I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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. 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. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of 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, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:15-(8:1) (TNIV)
Today Paul captures the plight of the human condition so very poignantly. He describes his utter inability to rid himself entirely of his body of sin that weighs him down and brings God’s condemnation on him. He wants to do better, bless his heart, but finds that he cannot. No wonder he calls himself “wretched.”
Of course, if Paul glossed over the seriousness of sin in God’s eyes or mistakenly believed that our good actions can counterbalance the bad we have done, or if Paul was not interested in having a life-giving relationship with God in which he shows his love for God by always trying to do what he knows is pleasing to God, then this passage would not make sense at all.
But this wasn’t Paul. Paul knew the gravity of sin and its terrible, eternal consequences. He loved Christ who had claimed him on the road to Damascus and wanted to please him more than anything else in life. Yet here Paul is, acknowledging that he is incapable of doing this on his own because he is weighed down by his body of sin. This is the human condition and this is why we need a Savior.
Thankfully Paul offers us a solution to his plight and ours. Who will rescue us from the consequences of our sin? God has done so in Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God! While the last verse (Romans 8:1) is not part of today’s lesson, I have included it today because it is the logical conclusion to the Good News of Jesus Christ that Paul talks about in v. 25a. God has rescued us from death and for those of us who are in Christ, we no longer have to worry about being condemned to eternal death because of our sins.
No wonder those who truly grasp both the terrible plight of the human condition—their own plight—as well as the God’s solution for us in Christ, are freed to joyfully obey our Lord and his commandments. They want to obey all of God’s commands because they know they have been given a gift of immense proportions and they also know they have God’s very Spirit living in them to help them overcome the sin that binds us so tightly.
This is called faith in action, love made manifest. This is what the NT writers mean when they talk about being justified [declared not guilty in God’s eyes] by grace through faith. This is what a “saving faith” looks like—joyful obedience to the Lord out of a profound gratitude and thanksgiving for all he has done for us in Christ. How is your faith working for you?