Jesus’s strength lay in His identity, in His knowledge and conviction of who He was. Conversely, our weakness lies in our lack of knowledge of our identity in anything other than our basic human nature, “flesh”. We are ‘in bondage to those who by nature are not gods’. Our identity lies in our familiarity and identification with, that with which we interact on a daily basis, being ourselves and others in the natural world. [from now on we consider no man after the flesh, said Paul commenting after the salvation change]
Our identification with the naturalness of our “sinful flesh” needs to be changed to identification with Jesus and His transformation of sinful flesh to spiritual “flesh”. From mortality to immortality, by faith in Him and His resurrection (“the first resurrection”).
So commonly, speculation arises about Paul’s identity in Romans 7, about the nature and identity of the “I” which he refers to. Well plainly and simply he is speaking of himself, of his perceived identity of himself, of who he feels himself to be, of his sense of being, of existing, ID or whatever. (ID-entity). That which he senses as himself as an entity (I think, therefore I am?).
WHO AM I? Well, who do you think you are? [“Who do men say that I am?”]
Paul finds himself located within certain circumstances and feelings within the focus of which, he finds his identity. So Paul’s “I” is connected to events and times, the interpretation of these leading to the manipulation of the facts by those unable to see the simple truth of what he is saying.
The times and circumstances of his “I” are unfolding as he progresses through past events right up to verse 21, where he makes a conclusion relevant to that time and circumstance whose context is given in the next verse 22, “I joyfully concur with the law…” (in a nominated part of me).
BUT (verse 23) I see my mind in conflict with my body, which TAKES ME PRISONER TO THE LAW OF SIN WHICH IS IN the workings of my body and outworks from it, through it.
WRETCHED MAN that “I” AM. So Paul, at this stage of his teaching, has arrived at a position which is based on his journey of explanation about the law from verse 7 onward. He is speaking of the end net result of being under the law (other than actual physical death) he is SPIRITUALLY DEAD as was stated in verses 9, 10 and 11. Killed by sin empowered by the law.
At every stage he has progressed through his journey of explanation of why the law covenant had to be changed, because it empowered sin in our natural bodies. His “I” is progressive in understanding and revelation as his experience grows and drags him through the web and complexities of the sin nature as it behaves under law, and how he in his “observer” position eventually has to stand back and observe how he is completely powerless within the given circumstance and scenario of law flesh sin death. Wretched man indeed!
Paul has discovered that He, his “I” is at odds with his natural born self, his NATURAL “I” that was , before his embarkation on the journey of law. And he has discovered that he is powerless to alter, to change this outcome, that he is locked into a “body of death” without any prospect of release from its power to produce sin in him and from him. His “I” because of knowledge of right and wrong by the law has conceded to the position of ongoing death. He is a conflicted person trapped and in conflict within himself AS IS ALL HUMANITY UNLESS SOMETHING CHANGED.
And something did change, the covenant with God changed from the old to the new. Jesus ‘paid for’ our body of death with HIS body of death. He overcame sin in the flesh and BECAME A LIFE GIVING SPIRIT.
So Paul’s closing statement, his conclusion to his investigation of flesh under law, which began at verse 7, is that natural man under law is in a conflicted state. That within him as a whole person, mind and body, lie two laws, but only one with which he identifies, and the other with which he disowns. “It is not “I” but sin that dwells IN ME”. Although confessing that he as a whole creature is responsible for the sin that proceeds from himself, he explains that there are two operative laws within him. The one of his mind which agrees with God’s law and seeks to truly ‘serve’ it, but the other, the ‘law of sin’ which his natural nature serves and which he himself is brought into servitude to. His mind is powerless before the law empowered flesh that is his natural human nature.
These two “laws” which sit within him, waiting for some stimulus to come along to provoke them into action, are “The law of his mind” and “the law of sin”. Paul’s “I” NOW resides within the law of his mind, because of polarisation by the law, and the law of sin resides in Paul’s naturalness of nature, chiefly involved with his body and its functions.
These are the two laws, BUT ONLY ONE OF THEM IS EMPOWERED TO OPERATE AND OVERCOME THE OTHER. The law of sin wins every time! because LAW lends its power of authority over the dissention of his mind from this regime of sin and death, and SIN WINS. This is the enigma which precedes Romans chapter 8 which now enters into the argument and takes it over, completely changing the balance of power contained in Romans 7, by “The LAW of the Spirit of life SETTING YOU FREE from the LAW of SIN and DEATH.
Paul’s identity as one who wants to serve righteousness is now released, is freed from, that “other law” of ‘sin in his flesh’, into servitude to Christ.