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August 14, 2021 12:01 am
In Romans 7:24, the Apostle Paul declares: "Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?" Is Paul describing his experience as a Christian? Today, R.C. Sproul addresses how this passage speaks to our struggle with sin.
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Sometimes the preposition. The New Testament uses is the preposition into we believe into Christ on this is the fundamental thing that happens to us when will born again when we are converted to Christ of faith unites us to him, the spirit unites us to him, and in that way we are bound together, and underneath all that is the fact that in everything Jesus did, he was representing us and because he was representing his everything he has done is really ours. None of these things are what we were In ourselves. All of these things we draw diving from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is everything, and he fills our nothingness union with Christ a teaching series with Sinclair Ferguson visit Lincoln here.org/teaching series to learn more.
In Romans chapter 7 the apostle Paul says that evil is present in him. Paul frequently speaks of the unregenerate person as being dead and sent them trespasses as being under sin as being in bondage to salmon.
It certainly sounds as if he is describing himself, at least in this portion of the text in terms that he normally uses to describe the on converted person.
So how can that be is Paul converted writing Romans chapter 7 and if so what is he described himself as Reggie. That's quite an indictment of himself today and Renewing Your Mind. We returned to Dr. RC Sproul series hard sayings of the apostles, we will explore why we as Christians still struggle with sin appears RC as we continue our study of the hard sayings from the Bible we turn our attention today to a very difficult passage in the book of Romans.
We know that Paul's letter to the Romans was clearly the weightiest epistle that he rotates often called his magnum opus or Paul's brief systematic theology because here he delves extensively into the whole plan of redemption and in chapter 7 of Romans, Paul is addressing the church regarding the spiritual warfare that goes on in the life of the Christian and he speaks in personal terms of an enormous spiritual struggle and one of the great controversies that arises out of the seventh chapter of Romans is this is Paul speaking of his present experience as a Christian, or is he reflecting on his past life as a pagan and as an unbeliever.
This became central to the old perfectionistic controversy and theology was vital to the debate of whether it is possible for a Christian in this world and in this life to achieve such a level of sanctification as to reach virtual moral perfection. And I realized that of those churches that have embraced different views of holiness.
There have been different approaches to the subject and different qualifications of different types of perfectionism and so on. But I'm going to limit my observation here to the ultimate kind of perfectionism.
The teachers that there is a work of grace available to the Christian by which instantaneously. A person can now through the anointing of the Holy Ghost become completely and utterly free from sin.
This is a view of course that classical theology repudiates and certainly reformed theology rejects and I remember having a discussion with a young fellow who was 18 years old and Holland many many years ago. He was an American who was in Holland as an exchange student very wonderful young fella.
He was a new Christian administration about six months that he had experienced what he believed was this work of grace by which he had been rendered perfect and I was raising questions about that with him and went immediately to Romans seven to show him that here the apostle speaks of an ongoing struggle against sin in the Christian life and the student argued, which is commonly the case that Paul was speaking of his pre-conversion experience and I tried to convince the student that Paul was speaking in the present tense and not of the past, but was really speaking of a struggle that was going on presently in his life now without going into all the arguments for that in terms of the text itself from me just say for the purposes of this illustration that at least at that time and in that moment, my arguments persuaded this young fella that indeed Paul was speaking about his present state and when he acknowledge that I thought well now we've solved this problem and I can get him to see that he still has some work to do in similar sanctification to achieve that he hasn't reached yet in his life, but that was to no avail. He said well maybe Paul wasn't sanctified, but I am that it's an arrangement. Are you saying to me that it 18 years old he been a Christian for less than a year.
You've reached a higher level of sanctification and spiritual growth than the apostle Paul had achieved when he wrote the letter to the Romans and he didn't flinch. He looked me straight in the eye and said yes. Wasn't quite sure how to argue with that and I had to acknowledge that this theoretically is possible that if six months mold Christian could theoretically progress beyond the level that Paul had progressed when he wrote Romans.
But I didn't think it was very likely, but it's that kind of struggle and controversy that was related to Romans seven not like to look now at a portion of this chapter to see where the difficulties rest in verse 13, Paul says has then what is good become death to me that is referring to the law, certainly not, but sin that it might appear sin was producing death in the through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin that he hear what Paul says here about himself. He uses the present tense and he says I am carnal, sold under sin taxes also used to justify a view of sanctification that allows for the so-called carnal Christian who doesn't bring forth any fruit of righteousness in his life, but remains in the flesh because when we use the word carnal, we mean flesh or flashy you all eaten chili con carnet, which means means with meat.
We know that something that is carnivorous is that which needs mate so the word carnal has to do with the flesh and in biblical categories.
The flesh doesn't have specific reference here to the physical body that has reference to the old lifestyle of fallen sin nature. So this is one of the reasons why some have come to the conclusion that Paul must be speaking about his previous condition because he describes himself as being carnal and that is the normal description that the apostle uses to describe the unregenerate person.
The person who is still in their fallen state of nature and also he adds to it.
The phrase I am sold under sin. Paul frequently speaks of the unregenerate person as being dead in sin and trespasses as being under sin as being in bondage to sin. And it certainly sounds as if he's describing himself, at least in this portion of the text in terms that he normally uses to describe the on converted person. But let's read on here in the text, but I am carnal, sold under sin for what I am doing. I do not understand for what I will do that.
I do not practice what I hate that I do if then I do what I will not to do. I agree with the law that it is good, but now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me, for I know that in me, that is, in my flesh. Nothing good dwells for the will is present with me.
But how to perform what is good. I do not find for the good that I will to do. I do not do, but the evil I will not to do that I practice now if I do what I will not to do it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law that evil is present with me the one who wills to do good for I delight in the law of God according to 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 of the wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death.
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.
Now if you're listening to that and following it carefully. You see that Paul is speaking almost like a schizophrenic is he speaks of this power of sin that abides in his life. The sin or the flesh that is within him, and as a result of this, he says that which I would do. I do not do, and that which I would not do. Those are the things that I do when he experiences this conflict over his actions and his behavior only just add a little parenthesis ear for those that are watching for the close work on this passage that, if ever, the apostle Paul fails to tell the truth, precisely it's here. He's speaking in a manner of speaking, when he says the good that I would. I do not do, and that which I would not that I do that is to say, I will to do one thing I don't do it and I will not to do something else and I do that if you take those words just as they are. Paul would not be making a whole lot of sense, but this statement is not an error in Paul's writing. It's elliptical. There are certain things that are tacitly understood here. Let me explain it. When Paul says that which I don't want to do. I do. Why does he do it because he wants to and why does he say the things that I would do. I don't do. Why does he not do those things that he would do because he would not do them because he doesn't want to do them and what he's talking about is the conflict of desires that are going on in a raging battle within him.
We all who are in Christ experience that if you say to me RCD you want to sin when I would save no of course not. I can't wait to be free from sin. I can't wait to be in heaven to be glorified. Never worry about sin again this divorce if you don't want to sin. Why do you say so well because I want to see the problem.
The I have mixed desires. What I mean when I say I don't want to sin is all things being equal, I don't want to see. I would like to be in that state of glorification and imperfection that I have not yet achieved all things being equal, but the reason why I continue to sin. At times is because I still have sinful desires that are in my life now. Paul frequently makes a distinction in the New Testament between the old man that is the unconverted person and the new man the new person in Christ who has been quickened by the Holy Ghost was been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but at conversion when we become new people when we become quickened by the Holy Ghost, that conversion that regeneration that quickening does not immediately annihilate the old sin nature call makes it clear that certification is a lifelong process that we are to be laboring in fear and trembling to work through these things and to struggle constantly against those sinful impulses that remain after conversion. He gives us the comforting news that in the process of spiritual growth in our progress of sanctification that the old man is being put to death day by day and the new man is growing stronger as we are growing in the Lord. This is one of the great ironies of human life that as we age. As Christians, as we age. Physically, biologically, we see the signs that the people have hanging in their homes. I get too soon old and too late smart and we've all said boy I wish I knew what I know now. Back when I was 18 years old. He could've saved and not a lot of trouble. But, as I also grow old hide lawn more and more for my resurrected body because my body is falling apart. My party is decaying. My body doesn't have the bigger the robustness the strengths or the health that I enjoyed when I was younger and that is one of the things that every human being has to struggle with as we age the slow disintegration and decay of the flesh of the outward person. But what's the good side age can't hurt the soul. The longer we are in Christ.
The more years of experience we have is Christians, the stronger the soul is becoming.
And so they see the irony. On the one hand were losing something with the loss of our strength in the loss of our physical health but at the same time were gaining something so much more important and so much more valuable with the increase of strengths of the new man of the inner person of the spiritual nature now if Paul were speaking of his former condition, would he be describing such a warfare. The warfare that he's talking about is not characteristic of the unconverted person the unconverted person is carnal altogether. That's all that person is his flesh. That person does not have the Holy Spirit does not have any impulse to real righteousness, no driving desire to please Christ or to please God.
That comes with conversion and in the real sense, our lives don't become complicated until were converted.
That's when the war is declared and that's when we have to enlist and we enlist for the duration and the battle goes on until we are finally ultimately victorious in heaven. Paul says I find a law that evil is present with me again. He speaking in the present tense, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
Now the unconverted person has evil present in him who does not well to do good Christian has evil present in him or her. While the same time, there is this disposition or inclination or will to do good. That's the hard of the conflict. Here's where I think the passage settles at once and for all.
In verse 22 for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. Yes, I have this sin within me that struggles against my desire to obey God, but he has delight for the inward man that is pleased and desires to obey the law of God, no unconverted person is in that state. So Paul must be speaking of his present life. Again he underlines the contrast in the conflict by saying that 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.
Oh wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Now there's some ambiguity about this phrase who will deliver me from this body of death. What you talking about when he talks about this body of death. Some commentators simply think that Paul is referring to his physical body and he can't wait to be released from his physical body to enter into heaven, which Paul says is better than the existence that we enjoy here, but not good is it will be when we're in our final state of resurrected bodies that he wants to get rid of this physical body, and I don't blame them, and I can relate to it.
I feel like that more and more everyday. I'm ready for a new body parts that some of you, I'd love to have a new and not just an organ here. There, but a whole new body that would be terrific but I don't think that's what Paul is talking about another suggestion here is that Paul when he says oh wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death that he is referring directly to the sin nature of the flesh, and it doesn't mean a literal physical body will I think that's basically true but not entirely true.
I've been persuaded by some scholars who have researched this sort of thing that Paul is using an illustration here borrowed from the ancient world where one of the punishments for murder in certain cultures was that a person had the corpse of their victim tied to their back until that victim so putrefied and flesh fell off. That there was nothing but a skeleton and then they were released from it. But can you imagine anything more horrible than a have to walk around for days with a dead body strapped to your back that body of death, which would reduce a person to wretchedness in the Paul I believe here's using that in a metaphorical or illustrative sense saying that this is what the Christian life is like we are a new person but we still have to carry this old nature around with us like this putrefying body of death. This dreadful sin nature that hasn't yet completely fallen off our backs, but continues to torment us and cause us to be in this on going conflict, but thanks be to God is the apostles final cry, who gives us the victory in Christ Jesus and Paul does not leave us wallowing in the struggle or in the spare chapter 7 moves directly to chapter 8, which is so triumphant in its promise of the victory of God's grace Christian Paul doesn't pull any punches in his letter to the Romans, the apostle is honest in his understanding. We still have sinful desires. But thanks be to God we have a righteousness that only Christ can provide Dr. RC Sproul is address the difficult passage in today's lesson is from a series hard sayings of the apostles, we return to the series. Each Saturday, but if you've missed any. Along the way. Or if you'd like to continue your study.
We will provide you with a digital download of the five-part series. Just contact us today with a donation of any amounts you can make your request online and Renewing Your Mind.org or you can simply call us at 800-435-4343 if you enjoy Dr. scroll teaching here on Renewing Your Mind. I think you'll also appreciate a new podcast from Liggett here it's called ultimately with RC Sproul drawn from a lifetime of Bible study, including content, never before released. Each episode features unique moments of insights from RC. It'll help you understand what you believe send why you believe it. You confided on Apple podcasts Amazon music and iHeartRadio. Just search for. Ultimately with RC Sproul and the theological controversy known as perfectionism. I certainly have taken the position for many years against doctrines of perfectionism in this life for basically two reasons. And I think these are very important considerations. I think for us to come to the conviction or the conclusion that we are in fact completely free of sin in our lives. We have to do one of two things. And usually we would do both of them. One of those things would be to alter radically the full measure of the demands of God's law.
We would have to drag the law down to the level of our performance and this was the error that the Pharisees made they had a superficial understanding of the full demands of God's commandments for me to deceive myself into thinking that I am perfect. I have to really have a superficial understanding of the law of God. For example, I don't believe that I've ever love the Lord my God with all of my heart and with all of my mind and with all of my strength for five minutes. I can always conceive of a greater affection, greater love for God than I presently enjoy in the second mistake is like unto the first. In order for us to be persuaded that we have achieved perfection in any kind.
We have to have an exaggerated view of our own performance so we bring God's law down and bring our own performance up so that the two can meet in either one of those is the extreme danger for Christian growth and both of them together is basically fatal. So I caution you against that next Saturday Dr. scroll address another hard saying of the apostles. Join us for the message titled the danger of apostasy here on Renewing Your Mind