We’re continuing our walk through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. He’s been explaining the battle with sin experienced by immature believers.
These Christians are at the point where they believe God’s law is right. They’ve determined to live for God habitually, but very often find themselves failing.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
This is another important verse to understand. The context gives us the prerequisites for this. The verses just before this one show that I’ve determined to stop doing those things I now hate. This verse gives me hope for my future.
It lets me know that even if I fail, my sin is not going to drag me down. It’s covered by God’s grace. God does not count it as my fault. It’s no longer me that accomplishes it, but the sin that occupies the house in me.
This is actually the basis for Paul’s teaching in chapter 8, which we’ll get to at some point. It’s hard to preach this because people want to turn God’s grace into a doormat. That’s not the case here.
If you determine to continue in sin, this verse doesn’t cover you. But, if all the conditions are met – my desire is to serve God completely – then I don’t blame myself.
Why can I say this? Paul explains it in the next verse.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
The first sentence of this verse literally says I know by experience that nothing good lives in the house of my flesh. Nothing good at all.
The Holy Spirit lives in my spirit. The Word of God lives in my soul (my mind). But in my flesh there’s nothing good, only sin.
The next sentence reads, the intention or desire to do good is present with me, but I cannot find how to fully accomplish it. As a baby Christian, I haven’t figured out yet, how to fully live for Christ.
Now Paul summarizes everything he’s said so far.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Because of the sin living in my flesh, I see myself doing evil again and again. Remember, this is not the norm for a mature believer. Paul is speaking from the perspective of immaturity.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law…
Paul explains that there’s a law at work here. When I determine to do right, evil is present with me. The determination of my soul is different than the desire of my evil flesh. This is a tension that even the Apostle Peter wrote about.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11
Your soul and your flesh want two different things for your life. Your soul rejoices in God’s law, and that’s the foundation for the next step in your growth.
Question: How have you seen this war between your soul and your flesh play out in your life?
© 2021 Nick Zaccardi