In my last post, we looked at Paul’s view of the infancy stage that all believers pass through. The goal is to go through as quickly as possible. It’s not an excuse for a sinful lifestyle.
Let’s look at these verses in detail. Remember, in this section, Paul is not talking about himself, but writing from the perspective of a baby Christian.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
It’s interesting to note that every word translated as “do” in this verse is a different Greek word. The literal translation of that first sentence is, I do not comprehend what I am fully accomplishing.
There’s another verse that can help us to understand what Paul’s saying here.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
We have to realize that God is working in us. His work includes the changing of our will and our actions. We simply need to submit to the Lord’s process.
So, in Romans, Paul isn’t saying “I don’t know what I’m doing.” He’s expressing to us that as a baby believer, he doesn’t fully comprehend what’s being accomplished in his life.
The simple fact is that I don’t understand how God is working His will in me. He’s getting me to think like He thinks. In that way I’ll begin to act on His plan for my life.
Going back to the original verse in Romans, Paul tells us why he doesn’t comprehend what he’s accomplishing. Again, the literal translation of the next sentence reads, the reason I don’t comprehend it is because what I intend is not what I practice habitually.
It’s not that I don’t do it. The problem is that it’s not a habit yet. Paul is saying that at this point the baby Christian hasn’t reached the level of habitually doing what he knows to do.
Instead, this immature believer finds himself doing things that he hates. But, there’s an important difference. This phrase does not imply a habit, but something that he falls into from time to time.
That brings us to the next verse.
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
There are times I find myself doing something that I actually don’t want to do. The good thing is that I recognize that it’s wrong. I find myself agreeing with God’s will. This is the first baby step to freedom.
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.
1 Peter 4:3-4
Peter explains it well. He says that when you were in sin, you chose to do it. Now, you’ve determined not to do it, you even hate it. You may still fall into it from time to time, but your heart is changing.
The world thinks it strange that you want to do good. They think that serving God is a bad thing, it’s no fun. But, now you’re agreeing that the law is good. This is the growth you want to see as an infant believer.
Question: How have you seen your attitude toward God’s law change over the years?
© 2021 Nick Zaccardi