Sheep And Goats

Sheep and Goats

God’s word never returns void (Isa 55:11). It separates sheep from goats (cf. Jn 10:16,27; Rev 3:20). There are many goats who want to be called sheep, but they aren’t. They neither sound nor act like sheep. When it comes to hearing the Shepherd’s voice, they are grossly deficient and, thus, ignorant. As a result, they depart green pastures in search of something different. It’s not long before they find themselves entangled in the brambles of sin. Acting like the goats they are, they become, in a sense, their own worst enemies, although they would never think so. Even so, they have no ones to blame but the Devil and themselves.

Yes, it’s true that some Christians are ignorant because they are but unskilled babes in Christ. Others are ignorant because they lack someone to teach them. Still others (and I speak now of the goats) are ignorant through no fault but their own. They don’t like studying God’s word (i.e., listening intently to the Shepherd’s voice) as such proves far too tedious for them. Besides, listening to the Shepherd’s voice requires they think and act within the confines of His word and, quite frankly, “goats” (be they postmodernists or others) don’t like the restrictions of structured thinking and doing. As a result, they wind up wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction (cf. 2 Pet 3:16).

Let us work diligently not to be goats. Let us strive to walk in the light. Let us “Study to shew [ourselves] approved unto God, [workmen (sheep)] that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, KJV). In the process, we may be certain that the Holy Spirit will instill in us a biblical worldview through which everything, even ourselves, will be judged. Without such a commitment, we will not be what God created us in Christ Jesus to be (cf. Eph 2:10; Rom 12:1-2).

Simper Fidelis!

Ethics & Morality

Ethics and Morality

For some time now, righteousness has been under attack—concerted, conscious, systematic attack—in our creative arts, our popular literature and music, our TV screens, our educational institutions, and even in our churches. What do I mean by “righteousness”? Well, it is not without significance that in past generations such an explanation would not be necessary. However, today, it is often necessary to explain that what the philosopher calls ethics, the theologian calls morals, the educator calls values, and the man on the street calls goodness, the Bible calls “righteousness.”

This attack on righteousness/morality/goodness/ethics/values has produced the very worse results. Statistics prove there is more crime, more juvenile delinquency, more suicide, more adultery, more divorces, more homosexuality with each passing year. But then someone says, “What do you mean ‘worse’?” You see, when there are no standards, one can ask a question like this and many people will even think the questioner is smart. But when one replies to the pseudo-intellectual’s question with the remark, “By worse, I mean more immoral,” one had better brace for an indignant, “Don’t you try to impose your narrow, moralizing views on me.” You see, in today’s society, if one wants to convince Americans about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of something, one must not talk about morality. Instead, one must talk the language of a New Age. In other words, talk about health; talk about scientific facts; talk about self-esteem; talk about economic considerations, but don’t ever talk about ethics or morality.

We frequently use the terms ethics and morality as if they are synonymous. This, I think, is correct. But there is a more formal usage of these two terms. It is to this we now turn our attention. Ethics comes from the Greek and morals from the Latin. The roots of both mean “custom” or “habitual mode of conduct.” In formal English usage, morality has kept its original meaning of custom or habit (viz., morality has to do with conduct as it is commonly practiced in the everyday affairs of life). On the other hand, ethics has come to mean the formal, philosophical pursuit of general, systematic standards for evaluating human conduct in general. What this all means is that ethics is “What should I do?” and “Why should I do it?” while morality is “This is what I actually do!”

As stated above, the two basic questions associated with ethics are, “What should I do?,” which has to do with the norm, and “Why should I do it?,” which has to do with the obligation. Furthermore, and here is the real crux of the matter, apart from Creation there are no real ethical obligations; no such things as absolute norms for conduct, no real moral absolutes.

Jehovah says, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you” (Deut 6:17). God, the Father, says, “Obey my voice” (Jer 11:7). God, the Son, says, “Keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). In Isaiah 33:22, God says He is King, Lawgiver, and Judge. Thus, in an ethical sense, all three branches of government reside in Him—the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. We see, then, that God is commanding us to do what He thinks ought to be done. It is His statutes that are the ethical norm. Hence, the next logical question is, “Why should we have to do what God tells us?” The answer is, “Because Jehovah is the Sovereign of the universe; He is the Creator, we are the creatures; He is the potter, we are the clay!” Because Jehovah Elohim is the Creator, we are obligated to do exactly as He says, for this is the whole duty of man (Eccl 12:13).

Accordingly, one does not have to be a member of the church of Christ to be morally responsible before God the Creator. All he has to be is a member of the human race. Every single human being is obligated to do God’s will because this is the obligation of the creature to the Creator and the clay to the Potter. Apart from any other consideration, the Creator-creature relationship forms the basic context for the ethical life of all men.

The Creator, realizing it is not within man’s ability to direct his own steps (Jer 10:23), has provided His creation with a special revelation. In this special revelation, which is called “the Scriptures,” He has given His creatures those things that are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). God-centered ethics is built on the nature of God, the will of God, the way of God, and the Word of God. A biblical worldview believes that God has identified in the Bible certain things that are inherently right or wrong. This worldview says that there are ethical absolutes and that eternal consequences are attached to the decisions we make regarding these ethical absolutes. Finally, the truths taught in the Bible are designed to live within human skin, to be seen and read by unbelievers, as God’s people bring to bear His mind, His will, and His purposes in the everyday decisions of their lives.

How do we make moral choices? By knowing God and His Word.

At A Crossroads

At A Crossroads

America, I believe, is at a crossroads. Will its people return to the principles upon which the Republic was originally founded? If we attempt to do so, we must know we will have a monumental fight on our hands. There has been too much secular “water under the bridge” for it to be otherwise. The secularists effectively control the media and the educational establishment, two extremely powerful propaganda tools. Unencumbered by the moral absolutes upon which this nation was originally founded, the State has gotten used to throwing its weight around. The old “give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile” adage is most à propos when it comes to the State. Instead of viewing the public school system as an adjunct of the Home and, thus, something to which it simply lends its support, it is now viewed as an entity belonging to the State and an effective tool for the distribution of its propaganda. As such, God, along with anything that could be construed as being Judeo-Christian, has been expunged from the public school curriculum. Textbooks which purport to teach early American history do no such thing, as “Nature and Nature’s God” are either diminished or else completely ignored. The “Western Civ. has got to go” rebels of the 1960s have all grown up and are fully in control of the State’s primary propaganda machine.

Before it’s too late (and it already may be), let us determine, no matter what the cost, to return to our roots. Let us resolve to exercise the rights our Creator granted us—rights the State, under God, is duty-bound to protect. If we are willing to stand up and speak out on these very fundamental things, then perhaps those who come after us will be blessed by our efforts just as we decidedly were by those who put everything on the line to give us a unique form of government built on the solid foundation of God’s eternal and self-evident truths. Like them, and “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” let us “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Sin Is A Reproach To Any People


Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).

The reproach (i.e., disgrace and shame) being manifested in America today is indicative of the fact that we have, for the most part, become a nation without God. This means the continued existence of this country is at stake. It may be that God usually judges individuals at the end of time, but He judges nations in time. In Romans 1, Paul gives the four step decline in the history of the nation that forgets God:

  1. A nation rejects God,
  2. it turns to false religion,
  3. it becomes bogged down in immorality and violence,
  4. and then God judges it.

Consequently, a nation without God is a nation in serious trouble. As a people (I’m speaking now of God’s people), let us be actively engaged in doing justice and righteousness. Let us be praying that there is still enough salt left to preserve the blessings of God upon this nation.

“Niceness,” The Sine Qua Non Of Modern “Churchianity”


Looking no further, a world of nice people, content in their own niceness, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of Salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. —C.S. Lewis

With the Lewis remark as our backdrop, it seems proper to note that modern “Churchianity,” with its various filters and interpretations, takes pride in its “taming” or “civilizing” of the Bible. The Bible has been amended to teach, above all else, that we must be “nice.” As such, “niceness” has become the sine qua non of acceptable religion for modern-day Christendom. Thus, the prohibition against “offending a brother” is misunderstood and misapplied to uphold the middle-class idea that we must be “nice” at all cost, even at the expense of truth. Consequently, reflecting the wisdom that comes from below and not above, charging one’s interlocutors with being mean-spirited has become a useful device for skirting the arguments and charges of one’s critics. Although such craftiness is a sad commentary on our times, it will continue to be despised by men and women of integrity.

Salvation Is Conditional

Once saved, always saved doctrine

To Calvinists and many Evangelicals, salvation is a one-time event that takes place when one “believes that Jesus is the Christ and accepts Him as his or her personal Savior.” On the contrary, the Bible teaches there are conditions one must meet to be saved and stay saved. In what follows, we’ll take a look at what the Bible says about this.

And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works [this is what they once were], yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death [that is, He saved them], to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight [this is talking about something He will do]—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard… (Col 1:21-23).

Notice that the “if indeed you continue in the faith….” is a conditional statement that says Jesus will present us holy, blameless, and irreproachable if we continue in the faith. The unavoidable implication is that one may choose not to “continue in the faith” and, as a result, be “moved away from the hope of the gospel.” This would not be due to a lapse in the Lord’s protection, nor would it be the triumph of an enemy power. Instead, this would be the result of the free exercise of one’s will. But if the “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) doctrine that Calvinists/Evangelicals advocate is true, then why this warning from Paul that continued salvation is conditioned upon our continuing in the faith?

Additionally, when writing 1 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul wanted to know whether the brethren at Thessalonica were continuing in their journey of faith or whether, perhaps, Satan had succeeded in tempting them to go astray. If so, he believed his labor on them was “in vain.” How could this even be possible if a child of God can’t fall from grace, as Calvinists/Evangelicals teach? If OSAS were true, then Paul’s concern would be not only nonsensical but completely heretical as well. Consequently, OSAS is a doctrine not taught in the Scriptures.

Who Is The “Wretched Man” Of Romans 7:14-25

Romans 7:15

When push comes to shove, there are but three basic interpretations of Romans 7:14-25:

(1) Paul was writing about his pre-Christian experience under the law of Moses,

(2) he was writing of man’s experience in general apart from Christ, or

(3) he was writing about his experience as a Christian.

I hold the third view with the following qualification. I believe the whole of Romans 7:7-25 has to do with Paul’s experience with (1) the Mosaic law-code and (2) the law he was under to Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 9:21). By extension, I believe his particular experience with these law-codes extends to any man under any law-code he finds himself obligated to under God. For a Gentile, this would have been the law-of-the-heart code (cf. Rom. 2:11-15). In other words, even though I view Paul’s experience with law as limited to the Mosaic law and the law-code he was under to Christ, I see both of these as typifying man’s collective experience with law—an experience that always comes up short of what law requires.

As a Jew, Paul had never been under the law-code the Gentiles were under. Before becoming amenable to the law he was under to Christ, his obligation had been to the law of Moses. Therefore, when I read Romans 7:7-13, I understand the particular law-code to which Paul refers is the Mosaic one. Even so, we must not allow what Paul says in these verses to keep us from seeing the bigger picture, which is that (1) not only have all of us sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23) but (2) all of us who have experienced the “newness of life” that comes from a right relationship with the blood of Christ will, regrettably, continue to sin (cf. Rom. 6:4; 1 Jn 1:8) and this because of (3) our present “half-done” condition. By “half done,” I mean that we, in our born-again state, remain in “lowly” bodies that are awaiting the final redemption that will be theirs in the coming resurrection (cf. Php. 3:21).

Therefore, when attempting to understand Romans 7:7-25, it is important to appreciate its position in the letter, especially as it appears in chapters 1-8, a section that sets forth the doctrine upon which everything else rests. When viewed this way, which is far from the parenthetical, out-of-place pronouncement some have thought it to be, we come to understand that salvation “by grace through faith” is far from the perfect doing some have imagined it to be. On the contrary, and as Paul so candidly demonstrates, his personal experience with law occupies an important position in the overall teaching of chapters 1-8, which is a section that contains the most sublime explanation that emerges in all of Scripture of the glorious, fleshed-out, up-close-and-personal gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of particular note in Romans 7:7-25 is Paul’s use of the personal pronoun (e.g., “I” and “me”) as well as the past and present tenses (i.e., all those “have known,” “had said,” “produced in me,” “was dead,” etc. kind of expressions.). It seems clear that Paul is speaking of a time in the past when, as a child, he had not yet reached the age of accountability and, thus, stood completely sinless before God. This is evidenced by his use of “apart from the law sin was dead” (v. 8b) and “I was alive once without the law” (v. 9a).

Now, if I am right and Paul was speaking of himself (and the most straightforward reading of the text indicates he was), then he was referring to his experience as a circumcised Jew before he reached the “age of accountability.” “But when the commandment came” (v. 9b), which was a reference to his “adult” accountability to the Mosaic law, he said that “sin revived and [he] died” (v. 9c). In my opinion, “revived” is a poor translation of anezēsen that gives a false impression. When Paul, as an amenable adult, was confronted with the Mosaic law-code, sin “came alive” (ESV) or “sprang to life” (LEB), both of which more accurately convey the meaning of the Greek. In other words, Paul was not saying sin revived when the law came, only that it was “made alive” (NASB), resulting in his spiritual death. If this was not Paul’s experience before and after his confrontation with the law of Moses, then I am at a loss to know when this could have been.

So, although I believe the overall context of chapter 7 deals with Paul’s experience with law in general, I’m convinced verses 7-13 have to do specifically with the law of Moses. However, when it comes to verses 14-25, I’m just as convinced Paul is speaking of his experience with the law he was under to Christ. This is evidenced by Paul’s continued use of personal pronouns (viz., “I,” “me,” “my”). But more particularly, it is demonstrated by his switch from past to present tense (viz., “I am…,” “I do,” “I delight,” “I see,” etc.). This is evidenced most notably in his gut-wrenching cry and follow-up question in verse 24:

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Even more convincing, I think, is his hopeful declaration of faith in verse 25a:

I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It is this interpretation of Romans 7:7-25 that I believe best defines its meaning and most helpful to those who made up the church in Rome. After all, if Paul was simply contrasting the primary difference between the law of Moses and the grace we have access to in Christ, of what value would that have been to Gentile Christians who had never been under the law of Moses? With this said, what follows is my defense of what I’ve outlined above.

The Apostle Paul And The Law

In verses 14-25, I believe Paul is relating his experience with the law he found himself under to Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). Therefore, and as offensive as it may be to some, I believe the “wretched man” of verse 24 is none other than the “faithful unto death” apostle Paul who believed there was a “crown of righteousness” laid up for him that would be his at the Lord’s appearing (cf. Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:8). Of course, that the wretched man of verse 24 is Paul himself is the very thing I am under obligation to prove, for how was it possible that the apostle could describe himself this way without opening himself up to the charge of duplicity as he sets forth his arguments in chapters 6-8? And if he were not thought to be disingenuous, then he would certainly be vulnerable to the charge of double-mindedness and its accompanying instability (cf. Jas. 1:8). Again, how could the wretched man of verse 24 be a description of the apostle Paul without his readers viewing him as some sort of reprobate? These are some of the questions I must try to answer in this article. But to do this, I must turn to the text itself.

The Nature Of The Struggle (7:14-20)

7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual,… This is a transitional statement, summing up the basic point of verses 7-13 and reaffirming the goodness of the law in light of the questions posed in verses 7 and 13. It also opens the way for Paul’s honest examination of his own spiritual “walk of faith”—an examination that serves as a mirror for every Christian. But I am carnal, sold under sin. Although the translation of sarkinos as “carnal” (as in the KJV, ASV, and NJKV) is literally correct, it does not, in my opinion, provide a clear understanding of how it is being used here. Even worse are the NIV’s “unspiritual” and the ISV’s “merely human.” In believe the NASB’s “of flesh” and the NRSV’s and ESV’s “of the flesh” do a much better job of conveying what Paul has in mind. The word is from sarx, which means “flesh.” So although sarkinos can mean under the control of our flesh, as the NASB’s “in the flesh” of 7:5 and “according to the flesh” in 8:5, it is not used this way here. Here, it basically means “composed of flesh” (C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, vol. I, p. 375). Thus, it does not refer to man in toto as the materialists erroneously think, but simply the physical part of man—namely, “our lowly body” (Php 3:21, ESV).

Nevertheless, what Paul says here is more than just some metaphysical assertion that man is composed of a physical body. In fact, it’s a statement with moral implications. The first of these is the idea that although we have already been justified and regenerated, we still come under the influence of our sin-sick bodies—bodies that have yet to be set free from the “bondage of corruption” to which they are enslaved (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). Moses Lard said it well when he wrote,

I Paul am fleshly; though redeemed, and pardoned, and accepted, I am still fleshly; not wholly so, but fleshly, fleshly because still in a body of flesh, from the influence of which, so long as I am in it, I cannot become entirely freed (Moses E. Lard, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to Romans, p. 236).

The moral implications of sarkinos are further amplified by the modifier “sold under sin” (pepramenos hupo tēn hamartian), which carries with it the idea of being sold to sin as a slaveholder and, thus, under sin’s power or control. But if this is truly a description of the Christian’s walk of faith, how can it be reconciled with Romans 6:6 and 15-23, which say that although we “used to be slaves of sin” (v. 17, NIV), we have been “set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness” (v. 18, NIV)? Although this may at first seem to be a formidable obstacle, is is not quite the problem many think it to be. This is because chapter 6 refers to the liberation of our spirit or inner man, not our body. Chapter 7, to the contrary, is designed to make it clear our bodies have not yet been so redeemed (v. 25; cf. 8:23). Therefore, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul, using himself as an example, teaches us that even though we are already spiritually redeemed, our bodies (viz., the “fleshly” aspect of man) are still, in their unregenerate state, “sold under sin” (i.e., very much accustomed to and habituated by sin). However, what Paul says here cannot be taken as an excuse for the sin we continue to commit. Having been set free from sin and born again spiritually, we can exercise (and I’m speaking of ability here) effective operational control over our bodies even as they remain inclined or predisposed to sin. Furthermore, empowered as we are in all this by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:13), we can use sin-sick bodies to serve the living God (cf. Rom. 6:6, 12-13). Thus, Paul’s “I am of flesh, sold under sin” statement neither excuses sin nor consigns us to hopelessness. Instead, “it does explain why and how we, even as Christians, continue to be plagued by sin and are subject to an on-going struggle and occasional defeat” (Jack Cottrell, Romans, vol. I, p. 446).

7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. Although Paul clearly does not want to sin, he does. Thus, he is not saying he doesn’t “understand” as the NKJV translates ginōskō. In fact, he makes it clear he does know or understand what is happening (cf. 7:14). What he’s saying instead is that he does not “allow” what is happening as ginōskō is rendered in the KJV. Put another way, he does not approve, condone, nor acknowledge the legitimacy of the sinful things he sometimes finds himself doing (i.e., he is not denying he sometimes sins, for he does, only that he does not accept such behavior as being right or legitimate). In this sense, what he’s saying is, “I do not acknowledge sin as my true master; I do not accept the legitimacy of its rule over my life” (Cottrell, p. 447). For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. Key words here are “want” and “hate.” “Want” (thelō) represents the born-again disposition of the regenerate spirit or inner man. It represents the inherent desire of the new creature in Christ to obey the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (12:2), which, sadly, he sometimes finds himself not doing. On the other hand, “hate” (miseō) represents the dislike, loathing, and abhorrence the regenerate spirit has for the sinful things he sometimes finds himself doing. Such hatred is the natural outgrowth of repentance and the supernatural consequence of the new birth. So even though that which is occasionally being done is a sin, the disposition of the one doing it—in this case, Paul—is that of a regenerate heart and not that of an unregenerate sinner as some contend. Of course, the heartbreaking irony is that the very things we sometimes find ourselves doing are the very opposite of what we want to do.

It is this struggle we see played out in verses 16-20: 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

The Source Of The Struggle (7:21-25)

In this section, Paul identifies the origin of the willingness to do one thing and the doing of something else as outlined in 7:14-20 as the conflict that is taking place between our redeemed spirits and our as-yet-unregenerate bodies. He has already intimated this in 7:14 (“I am of flesh,” ESV) and 7:18 (“in my flesh”) but now he embarks upon specific detail.

7:21 I find then a law,… Here Paul is saying that when he analyzes what is going on within himself, this is what he discovered. And what is this? He says there is a “law” (nomos) working within him. As used here, there can be little doubt this word means “governing principle,” “the rule of life,” “the regulating pattern,” etc. This is also the way he uses it in 3:27 and 8:2. What, then, is this “law”? that evil is present with me, the one who wants to do good. In the NIV, this reads, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me,” which, as interpretations go, strikes a pose between normative and dynamic equivalency. In other words, as a Christian who is determined to speak kind and compassionate words of comfort and encouragement, it is sometimes not very long before I find myself speaking severe words of discouragement. And even though I am determined never again to commit a particular sin, as soon as certain circumstances rear their ugly heads, I find myself doing once again the very thing I hate. Why does this happen? The answer is found in what follows.

7:22-23  22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Here Paul cuts to the chase. In explicit terms, he contrasts the two parts of man’s dual nature. One of these is the “inward man,” the spirit or soul (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16 as well). Paul also refers to it as “my mind” (v. 23). In the regenerated sinner, this “inner man” (Eph. 3:16) has been so radically transformed that he is referred to as a “new man” and, thus, contrasted with the “old man” who had been in bondage to sin (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10). The other part of man’s dual nature is his fleshly body (see previous comments on “of flesh” in 7:14), which Paul calls “my members” in Romans 6:13b.

Another contrast being made here has to do with two kinds of “law.” One of these laws or governing principles is God’s law, which Paul describes as “the law of my mind” (v. 23b). This is yet another piece of evidence that the words being spoken here are not those of an unregenerate sinner, for so important to him is God’s law that he describes it as being the all-encompassing code that governs his renewed, regenerated or born-again mind. In contrast, he speaks of “another law,” which he further describes as “the law of sin” (23b). I believe Paul calls it “law” for the sake of symmetry as it is contrasted with the “law” of his mind. In this sense, it means a power that exerts control. What all this says is that a very real dichotomy is present in our “walk of faith.” This is because one part of who we are in our spirit-body duality is intent on following the law of God while the other is “predisposed” (as a result of its fallen, habituated, and unregenerate nature) to follow the law of sin.

Miss this, and one fails to fully appreciate the nature of the on-going battle for the mind that takes place within every Christian. Even for those very much aware of this battle, there is the tendency to see it as primarily an “out there” battle. This, too, is the result of not fully understanding what Paul is saying here. The battle is, first and foremost, an internal conflict.  Yes, Satan and his minions are still at work. As such, they are desperately at work trying to lure us, via his wiles, into sinning. But even this is focused on the internal struggle between our redeemed spirits and our corrupted-by-sin bodies. Although Satan is a defeated enemy, he still has a toehold or beachhead at the very center or essence of our being. It is just here (viz., the spirit-body struggle at the very core of our being) that some fall victim to the wiles (tricks, and devices) of the Devil. Thinking themselves to be habitual sinners who can never be what God created them in His Son to be, they throw up their hands in frustration, surrendering saving faith to the Devil’s lie. Some of us have either been there ourselves or come awfully close to being there, and It is just here that Satan is at his strongest. However, what Paul wrote here is the remedy to all such wrong-headedness. At the same time, there are those on the other side of this pathetic equation who have evidently convinced themselves they have gotten so good at this thing called Christianity that they seldom, if ever, sin. Not only are these eaten up with hubris, but they are also bald-faced liars (cf. 1 Jn. 1:10). And don’t try to convince me these folks don’t exist except in the stilted caricature of someone’s fertile imagination. The truth is, I’ve spoken with such people over the years, one as recently as several months ago. Those in this group are just as deceived by and in the clutches of Satan as are those in the first group mentioned above. I find it ironic, then, that a section of Paul’s letter to the Romans designed to be an immediate and effective remedy for all such thinking is so widely disputed among Christians.

The military metaphors Paul uses to describe the inner struggle of Christians are instructive. With a beachhead in our as yet unregenerate bodies, the law of sin wages war against the law of our minds, a law which is none other than the law of Christ. Consequently, Satan’s assault on our desire to do what is right comes not just from the outside (like those to be found in our ungodly, secularized culture), but from within our own selves. Plagued with sin-sick bodies, we sometimes—and once would be too much—find ourselves defeated by such things. This is what Paul is talking about when he says, “bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23b). In the NIV, it reads, “making me a prisoner,” which is but another military metaphor for the taking of prisoners in war. Even so, it is important to understand that Paul is not talking about a constant state of captivity or imprisonment but, instead, an occasional defeat. Although our “fleshly,” sin-habituated bodies remain an ever-present vulnerability (and will remain so until they are resurrected and glorified), our justified and regenerated spirits make it possible to effectively control our sin-sick bodies at least most of the time. But until the final victory is achieved in the resurrection, we face the danger of our souls or spirits being momentarily recaptured by sin.

7:24 It is this exact predicament that caused Paul to cry out: O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? This is not, as some suppose, the cry of an unregenerate sinner constantly caught up (captured) in sin. It is, instead, the cry of a Christian who continues to be plagued by a “body of death” that makes him susceptible to sin. Thus, this is to be seen as a reference to Paul’s yet unregenerated fleshly body.  To refer to his body as a “body of death” is first a reference to the fact that it continues to be under the curse of physical death. But it is also a reference to the body’s spiritual corruption as well. For what does it mean to be a slave to sin (7:14), or to be indwelt by sin (7:17-18), or to be used as an instrument of warfare against the soul, which puts the whole person in jeopardy of eternal death (6:13), if it’s not a state of spiritual death? So, even though the Christian’s spirit has already been made alive in Christ, his body is still so much under the sway of sin’s power that it is called a “body of death.”

Is it any wonder, then, that Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am!” Is it a cry of despair? Many think so. Consequently, they cannot bring themselves to believe this is the cry of a Christian, especially the great “I have fought the good fight” apostle Paul. I respectfully agree to differ. Yes, it is certainly a cry of frustration, anguish, and heartache, and who among us has not felt exactly like this when we’ve sinned, especially when we know we’ve continued to do so over and over again? Again, the point here is not so much how often we sin but the disturbing fact that we continue to sin, even after being spiritually born again. Therefore, Paul’s cry is not the despairing cry of one who has no hope. Instead, it is the enthusiastic cry of one who knows his hope—not just now in the present world but in the world to come as well—is rooted, as he says in the very next verse, in “Jesus Christ our Lord!”

7:25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Paul does not mean Jesus as the Mediator of his prayer. Rather, he’s referring to Jesus as the source or basis of the rescue he mentions in verse 24b. Both the current indwelling Spirit and the future resurrected body are gifts deriving from the resurrected, glorified, and exalted Christ. Thus, immediately following his previous outburst of anguish over continuing to sin and his subsequent outpouring of praise for the Messiah, Paul proceeds to summarize the struggle he has so candidly laid out in verses 14-23. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. The “I myself” here is the emphatic autos egō, and does not mean “I by myself” (i.e., apart from Christ) as some think, especially those who see this whole section as referring to the unregenerate. Instead, Paul is talking about the body-soul duality that is who he is as a person or self, for although there are two parts to his nature, he is still but one person, one ego, one self, the man, Paul. That is, the conflict taking place between his inner and outer man is a very real part of who he is. “With the mind,” which represents his spiritual nature, he serves the law of God; “with the flesh,” which represents his corrupted, sin-sick body, he far too often finds himself serving the law of sin. To translate sarx (i.e., “flesh”) in this context as “sinful nature” as does the NIV misses the point and undoubtedly reflects a decidedly Reformed inclination. Even so, it is clear from what Paul says here and what we know from experience that our as-yet-unregenerate bodies remain under sin’s evil influence and, as such, continue to be at cross-purposes with our redeemed and God-centered minds—minds that want to do God’s will in all things.

In other words, the truth of the matter is that we had, before conversion, become enslaved to sin with our whole selves—i.e., with the totality (body and soul/spirit) of who we are (6:17). In the process, we willingly offered up our bodies as slaves to sin (6:19-20). This was not God’s fault, for man was neither created nor born this way, as Calvinists and others think, nor was it the fault of God’s most excellent law. On the contrary, we became this way by choice when confronted with God’s law and the demands it placed upon us. Instead of obeying His law, we rebelled against it and His legitimate right to rule over us. But, that was then. This is now. In our inward man (i.e., our spirits), we have now willingly switched our allegiance to the law of sin to serve the law of God (or Christ). As a result, we are fully committed to serving the law of Christ not just with our spirits but with our bodies as well (6:19). But it is just here that the battle continues to rage, for although the inner man has the responsibility to bring the outer man in check, the body continues to resist, clinging, instead, to “the law of sin and death” (8:2). In the meantime, and with the assurance of God’s continuing (maybe “continuous” is a better word) grace, we, knowing we have not yet attained perfection, press on so we may lay hold on that for which Jesus Christ has laid hold on us (cf. Php. 3:12).

There’s A Great Day Coming

Indeed, there’s a great day coming. It’s a day in which our corrupted bodies of death will be regenerated and fully redeemed, being raised incorruptible and, thus, changed or transformed from the lowly humiliated bodies they have become (cf. Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:52; Php. 3:21, KJV). So, once again, we see that Paul’s “who will save me from the body of this death?” outcry was not a question to which he did not know the answer. Instead, it was his affirmation that his hope of God’s grace was not just in this world but in the world to come—a world where he believed his fully sanctified and redeemed resurrected body would be fully suited to reside in “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (1 Pet 3:13).


I believe I have presented sufficient evidence that chapter 7 is, in point of fact, Paul’s vocalization of his continuing struggle with sin—a struggle common to every Christian. As such, it was strategically placed exactly where he and the Holy Spirit wanted it to qualify what he wrote in chapter 6 as well as amplify what he taught in chapter 8. Indeed, the symmetry of chapters 6, 7, and 8 is no less than perfect and precisely what we’ve come to expect from God’s word.