Who Shall Deliver me?
There are times when gems are found on the surface of the Earth, easy to glean and beautiful to behold. There are times when more are found under the surface of the earth, sometimes more wonderful than the first and yet more profitable to those who took their shovels to dig.But the most valuable of all are those that are mined.
We have spent time in this passage of the Bible before, we have looked at Paul dealing with the issue related to the duel nature in those who are born again, we have gleaned the surface gems and today I desire to dig under the surface and see if there are more gems even more profitable to us.
Reading: Romans 7:14-25
We will be undertaking a short three-part series with a focus on verse 24, but it is always critical to have the context of the passage in view
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
- The Will to Do Well Evidences a Transformed Heart. (v15-16)
- The Work to Do well Recognizes An Unruly Flesh. (v 18-19)
- The Wisdom in Doing Well Comprehends a Dual Nature. (v 17 & 20)
- The Vexation of The Spirit Cries For Deliverance (v 24)
1. The Will to Do Well Evidences a Transformed Heart. (v15-16)
O wretched man that I am
Despite the work of this famed apostle to the outside world, despite that it was of his very own pen that 14 of the 21 new Testament epistles was penned, despite is travels and despite his persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ, Paul refers to himself in the present tense as a wretched man.
From his own confession he proves the words of the Lord who said in Luke 17:10 “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
Unlike the multitude of people who desire recognition and accolades for doing that which is their duty to do, we see that, within that very confession of Paul, the simplest evidence of a transformed heart. Humility.
Its not a vain humility, that is put on, we don’t get that from his cry, what we do glean from it however is that it is the conclusion he has come to in doing all that he could to do well, yet finding himself continually falling short.
It is a humility of reckoning,
he has totaled all his weaknesses,
and deducted them from his strengths,
and has thereby concluded O wretched man that I am.
His famous words in 2 Corinthians 12:10 are without contradiction;
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
How did Paul come to this understanding?
Consider verse 14-16
14 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 that it is good
Notice firstly that Paul writes in the present tense, lest you follow the ideas of some men who claim that Paul was writing of his unsaved past.
Paul writes of finding himself doing that which is contrary to his will;
For that which I do I allow not: In other words, what Paul does he does not permit, he does not allow, he allows not, and now he explains, for what I would, that do I not; that is, for what Paul wills to do, what his hearts desire is to do, he does not do, but what I hate, that do I.
There is a great distinction in doing something you know you ought not do but excuse to do it anyway, compared to doing that which is completely contrary to your will.
When we were servants of sin we only desired to sin, even though we knew we ought not sin.
Nevertheless, our WILL was to sin, this is very different from having a will NOT to sin.
It is the will NOT to sin that testifies to a changed desire.
It is the Will To Do Well That Evidences A Transformed Heart.
We no longer serve sin, we no longer willingly desire it like we use to.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
There is a great travesty in the modern translations relating to this text, and though it is a slight excursion, I would be remiss not to bring it out.
Modern translations have corrupted the translation of the Greek word “Dulos” as ‘Slave’ rather than ‘Servant’. And this is important because it also alters the doctrine we are bringing out in chapter 7.
All translators are aware of the distinction between the words “Servant” and “Slave”, the first is a willing participant, the latter is latter is an unwilling captive.
They also know that the word Dulos is a Bondservant, and pastors knowingly expound it from the passage in Exodus 21:6 of the slave who now willingly desires to serve his master forever. The man is no longer a slave, but a servant.
There is a tendency in the modern day to remove from us the responsibility for our actions and make it seem as if we are the unwilling participants carried naturally to that which our environment compels us to do.
This is a Nietzschean Notion that has been covertly placed in the text;
Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas were already well known by the turn of the 20thcentury, and his philosophy of psychology, presenting man as having no free will or choice and therefore no responsibility in the matter of sin, was well received by those scholars desiring to abandon their responsibility for sin.
Yet his writings are studied by Psychology students in university to this day.
It is any wonder man is no further ahead in knowing the nature of man.
No beloved, when we do that which is our innermost desire to do, we are “Servants” as the text says, and not “Slaves”.
If that were not true, Paul could not make the claims he is making in Chapter seven of Romans.
Ok, I hope you did not mind the excursion too much.
Paul states that there was a time when we were once the servants of sin in Romans 6:17;
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin
Peter speaks to the same truth when he says;
1 Pet 4:3
3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Paul writes again 1 Cor 6:9-11
Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Now there is a changed desire, a changed heart, a changed service.
We desire with our inner most being not to sin, we have a will to do well which is the single greatest evidence of a transformed heart.
Ezekiel spoke of what happened to you and I over 2500 years ago, saying; “26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26)
There is an infinite distinction between giving up something that is bad for you and turning away from it, then there is having an inner desire to do good for Christ.
One demonstrates a change of action only, the other is the evidence of a transformed heart.
It is our will to do well for Christ that evidences a transformed heart.
Before I close this first answer I want to make sure it is clear, that the evidence is not found in the doing, but in the willing.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Paul speaks of doing things contrary to his will, his will in his entire being is to do good, but he finds himself not doing the good he would.
How is this possible you ask?
How can a man do anything contrary to his will?
I’m glad you asked!
2. The Work to Do well Recognizes An Unruly Flesh. (v 18-19)
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
The work to do well recognizes and unruly flesh, a body of death!
18 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. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
(that is, in my flesh,)
We see such a wonderful accuracy in the Bible, so careful it is not to contradict itself.
For if it were true that there was nothing good in Paul, we might wonder what to think of the holy spirit that has come to indwell the believer?
There was indeed a time when there was nothing good in Paul. Just as in you and I, a time past where ‘nothing good dwelt’. But not now, now there is something good in the hearts of those born again. The New Birth has brought with it the spirit of God, and a CHANGED WILL, a Changed Desire.
But it is in the very work to do well that recognises an unruly flesh.
This is why Paul qualifies that it is in our flesh that “dwelleth no good thing”.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:
Paul here has come to a certain conclusion, a revelation that is given him respecting his flesh nature that seems to have been gained through experience, but that we might have confirmed through reading the Bible.
It’s why reading the Bible is so important, it brings confirms that which we have experienced and explains it for us.
A bicycle is useful when we ride it, but when the tire is flat the bike becomes useless.
So we get a pump and pump up the tire, we go on our way and the tire becomes flat again. Its at that point that we have one of two possible responses;
- Either we identify the tire is faulty, or
- We pump it up again.
It doesn’t need to be a bicycle; We might fill our car with fuel and find a few km later that the tank is empty;
- Either we recognize that there is a fault in the tank,
- or we fill it up again.
Paul has discovered the same, he begins here with his conclusion but then explains how he came to the conclusion;
for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
It is the in the work to do well that he recognizes and unruly flesh.
- Either we recognise there is an unruly flesh within us
- Or we continue to struggle in sin and depression
Again and again and again we see it, our continual desire to fulfil our new will, our effort to perfectly perform that which is good, and yet an inability to attain to it.
And, unless you are content to be miserable for ever, you must come to the conclusion that something dramatic has changed in you, that there is now a complete disconnect from what your will is compared to what you do.
In the days before our salvation we were more than pleased to excuse our sin. More than happy to settle with a ‘devil made me do it’ mentality at best, and at worst ignore it all together, but not anymore.
The New Birth has begun to betray a completely contrary nature within, an “Unruly Flesh” presents itself before us and it simply will not obey our new desires.
It now brings to us pain, and grief, sadness and even great depression. And sadly, for far too many Christians, this is where their journey ends, settled in sin and established in misery.
YET it should be this dramatic distinction between what we now desire to do, and what we often find ourselves doing, that recognizes a CHANGE IN OUR NATURE, The Spirit wrestling against an unruly flesh.
for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
This is the explanation to Paul’s conclusion that 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:
This is where Paul recognises a “body of this death”
There is nothing good about the flesh or its nature. It is unruly, it is contrary to the nature of God, it is fallen, and though we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, this body of death remains a part of us, until we are with the Lord.
But there are many who are not yet redeemed, multitudes who are in service to sin and separate from God. We rejoice in the change within, because it identifies our conversion as a real event and not just a state of mind.
Rather than being depressed, we should rejoice in CHRIST!
3. The Wisdom in Doing Well Comprehends a Dual Nature. (v 17 & 20)
Lets read it again from verse 16 to 23
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 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. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I 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.
In the second point I noted that it is in the continual work in well doing that we come to recognise an unruly flesh. That is where the search for the turht of what is going on begins, but sadly again, too many Christians give up the search well before this and as a result, wain in their faith and become stagnant in their growth.
Like the dead sea in Israel, their water does not flow and there is little life evident in them.
Now that we have come to recognise an unruly flesh, as Paul had also come to see, we then consider the matter more diligently and see if there is not a principal at work within.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Again care needs to be taken.
The passage indicates a limited disconnect between the sin and the sinning saint, but never does Paul excuse the sin of the saint.
Even though sin has been separated from the saint as far as the east is for the west, the sining saint continues to confess his sin and “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Yes there is a separation between the sin and the sinning saint, Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
How is this a reconcilable conclusion of Pauls, simply it is stated in verse 20, 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Does this reconcile with the rest of the Bible?
To those who are truly born again, yes it does. But do not miss the qualifier, Now if I do that I would not.
If I perform an act completely contrary to my will, to my inner most desire, to that which I long to do, then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE BUT A STATEMENT OF FACT.
There are no truly born again saints who love to sin like a pig in mud anymore. There are no true Christians who excuse sin, they long more than anything else in the world to ‘be perfect as their father in heaven is perfect’ (Mat 5:48)
But sadly too many true Christians wallow in self pity and misery not understanding that there is a law before them regarding their sin.
Paul writes of a law
21 I 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.
This is the discovery Paul had made, in short it is the discovery of a duel nature warring one against the other.
If there is one true difficulty that the Christian has that he longs not to have, it is this warring nature within.
It is the delight in the law of God after the inward man, the new man, the transformed and changed, spirit filled man, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Dragging me, contrary to my will, into captivity, ie, attempting to enslave me in sin.
You recall that we spoke of our previous state as servants of sin?
And you recall how modern translation twisted the text to make us as captives to sin, slaves to sin?
But you recall that now we are the servants of righteousness?
The distinction between the two demonstrates that before we willfully served sin, we were never unwilling in our service to sin, never ‘slaves’. But now our will is changed; “for the good that I would” says Paul, but now where are we brought as captives?
and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
There are no captives alive that are brought in accord with their will but always contrary to their will.
The sin nature that is within, would make us slaves to sin, unwilling captives of a nature from which we are free.
Turn back to Romans 6 with me, Romans 6:6
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin”
Beloved you are freed from sin, not to serve it, but to serve God. Nevertheless there is within you a duel nature that would bring you captive to the law of sin which is in our members.
Turn back with me to Galatians 5:16-17
Now the Galatians, due to their struggle with sin, thought to turn to the law to perfect themselves against sin. Sadly, having begun in the spirit they now thought themselves to be now made perfect by the flesh (Gal 3:3).
And Paul spend about five chapters dealing specifically with their error, convincing them that they are saved and perfected by faith and not the works of the law.
Gal 5:16-17, Paul gives the reason for the impossibility of their efforts in the flesh;
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 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.
Romans 7 Paul brings forth the complete separation of sin from the saint as a distinct and separate vestigial to his new nature.
What’s a vestigial?
Dictionary meaning: “forming a very small remnant of something that was once greater or more noticeable.”
Though the saint does sin, the Bible teaches of a duel nature within and a law demonstrating a separation of sin from the saint.
“DANGER, DANGER”. Beloved, it does not excuse us to sin, nor does it give us licence, it only brings to us understanding of why we still sin and why the struggle.
Ill explain the solution the Lord has given us in the last point, BUT can I be indulged just for a small moment on a brief excursion?
There is a rabbit that just came my way and I really do want to chase it just for a minute.
It is only in Christ that the sin is ever separated from the ‘sinner’.
We have all heard and probably made the error ourselves in attempting to share the gospel saying “God hates the sin but loves the sinner”.
Nowhere in the Bible do we find it taught that sin is separated from the sinner prior to his salvation.
Does God love the sinner?
Absolutely. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever beleiveth in his should not perish but have everlasting life”. The very death of Christ proves his love.
Does God hate sin?
Absolutely. “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11)
But far from God every separating the sinner from his sin before his conversion, on the contrary, the sinner together with his sin is cast into hell for all eternity.
Even more, the sinner in the Bible is not identified by his name but by his sin.
Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Don’t be caught up in nice sounding words and ideas beloved.
For if you teach that God loves the sinner but hates the sin, effectively separating the sinner from his sin before Christ does, the sinner may very well logically conclude that his is safe with and in his sin from Gods wrath.
God loves mankind in spite of their sin, but not with their sin.
If they die in their sin, they will never be separated from their sin.
Jesus died that our sins might be paid for in him, it is his blood that clenseth us from all sin and we come to the father in with the righteousness in Christ.
4. The Vexation of The Spirit Cries For Deliverance (v 24)
24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
What we see here is not complacency in “doing that I would not”, but an exasperated cry that comes from being unable to “do that which I would”.
It was expressed by King David in the Old Testament when he said;
“But I am a worm, and no man” (Ps 22:6) and
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps 8:4)
These are the humble cries of those who so desperately seek to please the Lord and yet find themselves again and again falling short.
These are the cries of those who love God and above everything else in their life, desire to please him.
This is the heart vexed. Angry, aggravated at his own sin, exasperated at trying to do well, the will was present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
It is not until you come to the complete end of yourself that you turn to Christ.
It was this way when we were first saved, it remains this way while we live.
- What confidence did you have that you could save yourself?
- What confidence do you have that you can keep yourself?
Beloved, salvation was not a work achieved by you, nor is it an effort that will be retained by you.
Recall that the same man who wrote this epistle to the Romans and refers to himself as wretched, also wrote the Prison Epistle to the Philippians and categorically states;
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Phil 1:6)
The vexation of the spirit that cries for deliverance, is the same one that comes to realise that it was Jesus that began the work and it will be Jesus that performs the work until the day of Jesus Christ, that is, the day we come to him, face to face at his judgement seat.
The work that the Lord does he already knows is a treasure held in earthen vessels, why? “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor 4:7).
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
The workmanship in you is of Christ and not yourself.
Turn to Galatians 3:1-5
1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
You might indeed hunger and thirst after righteousness, but Jesus promised that a time comes you will be filled (Mat 5:6).
It is Christ, it will be Christ, it will remain Christ for ever.
The work belongs to the Lord, trust him for it.
Read your Bible daily, be constant in prayer and glorify him moment by moment.
He is your strength, he is your hope and he is the fulfilment of your joy.
Finally know, that he is jealous for you.