By Doug Bell
24 ”O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There has been and is still great debate of when Paul is describing his past life. Was it before he was a Christian, or after he became saved? There seems to be some evidence for both views!
For the view that he is describing himself as an unsaved person, we look at the internal words of evidence in chapter 7. Look at how he speaks of himself In vs.13 “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” A true Christian doesn’t need to be convinced by the law that he is sinful, that‘s the job of the Holy Spirit! In fact, to be saved a person must first realize just how “Spiritually Bankrupt” and sinful he is in order to be saved ( cf. Matthew 5:3). So, then he may repent and believe in the Gospel!
Vs. 14 ”For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. The Bible NEVER says there is a sub-group of Christians who are called ‘carnal’. Even in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 when Paul tells them they are carnal, he isn’t giving them that title. Instead, he is insulting them telling them they are acting like Unsaved people! They should know better! And more importantly, Paul tells us in the next chapter of Romans 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
And especially the last part of vs. 14, I am “sold under sin.” This doesn’t describe a Christian. Last week we saw that Paul told us that positionally 6:18 ”And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness… 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” These verses then sound like they are describing a person who is Lost!
But, then there are Other verses here that favor a reading that Paul is describing a Christian. Vs. 15 ”For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 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.”
You May ask, ‘How do these verses then describe a saved man?’ Because, an un-
saved man doesn’t worry about pleasing God. He lives for himself. And there is no struggle with sin because “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually“ (Genesis 6:5), and “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21). But the Christian is a person who is battling evil in himself, the World, and the devil; his whole life! (the whole of the New Testament).
There is a third view (that I give only for completion). It is the view of D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on Romans 7. It was his belief that Paul could have been talking about a person in that period between being lost and saved. (So, think Paul during the three days after his meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus).
We must all come to a decision what type of person Paul was referring to. But, after we make that verdict, we must remember that Jesus is the answer! To the unsaved I say, the answer to your lostness 25 “I “thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And to the Christian who is struggling with sin in his life 25 ”I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And to you the one who is reading this; Whatever your problem, Jesus is the answer!
”I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”