Paul’s struggle with sin not described elsewhere – Paul was under law and the prescribed remedies for the sin thereof. Pharisees as well were not concerned with sin, it certainly did not give them even “pause for reflection”, their consciences were tied up with temple practice and all the intricacies they had built into their legal system. Sin was tied to certain sacrificial offerings that automatically fixed the conscience problem, if there was one.
Paul had a developed conscience, especially as how he was putting Christians to death. Jesus said to him that it was “hard to kick against the pricks” of conscience. He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” and was very learned in all the law, even claiming that he had “kept the law [the legalities of it] in all good conscience”. The pharisees certainly were those of the hardened heart brigade. Keeping the external ordinances was one thing, keeping the moral requirement was quite another. There was no need to grapple with conscience because the law had it all covered. Yet Paul was unsettled in his conscience, and in subsequent revelation of the fullness of the gospel, and the cleansing of his conscience, is fired up to explain what law does to man and why it needed to be replaced. Because he is in teaching mode, he brings the full impact of the experience to the fore.
Paul spoke of past realities. Starting in chapter 6, Paul works through to regeneration, of having been released from slavery to sin. He now wishes to explain how the law worked and what effect it had on people and how it kept them in slavery, so he enters into a revealing discourse about what effect it had on him, and how because of flesh, this tendency, this slavery to sin was empowered by law, to show contrast to release from law.
Paul spoke of present realities. Paul moves from his past experience of law to his “present experience of law”, not as one who is presently under law and actually sinning, but one who was telling the story [in the present tense] from the point of view of being under law, and how being under law revealed his propensity for/to sin. In amongst this, he treated his flesh as an active agent in the generation and execution of sin in him. This is an interesting aspect, because it then raises the question, to what degree are we cleansed”by faith”, and do Christians experience the same degree of flesh/sin consciousness after conversion as before conversion. Some might say it is much worse, that their conscience is now more sensitised to sin. I leave that to you to decide.
My claim is that Paul is not actually involved in sinning, but is speaking of his inner “propensity” to sin, because of an active flesh under the influence of law, and that the wording used, although somewhat awkward, supports this conclusion.. “That which I do” not being “that which I am doing” which seems to be a result of bias on the part of translators, or not even translators, but producers of new versions of the scripture. [of course if he were actually involved in sinning, that would also not be good for the case that he was Christian]
But in any case, he is speaking as one under law, the whole subject of 7 is law, right to the end of the chapter. [and of course, Christians are not under law]
The “I” and the flesh. The main thing here is that Paul emphasises the “I” and does it continually to attract attention to the fact that he is operating on his own. It is “him” under law, exposing the reaction of the human person to law and how it kills Him and how his mental condition is affected by the psychology of the deceptive process of sin under law, and how it captivates his will and forces him into slavery to sin. It is Paul “of himself”. His flesh and sin are separate entities even though, or perhaps because of, the fact that his conscience may be disputing the role of law in his being, considering the result that occurs from it. Paul’s “delight in the law” is hardly causing him to “wage war” against indwelling sin, because he finds he is powerless against that sin and whatever opposition he may feel about it, it is of no result, of no accord, completely ineffective and useless.
Paul delights in the law. The law was life itself to a pharisee. The law came with glory. It is illogical for Paul to be delighting in the law that he is explaining keeps him in captivity to sin, if he is a believer, one who has left the law and the old covenant to become one who is liberated in the Spirit, only to become once more enamoured of/by/with the Law.
Galatians is similar to R7. Similar is not the same as. The wording is similar, but the players are different. Romans 7 has Paul’s mind in conflict with his flesh because of law. Galatians is conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, whereby the mind is to be led by that Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of life liberation and victory, nothing like Romans 7 which is sin and death and failure and captivity.
Paul’s experience parallels people’s experience. Well of course it will because the majority of people are under the law.
Romans 7 is a complete description of one who is under the law, is a slave to sin, and can do nothing good. His will is in captivity to sin because of law and he can do no good, but he does evil. He is a prisoner of the law of sin which is “in his members”. Hardly the description of a Christian one would hope. Jesus said “without me you can do nothing” and this chapter proves it, a perfect example of powerlessness and ongoing sin, such as to cause Him to cry “Wretched man that I am, WHO will deliver me from this body of death?” Almost the same as Jesus cried from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” The sentiment is similar.