25 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Six
Overcoming Our Flesh
We are studying how to grow and mature in Christ, learning how to be a “young man/woman” who “overcomes the evil one” (1 John 2:12-14). We have recently studied through two lessons about overcoming through our union with Jesus. The Bible tells us we died to sin with Christ, we rose with Him, and we will live forever with Him. In light of this good news, we are to “offer ourselves to God” and “offer the parts of our bodies to righteousness”. This is the gospel applied to our lives, and it comes from Romans chapter 6.
We understand now that we should offer ourselves and our bodies up to God; it is only reasonable considering that He has paid our sin debt, but we find that while we know what we should do, we don’t always do it. What is the solution to this problem? Well, today we will look at this very issue. In this lesson, we will study Romans 7 and take note of the following:
- The problem (verses 15-23)
- The wrong solution (verses 1-10)
- The right solution (verses 4 and 25)
Please read the following verses from Romans chapter 7 and answer the questions below:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Romans 7:15-23 ESV
Question 1. From Romans 7:15-23, what is the problem as the Apostle Paul describes it?
If you have lived as a Christian for any length of time you have no doubt noticed that you still have a problem with sin. We all do. Paul said, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Then he goes on to say the problem is “sin living in me” (verses 17 and 20).
Please notice that Paul did not say sin comes to visit every so often, but rather sin is living in me. And indeed sin is dwelling in each and every believer as surely as we have flesh and bone. This is a problem. In fact, it is a very severe problem. It means that we, as believers, have a resident alien: sin lives in us.
Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson. The character Dr. Henry Jekyll is a respected doctor, a prosperous man who is well established in his community and known for his charitable works. But the good doctor privately acknowledges that he has an evil side so he sets out to separate his two identities: the good and the bad. Through his experiments he develops a potion that brings Mr. Hyde (his evil side) to life.
The name “Hyde” comes from the word “hideous” and is also a variation of the word “hide” because prior to the potions, he was hidden within Dr. Jekyll. Edward Hyde is grossly disfigured, repulsive and gruesome, hardly recognizable as a man. Edward Hyde is an evil being, a murderer, a social outcast.
This book was an instant best seller, no doubt because it spoke right to a basic understanding in the heart of all human beings. That being in the words of Dr. Jekyll, “All human beings…are commingled out of good and evil.” Indeed, we all know instinctively that there is a part of us that is evil, that is wrong and sinful. And as much as we try to “hide” it, it will undoubtedly surface—with or without potions. This is sin. Sin lived in the Apostle Paul, and sin lives in us. It causes us to do evil things we do not want to do and hinders us from doing the good that we want to do. Sin is the problem.
What then is the solution? How then do we deal with this residual sin problem? Before we get to the real solution to our sin troubles, we must first recognize the wrong solution. We do not want to increase our troubles by falling into the trap of applying the wrong fix to our problem.
“Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” Romans 7:1-3
Question 2. What is Paul’s main subject in these first three verses of Romans 7? Hint: he says he is speaking to people who know this subject (verse 1).
Paul discusses the law in Romans 7. Here he is referring to the Mosaic Law known commonly as the Ten Commandments of which the Jews were very familiar. But the truth is the moral law is nearly the same in all religions worldwide. It is simply a set of moral principles to govern conduct; for example, “Do not steal” and “Do not murder” and “Do not lie”, etc. To understand further, let’s continue our reading of Romans 7:
“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” Romans 7:5
Question 3. According to Romans 7:5, what did the law arouse in Paul’s life?
“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” Romans 7: 7-10
Question 4. According to Romans 7:7-10, what did the law do in Paul’s life?
Turning to “the law”, to any set of moral principles, is a common thing to do once people discover they have sin living in them. They try to bring these moral principles to bear upon their lives; try to reform themselves, take steps to correct the problem and be good. People in some religions decide to pray numerous times per day, others determine to read their holy books throughout the day, to memorize the content and to be careful to apply everything it says. Others follow a set of steps to change their conduct or break free from their addictions. Most diets are a set of rules describing what we can eat and what we can’t eat.
But here is the problem with the law: though it might seem to be working for a time, eventually, the law will only reveal and promote sin. Paul says “I would not have known what sin was except through the law” (verse 7) and “sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” (verse 8).
Question 5. Why is turning to the law the wrong solution to overcome sin?
Friend, the law is like a greenhouse for sin. It promotes and grows sin. How does it do this? When we try to bring moral principles into our lives, seeking to overcome the sin living within, we become highly focused on the sin we are trying to overcome. The law, that is supposed to help us, keeps stirring up more thoughts of sin, then condemning our behavior bringing guilt and condemnation with it; all of which causes us to continue falling to the very sin we are wanting to avoid.
The story is told of a businessman who frequented a certain hotel whenever he traveled out of state. He liked this particular hotel because it was positioned on a beautiful lake. He could walk out of a sliding door in his room directly onto a deck and enjoy the sights and sounds of the lake. He found it peaceful and quiet.
One day he went out on to the deck and noticed that several other hotel guests were fishing off of their decks in the lake. He had never seen this before. He soon discovered the reason for this anomaly when he went to the hotel restaurant and noticed a sign hanging just above the back door leading to the lake. It said, “Fishing from hotel rooms strictly prohibited.” Something that the guests had never thought of doing before was now brought to their minds by the “law” that prohibited it.
It is within the heart of every human being to rebel against authority, to do as we please. The law stirs up wrong desires in us, actually cultivating and growing sin within us. The law is the “potion” that reveals Mr. Hyde; and when it does, we discover that sin living in us is much worse than we thought. It is truly hideous and disgusting.
“Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:1-4
Question 6. How does Paul describe our relationship to the law in Romans 7?
Paul says we were “married” to the Law. This is quite odd language isn’t it? How were we married to the Law? Simply put, this is symbolic language to illustrate his point. Married people derive much of our identity and self-image through our spouse. Romans 7 tells us that if we bring ourselves under law, under a set of moral principles, we are anchoring our self-image and identity to our performance. If we keep the law, we are good people; if we break the moral code, we are bad people.
What’s more, marriage to the law wreaks havoc and brings death to our lives. As Paul wrote: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (verse 10). Paul is saying that the commandments which were supposed to affirm him in his goodness, as the Pharisee he once was, actually ended up awakening a desire for sin—in his case, coveting.
Understand too that this death comes regardless of whether we keep the law or we don’t. If we keep the law, we will pride ourselves in our goodness, and find ourselves looking down on those who are law breakers, and this will be our undoing. As in the case of Dr. Jekyll, this very act of priding himself on his goodness causes “Mr. Hyde” to return spontaneously. The law whether we are keeping it or not awakens and empowers our “Mr. Hyde” also known as sin. This is why Paul cries out in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The law, a set of moral principles, cannot be the solution for overcoming sin in the life of a believer. Not that the law itself is bad; it’s not. The law is good (Romans 7:12-14). It is only that sin living in us cannot be subdued by the law.
This is why all the rules based religions of the world, all the self-help groups, diets and even Bible studies which focus on applying moral principles to our lives do not work long term. This is why New Year’s resolutions usually only work for a short time.
So what does work? What is the right solution?
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
Question 7. Please read Romans 7:4. What does Paul say happened at the cross when Jesus died?
A most amazing thing happened to all believers when Jesus died on the cross. We died in Him, and we died to the law, meaning our relationship with the law has been severed. The reason given: that we might “belong to another—to Him Who was raised from the dead.”
Oh, friend, think of this! Think of a wife who was once married to a harsh husband. She was miserable because she could never measure up to his requirements. He was constantly belittling her and always condemning her. She could never please him.
Then the mean husband died, and she married another. This man is love incarnate, accepts her as she is, constantly builds her up, encourages her, helps her when she falls, loves her to the very end. In fact, he loves her so much that he gives his life for her.
Now you know exactly what happened at the death of Jesus Christ. Your bond to the law (the mean and harsh husband) was broken and you married another (Christ who loves you intensely and eternally).
What is the method of biblical change? How do we truly grow and mature and become young men and women strong in the Lord? We look into the beautiful face of our new Husband, Jesus Christ. We see His love for us; we feel His approval of us; we are energized by His grace to us. As we see Jesus, our hideousness and grotesqueness begins to wither. His love not only melts our hearts; it also subdues and roots out our sin.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Question 8. Please read Romans 7:24-25. When Paul is in the midst of despair over his sin, his “body of death”, in what does he find comfort?
Paul found comfort in the rescue work of Jesus Christ, which happened at the cross (Colossians 1:13). This is why the death of Jesus Christ is so powerful and so important. Consider this. On the cross Jesus Christ became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Isaiah 52 and 53 describe Jesus on the cross as a bloody mess: hideous, revolting, and unrecognizable as a man (Isaiah 52:14). He assumed our sin, became our “Mr. Hyde”, and then He died. In dying for us, He rescued us from sin within, our “body of death”, and severed our ties to the Law, so that we might marry Him who rose from the dead, and live a new life.
There is the reason why Gospel Growth Ministries focuses so much and so often on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus delivers us! When Paul found himself entirely enslaved to the law and sin, crying out, asking who would deliver him from his body of death, he said, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Question 9. According to Romans chapter 7, please list what the problem is, what the wrong solution is, and what the right solution is:
Question 10. Please describe, to the best of your ability, what things happened (as addressed in this lesson) at the death of Jesus Christ. How do they apply to you, to your changing and growing and maturing?