In the previous article, we read about Paul’s struggles with his battle with sin, and how he continued to fight it even while following Jesus. Paul cries out in his self-described wretchedness, and if he were left there in this war, we would have little to do except to pity him.
However, Paul was full of joy, despite this internal fight. As you might expect (if you’ve read about God and His love for us, as well as His plan for us), the answer to Paul’s plea for help comes from God.
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Romans 7:25 NIV
Where Paul has been saying things like “Certainly not!” in response to other possible questions over the past couple of chapters, this answer stands in stark contrast. While those other questions were based on wrong understandings, the answer to the question of “Who will rescue Paul?” is a clear, positive declaration of God’s deliverance through Jesus Christ.
For this last sentence, Jack Cottrell (in his volumes within the College Press commentary series cited below) described this in a way that was easy for me to understand. Let me paraphrase what I got out of it, along with input from other studies:
- When we have sinned, and before we accept Jesus, both our flesh and our mind (different parts of ourselves from the previous article, on Romans 7:21-24) are dead, unable to win the battle against sin on our own.
- However, when we become a new creation (as we see in the death, burial, and resurrection at our baptism), part of us – whether our mind, our spirit, our soul, or some combination of these things – gets remade into something that is not only aligned with God’s will, but is also destined for salvation. This part of ourselves has overcome the sin to which it used to be enslaved.
- The problem is that another part of us – our body and/or our flesh – remains stuck in a fallen world, still being pulled back into sin.
- So, while we live here on earth, in our current state, we are stuck in this war, fighting daily battles within ourselves. Some battles we win, when our mind overpowers the sinful desires of our flesh; other battles we lose. Some days we feel good about the ground we’re taking from sin in our lives; other days we feel like we’re in retreat.
That’s a tough reality for today (and each day that we walk with God here on this earth), but we know which side is destined to win out in the end, and there is hope in that knowledge, as well as in the confidence that God will keep His promises. The seal of the Holy Spirit confirms that we are destined for eternal salvation, with the battle won and the death-bound flesh defeated. As I understand it, our mortal bodies will be replaced with (or transformed into, per Cottrell who cites 1 Corinthians 15:51-54) something new, and we will finally be free from this broken body, able to live as complete beings for eternity (heart, mind, soul, body, or however we divide things up), without having to fight this battle anymore.
I hope that Paul’s explanation here, about certain realities of what it means to be a human being who is following Jesus, helps each of us understand the conflict that wages within our selves.
Remember that a life without conflict between one’s mind and one’s flesh can only occur in two conditions:
- A person in whom both of these attributes are given over in slavery to sin. (See notes above.)
- A person in whom both of these attributes are given over to God, which will require our flesh to be replaced or transformed with something new.
So, while we walk this earth, the tension between a mind that has been renewed for God’s glory, and a part of us that is still under the influence of sin, seems to be an indication that we have received God’s renewal in the part of us that gets to be changed during this mortal life. As long as we have received that renewal as God instructed us to, this battle isn’t a sign that we’re doing something wrong. It is to be expected. Let us fight on towards the promised victory!
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.