Can you help me understand Romans 7:15-25? What does it fully mean?

Posted: September 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[b] a slave to the law of sin.

For the past three years, I have been tutoring/mentoring a Russian student in Moscow via Messenger. I had only talked about my faith at his direction, whenever he had questions about it. I knew, for instance, that he had read some “Christian” books, but also Buddhist, New Age, etc. as well. Last fall, he became a Christian. One day, a few weeks after his conversion, I got a message from him: “I commit a sin.” Uh-oh! What has he done?! After correcting his grammar(!), I inquired as to what sin he had committed. “I cheated on a test.” I breathed a sigh of relief, glad to know he had not killed someone or slept with another student! But I was intrigued. I kind of knew that cheating in the Russian university system was common. He told of a common expression professors would use: “Thank yous do not fill my pockets.” But we had talked about it only very tangentially and I had never expressed any concern about it or offered any opinion, certainly not of a “Christian” point of view: “You know, you shouldn’t do that! It’s a sin!” I later learned that it was not just university, but even middle school students would bribe teachers and cheat on assignments. He admitted to cheating since junior high!

So I had to ask him: “Who told you it was wrong? The cheating?” He couldn’t answer. No one had. In fact, it seemed to surprise him that he now felt any guilt over it! The answer was clear: the Holy Spirit had convicted him.* Was he, then, “set free” from the sin of cheating. Yes. And no. He knew it was wrong, repented of it, but was still faced with situations in which he was tempted to. I have read that the graduation rate of students in his school (engineering) is only 20%! They turn out the best engineers, but even potentially really good ones never make it. “Really good” is not good enough. so the temptation to cheat is incredible, especially when everyone really is doing it!

So, to take the passage and apply it here:

‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, be honest, I do not do, but what I hate I do, I cheat. And if I do what I do not want to do by cheating, I agree that the law that says “no cheating allowed” is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who cheats, but it is sin living in me. For I know that being honest itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to be honest, but I cannot carry it out. For I am not honest when I want to be, but the cheating I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, cheat, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

‘So I find this law at work: Although I want to be honest, the desire to cheat is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law to be honest, trustworthy; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the desire to cheat at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

‘So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, which says to be honest, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin, which says to cheat.’

There is deliverance of sin through Jesus Christ, but there is no real “resolution”, because we will always, while alive on this earth in these corrupt, corporeal bodies, be “earth-bound.” BUT! Praise be to God! The 7th chapter, an artificial division, ends here. It is the next passage, though, in chapter 8, that is so awesome:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Want to know a secret? A scandalous secret? Only those who have been set free from the law of sin and death have true free will. The lost person is bound, chained to sin. He cannot help it. In fact, because nothing he does is “of faith”, it is sin: “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Proverbs says that even the good deeds of the wicked (the lost) are detestable to God (Proverbs 21:27). It is only when we are set free of those chains that we are really able to choose between doing things God’s way and sin. You will fight, because you can truly choose. What Paul is saying bottom line is, “Sometimes, I want to do bad, but Jesus makes me want to be better than I am. So I will fight to be better.” Be thankful for that. Only runners stumble.

Know what? You’re forgiven. There is now NO condemnation. When you’re good, Jesus loves you. When you sin, Jesus loves you, and you’re forgiven.

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