Tuesday: O Wretched Man!

(Rom. 7:21-25)

Read Romans 7:13-25. How are we to understand these verses? Is Paul talking about an unconverted man, or is this the experience of the converted? What reasons can you give for your answer?

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

If you were unsure as to whom these verses refer, you are not alone. Theologians also have wrestled with this question for centuries. The person described here is someone who delights in the law of God (hardly sounds like a nonbeliever) yet who seems to be enslaved to sin (which makes no sense because Christians are promised power over sin). The SDA Bible Commentary, after looking at the arguments from both sides, says: Paul’s main purpose in the passage seems to be to show the relationship that exists between the law, the gospel, and the person who has been awakened to earnest struggles against sin in preparation for salvation. Paul’s message is that, although the law may serve to precipitate and intensify the struggle, only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring victory and relief.The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 554.

No matter how we look at these verses, we must always remember that the person who struggles with sin is still capable of making right choices. If this were not the case, all the Pauline (as well as other) promises about power over sin would be meaningless. Also, as Matthew 5 demonstrates, sin often starts before an act is committed. Consequently, a person is in violation of the law simply by thinking something sinful. Ordinarily, this reality could be a source of frustration. However, in the context of Romans 7, the individual may be helpless, but he is not hopeless. For the person who lives in the Spirit, the ever-present law serves as a constant reminder that deliverance from condemnation comes through Jesus (Rom. 7:24-8:2).

Read again the verses for today. In what ways do they parallel your own experience with the Lord? Despite your struggles, how can you experience the hope that Paul nevertheless expressed there?



Tuesday: O Wretched Man! — 5 Comments

  1. Notwithstanding the thinking of some scholars and theologians that the timing of Paul’s conflicts with self, described in Romans 7:13-25, predated his conversion there is ample evidence to believe otherwise.

    If by Paul’s conversion is meant the Damascus Road experience then it seems Paul was describing a period following his conversion, since before that his conscience was not yet awakened to the deeper spiritual demands of the law. Before the Holy Spirit stirred Paul he was comfortable with his works and thought he was doing well, being in unity with the carnal mind (flesh) and pursuing righteousness by works. Sin was not a problem to him and hence no struggle. (The preceding text of Romans 7:1-12 provides some background).

    The war (Romans 7:23) or enmity (Romans 8:7) arose when Paul became aware (conscience alive/aroused) of the failings of the carnal mind and sought the mind of Christ (post Damascus Road). It was the spiritual mind (of Christ) which was in conflict with the carnal mind (law in the members). This struggle or fight would go on for some time, and recognizing his shortcomings Paul would press toward the mark (Philippians 3:12-16) and ultimately declare at the end of his earthly journey “I have fought a good fight…” (2 Timothy 4:7)

    The passage in question clearly does not describe a wilful pattern of sin, but a conflict between two minds (human and divine nature). Paul here makes a strong case for submission and dying to self; two things which have largely lost traction among professed Christians whose activities and interests are too often seamlessly merged with those of a self-focused (selfie) generation.

    It is vital that we understand the carnal mind does not disappear or decline interest, but becomes a stalker when we accept and get married to Christ. We will have to engage in a real battle, requiring complete submission to Christ, dying daily to self, and earnest effort in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to develop a Christ-like character in this life. Jesus has promised power to overcome in this fight. It behooves us to make it a good fight, growing from strength to strength.

    By God’s grace and enabling power let us press toward the mark

  2. After reading Paul's conflict with good and evil, I became more enlightened on the struggles that drug addicts encounter. Theoretically they want to quit (they know that drug addiction is self-destructive ) but the desire to get "high" is compelling. Without structured external support and therapies they are lost in the pit of their addiction.

    Sin is like drug addiction, we want to resist sin, but it's a though battle, knowing the laws and wanting to be obedient cannot equip us to be overcomers. We'll be miserable and frustrated. Having experienced this, Paul advised: "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary to each other so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law ( Galatians 5: 16-18 ). But if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you ( Romans 8: 11).

  3. opposite the law of God is the law of sin. The Bible clearly says that 'sin enslaves the sinner' Therefore he that is enslaved by sin, live according the the dictates(law) of his master(flesh) . But he that obeys the laws of God lives not according to the dictates of the flesh but the dictates(law) of the spirit (Christ) because the law is spiritual.

  4. Hi Lorraine and others, I remembered vividly and this happened twice. I was counciling a woman and a man about the danger of smoking cigarette and offered the nicotine patch as an alternative until the craving goes away. After I finished speaking to the woman she stated she understood me clearly but she did not want to give up smoking cigarette despite she knows it will kill her. I felt sad for her for choosing the wrong path. I suddenly heard a small voice speaking to me saying "so it is with sin". Sin is like any addiction, we battle with it until we get the victory through Jesus, but it will kill.

  5. O wretched man that I am ! Who shall deliver me from my body of death?
    I am thankful that I have seen Jesus deliverance in my life and I know he is not finished with me yet ......
    Let him deliver you of fornication ,adultery ,lies ,homosexuality ,jealousy ,greed ,envy
    Trust him to deliver you ...I know he can


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