Verse 18. No good in my flesh. Verse 19. I practise evil. Verse 21. It is a principle that evil is present in me.
So now for a casual look at what appears to be the main problems in this debate.
Firstly, it has to be stated that verses 5 and 6 clearly state the boundaries of the matter, 5. “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” So this clearly appears to say that the problem is that we were “IN THE FLESH”, and it was WHILE we were there, that sin in the form of SINFUL PASSIONS were AROUSED BY THE LAW.
That appears clear cut, that “being in the flesh” was the condition from which Jesus saved us. [removed us] And in a discussion about law, which this appears to be, one has to conclude that ‘this’ person was your typical “under law” person, who was not a believer, not a Christian, and not saved. In other words, at the time, probably a Jew in many cases. (Paul was a Jew).
Now verse 6 says “BUT NOW, we have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, (presumably talking about dying with Jesus) so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”. (Paul uses the “us”/”we” at this time, not “I”).
So all the elements are there which speak about release from the law, which releases us from the problem situation of sin induced in us because of sinful passions aroused by the law.
And this HAS to be taken as the point of salvation, as the new birth. Clearly, operating in the law was the whole issue here, which caused us to be confined to being IN THE FLESH. And henceforth operating from out of “the flesh”. And clearly, this is what was being described in chapter 5 and 6, they had experienced this transition from verse 5 to verse 6.
So it would appear that the matter is resolved – released from the law, believers are now freely operating in the Spirit, not in the flesh. Fruit of the Spirit is there, instead of works of the flesh.
Now, as someone has said, why would a believer then go messing around in or with the law? We know as per the Galatians, that to re-enter into law is death all over again.
No one that I know of, has answered this question of why a believer, a Christian, released from slavery to sin under the law, would then again enter into any arrangement whatsoever, with the law? As Spock would say, it is illogical.
And yet that is what one side is saying, that Paul is now submitting himself again to the captivity of sin, which was the whole problem in the first place. “Law brings wrath”. Where there is law, there is the empowerment of sin.
Surely NO ONE is going to deny that the whole context of 7 is LAW? That Paul is not submitting himself to the demands and conditions imposed by LAW? And yet they propose that Paul again enters into the very same potential manifestation of sin that he had before chapter 6, and which is clearly stated in 7-5.
If we look at verses 5 and 6, we will see that Paul is now apparently conforming again to that which is stated in verse 5. We will observe that NOTHING of verse 6 is implemented, mentioned, or involved; there is no Spirit, no success, certainly no joy, and no apparent Christian contribution at all to righteousness. To say this Paul is the Paul transformed from being initially on the Damascus road persecuting Christians, to the Paul who met Jesus and then largely went on to instigate the Christian church in the power of the Spirit, is surely “drawing a long bow”.
It hardly seems worthwhile going any further – As I said before, no one has successfully explained why Paul would be in the power of the Spirit one minute, and in the power of the flesh the next. More to the point, being IN THE FLESH, a complete denial of Jesus and the faith itself. AND ALL COMING ABOUT BY REFERENCING THE LAW. THE WHOLE POINT OF EVERYTHING WAS TO LEAVE THE LAW IN FAVOUR OF THE SPIRIT.
A lot of the initial problem was because people could not let go of the law. All sorts of people for one reason or the other. Differing theology, being connected to sects or semi-Judaistic groups, modern day Pharisees of many different persuasions, clinging to some set of particular laws or other, seemingly little different from the Pharisees of old. 630 commandments or whatever, brought back to whatever quantity their particular group may find advisable in order to shore up their belief system. We have enough trouble with 10.
So while we wait for an answer as to why Paul would be playing around with the law again, proving that it can’t be kept, especially without Jesus the Spirit on hand, people keep talking about particular points of failure in R7 that are obviously going to be there because we are talking about law, about the origin of failure and the situation from which we are extracted by the grace of God. Not the situation we continue to remain in because of that grace, NO, the situation from which we are extracted, die to, leave in favour of the Spirit and His power to overcome the things talked about in terms of Paul’s FAILURE? Under LAW?
Oh well, verse 18. Paul finds no good in himself. But not just himself as himself, it is himself as his flesh that is spoken of. Just as he spoke of himself in terms of his mind, here he talks of himself in terms of his flesh. This is because he is in accordance with 7-5, he is, to all appearances, IN the flesh. In verse 14 he said that he was OF flesh (like everybody is) and the things he describes are those which arise from being (his identity) IN flesh. (although they never at the time arose from HIS flesh, his reference in this regard was to his past).
So there is no good in his flesh. This is no surprise, this is what has been said time and time again, that the natural birth leads to death, is in fact already in death, we need to be “born again”. This is nothing new, under law or without law all flesh is dead, so it is little wonder he speaks AS a dead person (The law killed me).
Verse 19. I practise evil. Well again, the whole question is moot until the original question of just why Paul would reference law in any way at all is answered. (There is only one reason, which is to inform us how law flesh sin death works, which necessitated him taking the position of one under law, (because he is referencing flesh) in order to show what happens).
So evil comes out of the flesh, out of natural born nature, which is why Jesus came along to CHANGE this situation, that people stop living this way, that they “go and sin no more” as Jesus said.
Verse 21. It is a principle that evil is present in me. This principle is mentioned verse 17, sin indwells him, IN HIS FLESH. Verse 20 it is sin that does it, not himself of his rational mind, he is a slave to it. Verse 23, he is a prisoner of it. 24 WHO will free him? (as if he didn’t know). And so the same picture is presented again, but this time, unlike chapter 5 and chapter 6, he goes into all the detail concerning this failure of man under law so as to make it quite clear just how that works.
This principle is stated in the conclusion of verse 25. That in the natural man, especially one familiar with the properties of law, there is both the admission of the recognition of righteousness and the desire to perform it, and the recognition of the failure to perform it because of greater overriding desires of the natural self.
The overall situation is the detailed explanation of why reform is necessary.
Perhaps the two views are that one group are looking to the change of environment from flesh to Spirit in which freedom of condemnation is given for the pursuit of that righteousness; and the other is expressing that it is necessary to provide freedom from condemnation in order to supply that environment of freedom.
Of course, both are sort of true, because it is freedom from condemnation that releases us into whatever form of righteous spiritual expression we visualise and attempt to make our goal. But there still remains the suspicion that freedom in failure will not encourage success as much as freedom in victory.
Although the argument seems to centre more around providing latitude for people to sin, based on the reality that they do sin. I prefer to accept that the victory is complete so I can pursue it in that fashion, rather than have “the flesh” hanging over me as some yet to be vanquished “boogy man” or “Damocles sword”.
We would surely have to accept that 7-6 was inferring that this person was now no longer “in the flesh”. R8 verse 9 says that you are NOT in the flesh if the Spirit is in you. The conditions of R7 clearly match those of the unbeliever in 7-5, as one “in the flesh” and therefore not as one “in the Spirit”. And of course, as being under law.
V14. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin”. This is of course, a distinct ‘giveaway’ because it combines the three elements of “flesh” and “bondage” and “sin” together. ANY of these three elements taken individually would be enough to prove that this person was a representation of someone in bondage to sin by the power of law over the flesh, because, being OF flesh, they were by nature, IN the flesh.
Still looking for an admission that the context of R7 is LAW, and an answer as to what Paul is doing there.
[This is not Paul the apostle speaking of weaknesses because of his flesh, but of weaknesses because of the law, which experience he is reliving.][we do not see Spirit until R8 which then becomes the solution to R7, the problem][which is fundamentally hypothetical][Paul uses “I” where before he used “us” because he was speaking of his personal (past) sin and the lessons which that taught him]
[The question now arises, could Paul be speaking of his ‘natural’ experience BEFORE and APART FROM law?][Is he, in verses 14 and 22, comparing his natural life before the Mosaic law yet still under ‘natural’ law in the flesh?][law ‘killed him’ yes, but we were dead before Mosaic law, we all have a conscience by whatever means. “When the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature what the law contains..”][Is he using verses 14 and 22 as a “touch stone” between his natural flesh self and “the” law?][Is he explaining that sin was always there and the law just brought it out? Interesting…][but he still is not a believer].