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.” And traditionally, it is believed that Paul was confessing to having struggles in his life as a Christian that he couldn’t overcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Paul begins talking about the flesh. Actually, he talks about the spirit and the flesh throughout the book, and 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, it was rendered “according to the flesh”, and 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 it is in our state before Christ that we are slaves to sin. When he gets to verse 15 and states, “I do not understand what. For what I want to do I do not do but what I hate I do,” 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.
How many people do you know, who are bound in their sin, often crying afterwards because deep down in their heart they don’t like the way they are living? They feel as if they have no escape from this desperate and hopeless state that their lives are in and want out of it, by any means necessary! This is what Paul is referring to! Our Pastor likes to say that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. How? Because you are in bondage to sin! Sin is your master!
Paul states that as a sinner, as an unbeliever, in his sinful state, 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! He forgives them, then He casts them into the sea of forgetfulness! Glory to God!
That’s when Paul makes the statement that he is a wretched man and asks, “Who will deliver me from this state of sin, this spiritual death?” People are still asking this question. And it’s a necessary one, because it’s this question that opens a heart to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But again, I believe that Paul is not speaking in a present tense of his state, but more in a reflective sense of where he was at before his Damascus Road experience and how he got to where he was after it!
Really, in all honest, chapter 8 breaks it down further and makes it clearer that Paul was not speaking as a believer who struggled with his flesh. He actually answers his own question by saying, “Thanks be to God (for my deliverance) through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (AMP)
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. There are many today who think that because they do good, that is an entrance way to God, but your righteous or good deeds are as filthy rags before the Father and therefore unacceptable. Basically, that was Paul’s message in chapter 7. The law, even though it is spiritual cannot and will not save you from your sin nature. It only has the power to reveal your sin, the penalty of sin, and a loving Father who says, you can’t do enough in the flesh to be free from sin.
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, if you read the rest of the New Testament, there is no evidence that Paul struggled with his flesh, incapable of living the life that Jesus required of him. Of us all! 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! If you believe that this chapter is actually about Paul struggling as a believer and therefore, of course you will; then you have bought into the lie of the devil that you can’t live a holy life for God. And that’s the biggest tragedy of the lie! 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! There’s so much more than I can say, but I will end here with this parting word: He is well able to deliver you! Wonderful Jesus!