Roaming Through Romans (Romans 7-8:17)
As we continue reading through Romans we find more truths and discover more treasures. In the seventh chapter of Romans Paul talks about the difference between living under the law and living under grace. Gods’ law is good because it points out our sin. But just knowing that we are sinning isn’t enough since we don’t have the power in our own strength to stop sinning. Without help we can never reach Gods’ standard of perfection. So God’s law by itself isn’t enough as it convicts us but can’t save us. Some people count on their good deeds to save them. They try to follow the law and they believe that their own best efforts should be good enough. But Romans 7:14 tells us: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
Paul talks about the frustrations of living with his old fleshly nature. When the word “flesh” is used in Scripture it means the human personality that is controlled by sin and selfishness. Our human nature, the nature we were born with just isn’t good enough. Our “fleshly” nature which is carnal (not spiritual) can never learn to obey Gods’ law which is spiritual. We need help. We need a new spiritual nature. And that is exactly what God gives us when we trust Him.
So when we trust Christ as our Savior we are “born again” and given a new spiritual nature. Paul describes his two natures, his new nature in Christ and his old fleshly nature, and the conflict this causes him. All Christians share this same conflict since we now have two natures. Even though Scripture tells us that we have been given a new nature in Christ, we are still stuck with our old sinful nature until we die.
Paul in trying to describe the futility of trying to be good enough on his own describes himself and his personal struggles with sin. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do: but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. ---For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 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. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:19,22-25.
In verse 24 Paul cries out asking for deliverance from “this body of death” The figure is of a despairing person chained to a dead body. In verse 25 Paul’s despair gives way to victory. Throughout life our struggle like Paul’s between the new nature and the old one will remain. But Christ can free us from the bondage of our old nature if we live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul shouts out our victory and his in the next verses, Romans 8:1 and 2. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
This law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus refers to the work that the Holy Spirit carries out in our lives, breaking the dominion of the old law of sin. Romans 7:4 says: “---You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ,---“ We are instructed to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to Christ. What we couldn’t do by ourselves – stop being slaves to sin – Christ can do for us. When we believe, we are given a new life in Christ that we didn’t have before. The believer has power in Christ, and the Holy Spirit has been given to believers to help us be victorious over sin. Breaking sin’s power over our lives is something we could have never done on our own. But now we have a Helper, a Guide.
Paul continues by encouraging us to live according to the Spirit (our new nature in Christ) and put to death the things of the flesh (our old sinful nature). To live in the Spirit is life and peace, he promises. Romans 8:6. He reminds us that if we follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit we can be free of the bondage of fear and he tells us that the Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirits that we are children of God. Romans 8:16.
God’s people, who lived during the age of the law when the Old Testament was written, did not all receive the Holy Spirit personally in their lives. The Holy Spirit was given to some prophets and special leaders, but not to every Jew. Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on all believers, had not happened back then. The age of grace had not dawned and Christ had not yet given Himself as a sacrifice for sin. We believers today have so much more. We live in the New Testament age of grace, after Pentecost, where each believer has been promised the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives to guide them. Christ has fulfilled the law and we no longer live in fear under it. We now follow the Holy Spirit and live under grace.
Paul’s main message here in these passages in Romans is to remind us to follow the Holy Spirit and to describe the believer’s two natures. He calls us to live our lives in the Spirit (our new nature) and not in the flesh (our old sinful nature). The fight is on Oh Christian soldier! Two natures within us battle for supremacy in our lives and it is up to us to choose between them. We can follow our old nature and live as backslidden Christians, bringing sorrow and reproach on our Lord and Savior. Or we can live a fruitful life following the Spirit and bringing joy and honor to Christ.
It’s a process, learning to live our new life in Christ and leaving behind the old. Sometimes we will fail in our Christian walk but we must get up and try again, remembering that we always have the Holy Spirit with us to help. It takes time to mature in Christ, to grow in grace. And some believers get stuck along the way and never grow up. Let’s not be one of them. Many witnesses are watching as we run the race. So let’s give it all we’ve got.