Summary: Today we close out the series on seeing how the people of the bible are just like us. We've looked at Abraham, Samson, Elijah, Joshua, David, and last week we focused on Peter. Today, we'll finish by looking at Paul. Let's see how he was just like us.
JUST LIKE US (part seven)
Last week we looked at Peter. Peter was the foremost of the Apostles. He was a leader and devout follower of Jesus. He withstood persecution and was bold and courageous in contending for the faith. Tradition indicates that Peter met his fate being crucified upside down because he said he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord. Pretty impressive.
Yet that didn't mean he didn't have any issues. He walked on water but began to sink when he focused on the wind and the waves instead of Jesus. After Jesus was arrested Peter denied knowing him. And we saw where Paul had to confront him about being hypocritical. Likewise we can be a devout follower of Jesus and love Jesus but there are times when our faith is weak or fear overrides our devotion or when we compromise and be hypocritical. Today let's take a look into the life of Paul.
1) Tug of war.
Paul has a very impressive resume. He was an apostle. He's the evangelizer to the gentiles. He wrote half of the NT books. His devotion was impeccable when you factor in the many times he was persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, etc. He was passionate and powerful and no doubt looked up to and admired by all Christians. However, as amazing as Paul was, he had his struggles.
Rom. 7:14-25, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 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."
When you consider how spiritual Paul was, it seems weird to see him talking about having this struggle with sin. He was a spiritual powerhouse; leading the way; setting the example. Multiple times in his letters he encourages his readers to follow his example. He told the Corinthians to imitate him. I don't think Paul is going to put himself out there like that if he weren't living for Jesus.
So what about this revealing passage in Romans? Was Paul living a double life? No. Paul was revealing the struggle that every Christian has. He wasn't being a hypocrite; he was being transparent. The Christian has two natures-old and new-flesh and spirit. And I'm thankful that God compelled Paul to write this because we might think if we have this struggle then maybe we aren't legitimate Christians.
In fact, some think because this sounds so strange that Paul must have written this in reference to before he became a Christian. But that's not the case. Before we were Christians we didn't have this struggle; we weren't conflicted. We weren't thinking of God, we did what we wanted and thought little of it.
But as a Christian, there's a struggle-there's conviction-there's godly sorrow. That's what Paul is describing here. I don't want to sin but that's what I do. I want to serve God but I find myself sinning instead. It's one of those strange-but-true statements about Christians. And to see Paul being revealing about it helps to encourage us because we can totally relate.
I like how Paul said it wasn't him who sinned but sin living in him. He wasn't trying to shirk responsibility, he's making it clear that that's not who we are anymore. And he said it twice which means he wanted to emphasize that point. We still sin but we're not identified as sinners; we're saints.