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Continuing in Romans 7, Paul remains on his thought about the law and how it can be sin when we look to it for salvation. In this next section Paul opens his heart to us and gives us an insight into how he sees himself. Verse 13-25 show a man who recognises that he doesn’t do the things he should, but rather continues in sin because that is how we are naturally inclined.

The climax of this passage is his honest statement in verse 24: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Paul asks the question we all need to ask. How can we be free from sin. Paul comes back with the simple answer in verse 25. There he exclaims,

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.

Jesus is still the answer to our problem with sin and his arms are open wide to receive us. Our guest speaker, Alan Hanna, leads us through this passage so we might know how to live for Christ, free from sin.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

Alan Hanna:

Good evening. Uh, if you have your Bible with you, can I encourage you to have it open at Romans chapter seven? Uh, because as David said there this evening and last week as well, now that we're in Romans seven, we're in deep water. Um, some of the things that are going on in here and going on inside Paul's mind aren't as immediately clear as some of the things that you've thought about already in the letter so far. Actually, tonight's passage, the second half of Romans chapter 7, is at the center of a little bit of controversy. We've read it there already, and maybe you think upon hearing it and reading it, that you know who Paul is talking about. You know whether it's a Christian or a non Christian, but there isn't a consensus on that. Some people think that Paul is talking about, uh, non Christians. Paul is talking about his life before he trusted in Christ. But the same number of people think that he is talking about a Christian. This is his experience after he trusted in Christ. I hope you'll agree with me that as we work our way through this passage that we can get both from it. We can see both of these things here, so I'm not going to come down hard on either side. But there is one thing that Paul makes unmistakably clear in this passage, and this is the main focus of this evening. The law cannot save. Trying to keep the law is not going to bring you freedom, or deliverance, or security. Doing the law and doing religion and trying hard on your own terms, that is not going to achieve what you think it should achieve. No, freedom and deliverance and security and all those good things that we yearn for, they are found only in Jesus Christ. So, this is picking up where you left off from last week, and second half of Romans chapter 7 is Paul, uh, teasing out the real world application of the first half. And verse 13, if you look at it there, that is the, the summary of what he said before as well as the introduction to what's coming next. He asked the question, did that which is good then bring death to me? By no means, it was sin producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Now we know that he concluded that the law itself is good, that's okay, but now he wonders was it actually that good thing which created and caused so many problems for Paul and for all of humanity? And the answer, thankfully, is no. The problem was that hard issue of sin, um, that took that good thing of the law and then used it for evil. Now, I want you to imagine something, just for a wee second. Tomorrow morning, PCI, they're going to have a meeting and they're going to rule out a new rule for all congregations that Uh, they have to have a sign on the way into the Meeting House that says, On your way into church this morning, you're not allowed to spit on anyone. Okay? They're not actually doing this, because that would be a bit weird. Just in case, that's a disclaimer. But just imagine, they do that, and you come in next Sunday morning, there's a sign that says, Don't spit on anyone on your way into church. And you're going to read that and think, Right, well that's a good sign. I hadn't really thought about it, but you know what? I think I think there's some people on the veil who would like to spit on. So when you're coming into church, normally there's absolutely no angle to spit on someone. But if you see a, a rule that says don't spit on people, well, the first thing your, your mind's going to jump to is, well, there's umpteen people I could spit on. That's a really silly example, but you get what I mean. Sin has an influence over us that when we read laws, which are good laws in the Bible, the Ten Commandments. Those laws are good, and holy, and righteous, and we know that, but we are tempted to break them. Simply because that is in our nature. That is what the sin in us causes us to do. So the law itself is good, those rules are good, but the problem is that we are not. Okay, that's the kind of, the summary, um, of the last section, introduction to the new one. From verse 14, then, we get an insight into Paul's experience. Now, Paul, he's one of those guys that, that we often use as a role model, um, after his miraculous conversion, he fed himself on God's word. He strove for holiness. He gave himself to the mission, he preached the gospel where no one had preached it before, he was instrumental in the founding and the building of so many churches, and there's so much about Paul and his life that we could look at and think, well, I'd love a piece of that. There's so much about Paul that we see and we want to be like that. We wish he would sit down and give us all the secrets so that we could take part in that Christian success story as well. But that's not what we're getting here in Romans chapter 7, because here Paul is sitting down with us. He's got his head in his hands and he's opening up about the bits that we don't really get to see anywhere else. The unglamorous bits. And what he says is something that every single one of us here tonight or watching online, this is something that we get. This is something that resonates with us. Whenever I read this passage, I think, you know what, this is the Paul that I most closely identify with. Look at verse 14. Law is spiritual in that it comes from God, but Paul is of the flesh in that he is sinful. He's got lots of problems. And then verse 15. I don't understand my actions because I do not do what I want to do. And I always seem to end up doing the very thing that I hate. Now doesn't that feel familiar? Here we have this great titan of the Christian faith that we always turn to and we try to follow his example. And here he is telling us that he is deeply conflicted, because at base level he wants to do good, but he just can't stop doing. what is wrong. Look at verse 16 then. Paul knows that the law is good. Uh, he's in agreement with it. Paul, those things that it commands and requires are good. That's the way things should be. And you and I know that as well. We know the laws are good. We know they are right to follow. We know that those laws are there for our benefit, for the benefit of those people around us. We know it too, Paul. We know that it's right not to be selfish and to love others. We know that our desires shouldn't be split between this world and God. We, we know all that stuff. But as much as we agree with it, and we know that it is right, we also know that verse 15 is the story of our lives. Just look at it there again. Verse 15, For I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want. But I do the very thing that I hate. That just tastes familiar. We cannot understand our own actions at times, because we know all that stuff, and we might even have some sort of desire to do what's right. And yet we always find ourselves at the other end of the spectrum. There's an inner conflict going on in here, in each of us as well as in Paul. For verse 17 to 20, then he's kind of teasing out that idea a little bit more, and we get a picture of Paul who, as he explains, is fleshly. There is a sin problem in his life, and he knows what the good things are, he knows God's laws, and he knows that God's ways are right, and yet because of his sin problem, he just cannot seem to do them. And now it's worth noting here, he's not using sin as a sort of a scapegoat, that it's sin, but it's not me, Paul. No, he's saying it's the sin that dwells in me. The sin in him is the reason that he's doing this, not the excuse. This is the reason. And I hope you see now that controversy we mentioned at the start. So just think about it. Scenario one, that Paul is talking about himself. Before he became a Christian. And we read that, and that makes sense. Paul, we know, was a religious Pharisee. He knew the law, and he was passionate about it. But now, with a little bit of hindsight, he can look back and say, As much as I tried, I never actually succeeded in doing it right. He never did what the law fully required. He knew what the good was, but the sin in him kept him from doing it right. So that makes sense. But then also with Scenario 2, there is a taste that Paul is talking about himself now, as a Christian. Not only does he know the law, but he wants to do good. He wants to please God, and yet the sin that's left in him, it's still tugging on his robes, and tugging him into temptation, and making him give in to what is evil. So I hope you see there's merit to both views here. But I hope you see that no matter what scenario it is, no matter which one it is, the application remains the same. Doing the law simply will not cut it. Because if you're a Christian, then you simply cannot follow the law to, if you're not a Christian, you cannot follow law to such a perfect extent that it outweighs your sin. Sin always disqualifies because sin is always more than our good bits. And because if you are a Christian, Well, then sin is still a part of your life. You and I know that from experience. And it tempts us back into its arms at almost every opportunity. Following the law will not deliver. It will not bring you freedom. And it cannot offer you security, whether you're a Christian or not. Why? Because we cannot keep it. We'll keep going on the passage here. Look at verse twenty one. Whenever Paul wants to do that which is right, whenever that desire to do the law and to keep the law is there, then evil is right beside him. Evil is, is always ready to take over. And that resonates with us as well. You, you and I can understand that because how often have you done something good and immediately after fell into sin? I think if we're being honest with ourselves, and I am very much including myself here as well, it's a lot. And I think maybe one of the most common ones here is pride. You know, you do something that is morally good. It looks great. You reach a fork in the roads where you have a decision to make. You can go the bad way, the easy way, or go the hard way and the good way, and you go the good way. And afterwards you think, well, you know, that was a really tough decision. Well done me. I'm great. And then we're into pride or in service. This is particularly appropriate for folks like me, for folks in leadership at the front, give a talk or do something great. And people are always so encouraging. People are always so lovely. And that's very easy to go to our heads, the temptations just sitting there. You know, I did speak really well. My argument was very convincing. Well done me. And then we're back to pride, or maybe even in our own heads. Paul's talking a lot about his desire for good, his inner want to do good. Well, we can look at other people's situations. We can implant ourselves into their scenarios and we can dream up that scenario where we do what's right and we're the hero. And we stand up for what is good, and then we're right back to pride. Evil lies close at hand whenever we want to do good. When we know what good is, and when there is the opportunity to do good, evil is always there. Think of verses 22 and 23. Again, I know in myself what's right, and some of us may have the desire to do what is good, and yet in the real world, we're always disappointed by our own actions. Verse twenty two, For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, 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. This is an enormous conflict. Paul is really in turmoil here. You can hear how different this is from the really doctrinal stuff that he's talked about so far till this, because this is Paul's experience. And now he just reaches breaking point. What's he supposed to do now? Let's think about those scenarios again for, for a second. If he is recounting his experience before he became a Christian, Then when he reaches this point, he realises that he is in a hopeless condition. He knows the requirement of the law is perfection, to keep all of those laws, and yet he knows that he has not done that. In fact, he says whenever he tries to do that, he just messes up. The target is way up here, and Paul can't even get off the ground. And if he is recognisant of this experience After he became a Christian, then surely he's in dangerous territory. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. And Paul explains that, yes, I do love you. And yes, I even love your commandments, but, uh, I just keep breaking them. And we know that conflict is always going to be true for a Christian. Sin from the old stuff is still left over. Sure, it doesn't have dominion over us anymore, but it still has an influence. But is this really how it's always going to be? Are we always going to feel this way? Is that conflict always going to be there? And really the deeper question there for Christians is, well, why does God even bear with me? Am I really secure in his kingdom? Keep failing at every turn. We're unsure about this. So for non Christians, Paul's analysis leads to a hopeless situation. But for Christians, Paul's analysis leads to despair. So, where do we go from here? Paul himself is at breaking point. Maybe you are too. Whichever experience he is thinking of, he breaks from his train of thought because he just has to get to the answer. And that answer is found in verses 24 and 25. O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Well, thanks be to God. through Jesus Christ. Oh Lord, our Lord. So, oh wretched, wretched people that we are, who's going to deliver us from this endless cycle of sin? Who will free us from this ceaseless task? Who will lift this burden from our shoulders? Well, thanks be to God because Jesus Christ, He will deliver us. It is only in Jesus Christ that we find the resolution to the questions that Paul asks here. So, for those who are not Christians but are striving to keep his commands, for those who aren't Christians but you, you think your own righteousness is going to be enough to, to secure eternal life, to cover all those sins, how is that going? Because we see how it was going for Paul here, it wasn't working. And Paul, he was the best of the best. He was the top dog when it came to keeping the law. He knew the laws, and as far as he could understand, he was doing it all to the best of his ability. But now that he thinks back, and he says this elsewhere as well, it was never going to cut it. No matter how moral, or how zealous, or how well educated, following the law was never going to be enough. Because no one, not even Paul, was going to follow it well enough. Yes, that law in itself is holy and good and righteous, but here's the killer. We are not. We can never be good enough, because our sin constantly disqualifies us. And so trying to get right with God, trying to get eternal life on those tracks, it's only going to lead us to disappointment, to hopelessness. And ultimately to the just punishment which sin deserves, eternal death. No, none of us can do it. Following the law does not deliver. But Jesus Christ does. The just end of sin is death. Nothing you or I can do is going to change that. But listen. What Jesus Christ has done does change that. What Jesus Christ has done does change everything. No longer do we need to endlessly strive for a goal that we would never be able to reach. No longer do you need to trust in your own stained actions and works. No, now we can trust in Him instead. We can trust in Jesus, whose perfect sacrifice more than meets the demands of the law. His sacrifice offers more than what we could ever imagine that we could have ever earned. Following the law does not work. It simply cannot work. And God, in His incredible grace, knew our weaknesses and our limitations. All because of our own sinful hearts. So he achieved what we could never achieve for ourselves. He took what we could never get rid of. And he offers the prize that we could never earn. People hear the gospel and people hear about Christianity and they think it's far too much loss. But listen, when we get Jesus, we get absolutely everything. We get what's really good. We get what really lasts, and we get what we were ultimately made for. Trusting in yourself will not work, but trusting in Jesus will. And that leads me to the second scenario then. What are Christians supposed to do here? When we reach that breaking point, when we look over the last week and we can't even count how many times that we have failed. God and not lived up to that standard. What are we supposed to do? When we were like Paul and when we knew what was right, we might even have a want to do it and yet we still failed What are we supposed to do? Well, we can't get caught up and it's important to remember this We cannot get caught up in the in the trap that once you become a Christian and trust in Jesus Then you stay a Christian because of your own hard work That's the assurance killer, because none of us are good enough. Yes, Christians sin and mess up. That influence from our old life is still there. It's still going to be with us. If it affected Paul, it's going to affect us. It doesn't make it okay, but that is reality. Sin will be with us until we are perfected and with the Lord. So, what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Well, what we are supposed to do now is cling to Jesus. Christians, we know all too well how wretched we can be. We know all too well our hearts are inclined towards evil. We know all too well how we could never earn what we have. So, cling to Jesus Christ, who has bought this inheritance and has secured it for you. It doesn't mean we sit back and relax and do nothing. You'll come to, to Romans 8 very soon and in Romans 8 you'll find out that we, we do the Christian life relying on God by the Spirit and you'll, you'll cover all that there but for now cling to Jesus. I think it would be inappropriate to end on verse 25. Paul was working through this. I don't think the chapter break is helpful here because in Romans chapter 8 verse 1 he tells us something important. He's just talked about all the times that we mess up. All the times that we do stuff that deserves condemnation, all the times that we fail God, when we should have done what was right and we didn't. And that could leave us totally distressed and in despair. But listen to chapter 8, verse 1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even though there is so much there to condemn us, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Yes, there may be consequences for sin for us, for those around us, but no final, utter, and complete condemnation for those who are in Christ. It's not a license to sin, but that is our security. And that when we inevitably mess up and again and again, God will not just throw us aside and forget about us. No, all of our sin has been answered at the cross. And those who trust in Jesus for their salvation now, well they can trust in Jesus for their eternal life then. So who will deliver us from this body of death and weakness and limitations? Only Jesus Christ, there's a lot in there and I know it's sometimes hard to follow because there's almost two trains of thought going on here, but don't miss the wood for the trees. God's word is not here to confuse us. If you feel confused, you blame me. But what we're supposed to take away from this is that trying to get by on your own simply will not work. If you're not trusting in Jesus then your righteousness can never reach a high enough standard to get right with God. Our good works are always tainted by sin. Life by ourselves will never deliver. Not now and not life after death either. So, trust in Jesus, who lived and died and rose again to share with you real and lasting life. Trusting in Him will bring deliverance. It will bring freedom and it will bring security. For those who, here who do trust in Jesus, unfortunately, sin is going to be by our side until death do us part. That doesn't mean we give in. We all know that once we become a Christian, our lives must start to reflect that. Good works always are the natural result of faith in Christ. But I hope this has made you think about your life and your sin. Because it made me think. And strangely I, I hope it leads you to, to that little place that Paul was in, in verse 24. I hope it leads you to echo those. words. Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Because when we recognize our own limitations and our own weaknesses, well, then we realize that we really cannot trust in ourselves. And so our only hope is to trust in Jesus Christ and praise God for in him. we get real life, real freedom, and real security, both now and for forever. Let's pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for this passage in Romans. We thank you for how open and honest Paul is with his struggles. Lord, we thank you for showing this up, this to us, for we so often feel the same. We confess to you how often we, we think we can get by on our own. We confess how often, even when we do trust in you, we think we can trust in ourselves. And we confess just how often we fail you. We know these things ought not to be so. So, please turn our eyes ever to Jesus. Let our hearts be filled with a desire for him that trumps a desire for anything else in this world. Help us, even now, to trust in Christ and in Him alone. And it's in His name that we pray. Amen.

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