Many believers have sacrificed victory for a substandard Christian walk. They have been taught that they are under a fatal necessity to sin, but not to worry, because even the apostle Paul struggled with sin! Then their lives are continually haunted with the struggle recorded in Romans chapter 7.
Paul wrote in Romans 7 that the good he wishes to do does not get done, and the evil he wishes to avoid is what actually comes forth. He wrote about being carnal, sold unto sin (vs.14) and recorded a great cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (vs.24). It might all be summed up in the proverbial cry, “WOE IS ME!”
There are two dominant interpretations of this: the first is that Paul was simply describing what we all feel and that this is the normal Christian struggle. The second is that Paul is not describing a Christian’s struggle, but his moral struggle before he was converted.
Although there are some good arguments on both sides of the debate, I believe both of these interpretations are wrong!
The content of Romans 7 is addressed to those who know the law (vs.1). The whole chapter is about the law, and the struggle recorded is Paul’s illustration of what it’s like to be under the law, whether before conversion or as a Christian. The same moral struggles can be found in the writings of pagan philosophers. The reason so many Christians experience these struggles is because they are still operating under legalistic terms. They are not applying God’s grace. They haven’t moved on to Romans chapter 8, where it proclaims that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
Paul was not “sold unto sin.” He already declared in Romans 6 that “our old man was crucified with [Jesus], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (6:6-7).
Paul didn’t leave us in the Romans 7 condition. He gave the answer to this struggle in verse 25: I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Does this mean it is wrong if we can relate to those struggles mentioned above? No, but to be blinded by them and to remain in them is wrong. Christians who get down on themselves like that are operating under a sense of the law. Because of the gospel, God loves us and accepts us in spite of our sins. We have become dead to the law that we may be married to another- Jesus (Romans 7:4).
No matter how imperfect a Christian sees him or herself, and no matter how impossible it may seem to improve, it is unbelief to remain in the state of “woe is me” as expressed in Romans 7. Paul acknowledged the struggles of the mind and the flesh under the law, but he moved on to thanksgiving in the light of the gospel.
No matter how vast the depths of sin appear to be, it is unbelief to dwell on them. The law condemns such depths, but you are no longer under the law. You may agree that you are a terrible case concerning the things you do and don’t do, but in Christ the woe is gone!
We don’t live in chapter 7, we move on to chapter 8! I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1). We can move on to chapter 8 because of chapter 6, which says we have been united to Christ.
Meditating on the truths in these three chapters will bring powerful change to your life.