Rom 7:14-17 “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”
Paul has described in this chapter how the law makes sin apparent in us. He has gone to great lengths to instruct us that the problem is not the law: the law is good. The problem is carnal man: carnal man is not good. While we should be thankful that we are no longer bound under the law, we need to remember that the law was given by God for our good.
In keeping with this line of thought, Paul tells us that the law is spiritual. The scripture tells us that God is a Spirit, and if we worship Him it must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). It stands to reason that if God is a Spirit and He gave us the law, then the law must be spiritual. Jesus demonstrated to us how that the law is more than just a moral guideline that should not be crossed.
Jesus was speaking to the multitude in Matthew 5:27 when He called their attention to the injunction that they should not commit adultery. It is likely that there were many hearing His words that were quick to agree that the law taught them this. Many men in the group were probably patting themselves on the back because they had never physically cheated on their wives. However, Jesus then elevated that law to a spiritual level: “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28).”
When we see not only the letter of the law but the spirit also, then we have to face the fact that we are carnal. As such, we are sold into bondage to sin. We all sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our own life experiences should prove this to us.
Have you ever said or done something and immediately asked yourself “Why did I do that?” There is almost immediate remorse for the action or thought. We wonder why we would have ever done or said such a thing. This was what Paul was experiencing when he said “that which I do I allow not.” The word allow here carries the idea of understanding rather than permission.
Paul’s concern stems from the same thing we have all experienced in our lives. We are determined that we are going to do better (pray more, study more, be kinder to other, etc.) and then discover that we have not accomplished that which we set out to do. On the other hand, things that we are determined never to do again (over-eat, use bad language, make snap judgements of others, etc.) we find ourselves falling right back into. However, there is a positive take-away from this experience.
Paul, finding that he failed to do better, had to confess that the law is good. By the law, we are made to realize that we are still a work in progress while we live here. Even though we are freed from sin in Jesus Christ, we are still sinners in this world. Sin is condemned in our flesh. We labor every day to resist and overcome our sin nature. To do this, we stand in need of God’s grace on a daily basis.
Paul was not excusing his failures. He was not saying that his sins were not his fault. He was confessing that he no longer loved his sinful actions, but at the same time realized that sin dwelled in his flesh. Being brought by God to understand the spiritual nature of the law proves to us our sin and our need for our Savior.
May we walk humbly before God, seeking His grace to live better and walk closer to Him!