For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.(Romans 7:14-15)
The seventh chapter of Romans was not written to relate Paul’s inward struggle with sin. The chapter is famous for this passage but often the overall point of the teaching is missed. Romans 7 is written to show that the right and true as it is, the Law cannot possibly be a means of either salvation, or sanctification.
The inadequacy of that use of the Law is exposed in the opening verse of this passage, “We know that the Law is Spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin“.When did Saul, the proud Pharisee come to this shattering conclusion ?
Only after the deeper revelation of the Law came to him, taking him from a shallow and smug satisfaction that as a Pharisee, according to the letter he was blameless, even better than other Pharisees, unto a shattered, deep sinner, realizing the spirituality of the law,under conviction.
It was the meditation upon the Tenth Commandment that did it, coveting is a spiritual conviction, all inward, not an action but a state of the heart. The Law is Spiritual. Jesus taught this in the Sermon on the Mount, that it isn’t enough to not commit adultery, the indulgence of lust is adultery according to the Law of God! He taught the spirituality of the Law.
When the Law is revealed to us this way, by the Holy Ghost, we have to then come to the other conclusion, that “I am Carnal,sold under sin”. Carnal, means “in Adam” ,unregenerate, in the flesh, not the spirit. The Law of God, rightly seen, exposes our original sin in a powerful way.
The Law reveals how deeply sinful we are, it changes our minds about ourselves. I didn’t know how sinful, and flesh ruled I was until the Law of God came to me this way.
I see by the deeper revelation of the Law, that it is true and that I should live by that law, and that it is just and true. But seeing it doesn’t empower one ‘carnal and sold under sin’ to be able to keep it. Under the law and In Adam, I know what I should do but do otherwise, and I know what I shouldn’t do but I do the same.
This is the truest use of the Law, a revelation of the state of our hearts. it is painful insight into ourselves. The rest of this chapter is a look at the way such a man, Carnal,(unregenerate) and sold under sin, yet conscious of the demands of the Law and trying to keep it, lives in conflict with himself.
*That which I do I allow not, the word ‘allow’ here means Know. In other words, ‘I don’t know why I do what I do’
* For what I would, that I do not,what I hate, that do I.-This is a description of the inner conflict of one who really “sees” the Law in its true spirituality. He sees the inadequacy of mere externalism, and “letter only observance”. He even wants to obey the Law and find life thereby, but has to admit that he can’t keep it.
*If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good- This person is obviously under the influence of the Spirit, because he no longer hates the law,as unregenerate people do, but he now hates sin. Those who fear not God, have no idea of this kind of frustration and struggle, the law is doing it’s work, “Converting the Soul”.(Psalm 19).
Who is this man? Is he Born Again? Or is he unregenerate? Does this describe the struggles of a man in sin, or of the Christian? I believe that this is a description of one under conviction of the Spirit,who has been awakened by the Law of God, to the true nature of his own sinfulness, and as a response seeks to subject himself to the law of God. He wants to obey it, but finds that he simply can’t. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said”The law can’t help you keep the Law”.