Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The Dark Guest - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 7:14-25

  • 2018-02-11 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Romans The Dark Guest (Part 3) Romans 7:14-25 February 11, 2018 Tom Pennington, Pastor Countryside Bible Church

Well I invite you to turn to Romans 7. I hope this morning to finish our study of this magnificent chapter. The second half of chapter 7 is really a story of conflict; it's the conflict that every Christian feels deep within his own soul. Let's admit that most of us, in fact most people, don't like conflict and try desperately to do everything they can to avoid it. That's not only true in relationships, but sadly, I think that it's even true when it comes to Christians and this conflict, this inner struggle with sin. Tell the average Christian that he will spend the rest of his life here fighting his sin, at war with his flesh day after day, and he will only gain ground inch by bloody inch, and it's the very last thing he wants to hear. Instead, the average Christian, I think, will begin immediately to look for a different approach, for some kind of shortcut, some kind of alternative.

What are the favorite Christian alternatives to the reality of a lifelong struggle with sin? And James Montgomery Boice used to identify several of them, but a couple popular alternatives that Christians pursue instead of waging war against their sin are still popular, and they're still out there. Let me just mention them, and let me ask you to ask yourself, have you been influenced by these shortcut ideas, these alternatives? I certainly have at points in my own Christian life and experience.

One of them is: instead of hearing I have to fight my flesh and my sin every day from now until the Lord returns or takes me home, one of those alternatives is to look for some sort of secret or formula to victory. I think many of us have been there. We've experienced that. People hear that and that I'm going to have to fight, and they look for some shortcut. They look for some formula to victory. And so, they read books, books that promise the secret; if you'll just do this, you'll gain victory in your life. Or, they go to seminars that expose them to some simplistic version of the path to spiritual victory. You say, what are some of those formulas, some of those sort of secret ideas for how to gain victory over your sin?

Well, one of them is, "Let go and let God." I expect you've heard that in your Christian life. I certainly have; "Let go and let God." Or, there's "Stop trying to live the Christian life and just let Christ live through you." Or, there's, "You need to get yourself off the throne of your life and put Christ there." Or, "Stop living like a weak, immature Christian in Romans 7, and begin living like a victorious Christian in Romans 8." Or, a more contemporary version, and sadly this is very common, it's "Stop trying to obey the commands of Scripture; that's just legalism; every time you bring up an imperative, you're being a legalist. Instead, simply enjoy what Christ did for you at the cross, and live in light of that every day." Of course, there's an element of truth to that; we ought to live in the joy of what Christ did for us at the cross every day, but that doesn't mean we ought to ignore the imperatives of Scripture. But this is what people do. Confronted with the reality of what Scripture teaches, and that is a day by day struggle with sin, people look for some alternative; give me a formula; give me a secret.

Another approach, a second approach that some people take, is to look for some kind of experience. If only I can have the right experience, that will usher me into a new and deeper and more profound level of spirituality. For some, this is a charismatic type experience like speaking in tongues or something else miraculous. For others, it's a second work of grace; you know the old Methodist idea that you have in your pocket two coins; and you brought out the coin and you cashed in on salvation, but you still have that other coin in your pocket; and that's the victorious life; and you just need to take that coin out, and God will cash it in for you, and you'll have that second work of grace, and you will be catapulted to some new and higher level in a moment, just with a prayer, just with an experience.

For still others, it's some kind of an emotional experience; it can even happen in seeking it in a place like this and in corporate worship. Don't get me wrong, by the way, worship ought to involve your emotions. In fact, worship, whether we're singing or praying or reading the Bible, or as you're doing now, listening to the Bible being taught, ought to involve your whole person, including your emotions and anything less is not true heart worship. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about those who seek out some kind of an emotional experience, maybe even in worship as though, if they can have that experience, somehow it's going to relieve that inner struggle with sin. Or, maybe it's a vision or a dream, an encounter with Jesus Christ, that'll revolutionize my life and give me a life of victory, I'll live above.

What Paul wants us to see in the second half of Romans 7 is that there is no alternative to a continual battle with your sin. It's what Paul experienced; it's what I experience, and I'm no Paul. And it's what you experience as well and what you will experience till the day you die.

Let's read together the second half of Romans 7. This is the last time I think, that we will read it together. As I said, I hope to finish this today, so you follow along as I read, Romans 7:14:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I'm 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. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 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. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I'm doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

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. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 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.

Now, we've established the fact that Paul is here describing the struggle that all believers, immature or mature, have with sin. In fact, let me just remind you of sort of the path we've followed as we've watched Paul unfold these truths. He began in verses 14 - 20 with our struggle with sin described. Paul describes this ongoing struggle we experience in our souls with two very similar laments. The first lament we looked at is in verses 14 - 17, and in essence the lament is this: I sometimes do the very things I hate.

The second lament comes in verses 18 - 20, and it's very similar but a slightly different focus. Here Paul says: I sometimes don't do the things I love.

Now, having described that struggle, Paul takes us further in verses 21 - 25 because there we find our struggle with sin explained. He helps us understand what he has just so profoundly described. And he does this in verses 21 - 25. Now, last week we looked at just the first part of his explanation and that is: our core problem. Our core problem is that, within us, there are two opposing principles. Let me remind you of what we discovered.

Principle number one, I summarized in this way; (we find this first principle in verses 21 - 22); but here's a summary of it: your redeemed soul, the new person that you are in Christ, agrees with and desires to obey God's law. Verse 22, "I joyfully concur, I delight in the law of God in my inner man." If you're a Christian, that's true of you. You love God's Word, and you long to do it; you long to obey it. The focus, in fact of verses 21 and 22, is in the new person that I am in Christ, I delight in God's law, and I want to do it; I want to obey it. That's principle number one.

But if you're a Christian, there's another principle at work in you as well that is diametrically opposed to that first principle. Principle number two is in verse 23, and again we summarized it this way: your flesh, that part of you that remains unredeemed, wages war against those new desires, and your flesh is the ultimate cause of your sin. Notice how Paul puts it in verse 23, "but I see [as I look into my own soul, he says,] I see a different [kind of] law in the members of my body." Later in verse 23, he calls this different law "the law of sin." He means the same thing as the sin which dwells within me, verse 17 and verse 20. He's talking about, as he refers to it elsewhere, the flesh, our remaining fallenness, that part of you, Christian, that has not yet been redeemed, and its beachhead is your physical body including your brain which attaches to the immaterial part of you, your soul. That's where the problem lies.

Now, in the verses that we come to today in verses 24 - 25, Paul finishes his explanation of the struggle that we, and all true believers, have with sin. We've seen the core problem; it's these two opposing principles in you and in me. That's where the problem comes from.

Next, Paul points out that because of these two opposing warring principles inside of me, my heart often reaches a point of desperation, like his did and like yours does, desperation. So, using himself as an example here of all Christians, Paul uncovers, in this explanation, secondly, our desperate desire, a complete deliverance; our desperate desire, a complete deliverance in verse 24. You see, when we sin, this is the response of every truly Christian heart. If you don't respond like this when you sin, you need to examine yourself to see if you're in the faith; because this is how Paul responded to his sin; this is how Christians respond.

He says in verse 24, "Wretched man that I am!" It's an interesting statement; in fact, in the original language in the Greek text, there's no verb; it's just an interjection, "Wretched man I," that's what he says, "Wretched man I." The word "wretched" means "miserable, distressed". It describes someone in a very unfortunate circumstance who is characterized by misery and sorrow. It can even have the connotation of "contemptible, despicable".

I understand this. When I sin, this is how I respond; this is my own heart, wretched, miserable, despicable, contemptible. How could I ever have made this decision? This is how a believer always sees himself in light of his sin.

In fact, let me show you, let's just go back and see this is the pattern. Go back to Psalm 32. Psalm 32, as you know is one of David's penitential Psalms, his response to his sin. Notice how he describes himself in this internal turmoil that resulted from his sin, verse 3, Psalm 32:3,

When I kept silent about my sin, [That is, when he refused to go to God in genuine repentance, when he held on to that sin, and he stayed away from God, he says,] my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. [His soul groaned, Wretched man that I am!] For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.

We live in North Texas, and that is perfectly understandable to us. Go out and mow your lawn or do yard work on an August day, and your very vitality, your life strength, is just sapped away. And David said, "That's how it was when I sinned."

Go over to Psalm 38, this is still David's response to his sin but on a different occasion. Perhaps in response to a physical illness that he was confident was attached to God's discipline in his life because of sin. The Psalm seems to imply that later on, but notice how he describes the weight of his sin, verse 1, Psalm 38:

O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger. For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, And Your hand has pressed down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. [This is Paul, "Wretched man that I am!" It's the same response.]

Turn over to Psalm 51, the most familiar of David's penitential Psalms; Psalm 51:3, he says,

"For I know my transgressions, And my sin is.…" [always in front of my face.] It's there; it never leaves me; the guilt of it never deserts me. And then go down to verse 8, he says, "Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice." [He says my sin caused all of the joy and gladness of my life to be sucked away; restore it.] "Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities." [Verse 10,] "Create in me a clean heart, O God." [My sin is so bad, God, I need you to re-create my soul.] "And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me." [There's no hint that that could happen, but this is how he felt; it's like this is what I deserve, God, please don't do it. Verse 12,] "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." [David is saying, "When I sinned, and I lived in that sin," in David's case for 9 months, he said, "This is what it was like; I lost all the joy of my salvation. God's hand pressed down on me."]

Go over to Psalm 130, another of the penitential Psalms, perhaps my own favorite. I find my soul coming here often. Psalm 130:1:

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD. [By the way, the depths he's talking about becomes clear as the Psalm unfolds; he's talking about the depths of guilt, the depths of his sin. He says,] "Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, [If you kept track of my guilt and sin and treated me as it deserves, and if you did that to everyone, verse 3,] O Lord, who could stand?

[Nobody could stand in your presence; we'd all be swept away.] But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord.

[This is for the assurance of forgiveness,] My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is … [steadfast love] And with Him is abundant redemption, … He will redeem Israel [His people] from all his iniquities. [This is how Christians, how believers respond.]

You come to the New Testament and you don't see anything different. Go to Matthew 5, you remember in the Beatitudes, what's the very first beatitude in Matthew 5:3? "Blessed [happy] are the … [beggars] in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You don't get into Christ's kingdom unless the very first starting place is you come to the realization that you are a beggar, that you have nothing God wants. Why? Because, of your spiritual bankruptcy, because of your sin. And how do you respond to that? Look at verse 4, "Blessed [happy] are those who mourn." Mourn over what? Not life's circumstances; over their spiritual poverty, over their sin. They mourn, and "they shall be comforted." And those who realize their own spiritual poverty and who mourn over it eventually come to verse 6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." What I want you to see is that this response, "Wretched man that I am!" That is the standard response of God's people to their sin.

Now go back to Romans 7. Romans 7, Paul says, "Wretched man that I am!" and then he adds, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" Now, first of all, I want you to notice that little word "from". That's not the normal word for "from" in the Greek language; it's a little word "ek", which means "out of". "Who will set me free out of the body of this death?" Just file that away, that's going to be important in a few minutes. And then he says, "Who will set me free?" The words "set free" here means "to rescue from danger, to save, to deliver". This word is used in secular Greek of a soldier carrying his wounded companion from the battlefield, rescuing him from danger. In the New Testament, this word is used in Colossians 1:13, of our salvation; God "rescued us" [There's the word.] He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." This same word that's translated "set free" here is used in the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer where Jesus taught us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us [rescue us] from evil."

Do you hear what Paul is saying? Paul is saying in the same way that God rescued us at salvation from Satan's kingdom and in the same way that God is gradually rescuing us from daily sin, Paul says, "I long to be rescued," [notice what he says in verse 24,] "from the body of this death." That's an interesting expression, "the body of this death." He's talking about the physical body as he has been in this context; it's not that the body itself is inherently evil. I've said that many times. Let me say it again so you don't misunderstand. Your body is not inherently evil. God made us to be a two-part being, to have a body. Jesus had a body; now He has a glorified body, and we will have bodies forever, but our bodies as they are now are not redeemed, and our unredeemed bodies are that through which sin operates, Paul says. It's the beachhead of the flesh. And when sin comes, what does sin always bring? The penalty of death, so he calls it "the body of this death." It is your body and its members, including your brain by the way; don't forget that, that remains subject to sin and death.

Now there are some who read verse 24 and question whether a believer, a true believer, could ever say these things, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" The truth is only a believer can say this. I like what Robert Haldane, the great commentator on Roman, says. He says, "The more the believer advances in knowledge and holiness, the more he loathes himself." Why? Now listen to this, this is key, "Men perceive themselves to be sinners in proportion as they have previously discovered the holiness of God and His Law." In other words, the only way to really see your sin is to really come to grips with and understand God's Law and His personal holiness. So ultimately, this kind of response can only come from a heart that understands those things. In fact, it was Paul's rich understanding of the gospel; it was his understanding of justification; it was his understanding of the new life that he had in Jesus Christ that made his ongoing struggle with sin all the more painful.

And it's true for you if you understand yourself, if you're a Christian. What makes sin so hard in your life is you look at what Christ has done. You look at the salvation He's given you; you look at how He has changed you and blessed you and declared you right with God and forgiven your sins, and you hate your sin. The weight of our indwelling sin is a load that we can't carry; and yet at the same time, it's a load that we can't cast away from us. All we can do is, like Paul, groan under the load and long for rescue by someone who is far greater than we are.

Now, notice in verse 24, Paul puts this as a question, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" Don't misunderstand Paul. That's not because he's really wondering who's going to do this? He's going to tell us in just a moment, so he's not wondering. Also, Paul is not doubting that this will in fact eventually happen; he's confident of it. He's going to tell us about it. No, he puts this in the form of a question to express his own desperation in response to his sin, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" It reflects how much his own heart despised his sin and how much he longed to be pure like Jesus Christ. Paul longed, as you should, and if you're a Christian, do long for permanent, complete deliverance from all the remnants of your old, sinful, unredeemed life. If you're truly a Christian, that is the cry of your heart as it was with Paul's. Our desperate desire is a complete deliverance from our flesh, from our unredeemed humanness, that flesh that finds its beachhead in our unredeemed bodies. "Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

Now that naturally brings us to the third part of Paul's explanation, and that is our future hope, our future hope, a new body. Verse 25, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Paul immediately responds with confidence in and in the certainty of his eventual rescue. "Yes," he says, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free?" And then he immediately says, "I know who." And clearly here he's expressing thanks to God for the fact that God will accomplish this rescue "through Jesus Christ our Lord!" But what deliverance, what rescue is Paul talking about?

There are three common ways that Christians have interpreted this statement of thanksgiving by Paul. Let me give all three of them to you, and then we will look at it and come to a place of understanding.

A first approach that some have taken is they've said Paul is talking here when he says, "Thanks be to God" for this deliverance; he's talking about a current deliverance "from my struggle with sin by the work of the Spirit." Some argue that Paul here was thanking God that in this life, at the point he was writing this, no longer had to experience the wretchedness of the struggle with sin. That was earlier in his life, "Wretched man that I am!" but you come to "thanks be to God," he's saying, "but God has given me a different story now, a different life now; I'm no longer wretched like that."

Those who believe that the second half of Romans 7 describes either an unbeliever or an immature believer often hold this view. It works like this, they say the unbeliever can be delivered from the struggle with sin by salvation, and so if you think this is talking about an unbeliever, you see, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" is an unbeliever saying, "I want to be free of my sin," and then he finds that answer in salvation and Paul explains, "Thanks be to God" who gives us that "through Jesus Christ."

Those who say, "No!, this is an immature believer," a slight variation of this is they say, "No, it's an immature believer here in the second half Roman 7, and that immature believer is struggling so much with sin because he hasn't yet come to understand the principles in Romans 8; and once he comes to understand the principles in Romans 8, that he's no longer "Wretched man that I am!;" Now he leaves the second half of Romans 7, and he lives in the victory of Romans, chapter 8." That's one view; it's a present deliverance from the struggle with sin.

A second common way to interpret what Paul is thanking God for here in verse 25 is a future deliverance from the struggle with sin that only comes with our new body; future deliverance that only comes with our new body.

And then the third interpretation of this passage is a combination of the first two; it involves both, current deliverance from the struggle with sin and future deliverance with a new body. So, what should we believe here? Well, the grammar of this verse, the context surrounding this verse and similar statements elsewhere by the apostle Paul I think, and I hope I will show you, will prove that Paul is talking here about option number two: our future deliverance from our struggle with sin when we receive our new bodies.

Let me give you the evidence. First of all, consider the grammar. We've already established that Paul is speaking about himself here in the second half of Romans 7, and he's speaking of himself as he was writing this letter. So, here's the Apostle Paul; he's now been in Christ for 30 years; he's an apostle; it's the mid-50's A.D., and he writes this about himself.

Notice then how he phrases the question in verse 24, "Who will (Notice that word "will;" that's an accurate reflection of the Greek text.) who will (future tense) set me free from the body of this death?" Now, if the question is asked in the future tense, then grammatically, we expect the answer to also be in the future tense. In other words, we could expand Paul's sort of truncated statement at the beginning of verse 24 like this, "Thanks be to God who will rescue me through Jesus Christ our Lord." He's looking into the future. Now you tell me what rescue could the mature Apostle Paul, in Christ 30 years, still be looking for in the future? … the resurrection of his body, the new body!

Now that brings us to the argument, not only from the grammar, but from the immediate context. Paul comes back to this issue right here in the immediate context of this passage. Go down to Romans 8:10, he says, "If Christ is in you, though the body [your physical body] is [spiritually] dead because of sin, yet your spirit, [the new you] is alive because of righteousness." But that's going to change, verse 11, because "If the Spirit [capital 'S,' the Holy Spirit] of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [then God the Father] who raised Christ Jesus from the dead [Notice this!] will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

What's he talking about? Future resurrection! He comes back to it over in verse 23. He's talking about how the whole creation is groaning because of the weight of sin, and he says in verse 23, "not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, [Groan about what? Our sin! We groan within ourselves.] waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons."

Stop there. Now you say, "Wait a minute, Tom, I thought we already were adopted." We have been. Scripture is clear. God chose us for adoption in eternity past; at the moment of salvation we were adopted; you became a son or a daughter of God in every sense of that expression at the moment of salvation. So, what's this talking about?

Well, in context, it's talking about when you receive the fullness of your inheritance, when you enter into adulthood as an adopted son or daughter, and what does that mean, specifically. Verse 23, "our adoption as sons, [by that, I mean, Paul says] the redemption of our body." Here in the immediate context of our text, the rescue that Paul was expecting from the body of this death was what? A new body!

That interpretation is also consistent when you look at a very similar statement the Apostle Paul makes elsewhere. Turn to the passage I read for our Scripture reading this morning, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Corinthians 15. In verse 50, Paul says your current body, which is perishable, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God." You don't get into heaven with that fallen, sinful, perishable body you now sit there in. So, what has to happen? It's got to be changed. Verse 51, Not everybody's going to be dead when Christ returns. "Sleep, [I love that,] but we will all be changed." You're going to get an imperishable, immortal body.

Go down to verse 56, "The sting of death is sin…." The reason death brings a sting to us is because of sin; that's the reason we have death, and the power of sin is the law. The law says, "Do or don't" and we don't obey it and that brings the penalty of death. What overcomes all of that? Verse 57, notice the similarity to our text in Romans 7, "but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." What's he talking about there? He's talking about the victory of a new body when Christ makes us new and these fallen bodies are forever changed.

So, back in Romans 7, when Paul says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" he is referring to our future deliverance, a deliverance that we will all experience from our struggle with sin. What is that deliverance? It's a deliverance or a rescue that will only happen when you get a new body, a body that is no longer characterized by indwelling sin, a body that's like our Lord's own glorious body.

Look at Philippians; keep your finger here, but turn over to Philippians 3:20. He says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus." Watch verse 21, "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory." And if you doubt He can do it, he adds, "by the exertion of the power which he has even to subject all things to Himself."

Listen, Christ is going to come back, and He is going to change you. How? Your soul's already redeemed; He's going to give you a new body, and the flesh will be dead, and the struggle will be over. That's our hope! That's what we live for. You see Romans 7:24, is a cry of defeat and distress. Verse 25 is a cry of triumph, "Thanks be to God." Both are legitimate expressions of a mature believer, a mature believer who hates his inner corruption; who longs for complete deliverance, but who at the same time, exalts in God through Jesus Christ as the only true deliverer and the one who will bring that deliverance.

So, now that you understand it, look again at verse 25. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" What does that spontaneous expression of gratitude teach us? Well, I don't have this on the slide, but let me just give them to you. As I look at that verse, five things immediately pop out to me that are lessons here.

Number one: deliverance from the flesh is only possible through God and His Son, Jesus Christ. You cannot deliver yourself from the flesh. You can battle it, and we're going to talk about that, but deliverance is only possible from the Father through Jesus Christ.

Number two: deliverance from the flesh is only possible for those who have confessed Jesus as Lord. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Listen, if you've never confessed Jesus as Lord, there's no hope for you in your battle with sin. You will lose, and you will, according to Christ Himself, He will consign you to eternal punishment; and in the place of eternal punishment, you will still have a wretched soul that longs to sin and is unable to. The only hope for any of us is to confess Jesus as Lord and find the power that resides solely in Him.

Number three: deliverance from the flesh will eventually happen for all who truly belong to Jesus Christ. Listen, Christian, that struggle that you face every day, that I face every day, it will end someday. Jesus Christ has won the war. You may be struggling with the wipe-up battles, but He has won the war.

Number four: deliverance from the flesh invites and demands our gratitude to God. He says, "Thanks be to God;" He's going to do this.

And number five, and this is key: (listen carefully) the fact that God will ultimately deliver us from our flesh should motivate and sustain us in our ongoing war with our sin here. You say, "How does that help?" Well, it helps a lot. If you're fighting in a battle, and you know the war has already been won, it makes fighting a lot easier than if you're somehow questioning, "How's this going to turn out?" Listen, the war has been won. I know how the story ends, and so do you. Christ wins; the flesh is destroyed; I get a body like His body, so fight on! As Paul explains our struggle with sin, we've seen our core problem consists of these two opposing principles: our desperate desire is for complete deliverance, and our future hope is found in a new body.

But there's a fourth and final part of Paul's explanation and that is our present reality, a continual war. Look at verse 25, "So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God," [notice that] "am serving," [this is the continual reality of Paul's life and of ours;] "but on the other, with my flesh [I myself am serving] the law of sin."

Now let me just note that those who believe that we are supposed to exchange the weak, immature life of chapter 7, we're to exchange the immature conflict of chapter 7 with the victorious life of chapter 8, they have a real problem with verse 25; because after Paul celebrates what they see as victory over sin in the first half of verse 25, he immediately returns to the reality of ongoing conflict in the second half of the verse. That just doesn't fit. Why would he do that? If he's moving on to the victory of chapter 8, why would he come back and reiterate the struggle and leave us there? It doesn't fit their interpretation, but it fits perfectly if that thanksgiving in the first half of verse 25 doesn't mean Paul has already been delivered, but is certain that God will deliver him in the future.

You see, the triumphant thanksgiving doesn't end the present conflict. His hope has not yet been realized. And so, he says in the middle of verse 25, "So then," [ literally, as a result, therefore.] Here's Paul's summary explanation of the struggle that he described at length in verses 14 - 20, and he explained in verses 21 - 24. This is the consequence Paul draws from all that he said beginning in verse 14. Here it is: There is and will be a continual war inside of us between these two opposing principles. Look at how he puts it in verse 25, here's the first principle,

"So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God…." What does Paul mean, "my mind?" Well since he contrasts it here with the flesh, he means his renewed mind, his redeemed, regenerated self; it's the same as the inner man back in verse 22. So, he says, "With my [redeemed] mind, [with my renewed mind, with my new self, I myself, notice how he says it] I myself … am serving the law of God." The Greek word for "serving" here is the verb form of the noun "doulos" which means "to be a slave". It means "to perform the duties of a slave, to serve" or, I think, and this is the idea here, "to obey". My new self, not only responds to God's law in joyful delight, verse 22, but in willing whole-hearted obedience, verse 25. I am a slave to the law of God; not in a negative sense, but in the sense that I obey it; I delight in it and long whole-heartedly to do it.

By the way, what Paul says here completely destroys the popular teaching that tells you not to worry about pursuing obedience, the view that says that's legalism. If you bring up an imperative, you're just being legalistic; you should just relax; just relax and just remind yourself what Christ has done for you. It's not how Paul responded. Paul here says that his new self lives as a willing slave to the law of God. He desperately longs and strives to obey it. That's one principal.

Verse 25, "but on the other, with my flesh [I myself am serving] the law of sin." This is what he said back in verse 23, "I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members." This different law is the law of sin. It's the same as in verse 17 and 20 of the "sin dwells within me." So, understand what Paul is saying then, "With my flesh, [that part of me that remains unredeemed] I am continually prompted and compelled to respond as a slave or to obey. And when I obey sin, and I choose to sin, [then verse 23,] it makes me a prisoner, for that time it makes me a prisoner." You see how verse 25 summarizes beautifully everything we've learned in this paragraph.

Cranfield, one commentator, writes this:

Verse 25 sums up with clear-sighted honesty the tension [I love that.] with clear-sighted honesty the tension with all of its real anguish on the one hand and all of its real hopefulness on the other in which the Christian never ceases to be involved so long as he is living in this present life.

In other words, the rest of your life, you're going to live in the tension between verse 24 and verse 25; the tension between verse 25, serving the law of God and serving law of sin. You're going to live in that tension.

Again notice, Paul takes complete responsibility for his sin in this verse. He says, "I myself." By the way, that's just another argument for the fact that this is Paul talking in the second half of Romans 7, and he's talking in the present tense. "I myself," and he says, "I myself … am serving the law of God, [and I myself am serving] the law of sin." My new nature, the real me, serves or obeys God's Law, but sadly the flesh is also still part of me, and it serves or obeys sin.

Alfred Tennyson, in his poem "Maud," has one of the characters make this profound comment. Listen to this, "Ah for a new man to arise in me that the man I am may cease to be. Ah for a new man to arise in me that the man I am may cease to be." Listen, Christian, a new man has arisen in you; you are a new creation in Jesus Christ. But at the same time, there is a remnant of the person you were before Christ that has not yet entirely ceased to be, and it will not cease to be until you leave that body in which you sit in that chair this morning, either at death or when Christ returns. Until then, and this is Paul's point, there will always be a continual war in your soul. In this life, you will never permanently leave the distress of verse 24, "Wretched man that I am! Who will … [deliver] me … from the body of this death?" And you will never find yourself completely in the triumph of verse 25, "Thanks be to God through the" Lord Jesus Christ. You will never leave the second half of Romans 7 and live entirely in Romans 6 and Romans 8.

Here's how one author puts it, listen to this:

The Christian is always crying for deliverance, and he is always exulting in His deliverer. Whenever we are made conscious of the desires and depravity of our fallenness and of the irreconcilable conflict between our mind and our flesh, we long to be rid of indwelling sin and corruption, and we cry out, "Wretched man that I am!" for that is what we are and always will be. "Who will (deliver) me … from this body of death?" But then at once, we answer our own anguished question; and with a cry of triumph, thank our God for His mighty salvation. Christian, this is where you do live and where you will live until Christ comes or takes you home. This is not, that struggle that you feel in your soul that causes you to cry out like this, that's not an anomaly that means there's something wrong with you. ; It means situation normal. This is how it is for Christians; this is the reality of the Apostle Paul and it is for you

Now, very briefly, how does the second half of Romans 7 and what we've learned here fit then with chapter 8? Let me give this to you, this isn't my outline of chapter 8; I just want you to see how chapter 8 answers the second half of Romans 7. In light of these two opposing principles and our continual war with indwelling sin.

Number one: we must remind ourselves that "there is now no condemnation for those" sins because we "are in Christ Jesus," verses 1 and 2 of chapter 8.

Secondly: we can increasingly fulfill God's moral law even in this life when we walk by the Spirit, 8:3 - 17. The battle will continue, but we can win more and more of the battles as we move toward the ultimate victory that Christ has won.

And number three: we can live in spite of this internal struggle, in confidence and hope. Why? Because our bodies will be redeemed 8:18 - 25, because the Spirit helps us during this life by interceding on our behalf, verses 26 and 27, because God will accomplish His eternal purposes for us. He who chose us and called us will not only justify us, but glorify us; that's His plan, verses 28 to 30. And no one can successfully bring a charge or accusation against us in spite of our continuing struggle with sin, chapter 8, verses 31 to 34, and nothing in this life will ever change the love of Christ for us, chapter 8, verses 35 to 39. Christian, that is the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ. We can live in confidence because those things are true. "Thanks be to God through" our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are so grateful that you, through your Spirit, inspired the Apostle Paul to write these words; because if you had not given them to us, all of us who are in Christ might feel completely alone, isolated as though these verses were the expression solely of our own hearts instead of the universal experience of all true believers. Lord, thank you for the encouragement. Don't let us ever use this as an excuse for sin, but, Father, help us to find here a great source of hope and encouragement that, as we battle and battle we must the rest of our lives here, we can make progress; but more importantly, the war has been won by our Lord Jesus Christ, and someday, body and soul, we will be just like Him.

Father, I pray for person here this morning who is not in Christ, who finds themself hopelessly tangled in the web of their sin. Father, help them to see this morning that they have no hope apart from you through the work of Your Son, Jesus Christ, His death on the cross for sins by which you bring change, change to the soul; and one day, change to the body as well. Father, I pray that today they would humble themselves and cry out for forgiveness in Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.