Study Through Romans: Lesson 20 :: By Sean Gooding

Chapter 7: 7-25 

The Battle Within

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 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. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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.

The study of Romans really hits me to the core. It dives deep into the very heart of being a Christian and brings us face to face with our selves. I surrendered to the ministry in the spring of 1984. I was 17 years old and had plans to go to a University here in Ontario to become an accountant or something else. But the Lord had other plans. In September of 1984, I was in seminary in Florida; and the rest, as they say, is history. I was saved as a teen (just 14 years old) in Barbados, my homeland. One Monday night, standing at the National Stadium, having heard a sermon by a preacher who was on a Billy Graham-style crusade in the Caribbean, I asked Jesus to forgive me, save me and put my faith in His death, burial and resurrection.

Over the years, I have heard a lot of people talk about repenting of one’s sins; and in truth I understood I was a sinner and that I needed a Saviour. However, I had no understanding of the depth of my sin. From the conversations I have had with the many saved people that I have known and know, I have come to understand that most of us have no real concept of how sinful we are until after we are saved and the Holy Spirit begins to deal with us.

  1. The Sinfulness of Spiritual Leaders, Hebrews 7:27 

Under the Law, the High Priest was required to offer a sacrifice for his own sins before he could offer a sacrifice for the sins of the nation of Israel. This very thing is reconfirmed for us in Hebrew 5:3. He has to offer sacrifices for his own sins and then the sins of the people. We can see that even Aaron, the first High Priest, had sin issues and required forgiveness often. Now, I am not equating the office of a Pastor with that of the Jewish High Priest. But what I am saying is that human spiritual leaders have to deal with their own sinfulness first, and they, we, need to be honest about it. Aaron, or the High Priests that succeeded him, offered sacrifices for their sins publicly; no one was astonished that they were sinners. All of us are sinners.

Sadly, we have built a culture of perceived sinlessness in the pastoral community. Many of the pastors I grew up with kept a very tight rope as to how close they let people get to them and their families. They tried to keep an air of perceived spirituality and not let the scrutinizing eyes in. I know many pastors whose children did not follow mom and dad. The kids rebelled and fought them at every turn, and many simply left when they were old enough to leave. Even with a spiritual leader like Samuel, his sons were no good to the nation. In fact, one of the reasons given to Samuel for the nation to get a king was that his sons were not like him. Look at 1 Samuel 8. 

Paul, of course, was a Pharisee before he was saved. He would have lived by the letter of the law; and in his own words, he was blameless. Not sinless. But blameless, meaning he made the appropriate sacrifices at the right time for his sins. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice on behalf of the whole nation to cover the sins of the people. Paul was blameless, not sinless. There are some ‘pastors and spiritual leaders’ that present themselves as sinless in this present time. This means that they are telling you they do not commit sin daily. Of course, the Lord dealt with this in 1 John 1:8-9, telling us that any who would say they have no sin, referring to saved persons, are liars. Rather, we need to confess our sins, and God will graciously forgive us and cleanse us.

  1. The Sinfulness of the Man in the Mirror, Romans 7: 7-25 

For those of us who are saved at a young age, as I was at 14, we have not yet tapped the depth of our depravity. There are many who are saved even younger than I, and they, once again, have no real concept as to the depths of their depravity as sinners. I can say personally that I am astonished each day as to how sinful I am. I am confronted with my thoughts, my conversations in my head, and my desires, the things that no one sees but me and God; and I am ashamed to say that I am a sinful, very sinful man.

I don’t think that I really began to understand the depth of my depravity until I was out of my teens and maybe even into my later twenties. I was a ‘good kid,’ good grades, seldom in any real trouble, off to seminary at a young age and then into the ministry. I knew I was a sinner and had to deal with the external things that most men deal with. But as I got older, I began to see that there was a real battle in my mind. A battle between what I wanted to do and what I actually did. In my mind I want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, but the power to submit my body was hard to do. Then a sad but true revelation came to my understanding from something Jesus said in Matthew 15:11. We see this:

“Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

Yes, we need to be careful about what we watch and what we read. For our health, we need to be careful about what we eat and drink. But what Jesus tells us here is, it’s what comes out of a man’s mouth; and, later, he references that a man’s mouth speaks the things in his heart, his core. We can do the right things and even say the right things; but, for many of us, it is a mask for what we really want to say and do.

For me, this was a harsh enlightening. I was not one to use swear words, not one to hit on a woman, I regularly attended church and did all the religious things, but I was just a rotten sinner at my core. I was saved, I was redeemed by the blood of Jesus. But, the more I got to know the Word of God, the more time I spent in prayer and in confession, the more sinful I became. The battle waged on and on in my mind and soul, it waged in my members; and there were times when I thought it was easier to just give in, walk away and forget trying to be good, do good, and simply just be.

It would seem that Paul, in the power of the Holy Spirit, came to this sad but eye-opening revelation. A Pharisee would have had a very different view of his own righteousness. We are reminded of this when Jesus observed two men going to the Temple to pray. One, the Pharisee, reminded God how wonderful he was; and the other, a tax collector, reminded God how evil he was. Paul, at one time, would have been the former. But now, he is coming to the realization of his own sinfulness. He is seeing the battle, and he writes about it, almost lamenting the reality of what he has discovered. In verse 18, he makes the statement that in his flesh ‘dwells no good thing.’

There is not even a shred of righteousness in any of us. Not one iota apart from the righteousness we have from Jesus that we are saved. Then in verse 21, Paul comes to the conclusions and statement of the human condition – ‘evil is present with me, the one who wants to do good.’

This is our condition until death or until Jesus comes to get us. In our deepest depths, we desire to do good, do what is right, think, say and do the right things. But at the very moment that we determine to do what is right as revealed in the Word of God, evil, our flesh, our carnal minds, our sinful self is right there, and we become our greatest enemies. It can be depressing, and at times it can be disheartening. But there is a silver lining on these dark clouds; only saved people have this dilemma. Only saved people have this fight; we have even the desire to do what is good. And only we can truly understand the depth of our own depravity; and, in so doing, grow in our wonder at the salvation we have in Jesus.

The more I get to know me, the more wonderful Jesus is. The more I see how sinful I am, the more I understand why the Lord, in His compassion and love, came to save me. I certainly could not save myself. The more I see the sinfulness in my little 7-year old, and the love I have for her, the more I appreciate God’s love for me. The worse I see myself, the more amazing Jesus is. Oh, what a wonderful Savior! And, oh, what amazing grace we have in Him!

Has Jesus saved you? He loves you and gave himself for you. He loves you as the rotten sinner you are. And Romans 5:8 tells us that God showed his love for us in that, while we were sinners, Jesus died for us. He died for your sins and mine. Oh, wretched man that I am, wretched woman that you are, wretched person that you are, who can deliver us from this body of sin? The answer is Jesus. He is the only answer.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

God bless you,

Pastor Sean Gooding

Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church