The Divided Soul…Romans 7

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (Romans 7:16-20)

Romans seven, which is a discussion of the place of  Law of God, has a definite logical progression of thought . Paul ,or Saul as he was known in his earlier life, set out as a Pharisee, zealous for the Law of God, believing in it as the way to  Life, Salvation and sanctification.

But as the “Commandment came to Him”, that is Paul’s term for the deeper and more spiritual realization of the demands and depth of the Law of God, Saul died. Death in this sense is the crushing conviction of his own sinfulness, despair, and bitter sense of distance from God. This is what we  christians call, conviction of sin.

For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.(Romans 7:9)

In this state, the more one doubles his efforts to justify one’s self by the Law of God, the deeper into sin he goes, because at this point the law actually aggravates the sin that is inside of the person.

Its not that there is anything wrong with the Law, the problem is the deviousness of indwelling sin. it can even use the Holy Law of God against us. This  is because one of the purposes of the Law is to give greater definition to our sin, to make it stand out in stark relief against the backdrop of the Holy Law of God.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.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.(Romans 7:11-13)

It was particularly the revelation that came to Saul of the tenth commandment Thou shalt not covet- That showed Saul that he really was a carnal man, not a spiritual one, and a man in bondage to sin, not a free Pharisee, as he had once imagined himself to be. For the tenth commandment is spiritual, and by it Saul saw in a profound way that the Law itself is spiritual, and he carnal.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.(Romans 7:14)

As the Spirit did his holy, painful work through the Law, a  division becomes evident in Saul’s soul, for there was revealed to him his sinful tendencies, but also within him a deeper sympathy with the Law of God, wanting to fulfill it, and  that was opposed to sin.This is the story of all who have been awakened by the Spirit.

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.Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.(Romans 7:15-17)

Two realities emerge out of this struggle, that apply to all true christians,

* There is a deep part of me that consents to the goodness of the Law of God. There would be no such struggle if this were not true,  the struggle of Romans 7 is one of the signs of salvation, The sign that indeed in spite of many failures and false starts, the law is written on the heart. Eternal life is beautiful to receive, but it creates new problems because it is the very Life which condemns and opposes sin!

* There is a sense that even as a christian, Sin still dwells in me , that is the part of me that is not yet regenerate.. Sin is not something we fell into at some point in our life, it was there from the beginning, making its home within us. As we learned in Romans 5 it is an inherited trait.

Furthermore he tells us that the sin within is powerful, for three times he makes the statement, “it is no longer I, but sin that dwells within me”.He agrees with the Law, but that agreement is not is as strong as the principle of sin working in him.

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.(Romans 7:16-17)

Saul having seen the depth of the Law of God and realising how short he has fallen from it, really agrees with the law and wants to do good. But he realizes that instead there is a principle working within himself that  does the opposite. the conclusion? Something more than his will is at work within him.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.(Romans 7:19-20)

Now Paul is not here excusing sin ,rejecting personal accountability for sin in his life by this teaching. He is merely making a true personal observation in the light of the Revelation of God.And that definitey Law is not the final answer to indwelling sin.

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6 Responses to The Divided Soul…Romans 7

  1. Margaret Webb says:

    I am trying to envisage sin as an entity, is this what you are saying?

  2. Margaret Webb says:

    When I have read these verses in the past, I have thought of it as the weakness from which we all suffer and yet God strength is made perfect in our weakness. Or, where sin abounds grace abounds even more……guess that all sounds confusing but I never thought of sin as a ‘substance’-within or without-‘ (ie: an object), but more as a verb-something we do..??
    I am awaiting your cds of the Sermon on the Mount-my husband and I listened, almost straight through, to the 11 cds on the book of Zechariah. So much excellent teaching, thank you.
    I just looked at your page called ‘about us’ and I loved it so I have printed it out to hand out to those who are dying within our feel good churches. Some will receive it and, as you know, most will not.

    • billrandles says:

      Thanks Margaret I really appreciate your input. I think this chapter really broadens the definition of sin- in fact that is one of the points of the chapter- for example sin is much more than something we do, because the tenth commandment isn’t a deed, it deals with desire and ambition. Sin is indeed wrong deeds, breaking laws, but it is a state of being as well, Prverbs tells us that even the plowing of the wicked is sin, Sin is the state of estrangment from God. I really don’t want to give the impression though, that sin is a substance, because it isn’t. Paul is teaching us though that sin “dwells” in our body, in that it sets up camp of operations in our physical body, to “war against us”. It is admittedly such a mystery and I have labored to distill the teaching of Romans 7 in a clear and recievable way, but it is really a hard task. I hope this helps, stay in touch-Pas Bill

  3. Margaret Webb says:

    thank you for clarifying. I understand that it is spiritual ‘substance’ (perhaps I should stay away from that particular word, substance), a condition (?) of the heart?
    I guess that as long as we remain in this flesh it is very hard to get away from SELF which in itself almost seems like a ‘substance’. Once it was a normal part of us and now it is an intrusive and unwelcome stranger.
    I have a question that was put to me by a very new Christian, perhaps you can help me to answer her. She understands now about Constantine/Christmas pagan symbols and dates,et al;as best I could outline it for her. She asked, “Why then do the churches celebrate Christmas on 12/25, also Easter?” Since I have been forwarding your blogs to her and others, she said; “ask Bill Randles”. Also why do the churches celebrate anything at all around the holiday of halloween? I know that they may be trying to take the situation, when many ‘holiday Christians’ come and may hear the message as when Paul spoke to the Greeks about the ‘unknown god’.
    Sorry to be so full of questions I hope that I don’t lean on you for answers too much.
    I am going to be 75 in January and I still need to learn.
    May God bless you for using the gifts that He has given to you
    Margaret Webb

  4. crossroman says:

    Sorry Bill but I think you have got the Romans 7 thing wrong, and also, worrying about wrong dates etc for festivals just distraction and a diversion

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