Paul is not confessing that he continually practiced sin in his daily life, but that the threat of practicing it was always with him. He always had to be on guard against it to keep it from breaking out. And, at times, it did indeed break out, reminding him not only of its presence, but also its strength. There is no doubt Paul was a mature Christian. Therefore, this serves as a reminder to us that, no matter how spiritually mature we become, human nature will still always be with us.
Paul died spiritually and was buried in the waters of baptism. Therefore, baptism and the receipt of a new nature by which we are to conduct life do not take human nature away. We, like him, sincerely desire to do the right thing. We believe God's Word. We love God and aspire to glorify Him. Nevertheless, because human nature is always present, we do not always follow through. Instead, human nature overpowers us; we are taken captive, as it were, and revert to following its drives instead. This can be very disturbing, piling guilt upon us and making us fearful of separation from God.
Thus, because we are similar to Paul, and despite the wretchedness we may feel, we have assurance, knowing we will be delivered from this peculiar situation, one that is somewhat akin to having a dual personality. Our deliverance is through Jesus Christ; there indeed is an end. However, unlike many Protestant groups that proclaim that we do not have to keep the law because all is done for us, we know that we must strive to walk even as Christ walked—and He never sinned. I John 2:3-6 emphatically states:
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Though we are under no condemnation, we still must yield to the Spirit of God to our utmost abilities. We are to "go on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1), endeavoring to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Paul says, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Despite the difficulties involved, any failures that occur, and any feelings of guilt that arise, we are still required to strive to keep God's laws as Jesus did.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings
Paul was not living a life of sin as he had before conversion. His words reflect the keen perception into the deceitfulness of human nature of a man so close to God he could see virtually every self-centered, evil, twisted, and perverted nuance of carnality that still lurked in him. He abhorred it, groaning and yearning for complete deliverance from it!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning
Though converted for about twenty years when he wrote Romans, Paul comments in verse 17 that sin sufficiently strong enough to pull him in the wrong direction still remained in him. In verse 18, he leaves no doubt that sin was still in him. In verse 19, he admits to occasional sin, and in verse 20, he again states that sin still existed in him, and in verse 21, that evil was present with him. In verse 23, he says that a war raged within him between the law of sin and the law of his mind, and he mentions these two again in verse 25.
The evil that lived in him was the remnant of what he had absorbed of Satan's world before his conversion on the road to Damascus. The law of his mind was his new heart from God that he desired so strongly to rule his life. The war was between the remnant of Satan's world and his new heart. Galatians 5:16-17 confirms this last thought:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Each influence on his mind was communicating to him. This is why we cannot physically escape Babylon. It has left its mark on our perspectives, attitudes, and characters; we carry it with us regardless of our location. Nevertheless, our escape from Babylon can be accomplished because, if it could not, God would not have commanded us to do it.
We achieve it by choosing to allow the law of our mind to triumph against the law of sin and death, even though to do so may require many painful sacrifices during the battle. Where does one find the strength necessary to make the sacrifices required? What might we need to supply us motivation?
First, we need to consider a vital promise. Paul proclaims in Philippians 4:19: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ." This assurance could just as easily been read as, "He shall supply all our need gloriously!" It is full of exuberant expectation.
What do we need? We need faith in the fact that God is, that He is indeed with us personally and individually, and that His Word is true and absolute. In addition, we need vision and hope regarding the value of what is to be gained or lost through making the right choices. We need much more, but certainly not least, we need God's love for Him and fellow man.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)
There are seven days of Unleavened Bread but only one day of Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Atonement. God knows that we tend to change slowly. He gives us seven days each year to concentrate on our duty to rid our lives of sin. Those acts that are God's responsibility—the sacrifice of one for all sin, the sending of His Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, or the binding of Satan—He can accomplish in one day. The part that involves mankind's participation—overcoming sin—requires more time and attention. The Days of Unleavened Bread represent a period of judgment when man is required to overcome. To us, overcoming a deep-seated sin can seem to take an eternity! The obvious lesson is that we must draw much nearer to the Source of the power to overcome.
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread
Job finally recognizes that he had met the enemy—himself! He does not say, "I abhor my sins" but "I abhor myself," recognizing that the problem was not just specific sins—what he was caused him to fall short of God's righteousness. As explained in Romans 7, we repent not only of what we have done but what we are that caused us to do what we did!
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance
There is something sobering in the instruction Jesus gives here. What was the cross or stake in reality? Was it not the instrument of Christ's death? It is what He was killed on. Certainly, He was killed by sin. We could carry that further, but the actual instrument of His death was the cross. He had to carry His own instrument of death with Him. He stumbled under it, and another had to help Him.
That equates symbolically with something that we carry with us everywhere. What is the instrument of our death? Sin. Sin lodges in the mind. The apostle Paul says in Romans 7 that he found sin still within him. Here is a converted man, an apostle of God, long after he was called, yet sin still lived in him. Every once in awhile, it would get control over him, and he would find himself under its domination once again. That cross that we have to bear and carry with us right to the grave is our own mind laden with sin! Sin lies at the door, as God said to Cain (Genesis 4:7). It is at the door of our minds all the time. God has given us an interesting challenge: Everywhere we go our cross is with us. It is sobering.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Freedom and Unleavened Bread
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 7:18:
2 Corinthians 13:5
1 John 1:7