Okay, we’re finally here in ROMANS 7. All the things we’ve said already have set us up for what Paul teaches here. If we hadn’t looked at what we did, then this passage wouldn’t have made much sense, but having looked at what we did, it should make a lot of sense.
Now remember, Paul’s talking about a time in his life when he was in relationship with God (POSITIONAL TRUTH), but his fellowship with God had been severed (TEMPORAL = TRUTH), because of unconfessed, unforgiven sins. So we see Paul here, in the midst of a struggle: Being a carnal (worldly, fleshly, stubborn-towards-God) Christian, but at the same time wanting desperately to get back into fellowship with God.
There are three different Greek words translated “do” in this passage and to help clarify their full meaning, I’ll just refer to them throughout the verses below as 1, 2, 3. Here’s what these three words mean …
1. The FIRST Greek word translated “do” is “katergazomai” and it means, “something on the inside that is working its way to the outside.”
2. The SECOND Greek word translated “do” is “prasso” and it means, “to practice as a way of life.”
3. The THIRD Greek word translated “do” is “poieo” and it means, “to do, or to commit.”
So Paul’s in RELATIONSHIP with God, but he’s out of FELLOWSHIP with God. And because of this, He’s having a very hard time understanding himself … his motives, his thoughts, his actions, they’re all jumbled and confusing to him. And so he’s saying “Man, there are things going on inside of me, and there are things coming out of me, thoughts, words, and actions, that I can’t explain.”
Ever been there? Ever found yourself wanting to do certain things, and saying, “Hey, wait a minute, I thought I was born again. What is this? I’m a new creation in Christ, how come this is happening to me?” Remember to keep these three different meanings of the word “do” in mind as we go through these verses …
ROMANS 7:15-25 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION)
15 I do (3) not understand what I do (1). For what I want to do (2) I do (3) not do (2), but what I hate I do (3).
I’m committing actions, and saying words, and thinking thoughts that I don’t understand and all of it’s working its way from the inside of me to the outside. I want to practice the spiritual life with Jesus Christ as a way of life, but because I’m not in control of who I am and what I do, I just can’t get it right. That wrong part of me on the inside seems more powerful than the right part of me, and I end up hating what I do most of the time.
16 And if I do (3) what I do (3) not want to do (3), I agree that the law is good.
If I commit what I commit, even though what I commit is also what I hate, then God’s Law gets the last word. The Law is for sinners and for carnal (worldly) Christians. As a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t have to live up to the Law, or have it feel like a noose around my neck. But it’s always there, reminding me of how far I have to go, and how high I have to reach.
17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do (1) it, but it is sin living in me.
My sin nature is in control of me, and it almost always gets the best of me – getting the last word about who I see myself as, and what I do … but I don’t have to submit to it or let it have total dominion over me … I always have the choice to turn back to God, surrender to Him, live a life of confession, repentance, and restoration with Him. My sin nature doesn’t have to ultimately define me.
18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do (1) what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
I know I want to do good, to live a life of righteousness … but I struggle with letting my desires become realities. I know that righteousness is also inside of me, not just my sin nature … and I want to let righteousness become more powerful than my sin nature.
19 For what I do (3) is not the good I want to do (3); no, the evil I do (3) not want to do (2) – this I keep on doing (2).
It seems like I’m committing evil deeds, having evil thoughts, and speaking evil words continually, but I don’t want to keep living this way. I know that I can’t yield to God and His plans for my life without increasing in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom … and having these building blocks become foundational parts of my life. Without these critical building-block pieces of my God-life in place I am miserable, and consistently upset at God, and out of sync with myself and with others. I want seeking God, finding God, knowing God, and serving God, loving God and glorifying God to become my natural way of life.
20 Now if I do (3) what I do not want to do (3), it is no longer I who do (2) it, but it is sin living in me that does (1) it.
When I’m out of fellowship with God, my sin nature is in control and I commit all kinds of sins, big and small, visible and invisible, public and private, immensely costly and barely costly. I don’t want this to keeping having this be the description of my life. I want to have a new inside motivation to live for God.
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do (3) good, evil is right there with me.
My sin nature will always be with me … but it’s up to me about who is in control, my sin nature, or the Holy Spirit. The one I feed will be the one that grows strong and remains in charge. And I release more control of my life to God by growing in my knowledge of God and of God’s Word.
22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law;
God, thank You for this glimmer of hope, of what is possible when my spirit and my soul get in line with Your Holy Spirit and Your Word.
23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
I need to keep my eyes wide open to what is happening with my inward man and with my outward man. My mind is the battlefield where this war for righteousness rages. God, I long for Your knowledge, Your understanding, and Your wisdom to become greater and more consistent parts of my life.
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
This is the war I feel when I am choosing to be a carnal Christian, a worldly Christian, a Christian with a divided heart and a divided mind – when I want to live in this world and also enjoy the benefits of being an intimate follower of Jesus Christ. I can’t have it both ways. I want out of this rat race! I want to get down off the fence and run home to You.
25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
I will know the truth, and the truth will set me free! (cf., JOHN 8:32). Knowledge of, understanding of, and wisdom about God and His ways will be the key that unlocks my bondage to my flesh, my sin nature, my old man.
v. 20 is the key. If you’re out of fellowship with the Lord, because of unconfessed sin in your life, then you’re under the control of your sin nature. You’re not telling it what to do, it’s telling you what to do. Friends, when you’re in fellowship with God, you’re able to tell the flesh, your sin nature, your old man, what to do; and it becomes your slave.
But when you’re out of fellowship with God the flesh becomes the master and you become the slave. And can a slave tell a master what to do? NO way! So when you’re out of fellowship with God you can’t have victory over your sin nature because it’s your master. But when you’re in fellowship with God you have authority over the flesh and can bring it into submission to God’s will and purposes for your life. Godspeed.