Romans 7 is one of the most transparent examples in Scripture of a man acknowledging his faults to the world around him. In this case, we have the apostle Paul sharing his heart in a letter to the church at Rome, wherein he describes being enlightened to the sin in his life through the Old Testament Law. He holds very little back in his portrayal of finding himself doing the very things he did not want to do.
Few of us would have the courage to be so bold. In fact, our tendency would likely be to keep our faults secret and far out of reach of those around us. However, Paul takes a different approach and openly points to the battle that each of us face in our minds, namely the vivid confrontation or war between our positive intentions and practical failures.
Notice the way Paul wrote about this confrontation:
"I find then this 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." - Romans 7:21-23 (NASB).
Paul uses the metaphor of a war to highlight how we are faced with such a vehement colliding of laws:
- The law of the inner man which desires to do what is good (vs. 21-22).
- The law of sin in our members which draws us toward doing evil (vs. 23).
He writes this within the context of Romans 7, which is aimed at showing how the Old Testament law was unable to bring any person who followed it to a point of righteousness, because the flesh (carnal nature or sinful passions) was aroused by that law, thus leading one back to a point of being in violation of that law. And yet, he ends that chapter with an impassioned proclamation, "O wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Being Free of the Dominion of Sin
What was Paul acknowledging in this proclamation? He was pointing to a new reality available for every Christian based on the atonement provided by Christ through his death, burial and resurrection:
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace." - Romans 8:16 (NKJV)
For me, this is in many ways the clincher when it comes to living free of the power of sin and choosing life. It shows that believers who follow the Lord do not have to carry the burden of the Old Testament Law or worry about being bound by our sinful passions. There is an entirely new law set in motion, one in which we are empowered by God to move beyond those unhealthy passions and experience a true sense of peace, power, and love. That new law is known as The Law of the Spirit, and is identified by Paul in the following statement:
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." - Romans 8:2 (NKJV)
The implications of this shifting of laws is huge, primarily as it relates the choices we make and how we live our lives as believers. We are empowered at this time in history to literally take of God's Spirit and do the things that are not only pleasing unto him, but which also help us to take hold of the life and peace he has called all of us to experience. So, my question to all of us is this, "What will we do with what we have been given?" My hope and prayer is that we will choose life.
The beauty and power of our reconciliation with God through faith in Christ is not alway easy to fathom, since many of us would expect a just God to strictly punish us for our sins or failures. Yet, through Christ paying the penalty for our sins through his suffering and death on the cross, those who have chosen to have faith in God (Romans 10:9-10) are forgiven of those sins and brought into a needed and life-giving fellowship with Him.
Furthermore, we are set free from the stronghold of sin and death (Romans 6) and receive the Spirit of God (John 14:15-18, Acts 10:44-46). The receiving of God's Spirit is important because of what it entails for the believer. We have (1) a humble attestation of our place as a child of God (Romans 8:16), (2) an unquestioned hope of salvation and redemption (Romans 8:23-25), and (3) the power of his Spirit at work in our hearts; that very same power which raised Christ from the dead, which also leads and empowers us to live a life of righteousness unto God.
The point is that we aren't alone in this process of choosing life. Rather, we're empowered by God to achieve that end. The question we must ask is whether you and I will accept the grace and salvation provided by God in Christ, and choose to live according the empowerment and hope of his Spirit that he gives unto us, even when we are subtly or powerfully enticed by our flesh to do that which is sinful and contrary to righteousness.
In conclusion, you and I bear the responsibility for deciding to keep our minds set on the things of the Spirit of God. Yet, we can rejoice like Paul in knowing we are empowered to just that, temptations notwithstanding. I'll end with a quotation from Paul which beautifully highlights our ability to choose life:
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors - not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." - Romans 8:12-13 (NKJV).
May we remain dedicated always to choosing life!
Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling