Read: Romans 7:14-25
Text: Romans 7:21 (KJV) "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."
Theme: The Christian has two natures, the carnal and the spiritual, which are in
Romans chapter 7 is one of the most important passages in the Bible for a saved soul to master. (It could be argued that salvation truths are the most important, for everything else can be learned in heaven. However, for the child of God, striving for a life that is pleasing to God, this passage is vital!)
Chapter 7 describes the struggle of the believer who is desperately trying to live out the Christian life in the power of the flesh. It is a sad picture of failure.
Chapter 7 teaches us the important truth that every believer is schizophrenic (i.e. he has two natures).
The importance of learning this truth can be seen from Paul's attitude as we progress through the passage. He starts confused, disillusioned, a failure. He ends the passage with a shout of praise.
When we learn the truth about our two natures, and begin to live with that truth in mind, we too will move from failure to victory... from sighs of despair to shouts of praise.
Notice what God's Word teaches us about "Schizophrenic Chirstianity."
I. You Have Two Natures
A. Wonderful things happened when you got saved.
- Every sinful action, word, thought; from the past, present, and future, disappeared under the
blood of Jesus Christ.
- You became a child of the king, a member of His royal family, a joint heir with Him of everything.
- You received eternal life.
- You received eternal health.
- You received eternal wealth.
- You obtained a purpose to live, a reason for being.
B. NOTHING happened to your body, though.
C. You now have two natures:
1. You still have a sinful nature - the flesh.
"I am carnal" - vs. 14
"What I hate, that do I" - vs. 15
"Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin
that dwelleth in me." - vs. 17
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,)
dwelleth no good thing." - vs. 18
"The evil which I would not, that I do." - vs. 19
"Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do
it, but sin that dwelleth in me." - vs. 20
"When I would do good, evil is present with
me." - vs. 21
2. You gained a spiritual nature - the spirit.
"I delight in the law of God after the inward man. -
"With the mind I myself serve the law of God. -
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature: old things are passed away; behold, all
things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17)
II. Your two natures don't get along.
A. Your new nature wants to do right.
B. Your old nature wants to do wrong.
"... for to will is present with me..." (vs. 18)
"for the good that I would, I do not." (vs. 19)
"... I would do good..." (vs. 21)
"I delight in the law of God after the inward man "
1. Christians want to believe the right things.
- They hear the Sermon on the Mount and say, "Yes, I
- They hear the Word of God preached, and agree with it
that it is true.
- They hear the missionary sing "People Need the Lord" and
believe that they are called to be witnesses.
2. They want to put them into practice in their life.
- They want to live the Sermon on
- They want to respond to the Word
- They want to be a living witnesses and testimonies to Christ.
- They want their lives to be in conformity to God's will!
3. This whole passage is Paul's desperate desire to do right! (as well as
a picture of your and my desire for the same)
"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." (vs. 23)
"For the flesh lusteth agains the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the
other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
1. You know you shouldn't lust, but your eyes have a mind of
2. You know you shouldn't gossip, but your tongue takes over.
3. We know that we shouldn't listen to wickedness, but our ears
strain to hear it anyway.
4. We seem incapable of controlling our own bodies sometimes.
Of course, some are in denial, and believe they are not included in this.
ILLUS - A clergyman was walking down the street when he came upon a group of
about a dozen boys, all of
them between 10 and 12 years of age. The group surrounded a dog. Concerned lest the boys were
hurting the dog, he went over and asked, "What are you doing with that dog?"
One of the boys replied, "This dog is just an old neighborhood stray. We all want him, but only one of
us can take him home. So we´ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to
keep the dog."
Of course, the reverend was taken aback. "You boys shouldn´t be having a contest telling lies!" he
exclaimed. He then launched into a ten minute sermon against lying, beginning, "Don´t you boys
know it´s a sin to lie," and ending with, "Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie."
There was dead silence for about a minute. Just as the reverend was beginning to think he´d gotten
through to them, the smallest boy gave a deep sigh and said, "All right, give him the dog."
5. The fact is, we seem enslaved to, and consumed by, our sin nature.
ILLUS - Radio personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how an Eskimo kills a wolf.
The account is grisly, yet it offers fresh insight into
the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin. "First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with
animal blood and allows it to freeze.
Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by
frozen blood. "Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf
follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers
the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and
more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now,
harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night.
So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting
of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his
insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his OWN warm blood. His carnivorous appetite
just craves more--until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!"
6. The fact is, our sin nature often seems to betray us, and our old bodies refuse to
do what we know is right.
ILLUS - In her book, Joni, Joni Ericson Toda describes her first distressing
realization of the grim reality of her paralysis.
Joni was only 15 when she was permanently paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a diving accident. She
was rushed to the hospital for extensive tests and x-rays to determine the extent of her injury. As she lay
unclothed on a hospital cart, the sheet covering her slipped to the side leaving her partially exposed. In her
modesty, Joni desperately wanted to cover herself, a small task easily and quickly accomplished before her
accident. But now, as much as she wanted to make her arms and hands move, they simply would not respond.
Joni knew in her mind exactly what she wanted to do, but her body was totally unresponsive.
C. Your two natures are complete opposites in every
Old Nature: New Nature:
Hates God Loves God
Does not seek God Craves God
Can do nothing right Can do nothing wrong
(vs. 18) "Whosoever is born of God doth not
commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him:
and he cannot sin, because he is born of
God." (1 John 3:9)
III. Only Jesus can make your two natures co-exist.
A. There is no answer within you for this problem.
"O wretched man that I am!"
1. The situation can be illustrated by a Roman horror:
ILLUS - Murderers in Rome were often bound
hand to hand, foot to foot, and face to face with their
victims, and then thrown into the wilderness or desert to
die as the corpse rotted into them. (Paul is painting a
similar picture in describing our dual nature.)
2. The situation can be illustrated by a make-believe experiment:
ILLUS - Suppose a scientist grafted a
butterfly and a spider together so that it was both in one.
It had the nature of a butterfly and the nature of a spider
at the same time. The butterfly would want to soar in the
bright sunlight of heaven and taste of the nectar of roses,
while the spider would want to hide in corners in the dark
and drink blood. (Paul is painting a similar picture in
describing our dual nature.)
B. It drives many Christians to despair!
C. That despair may be the very goal of God for your life, though.
QUOTE (Robert Deffinbaugh) -
"The problem with many Christians is not their despair, like that of Paul, but their lack of it. If coming to
the end of ourselves is essential to turning to God for our deliverance, then many Christians will never turn to
God for victory over sin because they do not recognize their true condition or take it seriously enough. It was the
self-righteous scribes and Pharisees who did not come to Jesus for forgiveness simply because they did not think
they needed it. It is the "smooth-sailing saints" who do not come to the cross for deliverance from the power of
sin in their lives because they do not agonize over their condition as Paul did. My concern is that I lack the kind
of agony that Paul has. I lack the kind of intensity that Paul has.
Why is it I do not feel the struggle as much as he does? How can Christians fail to identify with Paul here in
Romans 7? Let me suggest several reasons.
We fail to agonize over sin because we have redefined our old sins, giving them new Christian labels.
Aggressive, self-assertiveness, once condemned as sin, now becomes "zeal for the Lord." These are the same
vices, the same sins, but we now sanctify them by putting Christian labels on them.
We live superficial, hypocritical lives, which deny the reality of our sin, and our failure to live as God requires.
We ignore and reject God's Law, as though it were "of flesh," while we are the ones who are spiritual (the
exact opposite of what Paul says in verse 14).
We teach Christians to "cope" with their sin. Paul never teaches Christians to cope. In effect, we say to
Christians that they need to learn to live with the agony. Paul says, "No, you don't. You need to have that agony
so intense that you can't live with it, and you can only turn to God."
We seek to convert our socially unacceptable sins to those sins which are socially acceptable. We know that
robbery and murder are unacceptable to society, and so we redirect our sinful energies in areas which serve our
own self-interest, but in ways which bring us the commendation of others, rather than their condemnation. We
give up those sins for which society puts men in prison and take up those sins for which society will make us
We appeal to unholy motives in order to produce conduct which appears righteous. We use pride, ambition,
greed, and guilt within the church, making these illicit motives the reasons for acceptable conduct.
We cannot stand to see people "putting themselves down" and thinking of themselves as wretched creatures,
and so we attempt to build their self-esteem. We would not turn Paul to the cross for the solution to his
problem; we would rebuke him for his poor self-esteem, and put him in a class or program which made him feel
good about himself.
Those of us who are Christians and can identify with Paul are blessed. Those of us who cannot identify with Paul
are to be pitied. It is not that we are plagued because we think too little of ourselves, but because we do not take
sin seriously enough. The agony of Romans 7 is a prerequisite for the ecstasy of Romans chapter 8.
D. We need to come to the end of ourselves:
1. In order to be saved in the first place.
2. In order to become what He wants us to become in our Christian walk.
Romans chapter 7 plainly teaches that you cannot be a good Christian on your own. You need the help of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit to succeed.
In chapter 7, the word "I" is used 33 times, and the word "Spirit" only once. However, Paul figured it out in the end, and when we get to chapter 8 we see the word "I" used only twice, and the word "Spirit" used 19 times. There is too much glorious truth in chapter 8 to cover in this sermon, it requires another one all its own. But it is in chapter 8 that Paul more fully develops the shout of victory in verse 25.
"Who shall deliver me? I thank God... Jesus Christ!" (Romans 7:24-25)
What's the point?
Don't get discouraged if you have trouble being a good Christian.
So did the best Christian - Paul.
Don't feel like a failure if you cannot do it on your own, and
you find yourself continually falling down in your Christian
walk. So do the rest of us.
You need to come to the despair of vs. 24, in order to realize the
victory of verse 25.
Learn to feed the new nature, and in so doing you will find victory.
There are several ways to feed the new nature and starve out the
- Bible Study (study especially Romans 8 and Galatians 5)
- Prayer (pray for a recognition of sin's power in your life, a true heart-felt agony over
it's hold on you, such as Paul showed here.)
- Fellowship with God's people in God's house
- A life of service for your Lord
- Learn what it means to "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16, Romans 8:1)
Yes, you have two natures... you are a schizo... but you don't
have to be defeated by it. When you look to Christ and the Holy
Spirit for your help you will find the answer, just as Paul did.
Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 2000 William E. Johnson.