Sin Dwelling In You

Even though Christians should consider themselves to be alive in Christ and dead to sin (Romans 6:11), Paul reveals the on-going struggle that we have in overcoming the power of sin in Rom. 7:15f. The personal pronoun and verb, “I am,” taken together in verse fourteen imply that Paul is talking about his present Christian experience. Stating that he agrees with the law of God (vs. 16), and delights in God’s law in his inner being (vs. 22) reveal his status as a true believer. Every disposition of Paul’s heart (mind, will and emotion) is directed toward God in Rom. 7:15-25. The passage illustrates that human effort to fulfill the Law is powerless to overcome the sin that dwells within us. Taking into account the larger context, the passage also illustrates what it would be like if we allowed sin to reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:12).

Paul knows what is right, wants to do what is right, but for some reason he cannot (vss. 15-16). Paul isn’t the only player in this battle, however. There is sin living in him (vs. 17). He said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]” (vs. 18). Paul is not saying he is no good. He is saying “nothing good lives in” me. That is like having a sliver in my finger. It is a “no good” thing in me, but it is not me. Paul carefully separates himself from the sin, even though it is his responsibility to keep sin from reigning in his mortal body (Romans 6:12). Evil is there with him (vs. 21), but he does not consider himself evil.

Even though Paul feels wretched (miserable, not sinful), he inwardly delights in God’s law. The true believer may feel defeated and discouraged, because they are not seeing the victory, but they know what is right in the inner person. The problem is, the law of sin is at work in their physical body and it is waging war against the law of their mind. The battle is in the mind. The present day struggle with eating disorders is an illustration of this mental battle. Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) have little to do with food. The problem is one of deception. Those struggling with eating disorders are obsessed with their bodies and appearance. Many will secretly cut themselves, defecate and purge. They sense there is evil present in them, but they are deceived as to what it is. Defecating, purging or cutting will not eliminate the evil that is present in them. To win the battle for their minds, they need to renounce the lie that cutting, defecating, and purging is a means of cleansing themselves, and announce that Christ is the only means by which we can be cleansed.

If we lose the battle for our minds and use our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness, who will rescue us from our bodies of death? Jesus will! He came to set the captives free and bind up the broken heart. Renouncing the sinful uses of our bodies and submitting them to God as living sacrifices sets us up for the transformation that comes from renewing of our minds.

Dr. Neil

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