Daughter of Zion Eternally Presents

Two natures at war

 

Romans 7:14-25

    For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. [15] For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. [16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. [17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. [18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. [20] Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. [21] I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. [22] For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: [23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? [25] I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

   

14. For we know that the law is spiritual—in its demands.

but I am carnal—fleshly (see on Ro 7:5), and as such, incapable of yielding spiritual obedience.

sold under sin—enslaved to it. The “I” here, though of course not the regenerate, is neither the unregenerate, but the sinful principle of the renewed man, as is expressly stated in Ro 7:18

15, 16. For, &c.—better, “For that which I do I know not”; that is, “In obeying the impulses of my carnal nature I act the slave of another will than my own as a renewed man?”

for, &c.—rather, “for not what I would (wish, desire) that do I, but what I hate that I do.”

16. If then I do that which I would not—“But if what I would not that I do,”

I consent unto the law that it is good—“the judgment of my inner man going along with the law.”

17. Now then it is no more Imy renewed self.

that do it—“that work it.”

but sin which dwelleth in me—that principle of sin that still has its abode in me. To explain this and the following statements, as many do (even Bengel and Tholuck), of the sins of unrenewed men against their better convictions, is to do painful violence to the apostle’s language, and to affirm of the unregenerate what is untrue. That coexistence and mutual hostility of “flesh” and “spirit” in the same renewed man, which is so clearly taught in Ro 8:4, &c., and in Ga 5:16, &c., is the true and only key to the language of this and the following verses. (It is hardly necessary to say that the apostle means not to disown the blame of yielding to his corruptions, by saying, “it is not he that does it, but sin that dwelleth in him.” Early heretics thus abused his language; but the whole strain of the passage shows that his sole object in thus expressing himself was to bring more vividly before his readers the conflict of two opposite principles, and how entirely, as a new man—honoring from his inmost soul the law of God—he condemned and renounced his corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts, its stirrings and its outgoings, root and branch).

18. For, &c.—better, “For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is in my flesh, any good.”

for to will—“desire.”

is present with me; but how to perform that which is good—the supplement “how,” in our version, weakens the statement.

I find not—Here, again, we have the double self of the renewed man; “In me dwelleth no good; but this corrupt self is not my true self; it is but sin dwelling in my real self, as a renewed man.”

19, 21. For, &c.—The conflict here graphically described between a self that “desires” to do good and a self that in spite of this does evil, cannot be the struggles between conscience and passion in the unregenerate, because the description given of this “desire to do good” in Ro 7:22 is such as cannot be ascribed, with the least show of truth, to any but the renewed.

22. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man—“from the bottom of my heart.” The word here rendered “delight” is indeed stronger than “consent” in Ro 7:16; but both express a state of mind and heart to which the unregenerate man is a stranger.

23. But I see another—it should be “a different”

law in my members—(See on Ro 7:5).

warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members—In this important verse, observe, first, that the word “law” means an inward principle of action, good or evil, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law. The apostle found two such laws within him; the one “the law of sin in his members,” called (in Ga 5:17, 24) “the flesh which lusteth against the spirit,” “the flesh with the affections and lusts,” that is, the sinful principle in the regenerate; the other, “the law of the mind,” or the holy principle of the renewed nature. Second, when the apostle says he “sees” the one of these principles “warring against” the other, and “bringing him into captivity” to itself, he is not referring to any actual rebellion going on within him while he was writing, or to any captivity to his own lusts then existing. He is simply describing the two conflicting principles, and pointing out what it was the inherent property of each to aim at bringing about. Third, when the apostle describes himself as “brought into captivity” by the triumph of the sinful principle of his nature, he clearly speaks in the person of a renewed man. Men do not feel themselves to be in captivity in the territories of their own sovereign and associated with their own friends, breathing a congenial atmosphere, and acting quite spontaneously. But here the apostle describes himself, when drawn under the power of his sinful nature, as forcibly seized and reluctantly dragged to his enemy’s camp, from which he would gladly make his escape. This ought to settle the question, whether he is here speaking as a regenerate man or the reverse.

24. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?—The apostle speaks of the “body” here with reference to “the law of sin” which he had said was “in his members,” but merely as the instrument by which the sin of the heart finds vent in action, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites (see on Ro 6:6, and Ro 7:5); and he calls it “the body of this death,” as feeling, at the moment when he wrote, the horrors of that death (Ro 6:21, and Ro 7:5) into which it dragged him down. But the language is not that of a sinner newly awakened to the sight of his lost state; it is the cry of a living but agonized believer, weighed down under a burden which is not himself, but which he longs to shake off from his renewed self. Nor does the question imply ignorance of the way of relief at the time referred to. It was designed only to prepare the way for that outburst of thankfulness for the divinely provided remedy which immediately follows.

25. I thank God—the Source.

through Jesus Christ—the Channel of deliverance.

So then—to sum up the whole matter.

with the mind—the mind indeed.

I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin—“Such then is the unchanging character of these two principles within me. God’s holy law is dear to my renewed mind, and has the willing service of my new man; although that corrupt nature which still remains in me listens to the dictates of sin.”

Note, (1) This whole chapter was of essential service to the Reformers in their contendings with the Church of Rome. When the divines of that corrupt church, in a Pelagian spirit, denied that the sinful principle in our fallen nature, which they called “Concupiscence,” and which is commonly called “Original Sin,” had the nature of sin at all, they were triumphantly answered from this chapter, where—both in the first section of it, which speaks of it in the unregenerate, and in the second, which treats of its presence and actings in believers—it is explicitly, emphatically, and repeatedly called “sin.” As such, they held it to be damnable. (See the Confessions both of the Lutheran and Reformed churches). In the following century, the orthodox in Holland had the same controversy to wage with “the Remonstrants” (the followers of Arminius), and they waged it on the field of this chapter. (2) Here we see that Inability is consistent with Accountability. (See Ro 7:18; Ga 5:17). “As the Scriptures constantly recognize the truth of these two things, so are they constantly united in Christian experience. Everyone feels that he cannot do the things that he would, yet is sensible that he is guilty for not doing them. Let any man test his power by the requisition to love God perfectly at all times. Alas! how entire our inability! Yet how deep our self-loathing and self-condemnation!” [Hodge]. (3) If the first sight of the Cross by the eye of faith kindles feelings never to be forgotten, and in one sense never to be repeated—like the first view of an enchanting landscape—the experimental discovery, in the latter stages of the Christian life, of its power to beat down and mortify inveterate corruption, to cleanse and heal from long-continued backslidings and frightful inconsistencies, and so to triumph over all that threatens to destroy those for whom Christ died, as to bring them safe over the tempestuous seas of this life into the haven of eternal rest—is attended with yet more heart—affecting wonder draws forth deeper thankfulness, and issues in more exalted adoration of Him whose work Salvation is from first to last (Ro 7:24, 25). (4) It is sad when such topics as these are handled as mere questions of biblical interpretation or systematic theology. Our great apostle could not treat of them apart from personal experience, of which the facts of his own life and the feelings of his own soul furnished him with illustrations as lively as they were apposite. When one is unable to go far into the investigation of indwelling sin, without breaking out into an, “O wretched man that I am!” and cannot enter on the way of relief without exclaiming “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” he will find his meditations rich in fruit to his own soul, and may expect, through Him who presides in all such matters, to kindle in his readers or hearers the like blessed emotions (Ro 7:24, 25). So be it even now, O Lord!

Here in at long last do we see the importance of the obedience to be baptized in water and the necessity of the on going power of God at work us through faith via the constant influx and infilling of the Holy Spirit. For it in this that the Lord Himself over time and obedience enables us to begin to conquer.

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