“I do not understand how this happened again. I know and believe
God’s will. I want to obey God’s will. I promised myself and
God I would do what He said. But despite that, I did exactly what
I said I would never do again. I sinned. I hate what I have done
and yet I keep going back to it and I don’t understand why. I
know what I am supposed to do, but it is as though my body just
does what it wants. I am not in control of my life anymore, sin
What does that sound like to you? An excuse maker? A weak
Christian? A hypocrite? A non-committed, weak-minded hater of God?
Would you believe it is the apostle Paul? That was basically a
paraphrase of Romans
7:14-23. Though this passage has confused me over the
years, I have always come back to this point—been there, done
that. Sadly, while I believe Paul was referring to his life under
the Law before Christ, his description has too often been me since
becoming a Christian. Can anybody else relate to this?
Sadly, because I have misunderstood this chapter for a long
time, I believe I have missed out on God’s great promise of
victory over sin. Further, I have been of little help to anyone
who was trying to fight sin. We often speak of confessing sin (cf.
John 1:9). Were you aware the Greek word translated
“confess” is “homologeo,” which means “to say the same
thing as.” In the biblical context, to confess means to say the
same thing as God about something. To confess our sins is to say
the same thing as God about sin. Regrettably, I am afraid I have
always stopped a little short of saying the same thing as God
about sin. However, recently, I believe I have come closer to
understanding this passage and the nature of sin. I would like to
share it with you.
Sin is defined by God’s law.
says Paul learned coveting was a sin because the law defined it as
such. According to Romans
3:20, no one is justified by works of law. Rather, we know
what sin is through God’s law. John corresponds with Paul’s
definition of sin. “Sin is lawlessness,” I
John 3:4. We sin whenever we do what defies God’s law.
In fact, the law of God was given to demonstrate that all
are sinners and to shut us all up under sin (Romans
3:19; Galatians 3:22).
Sin distorts God’s law.
7:5, 8, 11
all make some surprising claims about sin. Sin uses God’s law to
further its cause to entrap us. Sin distorts the very thing God
intended to define and help us avoid sin in order to produce sin
Some commentators struggle with these verses and try to
make them say something else. They fear these verses blame God’s
law for sin. Paul anticipated that same objection however, in vss.
7, 13. The law was not to blame for Paul’s sins. Paul
was to blame. Sin simply used God’s good law to its advantage
and Paul, like us all, fell for it.
To understand this concept, look at how Satan took
advantage of God’s law to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit
3:1. Focusing Eve on God’s prohibitions caused her to
desire what God prohibited. Proverbs
9:17 highlights this issue. We seem to naturally want
whatever is forbidden, sometimes simply because it is forbidden.
This demonstrates a point where we need to be cautious. When we
make serving God nothing more than a set of rules to be studied,
argued about and followed, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.
Sin thrives on that mindset.
7:11, Paul said sin, taking opportunity through God’s
commandment, deceived him. The Hebrew writer also spoke of the
deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews
4:22 explained that the old self was corrupted because of
the deceitfulness of our lusts.
Look again at Satan’s temptation of Eve in Genesis
3:4-5. He lied. He is the father of lies (John
8:44). Sin deceives us, telling us that God’s law is
holding us back. God is holding us back from fun, fulfillment or
satisfaction. Sin promises us that it will delight our eyes,
provide for our body and fulfill our self-esteem. Sin says it will
give us a fuller life. However sin is lying.
7:11, Paul explained that sin not only deceived him, it
killed him. Sin is destructive. James said the same thing in James
1:14-16. According to Romans
6:23, the wages of sin is death. The greatest damage
caused by sin is this spiritual death, this separation from God (Isaiah
Sin not only kills our spirit, it destroys our lives. Look
at the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis
3. Their perfect life was ruined by eating God’s
forbidden fruit. Our lives are never perfect because sin is
already in the world, but we must understand that our sins will
tear our lives apart. Sin destroys our reputation, our influence,
our marriages, our family relationships, our jobs, etc. Think for
just a moment, what is the end of the sins in our lives? Sins like
murder, stealing, embezzling will cost us our relationships, our
jobs, our families and even put us in jail. Sins like lust,
pornography, immorality will destroy our outlook on other people,
our marriages and even our relationships with our children. Sins
like lying, gossiping, outbursts of wrath, etc. cause others not
to trust us, they turn our spouses, kids, parents, friends and
brethren against us. Sins like gluttony and coveting send us on a
downward spiral of unsatisfied living and even produce all manner
of health issues.
No doubt, sometimes life is just bad no matter how we have
lived. Job’s life demonstrates that. However, if we see constant
turmoil and problems, we might want to first look at ourselves and
our sins. Are we causing our own problems by following the
deceitfulness of sin? We will reap what we sow (Galatians
Here is where I have fallen short regarding fully
confessing sin, that is, saying exactly what God says about it. In
7:14, Paul said he was sold into bondage to sin. What did
he mean by that? He meant that he had handed control of his life
over to sin. At some point in his life, he had, of his own free
will, sinned. When he did that, he started a pattern. Then he
sinned again and deepened the pattern. As he said in Romans
6:19, when we submit to sin, it will produce more sin. In Romans
6:16, he said when we submit ourselves to obey the
deceptions of sin we become slaves to sin. We are giving up
control of our lives and giving it to sin. That is why we struggle
so hard to quit sinning. We have trained our bodies to sin. Sin
has become a habit. It has become second nature to us. Paul taught
this in Ephesians
Have you ever heard of body memory? Do you remember the
last time you were driving to work or to the store and as you left
your spouse said, “On the way, can you pick up the dry
cleaning?” “Absolutely,” you responded. You got in the car
and said, “Don’t forget the dry cleaning.” As you pulled out
of the driveway you said, “Don’t forget the dry cleaning.”
But then the radio started playing. You started singing (or
whatever you do in the car). Next thing you know you are at work
or the store and you forgot the dry cleaning. Then the cell phone
rings and your spouse said, “Did you get the dry cleaning?”
“Um, no I was going to get it on the way home, is that ok?”
You get in the car and say, “Don’t forget the dry cleaning.”
You pull out of the parking lot and say, “Don’t forget the dry
cleaning.” The next thing you know you are walking through the
front door of the house and your spouse says, “Where is the dry
cleaning?” You have traveled to work and the store so much that
when your mind is off the subject of dry cleaning for even a
moment, the body just takes over and does what you trained it to
do. That is body memory. That is what Paul is describing in Romans
7. We have trained our bodies to sin. We are constantly
telling ourselves, “I am not going to sin. I am not going to
sin.” But the moment our mind wanders to something else, our
body takes over and behaves the way we have trained it. Sin has
become our master. Sin now dwells within us and dominates us. It
is too late for us. There is nothing we can do about it. We are
not strong enough to overcome the years of training to which we
have subjected our bodies or the attacks of Satan.
Are you in this picture? Are there any sins to which you
are still enslaved? Gossip, outbursts of wrath, bitterness, foul
language, coarse jesting, backbiting, arrogance, pride, lust,
materialism, covetousness, greed, immorality, pornography,
alcohol, drugs, gambling, disrespecting authority, disobedience to
parents, lying, stealing, homosexuality, jealousy, and on and on?
Do not think any of these is less than the others. Each and every
one in their own way will take over your life and destroy it, do
not be deceived.
We are delivered by God’s Son.
Paul concluded his description of his personal enslavement
to sin saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free
from the body of this death?” (Romans
7:24). He then said, “Thanks be to God through Jesus
Christ our Lord!” (vs.
25). Jesus Christ delivers us from our body of death. Romans
8:2 says, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” That is,
Paul claimed to be set free from the “law of sin which is in my
by the law of the Spirit of life.
Do not miss what this means. In the modern religious world,
we have a tendency to view deliverance as merely meaning forgiven
of the eternal guilt of our sins. Paul points out that the law of
the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus actually sets us free from sin
as our taskmaster. God sets us free not only from the guilt of our
sins, but from the mastery of sin. We can overcome sin, but not by
our own determination, power and strength.
Many turn to Romans
8:10 to say that even after becoming Christians our bodies
remain dead in sin because they are just sinful and we can’t do
anything about it but our spirit will be alive in righteousness
because of the forgiveness of Jesus. However, note how Paul
follows up in vs.
11. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead
dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also
give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in
you.” Without getting sidetracked by trying to define how the
Spirit dwells within us. We will simply note that by the Spirit
dwelling in us we conquer the sin that was dwelling in us (Romans
7:20) and our mortal bodies are set free from the death
that sin produced. That is, our flesh is no longer dead in sin
because we are set free from the law of sin and death in our
There is so much more I want to say here. I want to point
out the growth aspect of this deliverance. I want to discuss our
part in this deliverance. I want to discuss God’s work in this
deliverance. However, I believe this is enough for now. I really
only have one point I want to drive home with this lesson. Are you
like Paul and me? Do you know that feeling of having been enslaved
to sin and not being able to stop on your own? Have you gotten to
the point where you just overlook some of the sins and hope God
will too? Or have you gotten to the point where you have thought
about giving up? If so, hope in Christ. Jesus did not die for you
to leave you in your sins. He died to deliver you from them. If
you rely on Him, He will deliver you. You have been sold into
bondage to sin, but Jesus can and will set you free. It will take
time and growth. But wait on Him and He will deliver you. Keep on
in Christ and it will happen. Don’t get complacent and don’t
give up. Trust Jesus.
By way of conclusion I think it will be helpful to see the
rest of Paul’s story. In Romans
7:7-13, Paul confessed that he had had struggles with
coveting. Sin had produced all manner of coveting in his life. Romans
7:14-24 demonstrated that Paul had been unable to conquer
his covetousness on his own. Romans
7:25-8:4 demonstrated that Paul found deliverance in Jesus
Christ. Now look at Philippians
4:12-13. We often read vs.
13 and take comfort that we can do all things through
Christ who strengthens us. However, notice Paul’s context. He
had learned the secret of contentment. He had not always known it.
He had learned it. Paul was delivered not only from the guilt of
his sins, but from the sins themselves. He conquered sin, not by
his own strength but by the strength of Christ. In the same way,
as we grow in Christ we will learn the secrets of overcoming our
temptations and sins. Praise God!
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ