Summary: In the last section of Romans 7, Paul shares his personal ongoing struggle with sin. It is a struggle that we will face until we pass from our earthly bodies to our heavenly home. Although we may have significant victory over sin, the battle will remain and the struggle will continue.
A. One day a preacher was making some visits to the homes of his church members, when he came upon a boy trying to sell a lawn mower.
1. “How much do you want for the mower?” asked the preacher.
2. “I want just enough money to buy me a bicycle,” said the boy.
3. After a moment of consideration, the preacher asked, “Will you take $20 for it?”
4. The boy said, “Mister, you’ve got yourself a deal!”
5. The preacher took the mower and tried to start it up. He pulled on the chord a few times, but the mower wouldn’t start.
6. The preacher asked the boy why the mower wouldn’t start.
7. The boy answered, “You have to cuss at it to get it started.”
8. The preacher said, “I’m a minister, and I don’t cuss. It has been so long since I became a Christian that I don’t even remember how to cuss.”
9. The boy brightened up and said, “Just keep pulling on that chord and it will come back to ya!”
B. And that’s the truth.
1. No matter how long we are Christians, sin is trying to re-enter our lives and take over.
2. It’s amazing how quickly it can come back to us!
C. The passage we are going to explore today in our series on Romans is one of the most applicable passages in Romans, but it is also one of the most controversial.
1. Since early in the history of studying Romans, church scholars and Christians in general have debated just what experience Paul was referring to in these verses.
2. Paul’s main point in this section is undebatable: The law cannot free us from spiritual death.
3. The debate surrounds the question of what spiritual situation is Paul describing.
4. There are three main possibilities:
a. Some think that Paul was describing his life as a Jew under the Mosaic law.
b. Others think that Paul was describing his experience as an immature Christian.
c. Still others think that Paul was describing his experience even as a mature Christian.
5. I don’t want to enter into a huge debate about this because there are strengths and weakness for each of those interpretations and there are helpful things that can come out of any of those understandings – I favor the last of those possibilities.
D. But let’s begin with three observations about this famous text.
1. Observation number one is this: Romans 7 is a passage that grips us because we understand exactly what it is saying.
a. We see ourselves in it.
b. When Romans 7 is read everyone understands and says, “Amen, yes, that’s right, that’s true, that’s me.”
2. Observation number two: Romans 7 seems to tell us about the Christian life as we actually experience it much of the time.
a. I don’t think that Paul is discussing the life of a person before they are a Christian.
b. I don’t think Paul is describing the life of an immature or a carnal Christian.
c. In my opinion, Romans 7 is describing the experience of all Christians, both mature and immature as we experience the ongoing battle with sin and the flesh.
d. When I read Romans 7, it rings true to me about my own personal experience and it rings true to me about the personal experience of people I see on a daily basis as a preacher.
e. When I read the text, I notice that Paul constantly says “I … I … I … I.”
f. And it’s not past tense - It’s present tense.
g. It seems to me that what we have here is not Paul’s theory, but Paul’s actual experience of the Christian life as he lives it day by day, year after year.
3. Observation number 3: Though some of us would perhaps wish it were true, there is no escape from Romans 7 in the Christian life.
a. There is no real escape from our ongoing struggle with sin.
b. But we must keep in mind that Romans 7 is not the whole story.
c. Romans 7 is wedged between two chapters that lay the groundwork for the Christian’s triumph over sin in this life.
d. Some might argue that Romans 7 describes a “sub-normal” Christian life where the battle with sin is mostly one of failure.