The Evil in Me: Two Natures

Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Flesh

Romans 7:14–15 NASB95
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

What Paul has written in Rom. 6:12–14; 8:10–13; and other texts (Phil. 3:12–16) indicates that believers still battle with sin. His two letters to the Corinthians alone should convince us that believers still sin this side of redemption. Nonetheless, after everything is considered, the emphasis in the Christian life is on substantial, significant, and observable victory over sin.

Inability to keep the law cannot be assigned to the unspirituality of the law, since the law expresses God’s holy and good will. Paul thereby defends the view that the law is spiritual, that is, its origin is from the Holy Spirit. The law is transgressed because human beings are fleshly and have no inherent capacity for righteousness.

1 Corinthians 3:1 NASB95
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.
The word pneumatikos appears 26x in the NT and it always means spiritual, having to do with the divine spirit or filled with the divine spirit.
I have been sold under sin. Perfect passive participle “having been sold.” Completed past act but the use of the perfect is to increase the focus on this aspect of Paul’s argument.

The words οὐ γινώσκω (ou ginōskō, I do not know, v. 15) do not mean that the “I” is unconscious of or unaware of one’s actions. Nor does it merely signify doing what one disapproves of or hates (against C. Barrett 1991: 138; Murray 1959: 261; Cranfield 1975: 358–59). What it means is that one cannot fully comprehend the depth of sin in oneself (cf. Origen in Bray 1998: 191; Lambrecht 1992: 52; Fitzmyer 1993c: 474). The evil in our hearts is a mystery to ourselves. In other words, the “I” doesn’t do what it wishes7 but practices what it hates. Still, the “I” ends up at the end of the day doing what it wants to do; in that sense it does evil “intentionally and voluntarily” (Van Den Beld 1985: 500).

The Sin in Me

Romans 7:16–17 NASB95
But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Paul doesn’t deny responsibility but confesses impotence (cf. Seifrid 1992: 239). We need to recognize that Paul speaks metaphorically, and the language used shouldn’t be pressed to release the “I” of moral accountability (Thielman forthc.).

The Explanation

Romans 7:18–20 NASB95
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Paul is pointing out that there is nothing in the law and nothing in the flesh to provide the necessary help for him to overcome sin. He admits that the law is good and at the same time that the flesh is sinful. Even though he might have wanted to behave morally, he could not.
You can also take Paul’s point to be that Christians still struggle with their sinful nature. We still sin even though we despise sin.

A Principle is at Work in Me

Romans 7:21–25 NASB95
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Is Paul referring to the Mosaic Law or to the Law of God or to just a principle?
He joyfully concurs with the law of God in the inner man.
But he sees a different law in the members of his body.
Ephesians 3:16 NASB95
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
Galatians 5:17 NASB95
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
1 Peter 2:11 NASB95
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Paul sees a different law in his members warring against the law in his mind.
This law makes Paul a prisoner of the law of in that is in his members.
Romans 6:6 NASB95
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
1 John 3:8 NASB95
the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
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