Inner Conflict - Lesson 3 - The Role of the Law
A PROPER INTERPRETATION
Romans seven provides a proper interpretation of the inner struggles associated with our warfare. In this text Paul affirms that the conflict is evidence of our justification. Although it may appear to contradict our status as sons, this is not the case at all. Can you identify with the scenario Paul paints? Here are his arresting words. "For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 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 that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 7:14-8:1, NRSV). Some preliminary observations are in order.
Everything is in the present! There is not a single past-tense word in this text. Every single reference to experience is in the present! In spite of this, some religious sophists have taught Paul is referring to his life prior to regeneration. They could not be more wrong! The situation defies human explanation! When Paul says "I do not understand my own actions," he is speaking rhetorically. There is no human explanation for what he describes. It is something he cannot control, yet it is not something that cannot be discerned. In fact, he proceeds, under the inspiration of the Spirit, to explain the circumstance. THIS IS AN AREA WHERE THE BELIEVER LACKS CONTROL!
He is discontent with the situation! The circumstance finds Paul experiencing things he does not want to experience, and coming short of involvement in his preferences. This is a situation from which he seeks, and joyfully anticipates, coming deliverance. Here is a dichotomy of experience! There is a part of him serving sin, with another part serving the Law of God. The former is against his will, and the latter is an expression of his will. He identifies his REAL person ("I myself," KJV), with serving the Law of God, while his sinful nature ("the flesh") is what serves sin. The conclusion: NO CONDEMNATION! After observing this fierce warfare, Paul affirms that "therefore" (in view of the experience just affirmed) "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." There is, then, in this frustrating experience, evidence of life from God.