I seem to return increasingly to Paul in Romans 7, partly because it was my entry point into theology, but also because it keeps cropping up in later subjects.
Just as Jesus denied that He himself was responsible for his “other identity” of sin, so too did Paul, once he had been acquainted with the righteousness of the law, then disclaim that what was causing him to sin, was his own will in the matter. He had identified his own will as being at one with the will of God, as revealed by law, and then denied that it was his “own” will that was in command of his life. He admitted slavery to his flesh, to the will of sin.
In Paul’s case, this was true. His will was overcome by the will of his flesh, with a poor outcome, compared to that which he declared to be his true allegiance, being to the righteousness of God. Paul recognised his inner, and therefore inevitable, death. “Wretched man”.
Jesus though, lived always to his “own” will, which was in subjection to his Father at all times. Unlike Adam, he never sinned. But he was always aware of the basic inner nature of the body he had inherited and now inhabited. Unlike Paul, (who could only separate in theory) he was able to separate his own will from the will of the flesh, which lives in all men of flesh, and which Jesus was a sample of. But His will reigned in his life to do his Father’s will.
Jesus lived in righteousness, a position of power. With that righteous power he was able to repel the advances of the “enemy”. UNTIL the time came for him to confront it, to confront the inner unrighteousness of his flesh. This was when he destroyed the enemy, in his flesh. This was the victory that restored mankind’s defeat, the defeat Paul regularly experienced, and which held him in a prison of mediocrity, far below the expectation of the experience of true righteousness. He destroyed his own death. And his righteousness survived. God had judged the world in him, in his flesh, and freed the world from death’s covenant with the flesh of men. God had separated the will of the flesh, and the responsibility for it, from mankind. Because he loved his creation.
Now on the strength of this victory, and the power of this resurrection, and the giving of the Spirit freely to mankind, Paul was empowered by faith, by belief, to rise with Jesus into a life that expressed his will (as already noted in R7 as being willing to serve God) in the righteousness he had longed for, being freed from the law which had communicated to him a previously unattainable righteousness, which condemned his natural nature of unrighteousness. God had judged him along with Jesus. He was freed from the inevitability of death, and thereby from the condition of death itself.
The cross exposed sin and destroyed sin. Jesus’ inner righteousness exposed and destroyed the inner unrighteousness, the corruption of man which was through the lie and the ego of it. The truth of God was justified in the destruction of that which was not of him, was an intruder, an enemy. And he destroyed it himself, as the only son of the living God. This was the revelation of the love of God, that he would take upon himself, through his son, the suffering that sin creates in opposition to love.
Righteousness, love, Spirit, the nature of God. The suffering that displays and exhibits that love, is what reveals the ongoing conflict with the elements of non-love. As we align ourselves with Him, those beggarly elements will come against us also, and his suffering will be ours as well. But which through Him and in Him, we have already overcome. FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT.