of my life. He lives
in me to produce the very things the law demanded
but could not produce. The Spirit–controlled
believer fulfills the requirements of the Law. The
carnal person will never be able to produce that
which will satisfy God. The believer is under the
control of the Spirit who produces the sweet
fragrance of righteousness.
Yes, the war fare goes
on, but the victory is won. It is ours. Beginning
with Romans eight there is no further talk of
defeat. Christ is the victor. We win with Christ.
This new inward principle
of action by the Holy Spirit operates as a law in
the believer who yields to the Spirit. That
principle always works. You can depend on it. He
never fails. This new principle of action which the
Spirit of Christ has opened up within us sets us
free to live the Christian life. He empowers us and
sets us free to serve Him. We overcome sin by
abiding in His presence. We do the impossible by
yielding to Him.
Are you tired to trying
to live the Christian life by yourself? Yield to the
Holy Spirit. Let Him live through you. Let Him take
charge of your life. Someone said, "The flesh
couldn't do it before Calvary, and it can't now."
Only Christ in you can do it. He fulfills in us what
we cannot do for ourselves. "God helps those who
help themselves," is the most pagan statement you
can find as a Christian. God helps those who depend
upon Him. And nowhere is it more true than in the
The requirement of the
Law is fulfilled in us who walk according to the
Spirit (v. 4). Just think of it. As you yield to the
Holy Spirit you produce "love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control; against such things there is no law"
(Galatians 5:22-23). That is when living the
Christian life becomes something utterly amazing and
Christian holiness is the
life of the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in my
life. He reproduces Himself in us. He reproduces
those graces which were seen in perfection in the
life of Christ. Take a long hard look at Jesus
Christ and you see the fruit of the Spirit. Only
when we walk in the Spirit do we fulfill the Law.
We are set free from the
Law as a way of acceptance with God. However, it is
still our standard of conduct.
Principles and Practical Applications
1. When you believe on
Christ as your Savior God gives you perfect peace
and there is now no condemnation. Do I write to
someone who is still living in the bondage of sin?
Do you carry a burden of guilt? I invite you to come
this very moment and claim the shed blood of Jesus
Christ to cleanse away all your sin. The Bible says,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and
righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in
you" (I Jn. 1:9–10).
If you have never
believed on Christ as your own personal Savior I
invite you to come to Him right now and believe that
He died for you on the cross and rose from the dead.
Ask Him to be your Savior. For more information on
how you can come to Christ read How to Have Peace
2. When you are set free
by the Holy Spirit to live Christ, He gives you the
power to make daily choices that will please God.
Under His leadership, you do that which is pleasing
to God. Will you consecrate your life to Christ
right now? "I choose to please you Lord, Jesus." "I
choose righteousness." "I choose to put Jesus Christ
and God's righteousness first in my life." Make it a
once and for all commitment to live a life
consecrated to God. Will you act on that commitment
today? Because I have a new nature I have the
freedom to make that choice.
3. When you choose daily
to allow the Holy Spirit to control your life, you
choose to live. I choose daily to allow the Holy
Spirit to take control of my life. I choose to
submit to Him and let Him live His life through me.
It doesn't happen automatically. I pray
that you will do likewise.
4. When you submit to the
control of the Spirit, you gain victory over sin in
your daily life. As you practice your position in
Christ and reckon on Him you gain the victory over
sin. Only the Holy Spirit can subdue the flesh. "We
do not walk according to the flesh, but according to
the Spirit" (8: 4).
The Holy Spirit must
implant in our hearts new energies, new directions,
new motives, desires, tastes and tendencies. It is
the work of progressive sanctification. All that the
Man Jesus was, He was that we may become. He
demonstrates the possibility and the loveliness of a
life that pleases a holy God.
5. When I am
walking in the Spirit, I am habitually dominated by
the Spirit. Christ dwells within us by His Spirit.
We receive His power and presence as we yield to
Him. It is the only way to victory.
Title: Romans 7:14-8:4 A
Saint's Struggle with Sin
Exchanged Life in Romans