When I was a kid (which is how all “dad stories” begin, I guess), there was a song that that other kids would play on the piano, and it seemed like they would play it a lot! Although I took piano lessons for a number of years, without sheet music I was limited to something like playing “Chopsticks”, but I liked this other song. I later learned that it was “Heart & Soul” (the song by that title which, according to a quick Internet search, was authored by Hoagy Carmichael), and it was fun to hear this as a well-executed duet, with one person playing the deeper bass line, and the other one playing the higher melody line. In fact, I appreciate that someone posted their performance of this song online, so that I can listen to their music while I write this!
I don’t know about you, but I believe that God made us as having a body, a mind, and a soul. There may be a fourth element (perhaps our heart), depending on how we look at Mark 12:30, and I’m not sure whether our heart and our mind are the same thing, for instance, or if our soul and our spirit are one or two things. However, I think that we can understand Paul’s struggle by considering just a couple of these aspects of our humanity.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Romans 7:21-23 NIV
I think that understanding the concept that God made us as multi-dimensional human beings is important to understand various principles in the Bible. If we were to focus too much on only our bodies, like the pure naturalists, we may reduce our mind to just electrical signals and ignore our soul entirely. If we were to only focus on our spirit, like certain Eastern beliefs emphasize, we can overlook the fact that God intentionally gave us physical bodies, and even sent His Son (Jesus Christ) in a body. Jesus didn’t just die figuratively or in some sort of metaphorical way; He was brutally executed on a cross.
So, Paul has this battle going on inside himself, where he wants to do good. His mind agrees with the importance of doing the right thing. At the same time, there’s this thing in him that keeps fighting against these more noble goals.
Faced with this situation, Paul does what many rational people would do: he cries out for help, admitting the reality of his situation!
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Romans 7:24 NIV
Note what Paul doesn’t do in this verse:
- He doesn’t try to rationalize away this conflict. It’s a real conflict, after all.
- He doesn’t try to overcome the force of sin in his life on his own; he knows that he can’t do so. After all, he’s apparently tried and failed.
- He doesn’t just give up, either, and willingly give in to the idea that he’s just going to keep on sinning.
Paul is frank, open, and honest here. He admits that this is a struggle – that he is living in a battle – and he admits that he needs help.
Some (maybe most) people’s salvation journey starts the same way: realizing that they are stuck, and calling out for help. Like certain recovery plans start out: the first step is admitting that I have a problem, and am powerless to help, right?
However, Paul doesn’t seem to be in this situation because he still needs to find salvation through Jesus, though. He’s already met Jesus, been baptized, and turned away from his former life of sin (even if he is still fighting – and sometimes losing – battles with sin). So, this isn’t a problem limited to those who aren’t yet following Jesus!
As a side note: remember (from previous articles, or earlier in Romans 7) how we become aware of our sin? Through the law. So, if it wasn’t for law, even though sin exploited that law to sentence us to death, we couldn’t have gotten on the path toward salvation through God’s grace in the first place.
The answer can be found in Romans 7:25, which I invite you to read today!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for March 13, 2022
- The Lookout, March 13, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.