Helpful Thoughts on Romans VII.
by William Hake
I. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who "knew no sin," "bare our sins in His own body on the tree." "He died unto sin." He died for us, and we, whose sins He bore, are therefore to "reckon ourselves to be dead to sin" (or to have died to sin), Christ having died for us. So, we have the blessedness of the man "whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered, to whom the Lord will not reckon sin." Christ Himself having been "made sin for us," I say we are to "reckon ourselves to have died to sin" (because Christ died to sin), and to be "alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Sin is not now imputed to Christ, Christ having died to sin; nor is sin "imputed" to us, for "we are to reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin."
II. Nevertheless, Satan is still a wily, mighty foe, and sin would—because of our having been "sold under sin" ("by one man's disobedience many were made sinners")—use its utmost power to "reign in our mortal body," and would have us to "obey it in the lusts thereof." But thanks be to God "grace reigns," not sin. There is a "power to us-ward who believe," a "power that worketh in us," by which we resist sin and Satan, and by which we obey this word: "Neither yield ye your members" (which we are tempted to do) "as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield ye yourselves unto God and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." We are therefore "debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, but through the Spirit, we mortify the deeds of the body," and "keeping under the body" we bring it into subjection." Thus did the holy apostle (1 Cor. ix. 27).
III. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Also: we are "not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in us." We are not of those who are "carnally-minded" (minding of the flesh, marg.), which is death, but spiritually-minded, "which is life and peace." "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." But "we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit" (not carnally-minded), therefore according to Rom. vii., last verse, "With the mind we serve the law of God." Again, Rom. vii., "We delight in the law of God after the inner man." In other words, the apostle says, "With the mind, I myself serve the law of God.''
IV. The law is "holy, just, and good," even as He is holy, just, and good, who made the law. Again: "We know that the law is spiritual" and compared with Christ, who kept the law perfectly, who "was without sin"; and compared with the holy law, we, "in whom (that is in our flesh) dwelleth no good thing," are "carnal." The apostle draws the contrast when he says, "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal"; also, he distinguishes between being "carnally-minded" (the minding of the flesh), which is death," "enmity against God," "not subject to the law of God," and I am carnal compared with the law which is spiritual. He says, "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal." So, in one breath, he says, "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 again, at the same moment, "With the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin."
V. In the same chapter (7th chap. of Rom.), the apostle Paul writes as one "dead to the law" and "married to Christ." Nevertheless, "sin dwells in him”, and because he is married to Christ—alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord—because of this new relationship and new life, he knows what otherwise he would have been ignorant of, that in him (that is in his flesh) dwells no good thing, and he "hates" the sin that dwells in him. He delights in the law of God, but sees another law in his members (which but for his being alive from the dead, he would not see). Again (v.25), with the mind, he serves the law of God, but with the flesh—in which dwells no good thing—the law of sin. He is not in the flesh but in the Spirit. If he were in the flesh, he would not know that "with the flesh, he served the law of sin." The apostle, "having the Spirit of Christ," is taught to connect these two things in the 7th chapter, immediately before entering upon the 8th, namely, 1st, "With the mind, I myself serve the law of God," but, 2nd, "with the flesh, the law of sin." He does not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. He cries out against everything that is of the flesh and of sin. He no longer lives in sin, (vi. 2), but he knows that sin dwells in him."
VI. From the time of the fall of Adam—of one man's disobedience who was "sold under sin"—all, save the Holy One of God, have made it manifest by transgression, that they are "sold under sin "—sin has had its power over every one. There is indwelling sin which by grace we hate, resist, and overcome. But we cannot root it out. The law in our members, wars against the law of our mind." Sin dwelt in the holy apostle Paul. There would have been no war against his mind, no sin dwelling in him, but for the "one man's disobedience," who, with all his posterity, being themselves transgressors, were "sold under, sin." The apostle, I repeat—speaking of the flesh, and comparing himself with the holy, the spiritual law—says, "I am carnal, sold under sin." If he could have said, "I compare myself with the holy law of God and I am not now carnal, I am not now as one sold under sin," it would have been because he had rooted out the flesh and indwelling sin, and there would have been no reason for his saying, what by the grace of God we all say: "I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." "Not I, but sin that dwelleth in me."
VII. But what one has said is true: "Indwelling sin is one thing; outbreaking sin is another." But it is sin, and for sin (whether the sin that dwells in us or the sin that breaks out in word or deed) Christ suffered. He died even the death of the Cross; and to One who walked as the apostle walked, holily, justly, unblameably, the bare "thought of foolishness," pride, self-will, self-exaltation, covetousness, or what is at the root of these, namely, unbelief, was that which the holy apostle abhorred (though it were unknown to any but himself and God), seeing it was sin that dwelt in him, and seeing also that Christ died for sin, that Christ suffered in our room and stead.
VIII. He hated it, and his cry against it was according to his holiness—a loud cry of abhorrence. Now, according to chapter iii. of this epistle to the Romans, thought of sin, so also chapter vii. 15, sin indwelling is in God's sight an act. Sin may be encouraged, even though it break not out. "That which I do" (often misunderstood as if it were done in man's sight), I allow not, that I hate. The apostle adds, "It is no more I that do it" (for he did not allow it, he hated it), "but sin that dwelleth in me."
IX. But if we sin in word or deed, or if evil or thoughts of evil be allowed, not hated at the moment, we cannot say of such sin, "Not I, but sin that dwelleth in me."
X. The time hastens when we shall have a body of glory like unto that of our blessed Lord; then the flesh and sin will no more dwell in us. We shall no longer groan within ourselves (viii. 23), as now we do, who nevertheless have the first-fruits of the Spirit, but with praise and thanksgiving, shall look back on the time of this life having been, as the apostle says, "sold under sin." We shall then be delivered from all sin—"delivered from this body of death."
XI. The law in our members, because of this body of death, is continually warring against the law of our minds, and is bringing us into captivity to the law of sin, which is in our members, but "we are no longer in bondage to sin." "I therefore (says the apostle) so run not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (as a conquered foe, a slave). Nevertheless, the war is kept up, the apostle is conqueror. So long as he fights, he conquers; so often as he conquers, he gathers spoils. "He is more than conqueror through Him that has loved us." He asks not the question, "Who shall deliver me?" in uncertainty. He has his ready answer, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Dead to sin because Christ died to sin; alive unto God (Rom. vi.); married to Christ; delighting in the law of God. With the mind, he serves the law of God according to 7th Romans, and entering upon the 8th of Romans with these last words of chapter vii., "So then with the mind, I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
We need "line upon line" in regard to the words (v. 17), "Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me"; therefore, the apostle is taught of God to repeat these words in v.20, "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
XII. The apostle Paul, through walking in the light of the countenance of God and remembering the sufferings of Christ for sin, saw sin which dwelt in him with God's eye. His apprehension thereof was quick, for he had a heavenly understanding of the commandments of Christ and the mind of God, through constant fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the communion of the Holy Spirit. He hated both the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, both outbreaking and indwelling sin, with a perfect hatred.
XIII. "God is Light," and we have fellowship with God as "we walk in the light, as He is in the light," and so walking, being taught by the Spirit of God to make the commandments of Christ our weights and scales, our line and plummet, we discover sins of unbelief, pride, covetousness (according to what is called covetousness in the New Testament), self-will, and the like, which were before hid from us. We must know our "secret sins," to be cleansed from them. The power of the Holy Spirit worketh in us, and He dwelling in us ungrieved, testifies to our soul's comfort, of Christ and the preciousness and power of His blood which is cleansing us from all sin.
There is a fault too common among the people of God, namely, while they put off things of the old man, anger, wrath, and the like, they forget that they have also to put on the new man. That which is to be put off, is sin that breaks out, and is to God's dishonour and our dishonour; also that which we are commanded to put on is Christ. It is heavenly, it is perfection of obedience to Christ, and the prayerful endeavour to accomplish this, will always be found to be accompanied with deeper knowledge and deeper abhorrence of indwelling sin.
XIV. Let us, who by the grace of God and the teaching of the Spirit of Christ, desire to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord (according to 2 Cor. vii. 1), let us seek understanding of the words, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit." Many there be who have power, natural or spiritual, over the filthiness of the flesh, who are but ill-taught, what means the "filthiness of the spirit." "The fear of the Lord is clean," and to perfect holiness in His fear is a deep, a very deep thing. What are the means to the end? "Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly." Let us consider Him and His ways and words, and compare them with our own, and ask God who has searched us (Ps. cxxxix. 1) and known us, to search us and know our heart, to try us, and know our thoughts. So shall we find in us, wicked ways, ways which grieve the Holy Spirit which we knew not of. But this is solemn, yet healthful work for the closet.
May the Lord grant us the grace to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, and to take heed not to neglect the searching out the means to the end.
XV. The apostle Paul made it manifest by his cry against the flesh and indwelling sin, that he had learned of God, what was the filthiness of the spirit as well as the filthiness of the flesh, and the grace of God was sufficient for him both in regard to the one and the other, and that grace is sufficient for us, only we must see clearly the exceeding sinfulness of all sin in order to value, as we ought, the riches of the grace of God.
XVI. In the present day of the church's weakness and disobedience (oft unwitting) to the commandments of Christ, and failure of that "fellowship unto which God has called us," we should not marvel at the ignorance of many of God's people concerning the flesh in us, "in which dwells no good thing," and sin which dwells in us, or that such words as, "The law is spiritual but I am carnal," should be misunderstood.
When we have our body of glory, it will be no marvel to any, that the apostle should cry out in days when he was in his body of humiliation, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" Not that he was wretched and miserable through yielding to the law in his members, for he had immediately before said, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," but because of his quick apprehension of sin and of the lust of the flesh in him, and his deep abhorrence thereof, that he cries out, "O wretched man that I am!" Nor is he in doubt as to deliverance, or who is his deliverer, for he immediately adds, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." We should observe the next words, "So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." With the flesh that was in him (not he in the flesh), "he served the law of sin." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," are the next words in the epistle.
As we ourselves dwell in Christ through feeding upon Christ (see John vi. 56), as we walk in the light, as God is the light, we shall see more and more clearly whatever is contrary to the word and example of Christ. We shall hate everything that is of the flesh, as did the apostle. So shall we also through the Spirit that dwells in us, abhor sin that dwells in us, and in this body of humiliation, shall "groan" as did the apostle, being burdened; and the thought of foolishness of pride, covetousness, self-will, or any other branch of unbelief, will cause us to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" with joyful confidence in our deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the mind, serving the law of God.
Nevertheless, we have now a power which is almighty, working in us both to will and to do those things which please God. But for this power, the law in our members would not only be "bringing" us into bondage, but we should be brought into and under the yoke. But we war and conquer and walk at liberty, and our delight is in the law of God.
The more holy our life, the more we are conformed to Christ, the better we understand what is, alas! but little understood, namely, the commandments of our Lord and Master. The more obedient we are to them in regard to word and deed, the stronger will be our exclamation against every thought and every imagination that is contrary to the perfection of Christ.
Lastly. Happy are we if we are by the Spirit taught our need of also the power of the intercession of our Great High Priest at God's right hand, through which God can be well-pleased with us and our aims (which should be the highest aims of Christian life). Thus, God will give us the testimony which He gave to Enoch, "who walked with God," that "he pleased God." If we also walk with God, we shall have the assurance from God, that we please Him. We are bound to have this testimony through obedience that becomes a child of God, that we pleased our Father. We have need to know, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the word, more of Jesus Christ Himself, of His sufferings and His glory, of His ways and words, if we would have a ready rule in our hearts by which to judge rightly of our ways whether they be indeed such as please God. If this rule be ours, we shall rather see how short we fall of the grace that was in the apostle when he wrote the 7th of Romans, than judge that our experience rises above that experience which is therein recorded.
“The Witness” 1892