That Which I Do I Allow Not

That Which I Do I Allow Not

That Which I do I Allow Not

Pr Edi Giudetti


To the Christian, Romans 7 is a passage of liberation and joy that is so desperately needed.  

That which I do I allow not

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law thatit isgood. 

Romans 7:14-16

Few passages there are that cause as much consternation as this found in Romans 7. We read the passage and we are a little bewildered at its meaning, especially the first time we read it. Yet at the same time there is an incredible simplicityto it and to what Paul is wanting us to understand.

He begins with a summary line of all that he has spoken about in Chapter 6 and the first part of chapter seven, For we know that the law is spiritual.

We have a spiritual Law that stems directly from the lips of a Spiritual creator. The Bible teaches that “God isa Spirit: and they that worship him must worshiphimin spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Therefore, it is no surprise for us to learn that the Law, that which governs all of creation, is also spiritual.

We might wonder how it is that something that has no form or shape, something that has no physical characteristics at all, can govern the entire physical universe. And yet we don’t seem to have a problem recognizing that words govern our actions.

When I was a small boy, about seven years old, I remember my mother wanting to go out and do something with my little sister, leaving me at home alone. She gave me strict instructions that I was not allowed to go across the street and play with my friend. It was a local residential street with little traffic, yet her words were given to me in order to govern my physical actions.

The words themselves had no physical characteristics, and yet they were spoken in order to limit or restrain my physical behavior.

Sad to say that when she pulled back into the driveway, she saw me across the road. I ran back inside. 

If there was ever a time to learn that non-physical things can have a physical effect, that was the time!

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

We have looked at the Law already and understood that it cannot save a man, it has no power to redeem, no power to regenerate, no power to effect any reconciliation between the Lawgiver and the subject under the law, it has power only to condemn.

Paul demonstrates the distinction between him and the law itself in its simplest form, the law is spiritual: but I am carnal sold under sin.

Note carefully that Paul is speaking here in the first person singular. This is not referring to ‘someone else’ or ‘another type of individual’ as some would assert, Paul is referring to himself and he does so in the present tense…to the trouble of some theologians.

We have no idea what changed when mankind fell! We don’t really know what changes specifically took place in the nature of Adam. 

  • Was he physical? Yes.
  • Did he have a flesh nature? He did after he fell.
  • Was he not naked prior to the fall? Yes, but seemingly ignorant to it, enough so that the realization of his nakedness revealed to God his disobedience.

Who told thee that thouwastnaked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Gen 3:11)

I say that only for us to accept a degree of humility in our understanding.

WE DO KNOW there was a dramatic change in the nature of man where Adam had essentially, and perhaps ignorantly, bargained a price with the serpent to sell all mankind under sin, and a flesh nature would be inherited by all.

but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

There are many philosophers who make the claim that all people do things in direct accord with their will. In fact, they would go further to state that there are no persons who do things contrary to what it is they will to do. Everything they do, they do because they have a will to do it.

One of the greatest cries for freedom by those who refer to themselves as ‘Libertarians’ is the cry to be free to do all that they wish to do. They are upset to be told they are restricted by the Law to do only those things that are limited by the Law. 

It seems that the philosophy fits the carnal mind, but something seems very different for the true Christian. (Please note, when I refer to Christian I only speak of those born again, not those who call themselves ‘Christian’.)

Paul says firstly; For that which I do I allow not:

‘I do things which I do not give permission for myself to do’. ‘I do that which is impermissible to me to do’.

Paul sounds strange and it seems frustratingly confusing because we all see the logic in our doing only the things we will to do. We see no logic at all that there are some who might do something contrary to what they want to do.

But Paul here makes plain, For that which I do I allow not. He gives no permission, no acceptance, no authorization in his mind, to do the things that he does. Yet he does them.

for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

You know why you once thought this passage to be so confusing and it was not because the words themselves did not make sense; it was because what Paul was saying seemed so contrary to the natural course of things.

Not only does Paul not allow the things that he does, but he goes on to say that those things he wills to do, he does not do, but the things that he hates to do, are those things he actually does. 

Then he gives reasoning to his words and deeds;

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 

If I do the things that I do not have a will to do, I recognize innately that the spiritual law that is in me is good.

Now Paul does not just know the law is good with head knowledge, he recognizes in the deepest recesses of his spirit and experience that it is good and that what he does is not good.

You are not mistaken in how you are reading this passage. Paul here relates to the common experience of all those who are born again and every born-again believer that is listening to this message or, better still, reading the plainness of the writing of Paul in Romans 7, perfectly identify with this experience. Its an experience that is known only to those who have the spirit dwelling within them.

Beloved, no matter how a mother tries to explain to her daughter what it feels like to be pregnant, no woman can ever experience what it is like to have another person inside them until they are pregnant. Pregnancy is an experience not common to all people.

So too those born of the spirit of God, with the Spirit of God dwelling within them.

Before we were born again, we only ever did the things our will would drive us to do and we resisted greatly doing anything we did not will to do. 

Those born of the Spirit now have an experiential knowledge of a change within, the law written in their hearts. Jeremiah said this was to occur for the house of Israel in the days of their Messiah;

But thisshall bethe covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)

And this is what has happened to everyone who has been born of God.


The good that I would I do not

17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 

There is now the knowledge that something dramatic has changed, that there is an effort within the believer to have them do the things that are contrary to all they desire to do.

Now, please take care. This portion of the Bible has two extremes drawn out by many.

  1. The Arminian who believes that those who are born again do not sin practically, but their born-again status is confirmed through perfection. They think that Paul is referring to an unregenerate man or was speaking of his past life.
  2. The antinomian uses the passage to sin as much as he likes.

But Paul makes clear that he is referring to the new man. A man spiritually separated from his old nature, though physically still joined to it. 

Consider verse 18  

18For 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. 

Scripture is very careful not to contradict itself. Notice that if Paul was not born again, if he was not regenerate as some contend, there would be no need whatsoever for the words in the parenthesis in the first part of the verse. 

18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,)dwelleth no good thing:

Every person who is born of the Spirit of God has, indwelling him, that same Spirit.

Turn to Rom 8:9-11

9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

But it is not only the Spirit of God in you;

10 And if Christ be in you, the bodyisdead because of sin; but the Spiritislife because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Paul spoke of our bodies in 1 Cor 3:16; 

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, andthatthe Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

If Paul had written For I know that in me dwelleth no good thing:

He would have either contradicted scripture respecting his saved state, or he would have confirmed that he is writing as an unsaved man. The fact the words in the brackets exist demonstrate he was writing as the common experience of all those who have that same ‘Good thing” dwelling within them.

bfor to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 

Perhaps this is not a completely foreign experience for you. Paul is clearly referring to this indwelling sin that contradicts his desire not to sin.

I am sure in some other ways all people have experienced what it is like to have a will present with us, but an inability to perform that which is good.

Some people have a will to run a marathon, but how to perform that which is good they find not.

My daughter just returned from Africa; her will to see poverty removed is present with her, but how to perform that which is good I find not.

A politician might make the bold statement that by the year 2000 no child shall live in poverty, but how to perform that which is good I find not. 

Certainly to will waspresent with them, buthowto perform that which is good they found not.

You get my point, it is not a completely foreign idea.

Where there seems the greatest struggle is that both the will and the performance of it is negated in the same body. 

19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Beloved, in a negative way this is the greatest single witness of the soul that is born anew.

Turn to 1 Cor 2:12-14

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he knowthem, because they are spiritually discerned.

Paul speaks here of the wisdom of the words of God and our ability to know them, yet it is this same common experience with regard to the Word dwelling within. 

There are those Christians who share the common experience of Romans 7, and there are those who call themselves Christians to take away their reproach.

Nominal Christians remind me of the passage in Isiah 4:1

Isaiah 4:1  “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

Please deeply consider yourself in light of this passage. I am always burdened by those who believe eternal life is their inheritance and yet will not examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5).

 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 

2 Cor 5:17 says “17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

All who are born of God in that new nature CANNOT SIN. 

Paul is not giving permission for sin, recall he made clear that “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom 6:14), but he does acknowledge what John speaks of in 

1 John 3:9

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God

I guess none of us fully claim to understand this, but the Bible seems to make plain that there is a distinction between the new spiritual alteration that has occurred within the life of all those who are born of the Spirit of Godand the life of the flesh that remains a part of them in this present world.

One cannot sin, but the other fights against our desires to ‘perform that which is good’

I delight in the law of God

21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.


These three verses bring to the fore the warring nature within all those who are born of the Spirit.

Paul here discovers a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 

I want you to know that this is a temporal law, this is a law that shall only continue with you in this life, in this world, and while you dwell in this tabernacle.

Peter spoke of a time when he shall put off his “tabernacle”, turn to 2 Peter 1:9-15 as he encourages believers

But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

Paull too speaks of that which will be gain to him saying in Philippians 1:21

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this isthe fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better

Beloved, “… now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12)

This law Paul discovers where, When I would do good evil is present with me, has an end!

Meanwhile, as we are to deal with it, Paul goes on to explain why this occurs while we are in this flesh in the next two verses;

22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Paul has adelight in the law of God, and why shouldn’t he, he knows that the law is “holy…just and good”. It lines itself up with God the father and Christ the Son, and this delight in that Law shows perfectly that he has that same Spirit that authored the Law dwelling within. 

This encouragement identifies itself as distinct from the world that Hates both the Law of God and the God of the Law. That hatred is becoming more and more evident today.

Note that Paul refers to the law of God after the inward man:

Turn to 2 Cor 4:14

14Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall presentuswith you. 15 For all thingsarefor your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inwardmanis renewed day by day.

Turn to 1 Peter 3:1-4

Likewise, ye wives ,bein subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversationcoupledwith fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outwardadorningof plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; Butlet it bethe hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,even the ornamentof a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

This ‘hidden man of the heart’ is unlike ‘our outward man’ that will perish, the inward manis renewed day by day, and it is that inward man which is not corruptible.

Paul delights in the law of God after the inward man: But then he says 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Do you see that? 

What Paul has done is considered all his desire and will to do that which pertains to the Law of God, and measured it against what he often finds himself doing, then he considersall he knows of the word of God and his new life in Christ, and identified that there are two present realities warring within;

  1. Is the Law of God after the inward man
  2. Is the law of sin which is in his members

Please note that at no time throughout this incredible portion of scripture does Paul make any assertion that thereby justifies sin.

  • Paul identifies and explains the change, the real and present change that is common among all believers. 
  • He explains the warring factions within.
  • He tells of his desire to do that which is good and his inability to accomplish it.
  • And finally, in the next verse and our final point, he concludes with the recognition of his utter helplessness to do anything about it.

Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:14-25)

Since verse 14 we have witnessed that there is a warring nature within, I see it summarized so well in that first passage that begins verse 15, “that which I do I allow not”.

It’s expanded almost perfectly in a single verse in Galatians, turn with me to Galatians 5:17

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

(We will come back to this as we conclude for Paul provides an answer for us, but first we need more context.) 

The Bible does not shy away from the warring nature within those who are born again, but explains it. 

Beloved, if it was not for the joy of eternal life and the promise of Christ, this warring nature would threaten to undo us if it had no explanation in scripture. 

Before I knew what the Bible taught, I actually felt it would threaten my very sanity. 

  • When I was ignorant of scripture, there were times, I must confess, that I wished I again had no conscience of sin.
  • Times that I would have liked to return to the blissful ignorance of my former state. A state that “I thought more of myself than I ought to think.”
    • When I thought I was good. 
      • I didn’t quite ignore my sin, I just found ways to justify it. 
      • I’m not too sure if I dulled my conscience or if I re-programed it.
      • Reprogramed to make evil good, and good evil, to exchange darkness for light and light for darkness.
  • I never felt bad because I did all that I did in line with what I was, THERE WAS NO CONFLICT!

But when the spirit of the Lord quickened meand made me alive, and placed his law within me, I later found myself often in a state of misery for sin, so much so that I once wondered how it is possible to have joy and to rejoice in asalvation such as this.

I mentioned my confusion once before; I spoke of this wrestle not long after I began reading my Bible and yet in such struggle with the flesh, recalling my thoughts as I cried before the Lord and thought of Rebekah;

And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it beso, whyamI thus? (Gen 25:22)

I asked the same question of the Lord, if I am born again, I fit be so, why am I thus?

The Lord answered Rebekah saying “two nations are in thy womb”, the Lord answered my cry saying ‘two natures are within thee

Interestingly, it would come to pass with me as it did with Jacob, the elder nature is to serve the younger!

Yet it is in our wrestling with sin and that warring fight within, that we cry in that hopeless state of exasperation Paul expresses in this passage;

24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I can’t think of words more apt than this. These are the words of a man who has come to the end of himself.

These are the words of one who has tried all he can to do only what he allows, rather than do that which he would not. 

One who has a will to do and to find the performance of it, rather than to will being present… ‘but how to perform that which is good I find not’.

Yes, I know that if I confess my sins “he is faithful and just to forgive me my sins” (1 John 1:9); But how many times will he be willing to forgive the same things?

Yes I know that “a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Prov 24:16), But I have lost count of the times I have fallen.

Yes I recall the question of Peter when he said, “Lord how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Till seven times?” and Jesus words “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” And all this in the context of a single day (Mt 18:21, Lk 17:3-4). 

But only a handful of times did all this bring comfort to me.

It was not until the exasperated words of Paul flowed from my lips, and the answer that came from it, did the joy of my salvation return;

24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

My state is not miserable, it is not without hope, to the contrary. My state is wretched in the body of this death but filled with hope through the glory of God in Jesus Christ my Lord.

He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh so that he could condemn sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3). Jesus, was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5:21).

This tabernacle is a body of death that will one day be resurrected anew. 

Free from the penalty of sin, but not yet free from the presence of sin.

Today, the flesh is governed by the law of sin, and yet am I encouraged that the mind confirms the law of God.

In my flesh nothing good dwells, and I am to expect little from it. Yet, as I consider the words of Paul, I am not to serve sin, for it will not have dominion over me.

The passage back in Galatians gives to us better encouragement saying in Gal 5:16-18

 16 ThisI say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Beloved, Paul wrote of a rest for the people of God in the book of Hebrews chapter 4, it is for us torest in Christ.

We, we are wretched, but Jesus, Jesus is everything

He himself said that without him we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with him, all things are possible (Mrk 14:36), we can do all things through Christ (Phil 4:13).

It is not me that is my blessed assurance, I have learned by experience that I can do nothing of myself. 

Jesus is my blessed assurance, and I rejoice in him ALONE!

NOW, get going, you have work to do, there is a harvest so ripe only the blind can’t see it.

Stop moping about your sin, stop being a prisoner to your emotions, and start sharing the gospel of Christ that all might be saved

You have heard the answer to your problem, get going!

Paul did not wallow in self-pity when the thorn was not removed from his flesh, what did he do?

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. Rom 12:1

Paul had not apprehended; he had not been already perfect;

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: butthisone thingI do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

There is work to be done, and self-pity will never be the measure of men!

Shall the world perish because you struggle with the flesh, welcome to the club!

The same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are throughout the world ( ), yet they do the work of the Gospel.


The Lord has given you a treasure of talents to invest while he is gone to a far country, get it out of the hole you buried it in and put it to work!

God bless you


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