Friday, December 23, 2011

CHAPTER 21
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS – 25
(14) For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (16) If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. (17) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (18) 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. (19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (23) 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. (24) O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (25) 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.
In the previous section of this chapter, 7:7-13, the apostle speaks of his own experience and sets forth the value of the Law of God in the life of an awakened sinner. In this section, -25, the apostle speaks of his experience and sets forth the place of the Law in the continuing experience of the true children of God.
Verses 14-25 is a passage of Scripture that has given occasion to much discussion among interpreters and theologians. We are well aware of the fact that many would explain this passage as having reference, not to the regenerated child of God, but to the natural man; some say a merely illuminated man. If one wants to see how men dissent on this, let him read all the numerous commentaries or sermons thereon. These explanations are plainly untenable. There is not a word in the whole passage that a true saint of God cannot or does not take on his lips. What true child of God’s pure, free grace does not painfully admit that, in himself, he is carnal, sold under sin, that in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and that the evil, which he hates, he performs? On the other hand, no mere natural man can declare of himself, nor does he have the will to do so, what the apostle, in this passage, expresses to be a matter of his own experience. Comparing Scripture with Scripture and following the interpretation that the Scripture gives, it is evident that this passage depicts the experience of the regenerate man, for the following reasons: 

(A.) In his description of the experimental conflict Paul employs the present tense. In the preceding text, when he did describe his experience as an unregenerate sinner, he used the past tense.
(B.) There are elements of the portraiture which are wholly inapplicable to the case of the unregenerate and only suitable to that of the regenerate.
(1) The unregenerate do not and cannot say “we know that the Law is spiritual.”  
(2)The unregenerate do not and cannot consent to the Law. Only the regenerate does that or even has the will to do that (vs. 16). 
(3) The unregenerate do not and cannot delight in the Law that it is holy, just and good. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).  
(4) The unregenerate do not hate, but love, sin; the regenerate hate sin (vs. 15; Psa. 97:10).
(5) The unregenerate do not have two natures, or principles, in conflict with each other, as do the regenerate; which conflict the apostle represents as characterizing believers (Gal. 5:17).  

(6) The unregenerate do not have a bitter and uncompromising struggle against sin, and fervent longing to be delivered from it, as does the apostle and all true believers (vs. 15 & 24).   
(7) The unregenerate have not the ability to disclaim sin, as do the regenerate (vs.17). It is a lie for an unregenerate man to use this language. It is he, in every sense, who sins. But there is a sense in which the truly regenerate man may honestly employ it — the sense in which he is a new creature in the Lord Jesus Christ, justified and adopted in Him. 
(8) The unregenerate have no thankfulness and confident expectation. As for the regenerate, although his efforts cannot deliver him from the sinful principle within him, the grace of God through Christ will accomplish his deliverance (vs. 25).
(9) After Paul's expression of this confident hope of deliverance for the believer, he still affirms the existence in him of the conflict which he has described vs. 25).             
(10) The affirmation, at the close of this graphic portraiture of the conflict between the principle of sin and the principle of holiness, that he who experiences it serves with the mind the Law of God, and with the flesh the law of sin (vs. 25). No unsaved man can with truth affirm that, in any sense, he serves the Law of God. There is no true obedience to the Law rendered by him. Love to God is absent from his soul, and without love there can be no “fulfilling of the Law.”
Verse 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, soul under sin. From this verse to the end of the chapter Paul uses the present tense to describe his continuing experience as a Christian, and this is therefore to be regarded as concurrent with that which is set forth in chapter 8 of this epistle. Paul uses the plural “we” in the first part of this verse in order to associate all believers with this judgment, since this is an evaluation of the Law which is peculiar to the regenerate. “We know that the law is spiritual” — that is “We who were once in the flesh (unsaved sinners), know now what we did not know then, we (all the saints) know that the Law is spiritual — that is, not only a director of our conduct, but “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12d), requiring, in reference to God, not only external worship, but supreme love as the habitual principle of conduct; in reference to man, not only just and humane treatment, but cordial unselfish good-will (Matt. 22:37-40). “We know;” i.e., this fact is known by every Christian. Since the apostle sets the word spiritual in this verse over against the word carnal, and since Paul regards that which is carnal as that which enslaves in sin, it is evident that Paul in this statement is thinking of the Law of God essentially as principles of pure holiness. When laws are seen as commanding only external compliance, it can be spoken of as carnal ordinances, as Paul speaks of the ceremonial Law in Heb. 9:10, but when Law is seen as commanding spiritual holiness, it is spoken of as spiritual in its very nature. Charles Hodge said, “It is spiritual in the sense of being Divine, or as partaking of the nature of the Holy Spirit, its Divine Author.”
“But I am carnal” — looking at God’s Holy Law in this aspect, the apostle mourns how imperfectly is his conformity to that Law and he cries “I am carnal” in reference to its high and holy requirements. By redeeming grace every Christian desires to be absolutely perfect, just as our Master is perfect, but our sorrowful confession is “I am carnal,” which expresses what every true believer is in himself by nature: thought born from above, yet the “flesh” in us has not been, and cannot be improved to the slightest degree. Paul says that our thoughts, and feelings, and desires, are far from being in entire conformity with that spiritual and very broad Law (2 Cor. 10:5). This humble estimate that Paul had of himself, and every Christian has of himself, rose out of the increased moral and spiritual self discernment and sensibility which the apostle now, since regenerated, possessed (Matt. 5: 1-12). The man of the world, in reference to spiritual things, is blind and insensible (1 Cor. ), whereas the regenerate sinner has his “senses” in some measure “exercised to discern spiritual good and evil” (Heb. ). Thus the man of the world continues to maintain a very good opinion of himself — thinks he has a very good heart, even when his conduct is objectionable and he loves the things of this world; and the true saint, while all but faultless in the estimation of those who know him best, deeply feels and readily acknowledges that the testimony of God respecting the human heart is true of his own: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).
“Sold under sin” here is far different from the description the sacred historian gave of Ahab, king of Israel — “who sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings , 25). This shows the habitual, persevering, determined disobedience of this unsaved rebel, that he seemed as if he had given up all his faculties to be employed in the violation of God’s Holy Law Rom. 3:9-19). This is the practice of all unsaved men. But Paul was showing, as do all the saved, his deep regret that his heart and life were not entirely spiritual — in perfect accordance with God’s Law that was placed in his heart when regenerated (Heb. 8:10-12; 10:16-17). His prevailing desire was perfect conformity to the holy, just, and good Law; yet he felt that much was wanting, much was wrong. How different, however, is the apostle’s account of himself here — “Sold under sin” — from his account of the unregenerate in the 6th chapter, “servants of sin, yielding themselves its servants, and their members as its instruments of unrighteousness.” But now this language of complaint and deeply stirred spiritual feelings of the apostle manifests that now, as a saved man, he had clear perceptions and deep brokenness of heart to the claims of the Divine Law and the imperfect manner in which, in his heart and life, he had answered them.
In Romans Paul is speaking of the tenor, of the Christian’s life, the general course of his life. True believers do not live in sin; they do not continue in sin. In Divine regeneration a principle of true holiness is imparted to the soul. But in -25 Paul is speaking about the absolute perfection to be seen in the spirituality of God’s Holy Law. He is speaking of the inward conflict of the saints of God; this holy principle in the child of God in conflict with the Adamic principle remaining in us (Gal. ). A true believer, though he cannot keep God’s Law perfectly, as his rule, yet he loves it dearly (); he blames his own heart for not keeping it perfectly and does not find fault with the Law as too hard. In this latter sense every Christian will remain in the bondage of sin as long as he remains in this body (Rom. ).
Verse 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. The Christian still serves God in the Law, but not as a letteristic, legal covenant. That which the child of God does in his sinful nature, his new nature does not allow or approve. We serve God, in this new and better age, in a new and better spirit, in a new and better administration of the Covenant, not in the old, letteristic, covenant, but in the spirit of the Law. In regenerating sinners the Lord gives us a new heart in which the glory of Christ is sweeter than the glory of this world. We then have 2 principles of life within our one human nature. One of these principles is simply the soul of man without the Spirit of God (1 Cor. ), the other is simply the soul of man made spiritual (1 Cor. ) by the Spirit of God. Every true Christian is in Romans 7:14-25 and 8:1-39 at one and the same time.
Many have taken a different view of this chapter, some much respected and otherwise solid in doctrine. But even good men can be wrong. Dr. Martyn Lloyd- Jones missed it when he said, “It means a man illuminated by the Holy Spirit. But those merely illuminated, though they might have come to see to some degree the spirituality of the Law of God, and have denounced some of their legalistic practice, have not come to delight in the Law of God in its spirituality. Only those who have closed with God in His grace in Christ truly delight in the Law of God in its spirituality. Those merely illuminated are in danger of falling away (Heb. 6:4-6) and to come to utterly despise the Gospel (Heb. -31).” And so Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ explanation of Romans 7:14-25 is clearly mistaken.
“For that which I do I allow not” — the word know is used in Scripture as equivalent to approve, as in Psa. 1:6, “The Lord knoweth” approveth, “the way of the righteous.” Hos. 8:4, “They made princes, and I knew it not” — I approved not their conduct. Matt. 7:23, “I never knew you” — I never approved of you. So what Paul is saying here is “I do that which I do not approve of.” Habitually to do what we do not approve of, is a characteristic of a state of unregeneracy; but there is not a just man on earth who does not too frequently do what he cannot, what he does not, habitually approve of. The apostle states, at the same time, “I do not that I would” (vs. 21). His desire was to ever do good, as His Lord determined what was good. His prevailing desire was to be and do good — to be entirely conformed to God’s Divine Law. Such a prevailing will and desire does not exist in the unregenerate mind; for “the imagination of the thoughts of man’s” unchanged “heart are only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). There is no such will and desire, as is here described, in fallen man, until God is pleased to call him and “work it in him of his own good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
When a true saint of God has a burning desire to do that which is right just because it is right, they exhibit true holiness (1 Pet. 1: 14-15). The Lord tells us through the prophet Jeremiah in Jer. 31:31-34 that all the heirs of new covenant salvation have this principle of holiness imparted to their soul in Divine regeneration. The prophet goes on to say that the heirs of the new covenant will know God. All men know God is the sense of being aware of Him, but natural men do not know God in the sense of approving of Him — loving Him. The heirs of new covenant salvation are brought in Divine regeneration to approve of Him in true love with great delight. When a believer actually loves God, they love the character of God, and when that person truly loves the character of God, they love the principle of right and wrong to be seen in the character of God. These principles are set out in the Law of God when seen in its spirituality (2 Tim. ).
Paul says — “I do what I hate.” He hated sin — all sin — he hated it as opposition to the holy, just, good Law of God (Rom. 12:9). This statement gives us the great difference between the saved and the unsaved. The truly regenerate alone thus hate sin, yea, hate it with a burning passion (Psa. 97:10; Prov. ). Unregenerate men may disapprove of many forms of sin — they may even hate certain forms of sin, but their habitually living in sin is the proof that they love sin in many forms, and that in no case do they hate it as sin (Psa. 36:1-4). Yet, notwithstanding this true hatred of sin by the saints, the apostle was conscious, as we are conscious, that under the influence of temptation and remaining depravity, we too often do what we habitually abhor; and on this account we, like him, are made to abhor ourselves (Job 42: 1-6). John Brown said, “The sum of what is said in these verses is this, ‘I am conscious of being but imperfectly conformed to the Law which is spiritual; I feel fettered by remaining sinful propensities. What I habitually approve, I by no means always do — what I habitually will and wish to do, I by no means always do; nay, I but too frequently do what I habitually hate’.”
The Christian evidences his hatred of sin by mourning when it has gained an advantage over him. It is his sincere intention and honest resolution to subdue every rising of our native depravity and the commission of every sin. In the sight of God who accepts the will for the deed, whenever the believer contritely confesses his sins to Him and forsakes them so far as any purpose to repeat them, he has mortified them. If we truly loathe, grieve over, and acknowledge our failures to God, then we can honestly say, “that which I do, I allow not.” The prevailing judgments and volitions of the mind, and desires and dispositions of the heart, mark the character (Matt. 5:1-10).
Verse 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Paul is saying. “If in doing wrong, I do what I honestly will and desire not to do, that — not my sinning and doing wrong in my Lord’s sight, but its being in opposition to my will and desire as a new creature in Christ, although not to my will and desire, at the moment of my transgression — is proof that ‘I consent to the law that it is good’.” He is stating that in the settled convictions of his mind, and of the minds of all the Lord’s children, and the habitual dispositions of the heart of the Christian, we regard the Law, known to be spiritual, in a way very different from what we did when we were in the flesh; we regard it as in every way good (Psa. 119:127-128). The estimate of the regenerate concerning the Law is “Thy law is good; therefore my soul loveth it.” The unsaved could never “consent unto the law that it is good.” Charles Hodge comments, “There is a constant feeling of self-disapprobation, and a sense of the excellence of the Law, in the Christian mind. . . . There is no conflict between the Law and the believer; it is between the Law and what the believer himself condemns.”
Verse 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. Paul is not denying his responsibility for sin when he says that it is not I as spiritual or a renewed man that commits sin. He is not laying the blame outside of himself but is saying that it is he in his old sinful nature, though not dominant but still very much present, and this evil influence accounts for his sins. The evil desires, thoughts, and motives all spring from the evil principle of sin — “Sin that dwelt in him.” These exceptional violations of the Divine Law were not the true exponents of his character, and not withstanding these, he, “in his mind,” was, as he says in the 26th verse, “a servant of the law of God.” This was the renewed Paul acting in the principle of true holiness of the regenerated sinner (2 Cor. ). This was his true character as a born again child of God, though he still acted far too often as if he were “the slave of the law of sin,” under the influence of the flesh — his fallen nature, but imperfectly destroyed by the influence of his new state and nature. When Paul, speaking of his apostolic labors says, “Not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. ), he was not saying that he did not perform the labor, but that he performed them under the influence of the Spirit and grace of God. When he said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 2:20),he was not saying that he did not live, but that he was indebted to Christ for the origin and maintenance of his new life. So the meaning of the words “Sin dwelling in me” is that depravity is an abstract quality that cannot act. It is the man to whom the quality belongs that acts. The man himself must act, but sin is the influence that motivates the act.
John Brown comments, “The renewed character was his true character: he could only be considered as acting a consistent part when he did what was good, for that was what he consented to — what he willed and wished, what he delighted in; of course, what he habitually did. His deviations from that course — his not doing what he would — his doing what he would not, what he hated — were exceptions, to him very painful ones, from the general rule, and to be accounted for, but by no means excused, by the remaining depravity of his nature.”
Verse 18 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. In previous verses the apostle had discussed that sin once “reigned over” him; now it only “dwells in” him. That by “sin dwelling in” the apostle, we are not to understand any separate agent to whom the blame of any deviations from duty was to be imputed, but himself, so far as he was still under the influence of natural depravity, is very plain from our present verse. Notice the difference between the I in the 17th verse, and the me in the 18th. It is not the I, in the 17th verse that commits sin; and in the me, of the 18th, there is nothing but sin. The I in the 17th verse is equivalent to “my spirit” — our nature as renewed by God’s grace; the me, in the 18th, to “my flesh” — our nature as unrenewed. The “spirit” is the same as the “new man,” and the “flesh” is the same as the “old man.” These terms describe our frames of thought and feeling — the one, “the flesh,” the natural, unsaved man; the other, “the spirit,” produced by the operation of the Holy Ghost in regenerating the elect sinner. “The old man” is wholly and totally corrupt; “the new man” is “after the image of him who created him” (Col. 3:10) — holy. The old man can do nothing but sin (Job -16); the new man sinneth not, he cannot sin, “for he is born of God, and his seed remains in him” (John 3:9). These two principles exist together in the real Christian man. He was originally all flesh; there was nothing else in him. Now, the new man, the spirit, has been formed in him by regenerating grace.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” In the new man there are many things that are good, as the work of grace and the good Word of God, the good Spirit of Christ, and Christ Himself, yea, God the Father dwells in him, and makes His abode with him. But the apostle makes it clear that it is within the “flesh,” the old nature, that nothing good dwells (John 3:6). No spark of holiness; no relics of man’s primitive righteousness; no lineament of that image of God, which was at first fair drawn upon the soul. “In my flesh” — in my nature considered as corrupted. And yet by nature the unawakened man thinks well of himself; what a miracle of grace has been wrought in his heart when he acknowledges, “in me . . . dwelleth no good thing.” By nature men are lovers of themselves (2 Tim. 3:2); what a miracle of grace has been wrought when they abhor themselves (Job 42:6) and discover that their ruined soul can never be repaired, and only He who brought Heaven and earth out of nothing, can do poor sinners good (Jer. 20:13).
Paul says sin does not reign as it did before his conversion, but it still “dwelleth in me;” for he knew, both from the declarations of God’s Word and from his own spiritual experience, that nothing spiritually good dwells in his nature, unchanged by Divine influence. And in consequence of this “to will is present with me, how to perform that which is good I find not.” Owing to the sin nature dwelling in him, his habitual will and desire to do good were not so effectual as they should have been — as they would have been if he was perfectly holy as he desired to be. The flesh prevented him doing much that he really desired to do, and rendered imperfect even what he did. His will, under the influence of the Spirit, was to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1); but the flesh presents many obstacles and stumbling-blocks in the way of our desire to be perfectly holy, which impede our progress, and sometimes make us stumble and fall (Gal. 5:17). This was most painful to the apostle, just as it is to all true Christians. We all echo the language of verses 15 and 16 above which was no mere matter of argument, no dialectic subtlety — it was, and is in the regenerate soul, the subject of heartfelt experience and deep sorrow (Psa. 119:5).  The dearest wish that will make a true saint of God happy is not to be happy, healthy, or wealthy, but to never sin again — to be perfectly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). The wandering mind while in prayer, or the use of ill-chosen words, or not walking in the Spirit, every day, every hour, every moment brings great grief to the heart of the true believer (Psa.1:2;Isa. 58:2).
Verse 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. This verse is practically an exact repetition of verse 15. In the first 3 chapters of our epistle the Holy Ghost moved Paul to write that no unregenerate man “desires good,” “desires righteousness,” or “delights in the Law of God.” But the apostle has said that “to will [desire] is present with me” (v. 18); “the good that I would [desire]” (vs.19); “I delight in the law of God’ (vs. 22) — which shows his attitude toward the righteousness, Law, the Word of God, and desire to love Him with all his heart, and at all times. When we are born from above these new desires are implanted along with the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4). So long as the Christian remains on earth, “the flesh [the principle of sin] lusteth against the Spirit [the principle of grace]” (Gal. ). The more our thoughts are formed by the Word of God, the more do we discover how full of corruption we are (Isa. 6:5). Even so; yet, blameworthy and lamentable though things be, it in no wise alters the fact that the one whose experience it is, can call on God to witness that he wishes with all his heart it were otherwise; and his own conscience testifies to his sincerity in expressing such a desire (1 Pet. 2:2). In the life of the believer on this earth there is ever this conflict for there co-exist in him the two principles of holiness and sin, which occasion a bitter and incessant warfare. This duality is not found in an unregenerate person. Real heartfelt desires after holiness prove a man to have been born of God who made us “willing in the day of His power,” turning our wills toward Him, and placing within us a holy principle that earnestly desires holiness.
Verse 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. This verse is nearly a repetition of verse 17. Charles Hodge adds, “The acts of a slave are indeed his own acts; but not being performed with the full assent and consent of his soul, they are not fair tests of the true state of his feelings.” It is entirely and solely due to the mercy of God that any man has a good will, rightly set, in the things of the Almighty (vs. 15, 16, 19-21). The state of a man’s will decides his character. He, who wills what is evil, is evil (John ). He, who wills what is good, is a renewed man (2 Tim. ). But a will is more than a mere wish. It is settled and controls the man in the main. And a will to that which is good is the gift of God.
Verse 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. Paul is saying that the true Christian finds a law when he would do good, evil is present with him. He says that we find in our experience this to be the ordinary course with us; we find it, as it were, the law of my present imperfectly renewed state. When we desire to do the good that God desires, then, in a remarkable degree, the depraved principles of our fallen nature are sure to exert themselves (Psa. 19:12). How often the regenerate find that when they would perform some spiritual duty — as meditation, prayer, or thanksgiving — that vain, absurd, vile thoughts rush into our minds, so that we are constrained to say with the Psalmist, “I am as a beast before Thee” (Psa. 73:22). Paul calls indwelling sin a law, thus indicating that there is an exceeding effectiveness and power in the remainders of indwelling sin in believers, with a constant working towards evil (Psa. 40:12). When Paul says, “I find a law,” he means — not that the doctrine of it had been preached to him or taught him, but that he found it by experience in himself. Therefore, Christians have experience of the power and efficacy of indwelling sin. We by experience find it in ourselves — we find it as a law. It has a self-evidencing efficacy to the spiritually alive who discern it in themselves. They that find not its power are lost and under its dominion.
“That when I would do good” — through grace there is kept up in believers a constant and ordinarily prevailing will of doing good (Phil. ), notwithstanding the power and efficacy of indwelling sin to the contrary. This, in their worst condition, distinguishes them from unbelievers in their best. The will in unbelievers is under the power of the law of sin. The opposition they make to sin, either in the root or branches of it, is from their light and their consciences (not their hearts); the will of sinning in them is never taken away.
“Evil is present with me” — Indwelling sin is effectually in rebelling and inclining to evil, when the will of doing good is in a particular manner active and inclining unto obedience. These are the contrary principles and the contrary operations that are in him. The principles are, a will of doing good on the one hand, from grace, and a law of sin on the other (Gal. ).  Awake, therefore, all of you in whose hearts is anything of the ways of God. Your enemy is not only upon you, but is in you also. (For much of the above we are indebted to the great Puritan John Owens).
Verse 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. No one but a true believer can say with all honesty that he delights in the Law of God after the inward man. Natural men and antinomians in hypocrisy may say this, but their lives will reflect the fact that they do not mean what they are saying (Matt. 15:7-8). Personal holiness cannot be separated from free Justification. These 2 graces must not be confounded, but they cannot be separated. In the tenor of our lives we walk with God (3 John 3,4). In the prevailing bent of our renewed will, our character, we are turned away from sin and toward God. In our character we are a converted people, bent away from sin and toward God (1 Thes. 1:9). Certainly as we walk after the Spirit in the tenor of our lives (Rom. 8:1), we do not do the things of the flesh in the tenor of our lives, but there is a bondage of the will resting upon us — so far as being absolutely perfect is concerned, as shown in the next verse. The phrase “the inward man,” or inner man, is found in only 2 other places in Scripture, 2 Cor. 4:16 and Eph.3:16, and there, as well as here, signifies the regenerate mind. It is called the hidden man of the heart in 1 Peter 3:4. It appears to mean the same thing as “the mind,” which, in the next verse, is contrasted with the flesh and its members, and which is absolutely not the body and its members, but corrupt human nature and its faculties. Paul willed what was good, for, “according to his inner man” — the most central portions of his intellectual and moral being, reason, and conscience, and moral affection, influenced by the Holy Ghost — he “delighted in the law of God.” Not only did he consent to the Law as being good, reasonable and just, but he had a strong cordial satisfaction with it as Divinely beautiful, excellent, and benignant. He delighted in contemplating it as a picture of the moral excellence of its Author, his Lord, and rejoiced that he and all the intelligent universe were under its righteous, benignant sway (Job ). His language was the language of all true believers as he sympathized with the Psalmist who said, “O how love I Thy law! Thy word is very pure; therefore Thy servant loveth it. The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver” (Psa. 119: 72, 97, 140).
What a clear picture is this verse of the grace of God in the renewing of a sinner. A Lawless rebel is changed into a loyal subject; enmity against the Law (Rom. 8:7) is displaced by love for the Law (Psa. 119:97). The heart of the sinner is so transformed that it now loves God and has a genuine desire and determination to please Him (Colo. 3:9-10). The renewed heart “delights in the Law of God” and “serves the Law of God” (Rom. , 25), it being the very nature of the principle of holiness placed within the sinner when regenerated. “Let each reader sincerely ask himself, is there now that in me which responds to the holy Law of God? Is it truly my longing and resolve to be wholly regulated by the Divine will? Is it the deepest yearning of my soul and the chief aim of my life to honor and glorify Him? Is it my daily prayers for Him to ‘work in me both to will and to do of Hid good pleasure’? Is my acutest grief occasioned when I feel I sadly fail to fully realize my longings? If so, the great change has been wrought in me.” (A. W. Pink). However, my dear reader, unless your heart delights in our Lord’s Law, there is something radically wrong with you; yea, it is greatly to be feared that you are spiritually dead.
Verse 23 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. Were there nothing to interfere with the delight expressed by the apostle that dwells in the Christian, how happy would the children of God be. But the truth is we all must say that “evil is present with us.” Paul had stated the law of our new nature; “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.”  The “members” and the “flesh” are materially the same thing — human nature as depraved. ‘I find a law in my members,” is equivalent to, “in the operation of the facilities of my depraved nature, I find an order of things which works with the regularity of law. This order of things is directly the reverse of that now established by the good Spirit in my renewed mind. According to that law, he habitually delighted in the Law of the Lord, and of course yielded to it a cheerful, willing obedience. This is the law of the new creation, but the best man is liable to fall, and but too frequently does fall (Rom. , 19).
Regeneration does not eradicate the old nature. We remain what we always were except for the new principle of life implanted by the Holy Ghost, which “wars” against the old nature, to overcome and subdue it. Likewise the old nature “wars” against the new, seeking to overcome and suppress it. This conflict is graphically described in complete detail by the apostle Paul in Romans chapters 7 and 8 and Gal. -26. This state of conflict exists in the soul of the regenerate till the end of our life on earth, but it will not survive the death of our bodies (which is the seat of the activity of the old nature).
Paul’s statement regarding the conflict within him is: “I find, in consequence of my remaining depravity, that I am often indisposed to, and prevented from, the doing of that to which the Holy Spirit and the principles of my new nature incline me as good; and that, on the other hand, I am often inclined to, and led to do, that to which the Holy Spirit and the principles of my new nature indispose me. It is just the sentiment expressed in the Epistle of Galatians, ‘The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Gal. ).” Since everything this side of absolute perfection is sin, to God and also sin to the Christian, Paul grieves over sin as he grieves over his lack of perfection. The apostle continues, stating not only that the law in the members makes war with the law of the mind, but that it sometimes succeeds in bringing him into captivity. “The law of sin” — that order of things which prevails in human nature as fallen — as sinful, expressly opposed to the holy Law of God. Indeed, in the battle which the Christian fights, he is against himself: the foe is within him.
There are two principles of life in a Christian. The word principle refers to a law of nature by which a thing operates. The Christian has two laws of nature, two principles within his one human nature. One is the principle of true holiness, which is born of a sincere, burning desire to do that which is right, as that which is right is defined by the spirituality of the Law of God. Paul did not delight in the Law because he expected to earn his way to Heaven thereby. He was dead to expectation of earning by works his way to Heaven, by keeping the Law (Gal. ), but he was not dead to that which is right.
Unsaved men cannot conceive of a man being strongly motivated to do what is right except that motivation come from some self-interest. Self-centered man simply does not know anything about having a strong desire to do what is right just because it is right. He may want to do what is right so he can stay out of trouble, keep his wife and family satisfied, or if he thinks that it will keep him out of Hell and give him a hope of going to Heaven. But this is all self-interest completely void of loving God and having a burning desire to please Him. This is sure evidence that such a one does not know the Lord, whereas, to the trembling Christian reader, one of the most conclusive evidences that we do know the Lord and possess a pure heart is to be conscious of and burdened with the impurity which still dwells in us.
Verse 24 O wretch man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? “Every Christian has in his own breast a commentary on the Apostle’s language. If there be anything of which he is fully assured of, it is that Paul has in this passage described his experience; and the more the believer advances in knowledge and holiness, the more does he loathe himself, as by nature a child of that corruption which still so closely cleaves to him. So far is the feeling of the power of indwelling sin from being inconsistent with regeneration, that it must be experienced in proportion to the progress of sanctification. The more sensitive we are, the more do we feel pain; and the more our hearts are purified, the more painful to us will sin be. Men perceive themselves to be sinners in proportion as they have previously discovered the holiness of God and of His Law” (Robert Haldane).  None but a pardoned man could have uttered this cry.
When Paul wrote, “O wretched man that I am,” he not only was describing his life at the time of writing, but he sounded THE HIGHEST TONE OF SANCTIFIED EXPERIENCE THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN — an anguished cry representing the highest attainment of the Christian in this life. This is not the cry of defeat, as many adherents of the false theory of perfectionism or the foolish doctrine of “higher life” claim, but it was the cry of the holiest of men, panting with vehement desire, after the Divine perfection. True sanctification can only keep pace with self-revelation. Only as we discover more and more the depths of our inward corruption, that we realize more and more our need for holiness. The spiritual mind can be content with nothing less than the Divine perfection (1 Chr. 28:9). It will not be content with theories of the best attainable in this life, for its aim is nothing less than to perfectly please the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2). Therefore, to the extent that it finds itself coming short in thought, word, deed, motive, intention, will, and perfect love, of the stature of Divine perfection, it will groan within itself, cry out in despair of itself, and vehemently reach forth to that which it has not yet attained (Psa. 38:18). The nearer it gets to conformity to the image of Christ, the clearer it sees its own imperfections and infirmities, and the more vehemently it cries out for full and final deliverance.
Those higher lifers and perfectionists who know nothing of this inward struggle of the true saints of God, having not this sense of sin, are self-deceived. Knowing not the true state of their souls, they are totally ignorant of what the truly spiritual man would see as enormous wrongs, and blights, and diseases, and open sores. Things which appear to them as small and insignificant are, in the experience of true believers, reckoned as mountainous iniquities. This cry of the apostle, so far from being the cry of a man in fleshly bondage, as some speak, is truly the highest tone of sanctified experience.
“The body of this death” — this deathful body — this body productive of mischief and misery (Colo. ). The fleshly part of the believer is a body of death. This is what the apostle calls “the body of sin” — “the flesh,” “the old man,” “sin that dwelleth in us.” This loathsomeness of sin was felt as a viper in Paul’s heart. A natural man is often miserable from the effects of sin, but never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature in Christ it is vile indeed (Job 40:4).
“Who shall deliver me?” The holy Law cannot. Something more powerful than a statement of what is duty, and why we should perform it, is requisite to make even regenerate men obey the Divine will. “It is the clear perception, the firm faith, of those truths respecting the grace of God in Christ Jesus, which gives deliverance from the Law as a covenant, both in its condemning power and in its influence over the feelings and character: This, in the hand of the Spirit, is the grand instrument of Christian sanctification” (John Brown).
Dear Reader, is this the language of your soul? Has the Holy Ghost shown you yourself and have you learned with Paul, Job, Isaiah, and all the faithful gone before, to loathe yourself in your own sight? Do you groan, being burdened with a body of sin which drags down the soul? As long as a true child of God is in this life, He experiences his sin and misery, his redemption and deliverance, as well as his thankfulness to God, all at the same time. Always he is the sinful, redeemed, thankful Christian.
Verse 25 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. He knew who had delivered — who would deliver, who had begun and who would perfect the work which He had begun (Phil. 1:6). In these words, “I thank God,” he shows he rests in Christ as he looks forward to full deliverance from sin which is yet future. Paul’s groan for full and complete deliverance from ever trace of sin, “the body of this death,” is answered by this triumphant thanksgiving which looks forward to the Resurrection hope of all true believers (Rom. -25; 1 Cor. -57). We find the answer to Paul’s cry, “Who shall deliver me?” dealt with from this verse through chapter 8:4.
“Through Jesus Christ our Lord” — we are not ignorant of, but know our Deliverer, Jesus Christ our Lord. None but He is able. He has delivered His people, He does deliver them, and He shall deliver them. He has delivered us from the curse of sin by His death. He does now deliver our conscience from the guilt and dominion of sin, through God- given faith. He shall deliver us perfectly from every trace of indwelling sin, the very being of sin, when the body is “sown in dishonour, to be raised in glory.” The last enemy, death, is not destroyed yet and, therefore, none are perfectly exempt from sin, which brought death into the world. Death is unwelcome to nature; but then, and not till then, the conflict will cease. But present deliverance we have, O believer; and perfect deliverance we pant after, long for, and shall have at the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23).
Concerning the present deliverance of the elect we give this fine quote of the late W. J. Berry, “The salvation of a sinner is a great and wonderful work. God has not done it half-way. He not only chose His elect before time, He redeems them in time; He not only removes the charges of sin from them legally, He also imputes and puts to their account a justifying righteousness; He not only imputes His righteousness, but also IMPARTS to them the very nature of that righteousness and true holiness in the new birth. It is vain to talk about the imputation of the righteousness of Christ FOR sinners, without the IMPARTATION of His holy nature IN THE LIFE OF SINNERS. Without this work of impartation they could not worship God acceptably in this life nor dwell with Him in the life to come. The salvation and glorification of the sinner is the principal matter; all doctrinal truth relative to that salvation is secondary and incidental to it.”
“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God.” In this verse and verse 23 Paul refers to the renewed man as the mind. In this renewal of the soul of the sinner the Holy Ghost renews his mind in its knowledge of God (Eph. ; Tit. 3:5). The natural man knows that God is — that He is holy and sovereign — but the natural man does not know God in His glory. Regeneration is essentially the renewal of the mind of the elect in its knowledge of God. This certainly involves the affections and the will. So “with the mind,” i.e., so far as I am a renewed man, so far as I am under Divine influence, “I serve the Law of God” — I am conformed to its holy, just, good requirements. As regenerated, with a renewed mind, the child of God serves the Law of God, delights in the Law of God, loves the Law, and desires to make it the subject of devout meditation all the day. In a state of grace we reach for perfection but we cannot reach the high standards of the Law, its demands for absolute perfection; hence we do not trust legal obedience as our justification. We wholly rest in the God of grace in Christ, but in that grace we serve God in relative obedience to the demands of His holy Law.
Service that is only mental is no real service at all (Matt. 15:8). Paul means that with our renewed minds fixed on the Gospel, on the Cross of Christ, we serve God in the great principles of the Law (Matt. -40). Yet such is the body of sin “the flesh,” with its affections, appetites, and desires, that it draws away the attention, imperiously puts in its claims, and rises up in rebellion continually. And the souls of God’s children are thus exercised, thus afflicted, in the struggles between the different motions of grace and corruption from day to day. Such is the state, the uniform experience of God’s people in all ages. Paul, though he had been so highly sanctified, complains that he, and all the saints of God, with the flesh, “served the law of sin.” With Paul all true believers feel and discover a law of sin in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin, which is in our members; and with Paul, under a deep distress of soul we cry out — “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Be assured of this, if you can serve sin without sorrow, you have not the Spirit of Christ in you (Rom. ). But if through grace you are truly poor in spirit and mourn over sin as sin, our Lord Christ pronounces you blessed (Matt. 5:3:4).
What the true believer wants, and what the Law cannot give him, is, in the first place, deliverance from the curse — pardon, a state of acceptance with God; and, secondly, an indwelling influence powerful enough to counteract and overpower the depraving influences from without and within to which he is exposed. Now grace, as reigning “in righteousness of God,” does both.
We finish this great chapter with an important and somewhat lengthy quote of the late Scottish pastor and evangelist, Charles D. Alexander: “In so far as anyone says that Romans 8 gives the answer to the cry, ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ they are quite correct. But in so far as they go on to say that this deliverance is in this present life, they but make themselves ridiculous, for, in the 8th chapter, after Paul had carefully distinguished between saved and unsaved, and taught us how we may prove the fact of our own regeneration by mortification of sin (8:13) and obedience to the Holy Spirit (8:14), leading to a wholesome assurance that we are the children of God (8:16), he holds before us, to comfort, cheer, nerve, and encourage us in all our trials, temptations, defeats, struggles, and conflicts, that grand and glorious deliverance , still future to all of us — THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY. This is the burden of his message in Romans chapter 8. Are we troubled by the corruptions of sin common to our bodily state? Then, says Paul, look up, and look forward to the time when, after the struggles of this present life are ended, we shall receive that final redemption, even that for which in this body we groan, namely, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY (8:23). For we are saved by hope, he says.
“Now you see the full meaning of the apostle when he cried out by reason of the sinfulness, the loss, the restriction, and the vanity of this bodily state, ‘O wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Then he concludes, the part of the verse which is never quoted by these convention teachers and writers, ‘So then, with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. The inward struggle of the Christian will continue throughout our earthly life and our daily groan shall continue to be, ‘O wretched man that I am.’
“Christ told all His disciples that this walk with Him is blood, toil, sweat, and tears; a cross on which our own self must be crucified day by day, loss and pain, trial and disappointment. Through much tribulation must you enter the Kingdom of God (Acts ). But with it all, if you be earnestly bent on running the race which is set before you, you will have rewards in this life — consolation, hope, peace, contentment, an ever growing and flowering holiness, and in the world to come, you shall receive the crown of life. There is no shortcut to holiness. Be content, dear Reader, to tread the lowly path of humility and repentance. Learn by the things you suffer. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. True believers will find many compensations and joys undreamed of before, as Christ comes to you and reveals Himself to your soul. The increasing sense of your own wretchedness through your inner corruptions will arise from your increasing victory over them. Gerhard Groot, the young Dutchman who labored so faithfully for God a century before the Reformation, wrote truthfully these words, ‘The farther a man knows himself to be from perfection, so much the nearer he is to it. As long as a man finds something about him to amend, he is in a good state.’ Let us close on that note.” RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 7:14-25.
Verse 14. Numbers cannot conceive that St. Paul could mean this of himself as a confirmed believer; and finding it to be inseparably connected  with what follows, they would explain the whole of an awakened Jew, or some other convinced sinner, who is seeking justification by the works of the Law; or at most of an unconfirmed believer. But such things are spoken as are true of none but real Christians; and the whole is actually verified in their experience. A believer cannot willingly sell himself to work wickedness, as Ahab did; nor will he imitate those slaves who love their master and his service, and refuse liberty when offered to them: yet, when he compares his actual attainments with the spirituality of the Law, and with his own desire and aim to obey it, he sees that he is yet, to a great degree, carnal in the state of his mind, and under the power of evil propensities, from which (like a man sold for a slave) he cannot wholly emancipate himself. He is CARNAL in exact proportion to the degree in which he falls short of perfect conformity to the Law of God. — Thomas Scott (1747-1821).
The apostle, speaking of his old nature, says, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” This was the state this eminent apostle was in, even after he had been in the faith upwards of 20 years, and had been caught up into the 3rd heaven; and it is the experience of all the real children of God in every age, who know, feel, and bewail the plague of their own hearts. Whilst, however, this chosen servant of God was in this wretched state as to the flesh, or old nature, he was, as to the Spirit, or his new nature, the Lord’s freeman; for “whom the Son maketh free, he is free indeed;” and “being made free from sin, he became the servant of righteousness.” In the same chapter in which he utters the above complaint, he also makes use of the following expressions, which are true only as they refer to his new, or Divine nature: “I consent unto the law that it is good;” “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (my new nature). — The Gospel Standard, 1890.
He who is insensible that there is that in him which is inclined to take occasion to sin from the commandment of the Law, as well from the promises of the Gospel, is a stranger to the plague of his heart. — John Brine (1703-1765).
Verse 15. Perfection is the Christian’s aim, and imperfections are his sorrows. — John Flavel (1628-1691).
Paul committed sin, but he did not approve, still less did he seek to vindicate it. The real Christian repents of his wrongdoing, confesses it to God, mourns over it, and prays earnestly to be kept from a repetition of the same. Pride, coldness, slothfulness, he hates, yet day by day he finds them reasserting their power over him; yet nightly he returns to the Fountain which has been opened “for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1), that he may be cleansed. The true Christian desires to render perfect obedience to God, and cannot rest satisfied with anything short of it; and instead of palliating his failures, he mourns over them. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
The man who strives and fights against sin, though sin may often be suffered to overmatch him, is more assuredly a child of God than he who never felt the plague of his own heart, or who thinks he has no sin to strive and fight against. — Sir Richard Hill (1732-1808).
Verse 16. It is certain, whilst we are in the flesh, our duties will taste of the vessel whence they proceed. Weakness, defilements, treachery, hypocrisy will attend them. To this purpose, whatever some pretend to the contrary, is the complaint of the Church (Isa. 64:6). The chaff oftentimes is so mixed with the wheat that corn can scarce be discerned. And this know — the more spiritual any man is, the more he sees of his want of spirituality, in his spiritual duties. Job abhorred himself most when he knew himself best. — John Owen (1616-1683).
When we actually believe God’s precepts with a lively faith, our hearts are drawn off from a course of self-will, for we accept them as the only Rule to guide and govern us in the obtaining of that happiness; and thereby we submit ourselves to the Divine authority and conduct ourselves “as obedient children.” Nothing produces a real submission of soul but a conscious subjection to a “thus saith the Lord.” — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Your state is not at all to be measured by the opposition that sin makes to you, but by the opposition made to it; be that ever so great if this be good, be that ever so restless and powerful if this be sincere, you may be disquieted, you can have no reason to despond. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Verse 17. Contrast, dear reader, with the “some remnants of corruption” remaining in the Christian (an expression frequently found in the writings of the Puritans) the honest confession of the Heavenly-minded Jonathan Edwards: “When I look into my heart and take a view of its wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than Hell. And it appears to me that, were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness of the great Jehovah, and the arm of His grace stretched forth in all the majesty of His power and in all the glory of His sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below Hell itself. It is affecting to think how ignorant I was when a young Christian, of the bottomless depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy, and filth left in my heart.” The closer we walk with God, the more conscious will we be of our utter depravity. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Sin is my hourly companion and my daily curse, the breath of my mouth and the cause of my groans, my incentive to prayer and my hinderer of it, that made a Saviour suffer and makes a Saviour precious, that spoils every pleasure and adds a sting to every pain, that fits a soul for Heaven and ripens a soul for Hell. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).
There is a perfect sanctification in Christ which became ours the moment we first believed in Him — little though we realized it at the time There will always be a perfect conformity to this in us, an actual making good thereof, when we shall be glorified and enter that blessed realm where sin is unknown. In between these 2 things is the believer’s present life on earth, which consists of a painful and bewildering commingling of lights and shadows, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats — the latter seeming to greatly preponderate in the cases of many, especially so the longer they live. There is an unceasing warfare between the flesh and the spirit, each bringing forth “after its own kind,” so that groans ever mingle with the Christian’s songs. The believer finds himself alternating between thanking God for deliverance from temptation and contritely confessing his deplorable yielding to temptation. Often is he made to say, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. ). Such has been for upwards of 25 years the experience of the writer, and it is still so. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
We once heard a friend say, “I have got out of the 7th of Romans into the 8th.” Nonsense! There is no getting out of one into the other, for they are one. The field is not divided by hedge or ditch. I thank God with all my heart that since my conversion I have never known what it is to be out of the 7th of Romans, nor out of the 8th of Romans either: the whole passage has been solid truth to my experience. I have struggled against inward sin, and rejoiced in complete justification at the same time. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Verse 18. The apostle Paul found himself to be the subject of sin, as well as of holiness; of flesh, as well as of spirit. He experienced, to his sorrow, that sin was always present with him; that it attended in the closet, and in the pulpit; and that, therefore, he could not pray without sinning, nor discharge any Christian duty without a sinful defilement attending it. Persons most eminent in holiness have always had the deepest sense of their sinfulness. They look not upon themselves nor on sin in the light as others do. — John Brine (1703-1765).
Ah, my reader, when God truly takes a soul in hand, He brings him to the end of himself. He not only convicts him of the worthlessness of his own works, but He convinces him of the impotency of his will. He not only strips him of the filthy rags of his own self-righteousness, but He empties him of all self-sufficiency. He not only enables him to perceive that there is “no good thing” in him (Rom. ), but He also makes him feel he is “without strength” (Rom. 5:6). Instead of concluding that he is the man that God will save, he now fears that he is the man who must be lost forever. He is now brought down into the very dust and made to feel that he is no more able to savingly believe in Christ than he can climb up to Heaven. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
The Law in its spiritual operations convinces of sin, while the convicted one with a heavy heart confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Indwelling sin tells its sad tale upon an awakened conscience, while the sensitive spirit sighs, “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” (Rom. 7:18). Total depravity and inability are prolific in their accusations against an exercised child of God.  Satan, “the accuser of the brethren,” is not backward with his charges against the weak and weary, tried and tempted traveler in tribulation’s track. He works upon his own vile injections and drags down his victims to despondency and despair. But, blessed be God, they are not left in his cruel hands, nor his infernal designs. — Thomas Bradbury (1831-1905).
Before the fall, man’s will was free to good, and burned with a pure celestial flame. Original sin has acted as an extinguisher, and leaves the soul in the dark until lighted again by the fire of God’s Spirit. — Augustus Toplady (1740-1778).
Verse 19. He who hath tasted the bitterness of sin will fear to commit it; and he who hath felt the sweetness of mercy will fear to offend it. — Stephen Charnock (1628-1680).
The Apostle’s confession that “in me dwelleth no good thing” which once appeared absurd to him, the believer now acknowledges to be his own condition. The description of the Christian which is found in Romans 7 is something which none but a regenerated person can understand. The things there mentioned as belonging to the same man at the same time, seem foolish to the wise of this world; but the believer realizes completely the truth of it in his own life. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
There is nothing of more certainty of the souls of any than what they have real spiritual experience of. When the things about which men are conversant lie only in notion, and are rationally discoursed or debated, much deceit may lie under all; but when the things between God and the soul come to be realized by practical experience, they give a never-failing certainty of themselves. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Verse 20. Though it be blessed true that in His saving operations God communicates subduing and restraining grace to the soul — to some a greater measure, to others a lesser; yet it is equally true that He does not remove the old nature at regeneration or eradicate the flesh. Only One has ever trodden this earth who could truthfully aver “the Prince of this world (Satan) cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John ) — nothing combustible which his fiery darts could ignite. The godliest saint who has ever lived had reason to join with the apostle in sorrowfully confessing “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” It is indeed the Christian’s duty and privilege to keep himself from all outward sins: “walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. ), yet as the very next verse tells us, the flesh is there, operative, and opposing the spirit. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
I only wish that I could live more in the enjoyment of these 2 rich and unspeakable blessings — salvation and sanctification. But we shall always find it to be a fight of faith, a struggle against the power of temptation and corruption, a conflict between the spirit and the flesh, and one in which by strength no man can prevail, for the weak take the prey, and the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).
So too it is in the Scriptures, and nowhere else, that we can learn the truth about ourselves, that “in the flesh (what we are by nature as the depraved descendants of fallen Adam) there dwelleth no good thing.” Until we learn to distinguish (as God does) between the “I” and the “sin which dwelleth in me” (Rom. ) there can be no settled peace. Scripture knows nothing of the sanctification of “the old man,” and as long as we are hoping for any improvement in him, we are certain to meet with disappointment. If we are to “worship God in the Spirit” and “rejoice in Christ Jesus” we must learn to have “no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 21. It is one thing to believe the theory that I am spiritually a poverty-stricken pauper, it is quite another, to have an acute sense of it in my soul. Where the latter exists, there are deep exercises of heart, which evoke the bitter cry, “my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!” (Isa. 24:16). There is deep anguish that there is so little growth in grace, so little fruit to God’s glory, such a wretched return made for His abounding goodness unto me. This is accompanied by a ever-deepening discovery of the depths of corruption which is still within me. The soul finds that when it would do good, evil is present with him (Rom. ). It is grieved by the motions of unbelief, the swellings of pride, the surgings of rebellion against God. Instead of peace, there is war within; instead of realizing his holy aspirations, the blessed one is daily defeated; until the stricken heart cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. ). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
“What!” say you, “do you think that a child of God, really called by grace, has anything about him that loves sin?” I am beyond thinking. I know it; and it plagues and tortures his poor mind sometimes, till he hardly knows where to look. But when God opens to him a little of Solomon’s prayer, he gets into it. “What prayer and supplication soever he made by any man, or by all Thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, hear thou in heaven.” There are some people that do not appear to know the meaning of it; they do not feel any heart plague within them. Well, then, they are not interested in that prayer. But other people feel the plague of it. And they have got something about them that loves it, and that makes the plague so much the more torturing to the mind; but then there is something about them that does not love it. Do not you find in secret something thirsting after Jesus, crying to Jesus, loving Jesus? And now and then it appears to be heaved up, as if it were under an intolerable mountain; and its breathings are, “O Lord, I hate vain thoughts.” Is it not so? Now, this very principle that “hates vain thoughts,” is the life of God, that has been the death of your sin, and the death of your soul to all creature-help. Here is a death, therefore, a real death in the spiritual mind, to all the pleasures, and enjoyments, and love of sin. — William Gadsby (1773-1844).
Indwelling sin is a law even in believers, though not to them. Paul said, “I find, then . . . a law of sin.” It was a discovery which he had made as a regenerate man. From painful experience he found there was that in him which hindered his communion with God, which thwarted his deepest longings to live a sinless life. The operations of Divine grace preserve in believers a constant and ordinarily prevailing will to do good, notwithstanding the power and efficacy of indwelling sin to the contrary. But the will in unbelievers is completely under the power of sin — their will of sinning is never taken away. Education, religion, and convictions of conscience may restrain unbelievers, but they have no spiritual inclinations of will to do that which is pleasing to God. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 22. And that Law is spiritual, as we have indicated: the love of God is its principal demand. The central and basic demand of the Law is its heart, that throbs in every one of its precepts. It is love of God that the Law requires. The love of God must be our motive in serving God alone, in worshipping Him according to His Word, in reverencing His holy Name, in keeping the Sabbath, in honoring the neighbor, in his position of authority, in his person, in his marriage relation, in his possessions, in his name, and that must fill our hearts with that quiet contentment that makes us refrain from covetousness. The Law of God is therefore not a mere code of precepts that is designed to regulate our external conduct. It demands our heart, our entire existence, our mind, our will, and all our desires and inclinations. — Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965).
Where the Spirit has begun to transform a soul the Divine Law is cordially received as a rule of life, and the heart begins to echo to the language of Psalm 119 in its commendation. Nothing more plainly distinguishes a true conversion from a counterfeit than this: that one who use to be an enemy to God’s Law is brought understandingly and heartily to love it, and seek to walk according to its requirements. “Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). He who has been born again has a new palate, so that he now relishes what he formerly disliked. He now begins to prove that it is not only the fittest, but the happiest thing in the world, to aspire to be holy as God is holy, to love Him supremely and live to Him entirely. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Regeneration is a mighty and powerful change, wrought in the soul by the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit, wherein a vital principle, a new habit, the Law of God and a Divine nature are put into and framed in the heart, enabling it to act holily and pleasingly to God, and to grow therein to eternal glory. — Stephen Charnock (1628-1680).
Verse 23. The more godly a man is, the more doth he feel the battle between the flesh and the spirit. Hereof cometh those lamentable complaints in the Psalms and other Scriptures. It profiteth us very much to feel sometimes the wickedness of our nature and corruption of our flesh. So a Christian is made to see Jesus a wonderful Creator, who out of heaviness can make joy, of terror comfort, of sin righteousness, and of death life. This is our ground and anchor-hold — that Christ is our only and perfect righteousness. — Martin Luther (1483-1546).
The Apostle proceeds to declare, in the same person the motions of sin still work, which causes him, not delight but deep misery. Yet a misery which is most holy also. “I see,” says the Apostle, “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.” Now what must be the feelings with which the inward man views these insidious workings and encroachments of sin? Can it consent to them or endure them? No. It cries out: “O wretched man that I am!” and unable to accomplish a deliverance, looks out of self for the Deliverer: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We should remember that the more intense the misery of the state described, the greater is the holiness of him enduring it. Just before, the Apostle says: “I delight;” but his delight cannot neutralize his misery. Though delighting in the Law of God, still he is obliged to cry out: “O wretched man that I am!” I am sure that neither the Pharisee nor the Antinomian can attain to this holy misery, any more than to this holy delight. Both must result from the pure and holy grace of the Divine Spirit. — Bernard Gilpin (1803-1871).
We must distinguish between sin’s dominion over the unregenerate and sin’s tyranny and usurpation over the regenerate. Dominion follows upon right of conquest or subjection. Sin’s great design in all of us is to obtain undisputed dominion; it has it in unbelievers and contends for it is believers. But every evidence the Christian has that he is under the rule of grace is that much evidence he is not under the dominion of sin. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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” (Rom. -23). That does not mean that sin always triumphs in the act, but that it is a hostile power which the renewed soul cannot evict. It wars against us in spite of all we can do. The general makeup of believers is that, notwithstanding sin being a “law” (governing force) not “to” but “in” them, they “would (desire and resolve to) do good,” but “evil is present” with them. Their habitual inclination is to do good, and they are brought into captivity against their will. It is the “flesh” which prevents the full realization of their holy aspirations in this life. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 24. He is no true believer to whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Do you claim to be anything but a poor sinner? If you have ever committed murder, you will be a murderer until the day you die. Likewise, if you have ever sinned, even though pardoned and cleansed in the blood of Christ, you will be a sinner until the day you die. It is only redeemed sinners that enter Heaven. If in your religious profession, you have advanced to such a “height” that you no longer feel to be a poor unworthy sinner, then I am afraid you have never yet experienced what it is to stand guilty before God and plead for mercy. You see, Christ is all the righteousness that can ever merit the favor of God. Apart from Him, in yourself, you are always an undone sinner. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
“O wretched man that I am” is a better evidence of grace and holiness than “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men.” — John Owen (1616-1683).
He can never truly relish the sweetness of God’s mercy who never tasted the bitterness of his own misery. — Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680).
Verse 25. There is a vileness in the bodies even of the saints (Phil. ), which will never be removed until it be melted down in the grave, and cast into a new mold at the Resurrection to come forth a spiritual body. — Thomas Boston. (1676-1732).
I feel now my wounds healed every now and then by Thee; but I feel not an exemption from them. — Augustine (354-430).
God’s design in regeneration is to bring us back unto conformity with His holy Law. Therein we may perceive the beautiful harmony which exists between the distinctive workings of each of the 3 Persons in the blessed Trinity. The Father, as the supreme Governor of the world, framed the Moral Law as a transcript of His holy nature and an authoritative expression of His righteous will. The Son, in His office as Mediator, magnified the Law and made it honorable by rendering to it a personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, and then by voluntarily enduring its curse in the stead of His people, who had broken it. The Holy Spirit, as the Executive of the Godhead, convicts the elect of their wicked violation of the Moral Law, slaying their enmity against it, and imparting to them a nature or principle the very essence of which is to delight in and serve that Law (Rom. 7:22, 25). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I who delight in the Divine Law, and whose intense misery is sin, am thankful to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of His only begotten Son. Here is faith; and the faith working by love, which brings forth thanksgiving. Through this Divine Mediator, the sin which is my misery cannot prove my destruction; and the holy Law I delight in, is not against me, but for me. The just God is the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus (Rom. ). — Bernard Gilpin (1803-1871).

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