Romans 7—The Human Situation

Previously, we looked at the awfulness of sin and now we turn our attention to the human situation. Paul continuing to bare his soul is telling us of an experience which is at the heart of the human situation. He knew what was right and wanted to do it, yet couldn’t do it. The wrong thing, the last thing he ever wanted to do was the very thing he seemed to do. As if two men were in the same body pulling in different directions.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me. (Romans 7:15-18)

Part of the human situation is we know what is right and yet do wrong, we never as good as we ought to be. At once, we turn to good, yet we sin. Knowledge is inadequate. We know what is good, but do not do it. Human resolution is inadequate. We resolve to do good and come up against problems, difficulties, and opposition. We fail.

In this description of the conflict between grace and corruption, it may seem that the evil will prevail.  When he speaks of not performing that which is good it seems difficult to apply it to the new person, who are said to live by grace. We are meant to do good and delight in God, but too often we end up doing the sin we do not want to do. We find ourselves doing the very thing we thought would be behind us by committing to Christ. We lie, cheat, abuse, misuse, overindulge, lust, and hurt others.  The things that we know are not what God wants for us is the very thing we do more than not.

Paul is able to analyze, but not to explain the sin that dwells within. There is a real and bewildering conflict between the energies of sin and grace in his life. As in each of our lives, sin and grace seems to be at odds. Paul hints that indwelling sin is a temporary lodger in him. While sin still accompanies his new identity in Christ in this life, the new identity will result in the final triumph over indwelling sin. This can be daunting and frustrating, but we must realize that our sanctification is already finished in Christ. God knows that we will be perfect. We must endure the process to that final resolution, but God knows it will happen. We must trust that God knows what He is doing.

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21, 24-25)

Even though we continue to bear the marks of sin, we experience new life in the Spirit. We remain sinners even though we are forgiven and are being redeemed and healed in Christ. No one says it better than Robert Farrar Capon, so I let him say it. “There is no sin you can commit that God in Jesus Christ hasn’t forgiven already. The old baloney about heaven being for good guys and hell for bad guys is dead wrong. Heaven is populated entirely by forgiven sinners, not spiritual and moral aces. Hell is populated entirely by forgiven sinners! The only difference between the two groups is that those in heaven accept the forgiveness and those in hell reject it. Which is why heaven is a party—the endless wedding reception of the Lamb and his bride—and hell is nothing but the dreariest bar in town.”

If that quote doesn’t make you want to sing, dance, and shout from the rooftops the amazing, incredible, without limit or restraint grace of our crazy loving God than you need to read it again. Read it again and again, read it until it infects you with the passion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After all, we are sinners in the hands of a loving and gracious God.


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