24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25
Through the Bible: Romans 4-7
There is a lot of discussion about whether Paul was talking about himself before he became a follower of Jesus, or whether he was talking about the ongoing struggle against sin, even for the believer. Those who take the first view argue that a believer would never say “But I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14). Therefore, he must be talking about himself BC—Before Christ.
On the other hand, Tim Keller makes the argument that Paul is talking about the daily experience of every believer who seeks to gain victory over sin. The most compelling evidence for Keller is Paul’s statement that he “delights in the law of God” in his inner being. Could an unbeliever delight in God’s law? Further, Paul says in verse 18 that he knows that nothing good dwells in him.” Does an unbeliever have that knowledge?
Martyn Lloyd Jones, who preached through Romans from 1955-1968 (144 sermons on chapters 5-8 alone!!) pointed out that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned at all in chapter 7, compared to 21 times in chapter 8. So for Lloyd Jones, it isn’t about whether Paul is writing about his experience before or after conversion. Instead, he is writing about what happens any time we seek sanctification apart from the Holy Spirit. It can’t be done.
To me, it seems obvious. Paul never shied away from using the present tense when talking about who he was as a sinner saved by grace. He told Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15), Not “was.” “am.”
No matter how hard I try, my trying will not set me free from the law of sin and death. It is only through what Christ did for us that we can loosen the chains the law binds us with.
In the margin of my Bible next to Romans 7 I have this little poem written down. I think I wrote it, mainly because when I tried to Google it, I couldn’t find a source for it. But if you’ve heard it before, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.
The Law says “DO,” and through and through It wraps us up and binds us. The Cross says, “DONE”—God’s only Son By grace, through faith unwinds us.