Romans seven is a chapter of confusion, inner battle and defeat. It portrays the tumultuous inner struggle between man’s innate carnality and God’s impeccable standards. As man lives life, he realizes that it is impossible to walk in victory on his own. Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). The law which God gave through Moses, acted as a constant reminder of the utter hopelessness to live “morally upright” lives through one’s own determination and effort.
The Old Testament is riddled with moral failure, idolatry and disobedience. Time after time, God demonstrated His mercy by stalling judgment and sending messengers to call His people to repentance. Sometimes they responded, while most of the time they “turned a deaf ear” and brought upon themselves the impending wrath of God.
Eventually, they would come to their senses and repent in sackcloth and ashes. God would turn from His wrath to give them another chance. The people, with renewed commitment, would serve the Lord for a while before sin would get the better of them again. This pattern continues throughout the Old Testament, and the message comes through loud and clear: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Enter Jesus.
Jesus and the Law
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…” (Rom. 8:3). One clearly sees that “do not touch” and “do not taste” cannot give us freedom to live upright lives. They just define the uprightness.
Yet Jesus, the Son of God—God in the flesh—came to defy sin and death. He lived a perfect life as only God could and showed us how to do it. He wiped out the handwriting of the law against us and cleansed our past from guilt and shame. He now empowers us to live God-pleasing lives and gives us everything we need for righteousness. Listen to this: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32)
If Romans seven is riddled with failure, Romans eight is accented by victory! What is the decisive factor? God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God The Holy Spirit! God sacrificed His Son, Jesus died and rose again, and the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us—the Holy Trinity, working in perfect harmony, to give us all we need to live holy, victorious, and God-honoring lives.
Is Victory Realistic?
Some days feel like a constant battle against the flesh. Pride rears its ugly head, anger flares up, lust glances curiously, gossip slips out seamlessly. While it sounds nice to live in a perpetual state of Romans eight, Romans seven feels more like reality than we care to admit. Why is this the case?
First, we need to recognize that Jesus dealt Satan a mortal blow when He died on the cross, but the battle still rages. Ephesians six reminds us that we still fight and wrestle against Satan and his angels. Satan knows his time is short and seeks to kill, steal and destroy while he has the chance.
Secondly, we must remember that our flesh remains dead only as long as we are carrying our cross daily. As soon as we start feeding our flesh, it immediately springs to life, ready to rule our hearts again.
Thirdly, we must be filled with the Spirit daily. Paul commands us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18b), which indicates a continuous infilling (MacArthur). We must not rely on a one-time outpouring or an occasional spiritual high. Instead we must pursue connectedness to The Vine by spending time in God’s Word and in prayer.
Lastly, we must not forget that we have everything we need to walk in victory. The Scriptures are jam-packed with promises that we would do well to read, remember, and recite—regularly! Just do a Google search for “God’s precious promises” and you will find list after list of verses with His promises to us. Quote these when the enemy attacks you. Pray them out loud when your flesh wants to come alive. Post them on your wall. Share them with struggling friends.
Let’s not live as poor beggars when we are privileged heirs of an infinitely rich king!
1. MacArthur, John. "What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit?" Grace to You. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
2. All verses quoted from the New King James Version Bible.