We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I don’t understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 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. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 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 7:14-25
This part of the chapter shows us the danger of reading the Bible out of context. For if you simply opened the Bible and began reading from verse 14, I believe you’d get the idea that it’s OK to sin, since it’s something inside of you and can’t be helped. You might also get the idea that Paul’s confessing to a non-mentioned sin and brushing it off as minimal since there’s obviously nothing he can do to stop it from happening. And thank God for Jesus, who rescues us from that sin every time we do it. If that was the case, then one could have an extra-marital affair and then brush it off saying, ‘Oh well, I didn’t want to have sex with this person (again?), but the sin living within me made my body’s members do it…I couldn’t do what I wanted to do instead, which was remain loyal, because the sin inside me took over. Oh well, but thanks to God through Jesus Christ who rescues me from this each time I do it.’
OK, so Paul is NOT saying that. We know this not only from the context of the whole Bible, Gospel and Romans, but also because such would go against Paul’s words in Romans 1:31-2:5 and 5:12-14. Paul is also not promoting a license to sin, nor an excuse to sin. If this was the case, then we’d have to throw out everything that he’s said up to this point. Instead, what I believe Paul IS doing is emphasizing our need for Jesus to rescue us. Here, check this out:
The Law: Humans: Christ:
Spiritual Non-spiritual Spiritual
Reveals our sin sinful frees/saves us from our sin
Belongs to God Belong to sin IS God
Good Evil/not good Good
The Law of God is spiritual, but we’re not. Therefore, we need someone who is spiritual to save us from it, and that’s Jesus Christ.
We don’t continue to sin so that He can or may continue to rescue us, for by doing so, we’d be putting our lives in danger each time, because the penalty of sin is death. It would be like continuously running back into a burning house each time a firefighter saves you. You don’t know when the house will come down on top of you. As saved ones, we should live on in Christ as servants now of God, owned by God, not as property of God who continues to serve sin. (the song in my brain as I type this: Michael McDonald: “You Belong To Me”.)
So I believe that what Paul is actually doing is not justifying sin, but explaining the power of sin, our inability as non-spiritual humans to do what’s good, and our need to depend upon Christ to rescue and free us from sin’s grasp. In other words, I believe Paul’s reinforcing the understanding of our need for Jesus Christ.