Is Romans seven the destiny of a Christian until the day they die? What did the cross of Christ really do for us if it doesn’t provide deliverance from sin and death? Is there more God has to do in order to save us or is Christ and him crucified enough?
Is Paul’s documentation of his struggle with the Law and sin in Romans seven our destiny, or is it simply his defining for us what our lives look like when we see ourselves as independent beings attempting to please God in our own strength? Is Paul teaching us that our lives are always going to be defined by “the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want”? I think not, and I am going to attempt to explain why.
You see the Bible teaches us that we were created to be inhabited by God. We are told we are vessels, with Christ as the treasure-2 Corinthians 4:7, temples for His Spirit to live in-1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19, wives to bear fruit for God-Romans 7:4, bodies to obey Christ who is the Head Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:23, and branches to his vine John 15:1&5.
Of course we know Adam disobeyed God and found himself, and subsequently us, joined to the enemy. Ephesians 2:2-3 tells us we “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” So, we were all brought into this world indwelt by what John calls “the spirit of error”-1 John 4:4-6.
Once we see that humanity is the vessel, temple and branch caught up in a struggle between two opposing spiritual forces and not independent, we will begin to understand Paul’s writing in Romans seven. Paul writes in Romans 7:17&20 “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Could it be that Paul’s use of the word “sin” in this context is really the enemy, “the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience”, or as John puts it “the spirit of error’? Could the “I” he speaks of be his way of talking about a supposed independent “I” which is really a deception; because in Romans six we learned that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. There is never a time when there is “just” me. We are always in union on one side of the equation or the other.
I think Paul’s writing in Romans seven is his way of exposing the lie of the enemy. According to Isaiah 14:13-14 Lucifer’s whole goal was, and is, to exalt himself and make himself “like” God. If that’s the spirit now working in those whom are deceived, they too will think they “independently” can obey God’s perfect and just commands and make themselves “like” God. What if God’s plan all along was for his commandments to expose our inability to keep them? What if God knows we can’t perform up to His perfect standard, but He wants us to know this? What if it is only after full exposure by His Law that we come to understand our true powerless state? It seems to me our powerless state being exposed is the only real way we will ever let go of the lie of independence and see our need to embrace union with Christ.
The Apostle Paul gave all his energy and attention to performing up to God’s perfect standards and ultimately found it to be futile. He said he put no confidence in the flesh [our humanity attempting to live apart from the Spirit of God] but rather counted all he had accomplished as “dung” compared to knowing Jesus Christ. You see he was granted revelation from God that we humans were created to house His Holy Spirit but in the fall another spirit, the spirit of this world, took up residence within. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 Paul says, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
Let me finish by pointing to Paul’s conclusion in Romans 7:24-25. Paul struggled and fought trying to keep God’s Law because he knew it was good and holy. Finally he cried out for deliverance from the never ending struggle of trying and failing and began to thank Jesus Christ! If we continue reading on into Romans 8:3-4 we discover God himself, by way of His Spirit, will live in the believer and He will in fact fulfill His own requirements through them. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Notice it says, He condemned “sin” in the flesh, not condemned the flesh. Maybe we’ll talk more about this next time but for now I pray you will take serious stock of what these scriptures are telling us, and “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling…’ Ephesians 1:18.
Repentance is a great Bible word you don’t often hear outside of Christian circles or even in Christian circles for the most part. From time to time I ask people, I have the privilege to share the Word with, to define repentance for me. I usually get a few different answers such as being sorry, asking forgiveness or turning around. While all of these are part of what repentance means it all begins with a change of mind.
If you look up the word repentance in a Strong’s concordance you will discover at the base of it all it means “to think differently.” Of course if you think differently you will be sorry for your sins, ask forgiveness and turn around but thinking differently is the starting point. So, the big question then is how do we begin to think differently? The short answer is it takes a miracle.
Reading in Isaiah 14:13-14 you will discover what I call the root of all wrong thinking. These verses have come to represent for me how we all think until Christ grants us repentance. We all start out with the mindset that we are worthy to be number one and can make ourselves into something great! Of course this is exactly what got Adam, and us, into this whole sin thing to begin with, but never-mind that, it won’t happen to you, right? Well, that’s part of the problem too, isn’t it? We have all been deceived into thinking “It” won’t happen to me. I’m number one, everything revolves around me and everything and everyone is here to do my bidding.
You see “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbeliever”, but thank God he saw fit to miraculously give sight to those that hear the gospel, place their faith in it and are born again. When one is born again they receive the mind of Christ. Now that is good news!
Repentance then is when we have our minds changed from that of our former ruler, Satan, and now have the mind of Christ. The mind of Satan whispers to us that we’re able to make ourselves like God, and the mind of Christ tells us we are to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Although Jesus Christ was, himself, God he didn’t live as though he needed to exalt himself “rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (slave), and being made in the likeness of men, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Since Christ humbled himself; God exalted him. So you see the way to be exalted is by humbling yourself, and if you aren’t willing to humble yourself a sure way of being humbled is by exalting yourself. This is why we need to have a change of mind; because God’s ways truly aren’t our ways at least not until we have the mind of Christ.
When all is said and done there really is no amount of trying on our part that will bring us to repentance, in fact, the Bible tells us it is “the goodness of God that brings repentance.” There’s no doubt in my mind that it takes a work of God for us to even see we need a change of mind and another for us to receive the mind of Christ. So, no matter how you look at it; it takes a miracle. Thank God He’s still in the miracle business!