“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For 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 bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this 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. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 7:14-8:4).
Why do we sin if we are indeed born again? Should we not be totally free from temptation and sin since we accepted Christ as Saviour? These questions have troubled some Christians for centuries, while others are happy to go on sinning without question. Though we are not perfect, the Bible offers us no warrant not to strive to be so.
Slaves no longer
We are a new creation, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), but this does not mean we have already come to perfection. Everyday life proves this fact, for we are constantly dealing with the fleshly desire to indulge in sin. Nor does it mean that the Holy Spirit is not actively working into our hearts the power of a sanctified life. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The word “changed” literally means “being transformed” (Young’s Literal Translation), therefore the Lord’s work is progressive.
Our opening text reveals something of the dilemma felt by believers who seem to be constantly burdened by their sin and lack of perfection, but we have to note the radical change that has taken place. Though we obviously do sin, saving grace means that we are no longer enslaved by it. The power of sin no longer rules in our lives if we have truly given ourselves over to Christ. The slave master has lost his authority over us. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6) … “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10).
We recognise that there is a battle raging in our souls over the power of sin. Satan, through temptation, is trying to bring us back into slavery, but the Holy Spirit is drawing us into a deeper walk of faith and holiness. The outcome of the battle is determined by the choices we make. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Who or what do we live for? “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:11-13).
We see then that it all depends on who we yield [submit] ourselves to. This new life that is given to us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross reveals that sin does not have to dominate us. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We are to fix our minds on this fact rather than allowing sin to bring us into mental and spiritual bondage. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). The word “reckon” can be translated as “consider”. Let us meditate on the fact that we have a living relationship with the One who paid the price for our deliverance from sin, and in doing so cooperate with Him rather than the flesh.
This battle for perfection is not going to go away while we live in this fallen world. But with daily temptations comes daily strength to overcome. Everyday we must learn to trust in Christ and His righteousness more. God is going to finish the work He has started in us. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). As we discover more sins that need to be eradicated from our lives, so we come to Christ for the cleansing power and the power to resist. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) … “Let us go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1) by setting our “affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).