Struggle of a Saved Soul - Page 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
1. The Law of Moses—which condemns: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (v. 3:19).
2. Law simply as a principle—“I find then a Law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good” (v. 3:21).
3. The Law of Faith—which brings saving grace and excludes all works and self-righteousness: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. (v.3:27).
4. The Law of Sin in the members of the body which is victorious over the Law of the mind—“I find then a Law, that evil is present with me… warring against the Law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the Law of sin which is in my members. I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the Law of sin. (vs. 21, 23, 25).
5. The Law of the Mind, which agrees with the Law of Moses which is holy and righteous, but can’t keep the law because of the law of Sin in the members of the body—“If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the Law that it is good. But I see another Law in my members, warring against the Law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the Law of sin which is in my members.” (vs 16, 23).
6. The Law of the Spirit which delivers the believer from the Law of Sin and death—“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (v. 8:2).
22 For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man.
This expression relates to “the mind,” as mentioned in the next verse. The Law of the mind guides the 5inward man, that is, the inner self of the believer, to be appreciative of the Law of God. As far as his new nature is concerned, he delights in the Law of God. He knows that the Law is holy, and that it is an expression of the will of God, and he wants to do God’s will. This is the proper response of any believer to God’s Laws. Through the new birth, a man receives a new nature, and along with it he gets a capacity for loving the spiritual truths contained in God’s Word.
Paul delights in the Law of God. This delight is not seen in outward acts, which can be seen by men, but it is in the inward man, the new nature that comes into the heart when a sinner is born-again. It can be seen in the things he desires, in his obedience, and in his hate of those things the Law condemns. A proof of his delight in the Law is his persistent effort to keep the Law in spite of constant failure. Paul’s delight in the Law reveals that he is a saved man. An unsaved man doesn’t experience this inward struggle, since he only has one nature.
It is Paul’s desire, as it should be with every believer, to love and obey the Law of God. However, opposed to the Law of God is the Law of sin, which brings his members (that is, his body, his hands, his tongue, etc.) into captivity. Paul has come to the conclusion that as long as the believer is alive there will be a constant warfare between the old sinful nature and his 6delight in the Law of God. Unfortunately, when the believer attempts to win that battle in himself, he is always defeated. Self-attempts to rid our members of the tyranny of indwelling sin, causes the frustration which underlies this passage.
5“The inward man” is the new nature.
6“To delight” means to rejoice, and is stronger than “I agree” in verse 16. Paul delights in the Law of God.
23 But I see another Law in my members, warring against the Law of my mind, and bringing me into 7captivity to the Law of sin which is in my members.
Paul can see an opposing principle at work in his life that strives against the new nature, with its desire to do good, and makes him a captive of indwelling sin. His true self, the inward man, agreed with the Law and rejoiced in it. But there was another Law (the Law of Sin), that made him a captive and prisoner of sin. But before making him a prisoner it was at war with the Law of the Mind. He stresses that the sin that is in his members is a powerful force and no one should try to deny
Here the word “mind,” stands for the new nature which belongs to the believer, by virtue of the new birth. It stands in contrast to the flesh.
There are three different Laws mentioned in verses 21–23:
1. The Law of God—The Law written on the heart, God’s Word, Mosaic Law.
2. The Law of the Mind refers to the man who agrees with the Law of God. It is the new nature which wants to obey the Law of God—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). The Holy Spirit influences the believer to first, live a life of obedience to God; and second to do good works.
3. The Law of Sin is a principle of evil, keeping the will captive. This law caused sin to revive and become active. It refers to that within a man which has sold out to sin. If it wasn’t for the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Law of Sin would dominate Paul’s life. This Law is also called “the flesh”—“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:17, 24).
George Cutting writes:
The Law, though he (Paul) delights in it after the inward man, gives him no power. In other words, he is trying to accomplish what God has declared to be an utter impossibility—namely, making the flesh subject to God’s holy Law. He finds that the flesh takes care of the things of the flesh, and is very hostile to the Law of God, and even to God Himself.
You see, you don’t get rid of the old nature when you are saved. And yet, there is no power in your new nature.
“I see another Law,” the Law of Sin, which refers to the hostility of the old nature against the Law. This Law operates in the members of his body—that is, his unredeemed and still sinful humanness—waging war against his desire to obey God’s Law. It causes the child of God who is honest to cry out to God like Paul did in the next verse.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
This is not an unsaved man who is crying out, O wretched man that I am!—this is a saved man that is exhausted from the struggle. Helplessly, Paul throws up his hands and exclaims what a wretched individual a believer is when he has not gained mastery over sin. O wretched man is an expression used in pagan Greek drama to express tragic misfortune and woe. Paul recognizes that he is in a helpless state of despair, due to his condition of defeat and frustration with sin, which makes him miserable, because he cannot rid himself of his inclination toward sinning.
Who will deliver me from this body of death?—Now Paul lets out his famous, eloquent groan. He feels as if he has a decomposing body strapped to his back. That body, of course, is the old nature in all its corruption. Tradition says that an ancient tribe near Tarsus tied the corpse of a murder victim to its murderer allowing its spreading decay to slowly infect and execute the murderer—perhaps that is the image Paul has in mind here.
This body of death probably does not refer to a physical body. Sin is much more deeply rooted than the body. Paul is speaking of human nature (or the old nature) which has inherited guilt and sin from Adam. He knows it is that old nature within him which is continually inclined towards thoughts and deeds that yield only death. Paul knows there hangs over his life a cloud of guilt and death which is imputed with sin.
The main purpose of this statement, however, is in the question who will deliver me…? Paul indicates that if he is to be delivered from the mastery of sin, that that deliverance must come from without. He is unable to live the Christian life in himself. He is incapable of gaining mastery over sin. He is helpless. His shoulders are pinned to the floor—he has been wrestled down. Like old Jacob, he has been wrestled down. He needs help that must come from outside of him. If Paul is to live a mature and godly life, and to delight in the Law of God, the strength to do so must come from outside of him. Whatever else the Law can do, it can’t deliver anyone from the flesh. We can be delivered from the Law and the flesh in only one way, that is, by being dead to it, and in Christ.