Romans 7:15 – “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” NIV
Today, I want to actually delve into my key text. Paul wrote,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”Romans 7:15 NIV
Traditionally, it is believed that Paul was confessing to having struggles in his life as a Christian that he couldn’t overcome. In the remaining verses it would appear that is exactly what is happening; but we are to rightly divide the word of truth. As such, we cannot take these verses out of context and give them a meaning, or significance, that we wish for them to have. We must take the entire narrative of this epistle into consideration as we seek to understand the meaning behind these words.
Paul begins by talking about the flesh. Actually, he talks about the spirit and the flesh throughout the book, and therefore, we will look at this word today. The Greek word for flesh is “sarx”. In the book of Romans, Paul uses this word frequently. Sarx was used literally to mean our physical body, and it is rendered “according to the flesh”. It was also used to mean “from a human point of view.” But in Romans 7, Paul used it in reference to us being “in the flesh”. In this reference he is actually referring to our sinful human nature, apart from Christ.
It is to this nature that Paul is referring as he writes in verse 14 (but I am a creature of the flesh, sold into slavery to sin) because we are slaves to sin before coming to Christ. When he gets to verse 15 and states,
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.Romans 7:15 NKJV
it is because when we are bound in sin, we do things that God knows we don’t always want to do. Some of those things we hate, but we find ourselves yielding to them again and again. I think of an alcoholic parent who spends the weekend getting drunk to the point that he or she passes out, unconcerned about the needs of the rest of the family. But before passing out, they wreak havoc in the home, and in the lives of their family members. Does this person want to be like that? I don’t think so! Does this person hate the way they are, the way they act? I truly believe they do. But they feel powerless to make the necessary change because they are a slave to sin! They feel as if they have no escape from this desperate and hopeless state that their lives are in and they want out of it! This is what Paul is referring to! Pastor Eric, of Victory in Christ Kingdom Church likes to say “that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay”. Why? Because you are in bondage to sin! Sin is your master!
Paul shares with his readers that, as a good Jewish young man, he was a sinner, an unbeliever, and there was nothing good that lived in him; because even when he was willing to do good, it was not always what he did. And in fact, it wasn’t so much him, as it was his sin nature which dominated his thinking, his actions, his behavior, and basically the way he lived. Before Christ! After all, when he was known as Saul, he was known as a persecutor of the believers, and was in agreement with Stephen being stoned to death. That surely qualifies as no good thing!
Paul tells the believers in Rome that he discovered that a law was at work in him; a law that evil was present in him when he was trying to do good. Paul, as a Jewish rabbi loved the law, but he saw a lack in his life that the law could not fulfill. He found that even though the law was wonderful, it didn’t have the power to influence his actions and to keep sin at bay. And neither will anyone else’s sins be kept at bay outside of Jesus! Only Jesus has the power to forgive sin, break the yoke of sin off our necks, and then casts them into the sea of forgetfulness! Glory be to God!
In case we have forgotten Paul’s thinking in regards to sin, I think we need to remember some things he has already said:
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness…disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death”Romans 1:29-32 NKJV
These are harsh words about sin and those who practice sin, and Paul wrote them because he believed them and lived them. There is no way that Paul, in the very same letter, would turn around and profess an inability to live a life of righteousness in Christ!
Paul also wrote, in this same letter:
You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.Romans 2:21-24 NKJV
Notice that Paul said that people who live this type of life dishonors God and causes His name to be blasphemed amongst the heathens! That is so not how Paul lived his life!
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!Romans 7:24-25 NKJV
Paul knew that in his Jewish, legalistic, rabbinical state, without Jesus, he was a wretched man. But he also rejoiced in the truth that God, through Jesus, was the One who had actually delivered him from that state of wretchedness! Paul was giving God praise for delivering him from that state of warring in his soul: trying to be good when in actuality what he did was evil.
When I read this chapter, I understand that without chapters 6 and 8, it could easily sound like Paul had a hard time being a Christian. However, this is Paul, who emphatically stated that he was ready to die for the cause of Christ. A man with this type of dedication isn’t flaky with his lifestyle. He isn’t struggling day in and day out to live for God!
But here’s the most profound part of it all! You don’t have to struggle either. Because the answer to “who can deliver you” is the same for you as it was for Paul. Jesus! His blood is sufficient to redeem you! His blood is sufficient to free you! And His blood is sufficient to keep you! Wonderful Jesus!