Wretched Man that I am!
Great saints down through history of Christianity have never
bragged, How good I am, but Get away from me, Lord; I am a sinful
man (Luke 5:8). That is the authentic lament of the true Christian.
The apostle Paul shares with us in Romans seven the intimacy of his
own struggle. The emotion reveals personal involvement. I love the personal honesty of the
apostle Paul. I wish more of us preachers in our day were as honest.
What happens to the believer when he sins? What we see in Romans
seven is the mature believer and how he responds to the sin that dwells within him.
I have never met a completely sinless Christian,
and neither had the apostle John (1 John 1:7-10). Even toward the end of
his life the apostle Paul testified to the same struggle (Phil.
In Romans chapter seven the apostle Paul is still a
sinner, no matter how much out of character that may be. However, Paul
does reveal to us in this chapter his own experiences when he does sin.
This is agonizing for the apostle. "For I do not do what I
want--instead, I do what I hate" (v. 15 NET). He does not want to sin.
In deed, the desire is there to resist temptation, but he failed. He dos
not want to sin, but he is weak in the flesh (v. 16). When Paul thinks
about the sin he ponders, "nothing good lives in me" (v. 18). And he
reasons, "For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my
flesh, for I want to do the good, but I cannot do it" (v. 18 NET). It is
very clear in this paragraph the apostle does not deny his personal
responsibility, for he knows he is the one who sinned. It is not a
figment of his deluded imagination. "For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the very evil I do not want!" (v. 19 NET).
What is the problem Paul? Sin. It is sin living in
me (v. 20). The principle of sin is at work. I sin in spite of the fact
that I have been spiritually regenerated. "Now if I do what I do not
want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me" (v. 20 NET).
The old nature leads him to sin even when he does not want to. There is
within the apostle Paul a power of evil that is too strong for him for
he is enslaved to sin, and a prisoner. He is led captive by the law of
sin. Sin was not eradicated when Paul was born again.
These facts did not give Paul license to sin,
however, and neither do they give us freedom to sin it up. It is not
characteristic of his life, but the exception. Normally, he lives in
victory. The emphasis Paul is making is that, yes, the believer does
sin, and when he does his conscience is alive to the horror of it. It
does not matter to Paul that it is occasional; it is of concern to him
that it happened at all.
How tragic when Christians do not see the seriousness of their sins
and live in ease. No one is so blind as the person who will not see and repent of his own
The apostle Paul shares the intimacy of his own personal struggle and
reveals his own efforts to live in a manner pleasing to God. We love him as an apostle and
teacher because he can identify with us. These are the emotions and responses of a mature
Christian revealing his own experience before God.
What a wretched man I am! does not sound like an
unregenerate person. These are the words of someone who is a believer and sensitive to the
work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. He is aware of his inability to always do what is
Calvin said, We are so addicted to sin, that we can do nothing
of our own accord but sin. The apostle wants to do right, but he cannot in his own
Every earnest Christian advances in Christlikeness, but he cannot
arrive at perfection. Why not? Because he is sold under sin. We carry about us that
which prevents us from being perfect (Rom. 7:14).
The whole point Paul is driving at is the more we grow in
Christ-likeness the more clearly we realize that we fail to meet the high standards God
sets before us as Christians. This fact forces us to look to Jesus Christ and the strength
He gives in His Spirit to live the victorious life in Christ.
Who will deliver me? No one can but Jesus Christ! Thanks be to
Godthrough Jesus Christ our Lord! God gives the victory through Jesus Christ.
God has supplied all we need in the person and work of Christ, and He will continue to do
it (John 15:4-5; Phil. 4:13, 19). Only Jesus Christ can give the victory.
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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