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Romans 7:14-25

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SLIDE 3
Romans 7:13–14 ESV
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
Romans 7:13-
Romans 7:14 ESV
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
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SLIDE 4
Romans 7:15–17 ESV
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
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SLIDE 5
Romans 7:18–21 ESV
18 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. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
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SLIDE 6
Romans 7:22–25 ESV
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 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. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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.
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I recently listened to a podcast from a theologian named Dr. Michael Heiser. He was giving his ten rules of Bible Interpretation.
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Rule # 7 was this:
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SLIDE 7
If a passage is weird, it’s important.
-Dr. Michael Heiser
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For granted, there was a little bit more to his rule than this… but this gets the point across.
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In rule # 9 he said:
SLIDE 8
If, after doing the work to properly interpret the text, the conclusion bothers you, let it.
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That rule goes on to say… “If you aren’t bothered, you probably aren’t reading it closely. If it doesn’t leave you with questions requiring you to seek balance in the whole of scripture, you are missing something. “
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Today, we continue on in a passage that I have always considered a little weird. It’s a passage that bothers me. Based on the many different translations that are out there… it’s obviously a passage that bothers a lot of people.
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So… today’s passage is important.... and today’s passage leaves us asking questions.
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Hopefully, we can answer some of those questions today. Hopefully, some of these answers will be right… but I’m not making any promises.
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When discussing the inward struggle that all have… between the desire of our hearts to obey God, and the drive of our flesh to deny God… we often go to this passage… not for clarity, or explanation, or doctrinal understanding…
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But we come here for Apostolic sympathy. We read this, and we breath a sigh of relief, knowing that the spiritual giant, Paul the Apostle, had the same struggle that we have.
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We are not alone in our wretchedness. We find comfort in knowing, that this great saint of God, looked into his own heart and considered himself (in )... the foremost of all sinners.
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Those of us who truly experience the indwelling of the Spirit then know… that this isn’t a pass to keep on sinning. This isn’t a permission slip to just surrender to the flesh. THIS IS… instead: a decree of hope.
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My struggle does not mean, that I am an outcast. My struggle does not mean, that I am different than all these other church people. My struggle does not mean that I am unworthy to be in fellowship…
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My struggle actually means… that I am indeed, a believer, indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. The conflict that Paul experienced, is the conflict of that we all deal with, as we struggle with this new, dual identity.
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We’ve already talked at length about this dual identity. This flesh, is accounted by faith, as being dead. We are, in Christ, alive spiritually. This spiritually resurrected being that we are, is the real us. It is the eternal us. It is the part of us that knows and interacts with God.
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It becomes more clear in the next chapter.
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tells us that Jesus condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according the Spirit.
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We have flesh, but we don’t walk according to it. We don’t set our minds on the things of the flesh. By doing so, we become hostile to God… if we live according to this flesh… we cannot please God.
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In , we already learned, that we account this flesh as being dead… as being on that cross with Jesus, and dying with Jesus. By faith, we live the life that is eternal.. that is, our spiritual life, and by faith, we reckon the flesh for what it is eternally… and that is: dead.
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Last week we looked at earlier passages in chapter seven, telling us that our flesh will always be aroused by the law… therefore, to be released from the law, we had to die in the flesh which held us captive… and serve in the new way of the Spirit.
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We are alive spiritually. This is our true, eternal identity. We are dead to the flesh, though it is alive. The flesh is not our true identity.... it is our temporary, weak, and broken identity.
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This is weird stuff… therefore… it’s important.
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SLIDE 9
Romans 7:14 ESV
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
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We’ve been speaking extensively about the interaction of the law and the flesh. The Law, set forth by God, and given to Israel through Moses… call’s believers to righteous and perfect standard.
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Because we, like those who have gone before us, only have our broken flesh as a resource for obedience, we are left incapable of fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law.
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In fact, the commands of the law, actually stir up rebellion in us, making the challenge to be obedient in the flesh, even more difficult.
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Therefore… the law calls us to something, that we cannot attain.
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tells us, that the Law shows us sin, but cannot save us.
tells us that he law makes us more guilty than we were before, because it shows us the boundary which we deliberately cross.
tells us that the Law stirs up sin more.
tells us, that the best thing that can happen to us, is to be released from the law.
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The law cannot save. The law cannot make one righteous. The Law leaves us broken, looking beyond the ability of our own flesh for a hope that it cannot fulfill. The law proves to us, that we can’t save ourselves no matter how righteous the written code is. We can only look to another, to save us.
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In all this, we confirm, that Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, and extends grace, forgiveness, and salvation to those who can’t get these things in and through the efforts of their own flesh.
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So now, we come to vs. 14, and we learn… that the law is spiritual, but I am flesh.
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First off… let us not forget verse 12. We need to hold onto this truth, because it’s an important element to this lesson.
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SLIDE 10
Romans 7:12 ESV
12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
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Verse 13 reverences it as a ‘good thing’.
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So now… when we look at vs. 14… we understand this: -The spiritual law, which is a good thing, has only partially invaded the converted person. There is still another identity within me… the fleshly part of me, where in lies the lust of the flesh, the eyes and the pride of life…
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The good thing cannot fully invade the flesh… not until it too, like Jesus, is resurrected, perfected and glorified.
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Romans 7:15
Romans 7:15 ESV
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
SLIDE 11
Romans 7:15–16 ESV
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
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Here, Paul switches over to the present tense. He’s talking about himself, though some interpreters struggle with the things he says… so they suggest that maybe he’s speaking dramatically on behalf of the unconverted person…
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Or maybe he’s speaking dramatically of his own testimony when we was still living under the law, before the road to Damascus experience.
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There are many who teach that we can and should become sinless in deed. This is referred to by a few names… - ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION - or - SINLESS PERFECTION - or - CHRISTIAN PERFECTIONISM.
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The idea being… that we can reach a state, in our deeds, where we become even more sanctified, because we have achieved sinlessness. Somehow, through our own works, we improve upon the sanctification that Jesus gave us freely through grace.
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This low view of sin doesn’t regard the broken flesh
Unless I try to take a few isolated passages out of context, I can’t support this doctrine.
From my perspective, the whole of scripture doesn’t support this doctrine: However, as I deny the doctrine....
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...I do not in any way deny that fact that we are called to crucify the flesh and the desires there in… we should seek to live lives of obedience… And if we confess that we are unable to be perfect, it is not a pass, nor a permission to sin freely. But, as Paul has stated in vs. 14… our flesh has yet to be fully invaded by the spiritual law.
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I’ve never met a sinless person. I’ve met a few who claim to have achieved it, and they have come off as being haughty, prideful, and sometimes angry in their self righteousness… all things, that I would call sin… but I’m not judging.
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A person who holds to this doctrine… can’t bide by Paul’s words in this passage. So, instead of submitting to the context of the scriptures, they have to twist the scriptures, so that the scriptures might submit to their doctrine.
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Grammatically and contextually, the only way to see this, is that Paul, the Christian, is sharing his experience. - In addition to the textual support… when I read this, and most likely, when you read this… we all can probably say, “I relate to this struggle.” - My life, my Christian experience bears testimony to this very struggle.
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Paul says… “I do not understand my own actions.” - This is his honest confession, in the moment, as he struggles… as he feels the conflict… that he cannot make head or tail of the bundle of moral contradictions that are within him.
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Theologically… doctrinally, Paul does understand what’s going on. He can look in from the outside and explain the conflict. In fact, he’s been doing just that in the verses leading up to this..
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But knowing information, and then, living it out… well, those are often two different things… even for an Apostle.
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He goes on: “For i do not do what i want, but i do the very thing i hate.”
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Paul makes a confession, that we are prone to nod our heads to. We too feel this… our heart desire, and our actions… they just so often, don’t line up.
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In vs. 16, Paul reveals that the Law is still good. How? Well, if he does what he believes is wrong, he is confessing, that he recognizes what is right, and what is wrong. He agrees with vs. 12… the law is good… the problem is not a bad law… but a sinful me.
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Here’s what Paul is saying: “Even if I fall, I’m not going to make excuses. I’m not going to shift blame. I’m not going to change the moral compass that guides my life. I’m not going to ease my conscience, by re-defining right and wrong.” The law is still good.
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For Paul, the struggle… is validation that he is a spiritual being. As a spiritual being, he is eternal. As a spiritual being, he is alive in Christ, in fellowship with God, receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit, and redeemed unto a place of holiness.
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The struggle is a reminder of all these things.
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But how often do people experience the struggle… and fabricate for themselves… the opposite conclusion
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Matthew 24:10 ESV
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
Jesus told His disciples.. that just such and opposite conclusion will be a mark of the last days… a time period that we are in the thick of..
SLIDE 12
Matthew 24:10–12 ESV
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
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Paul gave a similar warning to Timothy.
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SLIDE 13
2 Timothy 4:3–4 ESV
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Tim 4.
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Some experience the conflict that Paul is explaining in … and they don’t affirm a spiritual truth… they instead, go after a lie..
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This Christianity thing is hard. Temptation is hard.. I feel like an outcast amongst my peers. I’m missing out on so many cool things the world has to offer. My broken flesh wants to live a different way, and do different things… - And so, they give in.
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Some deny their faith. Some change their idea of faith. Some twist and pervert their doctrine. Some just shut it all out. Some create for themselves, new concepts of right and wrong.
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Paul shows us a different path. Not one of surrender to the flesh.. but as we’ll see in vs 25 and moving into chapter 8… it’s a path that leads to life and freedom in the Spirit.
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SLIDE 14
Romans 7:17–21 ESV
17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 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. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
Rom 7.
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Paul acknowledges the dual identity here. One is dead, and one is alive. The dead one… is not his true self. It is broken. It is fallen. It is temporary.
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It used to be all of him… but now, it’s just part of him… and he is not claiming it as his own. There is nothing good dwelling in that flesh… just sin.
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When Paul says, “It’s not me… it’s sin dwelling in me.” - He’s not pawning off responsibility. That concept doesn’t exist in scripture… there’s no support for that idea. He’s just acknowledging a spiritual truth. God gave him life eternal. That is his true self. The flesh, is reckoned dead. The flesh is not his true self.
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Here’s where Paul takes responsibility… in the place where his true self is wanting to go God’s way, while still struggling against the indwelling sin. God’s law has invaded him, in part… but the battle rages on.
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This enemy… this flesh… it is insidious. It is persistent. It is fully aware. For, when I present the option to choose the right thing… it flares up. It pops up out of nowhere. It comes to fight, and sometimes… it wins.
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Paul explained this principle in the earlier verses… how sin was aroused by the law… of how sin seized an opportunity through the law… Sin is like a sleeping bear… and the law is the pointed stick you are jabbing that bear with…
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It is such a consistent thing… that Paul calls it a law in vs. 21. You can count on it… if you do the right thing… evil lies close at hand.
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SLIDE 15
Romans 7:22–23 ESV
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 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.
ROMANS
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Paul declares: “I struggle between two laws. God’s law has been written on my heart, so that at the very deepest level of my being, I really do delight in it…
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…But the law of sin is still at work and there is a war being waged within me. I feel like a prisoner who has been set free and has crossed into friendly territory, but the enemy troops keep coming over the border and dragging me back to the prison. …
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SLIDE 16
Romans 7:24–25 ESV
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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.
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Here is the desperation that the struggle leads to… and victory that the one who cries out experiences…
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The desperate conclusion is this: “I am a wretched man. I can’t deliver myself from this body of death. I need someone else do save me. Who will save me?”
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The prideful person will declare… that they will save themselves.
The person who doesn’t want to give up their willing participation in sin will declare… that they don’t need to be saved.
The religious person will declare… my devotion to do and practice will save me.
The legalistic person will declare… my adherence to the rules and regulations will save me.
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But, the person who sees the flesh for what it is… a corpse indwelt by sin… an enemy at odds with the true spiritual me… - That person will be led, by their true confession of helplessness… to the only one who can help.
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Thanks be to God… through Jesus Christ our Lord!!!
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Jesus delivers us. He delivered us at our point of conversion…and He continues to deliver us… day in and day out… from the demise that our death tries to drag us into.
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My flesh serves the law of sin.
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Here’s how I combat that… My spirit.. my true me.. in what I know in my mind… I serve the good thing… the truth… the law.
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This despairing struggle is a build up… We are in a battle… it’s hard… it’s constant… death is screaming loudly in our ear.... but as we will see next week… in Jesus Christ… death has no authority. Death cannot condemn us… We have been set free from the law of sin and death.
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Read ahead. Words of hope follow. I can’t wait to dig into chapter 8 next week.
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