Summary: Paul addresses the Christian's battle with indwelling sin.
Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager, once described his battle with bad habits: “I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, stared at it and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” The answer was me. I stopped smoking. Then I took a vodka martini and said to it, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” Again the answer was me. I quit drinking. Then I went on a diet. I looked at a big plate of linguine with clam sauce and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” And a little clam looked up at me and answered, “I am.” I can’t beat linguine.
How many of you here this morning can identify with Tommy Lasorda? How many of you have done battle with some bad habit or some sin, only to find out that you couldn’t beat it? And my guess is that was not just the case before you became a disciple of Jesus and that you still have those battles in your life from time to time even after putting your faith in Jesus. I say that because I don’t know of one single Christian, and I’m including myself, who has experienced complete victory over sin even though, as we have seen in our study of Romans, we have been freed from the penalty and power of sin by being united with Jesus.
But, as we’re going to see this morning, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I am confident that I’ll be able to show you this morning that the fact that you have those kind of battles in your life is actually a very healthy thing and even evidence of your spiritual maturity. And even more importantly, we’ll see that there is hope that we can actual prevail in those struggles.
We have a lot to cover this morning, so go ahead and open your Bibles to Romans chapter 7. I was originally going to break this last section of chapter 7 into two separate sermons, but it became apparent very quickly that we need to look at this whole section as one unit. So you can follow along as I begin in verse 14 and read through the end of the chapter.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
(Romans 7:14-25 ESV)
As I mentioned last week, every week I think we have now come to the most challenging part of Romans, only to discover that there is an even more difficult passage to deal with the following week. But I am pretty sure that today’s passage is going to be pretty hard to beat. So although I am going to share with you some of the conclusions that I’ve reached based on my study on this passage, I don’t claim that I have this all figured out. I fully expect that some of you will disagree with my conclusions and I’m perfectly comfortable with that and we’ll use the Roundtable time after the service to have a further discussion about some of the different ways to look at this passage.
There is far from universal agreement about the perspective from which Paul is writing in this passage. So here is how I am going to approach the message this morning. I’m going to give you a brief overview of the three major ways to view this passage. Then I’ll point to some things in the text that might help us determine which view is most likely. But most importantly, we’ll see how this passage ought to impact our lives regardless of which of those views is correct.