Lesson 23

The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

7:15 For I donít know what I am doing. For I donít practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. 7:16 But if what I donít desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. 7:17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I donít find it doing that which is good. 7:19 For the good which I desire, I donít do; but the evil which I donít desire, that I practice. 7:20 But if what I donít desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:21 I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. 7:22 For I delight in Godís law after the inward man, 7:23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 Today's Lesson 

In Today's Scripture Paul describes the plight of man. He has stated that the law is righteous and holy but that he is sold as slaves to sin, as are we all in the beginning. The law revives sin in us and sin slays us. The law was given so that sin might be shown to be exceedingly sinful.


Paul declares that he has no control over his life or actions. He knows what he ought to do. He desires to do good. But he finds that he cannot accomplish it. Instead, sin in his life sidetracks and distracts him and he finds that instead of doing good he does that which ends in evil. "So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me." Even though he desires to do good he cannot accomplish it.


Again in verse 20 Paul repeats, "it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me." Is Paul attempting to deny responsibility for the sin that swells in him? I don't believe so. Paul has stated that when man stands before God in the flesh he is guilty and responsible. No one can please God in the flesh. Rather, Paul is stating an emotion that every Christian has felt in his or her life. When we desire to serve God we often find that despite our intentions our efforts fall astray. We will say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing and somehow or another what we intended for good turns out bad.


Paul tells us that when we desire to do good we are acknowledging that the law is good. We are by nature legal beings. We want there to be rules and we want to live by the rules. When we see other people flaunt or break the rules we become upset. If three people are abandoned on a desert island they will invariably develop rules to govern their behavior to one another. We instinctively desire rules and laws but we know very little about God's way of grace.


So Paul says that even though he knows that God's law is good and agrees with it he sees "a different law" at work in his flesh. This "different law" wars against him and enslaves him and delivers his flesh over to sin. In this state he is forced to cry out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?" He knows that he cannot deliver himself. He has tried to do good, he has tried to be righteous, and failed miserably. Only something, or more rightly someone, who is greater than himself can rescue him.


Just as spontaneously as Paul cried out, "What a wretched man I am!," he also cries out "I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Christ is the one who breaks through this cycle of despair that Paul has described. God knows that we are powerless against sin. God never expected us to overcome sin ourselves. He never gave us the tools to overcome it ourselves. God planned our deliverance to be brought about by faith in Him, a loving God, who will rescue us.


On your own, you can't live a righteous life. God didn't design you to be capable of it. But, he did put in your heart a longing to be righteous. It is that longing that drives us to God. God wants us to hunger for righteousness. A hungry man will try to find food. God has sent us the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ, to fill your spiritual hunger. The flesh cannot please God, but the hungry heart can.


Are you still trying to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh? Are you trying as hard as you can but not accomplishing what you believe that God wants you to accomplish?


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