Rom 7:18-21 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
It is often difficult for us to admit that we do not have any good in and of ourselves that we can claim. Simply put, sin is condemned in the flesh (Romans 8:3) and that is certainly not “good”. At the same time, to be able to see (know) that nothing good dwells in our flesh is a blessing. We only come to this knowledge after God has begun a work in us.
God’s grace enlightens us to the truth that no good thing dwells within our flesh. Only then do we discover that there is a will in us to want to do good. Even though the determination (will) to do good is there we are still at a loss if left to ourselves. We are not able to find a way in our flesh to do worthy deeds.
The proof of this premise is simple. How many times in our lives have we determined within ourselves to correct some fault or flaw, only to discover that we go right back to doing the same old things? Even though we prefer in our thoughts to do good, we cannot seem to make it happen. On the other hand, those bad things that we have decided we are not going to do any more just seem to keep cropping up in our daily lives.
The grace of God has shown us that we are not good without Him. The grace of God has given us a desire to do good. Yet, we cannot find it in our “flesh” to accomplish any of these good things. This is proof to us that, even after we have experienced God’s grace, we are still sinners as long as we live in this body of flesh.
We would love to be able to come to a place in our lives where we could claim to not be sinners any longer. Our hearts may yearn to be able to say we no longer have any sin. Yet, the scripture tells us that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us 1 John 1:8). Understanding that sin is condemned in the flesh is necessary for us to truly understand and appreciate what it means to have a Savior.
Rest assured, Paul is not falling back on the old adage that “the devil made me do it.” He is not excusing himself (or us) when he says it is not we that do evil but sin that dwells in us. The scripture here is simply assuring us that it is true that we are sinners. It is not just what we do, but is a very characteristic of who we are as mortals: sin dwells in us.
In this examination of our sinful nature, we find a law (principle) that we cannot deny. Every time that we set out to do good, we have the sinfulness of our nature to deal with. Our flesh (carnal nature) will supply us with a dozen different reasons why doing that good thing is not a good idea. I cannot do it for everyone; it is not enough to make any real difference; it is not fair; and the list goes on and on.
May we stop and rejoice that Christ our Savior is the end of the law and that His grace is sufficient!