Daily Devotional

November 9, 2019

Daybreak: Romans 7:1-25

“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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:18-19)

The early part of the eighteenth century was a dark time in Christian history, as people drifted from their religious steadfastness and became indifferent toward spiritual values. The world stood in dire need of spiritual awakening, and God had His man for the occasion — John Wesley, a preacher who once had written the words of our focus verses in his journal as he agonized over the unrest in his soul.

John Wesley grew up in a home where his father was a pastor and his mother a studious Christian with a steadfast commitment to teach her children about God. At five years of age, Wesley nearly died when the family home burned. Afterward his mother said he was “a brand plucked from the burning.” All his life, he knew that he had been spared for a purpose.

From the time he was a child, Wesley knew much about church theology and endeavored to serve God. However, there was acute dissatisfaction in his soul; he felt something was lacking within. Although he began preaching as a young man and was diligent in attempting to spread Christianity, he continued to struggle. His journal writings reveal his inner conflict. One entry reads, “Every day I was constrained to cry out, ‘What I do, I allow not; for what I would I do not, but what I hate, that I do.’ . . . I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering.” Like the Apostle Paul, the desire to do right was in Wesley’s heart, but the power to do right was lacking.

However, on May 24, 1738, in a meeting on Aldersgate Street in London, England, Wesley felt his heart “strangely and wondrously warmed.” He testified to others that at last he had assurance that not only had God “taken away my sin, even mine” but He had also “saved me from the law of sin and death.” In his whole subsequent career, he never ceased to preach not only the doctrine of justification by faith, but also the experience of entire sanctification — a second definite and instantaneous work of grace subsequent to salvation that makes the believer holy in heart and eradicates the sin nature, enabling him to live the Christian life without inner conflict.

It is not necessary to continue in the life of defeat that Paul portrayed in Romans 7. Paul experienced the solution. It began for him on the road to Damascus when he was struck to the ground by a bright light and heard a Voice from Heaven. In the Book of Romans, the Apostle described the power the nature of sin exerts over the life and the resulting guilt. He also revealed that deliverance from that “body of death” is available through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul the Apostle and John Wesley understood the two-fold nature of sin — both committed sins and the carnal nature of sin with which all are born. They both taught that when an individual repents of committed sins and comes to Christ in faith, he is forgiven and justified by God. They both taught that though individuals are dominated by the inbred sin nature, their hearts can be liberated through salvation and cleansed through the experience of sanctification.

Paul’s epistles to the Romans and other Gentile believers were vital to the spread of Christianity in the time of the Early Church. Wesley’s teachings stirred a holiness revival that swept the British Isles and moved across the Atlantic to America in the 1800s. And justification by faith and deliverance from the sin nature through sanctification still bring victory today!

Background

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul described himself when he was a religious sinner, and the conflict that raged within while he was in that condition. Prior to his Damascus road experience, he had wanted to do right, but the power to do right was lacking because it was overcome by a stronger prevailing force: the nature of sin. In verses 1-6 of this chapter, Paul addressed freedom from the Law, and in 7-13 he reviewed the function of the Law. In the last part of the chapter, he described his frustration with his inability to live up to the demands of the Law.

In verses 1-6, Paul substantiated the point he had made in Romans 6:14 — that Christians are not under the Law but under grace. In that verse, he had used the analogy of slavery to illustrate that the person living under the Law is dominated by sin; in this substantiation of his point, he used the analogy of marriage to illustrate emancipation from the Law.

A married woman is legally bound to her spouse, but when the husband dies, the law of marriage no longer applies. Just as death dissolves the binding connection between husband and wife, so believers are freed from the Law through the death of Christ — when Jesus died on the Cross, the Law ceased to be in effect. The believer thus becomes “dead to the law” and is freed to become united with Christ.

In view of the comparison he had drawn in verses 1-6, Paul next faced the logical question, “Is the law sin?” (verse 7). He proceeded in verses 8-13 to explain that the purpose of the Law was to reveal sin. In verse 9, Paul appears to be speaking of his own experience prior to having any real understanding of what sin was. However, though he once lived without condemnation, in time he was confronted by the Law and became aware of his own sinful behavior and its moral implications; Paul expressed this by saying that he “died” a spiritual death. One theologian of the 1800s described that death in this way: “Sin worked in himself the true death of the soul, in separation from God, in the extinction of good and noble capacities, in the atrophying of all that was best in himself, in the death of joy and peace.”1 Paul became separated from God, and burdened down by the guilt and condemnation of sin.

In verses 14-25, Paul described the awful failure of his former efforts to break free from the dominion of sin. Although he had recognized that the Law was “holy” (verse 12) and “spiritual” (verse 14) because it was from God, he had been unable to overcome the tyranny of his carnal nature. While the Law had stirred up his conscience, it could not purify his heart nor create the obedience which it enjoined.

Having described with intensity the futility of trying to live right while still in bondage to the carnal nature, Paul ended this section with a final question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (verse 24). Then he burst forth with the exclamatory answer, “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” In the next chapter Paul goes on to describe victory over the former controlling force of the sin nature.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    God’s plan of salvation
    B.    God’s remedy
        2.    Entire sanctification (freedom from inbred sin)
            c.    Delivered from the Law (justified) (7:1-13)
            d.    Carnal nature (7:14-25)

A Closer Look

  1. What three words did Paul use in verse 12 to describe the commandments of God?

  2. How did the Law create in Paul a vivid awareness of sin?

  3. In verse 11, Paul asserted that sin “deceived” him. What are some ways we can guard against the deceitfulness of sin?

Conclusion

The best of intentions and the most strenuous of efforts are no match for the nature of sin with which we are born. However, God provides victory through the experiences of justification and sanctification.

 

1 Alexander Maclaren, “Expositions of the Holy Scriptures, Romans – Corinthians”,  Public Domain Books, Kindle, Location 1590.

Reference Materials