The Bible Proof Of Inbred Sin VI
The Seventh Chapter of Romans
The instant we mention this chapter in connection with inbred sin there is a quick and sometimes angry protest upon the part of many.
We are promptly informed that the troubled individual in this chapter is a Jew convicted under the law, and, finding it powerless to deliver him, he is correspondingly miserable.
The reply to this is that the Bible is not of private or class interpretation, and to confine this chapter to the description of the spiritual exercises of one of the smallest nations under the sun, while all the rest of the world are called on simply to look in on this moral arena and see the struggles and death conflict, is stretching the matter too far and making too great a demand on our credulity.
The effort to make the groaning person in this chapter a convicted legalist of any country and time fails as signally as the others.
A legalist, no matter who he is or where he is, is nothing but an unpardoned, unregenerated sinner. His condition is bound to be one of spiritual death, for God says he is dead in trespasses and sins.
But the man in the seventh chapter of Romans is not spiritually dead by any means. He has a law of life and good in him, while a sinner is a lawless man, and until regeneration, can have no law of good in him.
A still more remarkable proof of this person in the seventh chapter not being a legalist, and the clearest proof that he is instead, a spiritual man, is seen in the 22d verse, where he cries out, “I delight in the law of God after the inner man.” Let the reader trace the word “delight” back into the Greek, and he will find the other meanings to be “please,” “gratify,” “enjoy,” and “rejoice.” Could an unconverted man say. “I enjoy and rejoice in the law of God?”
No unregenerated man–and a legalist or moralist is unregenerated–can delight in the law of God. The sinner stands in fear and awe of the divine commandments, but delight can only be felt by the spiritual man. We need only appeal to every man’s memory of the sinful past! We trembled and were troubled at the law, but did not and could not feel delight.
The verse adds: “After the inner man.” The sinner has no inner man. God says that he is dead in trespasses and sins. The inner man is the divine creation. How can God say that a man is dead in sin, and then add that “he delights in the law of God after the inner man?” Here would be a most palpable contradiction.
In still further proof of the regenerated state of the man of the seventh chapter, we quote the 25th verse; “So with the mind I myself serve the law of God.” Does any one believe that an unpardoned man serves the law, either in his mind or anywhere else? This man in the chapter “consents unto the law that it is good,” serves it with his mind, and even delights in it. He that consents to–serves and delights in–the law of God is a saved man!
Let the reader divest himself of prejudice and read the seventh chapter of Romans carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, and he will see that here is no confession of a common transgressor. Here is no outrageous violator of God’s commandments brought to repentance, confession, and judgment.
We fail to see a sign of repentance in the chapter. It is not justification nor pardon that the man is alluding to or begging for. He is in an agony over a dark indwelling something which keeps him from doing what he wants to do. In a word, it is the regenerated man under conviction for inbred sin.
It is wonderful how this chapter finds an echo in every converted heart, while the unregenerated man would never go to it for a picture of his condition and life.
It is also wonderful how preachers bring this chapter into their prayers; while the Episcopal Church, Sabbath after Sabbath, as a body of Christian believers, groan forth in their Litany, “We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which we ought to have done!” a lamentation almost entirely taken from the 15th verse of the seventh chapter, “What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I;” and in the 19th verse, “and the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
Another Church is very fond of quoting a part of the 24th verse, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” They quote it as if it were the utterance of despair, and as if there were no deliverance mentioned immediately afterwards.
Is it not strange that, if this chapter be the experience of a convicted legalist, preachers and Churches should be adopting its language as expressive and descriptive of their own condition! Here verily is a proof in itself that it is a portrayal of the Christian conflict before the deliverance of inbred sin takes place in the glorious blessing of sanctification.
The Church might as well come to it. The battle has already started on this chapter, and we see nothing but victory for the cause of holiness in what will transpire in the probing study and honest application of this chapter.
But very earnest objections are filed against us for construing the seventh chapter as being the conviction for and the struggle of the regenerated man against inbred sin. One objection urged is that this man here confesses that he is “carnal.”
The reply to this is: Yes, but did not Paul say that the Corinthians, who were “babes in Christ,” and hence born of God, were carnal? This is the very point that we are making in this book: that carnality, or the carnal mind, is left in the regenerated heart. A second objection is that the person talking here says that he is “sold under sin.”
This is true, but he did not say that he was sinning as a common transgressor. He said he was “sold under sin,” and as a certain famous Holiness evangelist said, “Satan sold Adam and the whole human race out for a mess of apples. “Sinning is one thing, “sold under sin” is another. We find ourselves in this world with a sinful nature which comes to us by an act of our federal head in the garden of Eden where he exchanged obedience to God for fleshly gratification. He made a bad trade; in fact, he sold the human race for something pleasing to the eye and taste.
Now let us turn from these objections and see what this man of the seventh chapter of Romans is troubled about. In trying to do this, the other objections that are urged against our interpretation will be answered. Let us note carefully the confessions and complaints made herein.
First, “What I would, that do I not.”
Let the regenerated man say if he has not had to say this a thousand times since his conversion. O the Christlikeness, the usefulness, the great and good deeds we aimed after and failed to be and do and reach in the past years!
Secondly, “But what I hate, that do I.”
David said that he hated vain thoughts. The converted man says the same. He says that he will watch the door of his lips and keep his tongue as with a bridle, for he hates gossip and faultfinding; but there is not a day but he slips up on the very thing he hates. He has made a covenant with his eyes; but somehow they look, and the trouble is that the look is just one second too long. “O wretched man that I am!”
Thirdly, “Evil is present with me.”
Does not every regenerated man grieve over the fact? The preacher is delivering a faithful message to his congregation. He is doing it in humility and faithfulness when suddenly a voice whispers, “You are surpassing yourself,” and lo! a sudden puff of self-inflation, a special effort put forth to increase the approbation and admiration that are read in the faces of the audience. “O wretched man that I am!”
A collection is being taken up for Missions. A brother cries out from the congregation: “Put me down twenty-five dollars.” He observes the flutter that his gift produces–perhaps he sees the bishop looking at him–and so he cries again: “Put me down another twenty-five!” “O wretched man that I am I” That last twenty-five was not right. “Evil is present with me!”
Yes, evil is present, and oftentimes jumps astride a good deed and rides it a mile or so before the converted man can get it off.
Fourthly, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.”
Look at it; here are two laws, and they are dissimilar, and they are both in the same man. Surely this is not an unregenerated man, for the sinner does not serve God at all, while this character speaks of a law of life and good, against which another law in him rebels and wars.
It is not possible to live a converted life a few hours before discovering that there are now two laws, where before there was only one, and that one a law of sin and death. In the sinful life the members ruled, the law of sin dominated without a rival. But when regenerated, a law of life is introduced and the battle begins. Before this Satan and sin had it all their own way; now the war commences, and a fearful one it often proves to be.
Fifthly, “Bringing me into captivity.”
Who has not felt bondage in the regenerated life, both to people and circumstances? Who has not deplored the lack of freedom in prayer, testimony, preaching, and living? Something within brings us as regenerated people again and again into captivity. We do not feel free. Listen to a preacher groaning in the pulpit before he preaches. What is the matter? He does not know whether he will have liberty or not. Hear him groaning after the sermon; he says he was not free. Listen to a brother laboring in prayer. Something is holding him down. Notice the silent Christian tongue, the inactive Christian life, the melancholy Christian face, the uneasy, anxious Christian heart–what is all this but captivity?
Forced into silence, or forced into speech! Afraid to declare one’s convictions! Kept from doing things that have been whispered by the Spirit and taught by the Word! Captivity! Captivity! Captivity!!! “O wretched man that I am!”
But listen, the man in the seventh chapter is still complaining.
Sixthly, “Sin dwelleth in me.”
Does not the reader see that this is no allusion to personal transgressions? “Sin” in the singular number is here used. It is not personal transgressions spoken of, but inbred sin. It is something that dwelleth in the man. A person can leave his sins and yet this dark, sad thing remain in the heart. A man may not be in “sins” and yet the “sin” spoken of above may “dwell” or be in him.
It is because people have not discriminated here between these two terms, “sins” and “sin,” that they have not been able to understand I John i. 8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” The careless reader construes this statement to mean that we are compelled to commit sins, when the allusion is to the very thing Paul is talking about in the expression, “Sin dwelleth in me,” or in other words, inbred sin.
Of course a man is utterly unable to free himself of this inward plague by any strength of his own. A person might as well try to fly from his shadow, or to put an end to his shadow by stripping himself of his clothing, as to endeavor to rid himself of this indwelling evil principle by laying aside his transgressions.
We have sometimes thought that the Saviour referred to this inward nature of sin when he said to the Jews: “Your sin remaineth.” Let it be remembered that it is Christ’s work to destroy the works of the devil. He has come to purify the heart. John the Baptist said that He was the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. If Jew or Gentile reject him, who alone can take out this “sin,” then the words of the Saviour fall indeed like a funeral knell, and they are as true as they are melancholy: “Your sin remaineth!” It is idle to narrow the expression down to one deed of evil of the elders and scribes; a deeper, truer insight into the words shows the dark nature back of the Saviour’s rejection, and back of all the other sins of that nation. Back of “sins” is seen–“sin!”
Some have criticised the expression, “inbred sin;” but when we hear Christ saying, “Your sin remaineth,” and Paul writing, “Sin dwelleth in me,” we must confess that the term “inbred sin” has a wonderfully homogeneous sound.
Moreover, we have only to listen to hear falling from regenerated lips in pulpit and in pew, in prayer, song, testimony, and sermon, the very words in the seventh chapter of Romans: “Sin [not sins] dwelleth in me.”
Seventhly, “The law of sin.”
Here is no confession of actual sins, but a lamentation over a “law of sin.” The man in the seventh chapter finds it manifesting itself and operating in his “members,” of tongue, eyes, ears, hands, feet, and body generally, through the appetites.
He calls it a “law,” although it is sinful and bad. A law can be bad. We have a number in our country that are full of evil. State Legislatures and Congress passed them. So the devil, with the consent of Adam, passed a bad law or law of sin in our spiritual being, under which the human race has languished for six thousand years. As a law it has force and authority, and millions daily go down under its baleful influence. We have all felt it, and will continue to feel it, until we allow the Saviour to abrogate and destroy it with his sanctifying power.
Eighthly, “The body of death.”
Paul does not call it death, but “body of death.” Many of our readers are familiar with the allusion that the apostle here makes by the “body of death.” It was a mode of punishment for certain kinds of criminals in the Roman Empire. A corpse was tied face to face with the living but condemned man, and he was then put in the prison yard or cell to wait until the decomposition of the dead body struck death into himself.
It is a fearful picture; and a newly converted person, full of his first love, and not yet convicted for inbred sin, would likely protest against the application of the figure to himself. But we must remember that the man in the seventh chapter is a convicted regenerated man. A sinner is one thing, and a convicted sinner is another. All can see the difference. So a Christian is one thing, but a Christian who has obtained a sight of the “old man” in his heart is quite another spectacle.
When the Holy Ghost flashes his light into the soul and shows the uncleanness there, and the lack of conformity to Christ, like Isaiah the man cries out, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” and like Paul he actually writhes under the consciousness of this inward “body of death,” and so groans out, “O wretched man that I am!”
The writer has seen many regenerated people enter upon a Holiness meeting with great restfulness of spirit and self-satisfaction. Sometimes they have abounded in smiles, bantering words, and lightness of manner. But as the days proceeded, and the sword of the Spirit cut down between soul and spirit and discerned the thoughts and intents of the heart, a great change came over them. They became silent, anxious, troubled, miserable, and groaned out in their testimonies and prayers all that Paul said in the seventh chapter of Romans.
There is a second conviction for the human soul. Not a second repentance, however, for we cannot repent for inbred sin; we are convicted for that. The first conviction is for personal sins; the second, for inbred sin. With the writer the last was far more painful than the first. In the first it was “sins” that bore him down; in the second it was “the law of sin,” “the body of death,” that laid him in the dust with cries, “O wretched man that I am!”
This body of death is an evil nature, principle, or bias–call it what we will–that is like death in the presence of the regenerated soul. The converted man feels within him something that is antagonistic to the spiritual life he has obtained. It seems to have a deadly influence. It kills joy in the heart, kills life in prayer, kills religious energy repeatedly, kills Christian faith, hope, and love time and time again; so that there is a struggle against this “body of death,” which seems to be sending out a cold, chilling, deathlike influence through every open avenue to the converted soul.
Not a regenerated man but has felt the burden of death in a measure, while every convicted regenerated man feels the whole weight of this ghastly body and pants for deliverance.
Ninthly, “Who shall deliver me?”
The reader will observe that here is no prayer for pardon, but for deliverance. If it was personal iniquity or sins that the man had committed, the seventh chapter of Romans would have to be similar to the fifty-first Psalm, and the apostle would be pleading for forgiveness, and crying: “Blot out my transgression.”
But there is no cry for pardon in the seventh chapter. The open sinner, legalist, or moralist all alike need to beg for forgiveness; but there is no such petition here.
The entreaty is for deliverance! And not deliverance from personal sins, but from a law of sin, a body of death, a something that dwelleth within; and which the agonizer wanted out. All this coincides and harmonizes exactly with the expressions, “put off,” “lay aside,” “take away,” and the still deeper terms, “crucified” and “destroyed.”
Right here in this cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” most people stop. It is the Miserere of many souls, the funeral dirge of hope. They utter it in despair of deliverance. They go on through life saying, “O wretched man that I am!” and failing to see that there is a deliverance and a Deliverer. Bogged down in a Slough of Despond they think that all that is left them to do is to roll and struggle and continue to cry: “O wretched man that I am!”
They fail to see that Paul did not remain in the slough; that he caught sight of a Deliverer in the Saviour, and that the wail of sorrow is followed by a shout of joy! Listen! “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Listen again–he is shouting!–“I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!!!
“So he is out of the slough! Out of the seventh chapter! Out on the solid bank on the other side and running and shouting down the eighth chapter of Romans! Listen to him! I thank God! I thank God! I thank God! through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Yes, indeed; Christ has done it, and can do it. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who breaks every chain. He destroys the works of the devil in us by casting out inbred sin. The Son has made us free indeed.
Still further down the road in the eighth chapter of Romans we hear Paul’s voice floating back: “There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
The burden is all gone. No inward groaning or sighing. Our hearts condemn us not; God condemns us not; there is no condemnation.
Again floats back the voice of joy: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Hallelujah! Free! And in this blessed state the soul enjoys the unclouded favor of Heaven. No sense of being brought into captivity–he is now free.
Still again we hear the voice of the enraptured apostle, and now still further up the road: “The Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
What does he mean by this? Does not the Spirit bear witness in regeneration? Certainly. But all converted people know the gaps and breaks in the divine favor, the painful silences upon the part of the divine voice, that we realized from time to time to the great inward distress of the child of God. The hindrance to the unbroken testimony of the Spirit is inbred sin. Take that out, and then all the time, all the time, all the time, “The Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” With sanctification or the elimination of inbred sin comes the continuous witness of the Spirit to us of our acceptance with God.
Once more we hear Paul’s voice far down the chapter, and this time we hear him saying, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
This is what any man will say when inbred sin is gone, and no condemnation is felt like a weight upon the heart, and when the Spirit is always whispering that we are children of God–heirs of heaven and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. “I reckon,” says Paul; and so we all say. We reckon–yes, we know–that the glory to be, shall outstrip the shame and suffering that is, beyond all words to describe. What shall we do under such an exhilarating thought? Christ tells us. He says: “Leap for joy!”
Once more the apostle’s voice is wafted faintly back. It is now at the end of the chapter. He seems to be still shouting. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He is evidently feeling well, and is undoubtedly established. No wonder he rejoices and shouts. Just so is established the sanctified man, and so he feels comfortable all the time, “rejoices evermore,” and shouts on his way to Christ and crowns and glory and loved ones in Heaven.