The question of the ages
“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” – Vs 24 NLT
This is Paul speaking! Not some dirt-bag loser living a life of unrepentant sin in a flea-bag motel on the wrong side of the tracks. How can the great apostle Paul make a statement like this? He’s just finished writing about being released from the Law, having died to sin, and being able to live a new life in the power of the Spirit. Now he’s describing himself as someone needing to freed from a life that is sin-dominated and misery-filled. Why? Because that’s the reality of life on this planet – even as redeemed followers of Christ. It’s especially true for us as believers because we have two natures doing battle within us. We have a sin nature and a new nature. Our new nature did not eradicate our old sin nature. It released us from the Law (Vs 6). We don’t have to try and keep the Law in order to produce a righteousness of our own. But we still have a sin nature. Sin has always been the problem, not the Law. Paul makes that clear in verses 7-12. Twice he says, “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment” produced in me all kinds of wrong desires and deceived me and through it killed me. My sin nature literally used the Law as a base of operations to produce in my life actions and attitudes that would end up violating the Law of God and lead to my own condemnation and death sentence. Even as believers we have active sin natures that cause in us the same conflict that Paul had: “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate” (Vs 15 NLT).
We have within us a sin nature or disposition that strives to control our lives, producing fruit for death (Vs 5). And as long as I try to keep the Law, as long as I try to please God by adhering to some religious rules or standards of men, the result will always be fruit for death. But while Paul reminds us that we are free from having to keep the Law in an attempt to produce righteousness, there’s still the problem of our sin nature. He speaks for all of us when he says:
“I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.“ – Vs 18-21 NLT
If we’re honest, this is me and this is you. This is how we feel just about every day of our lives. And if we’re not careful, it can produce in us an attitude of defeat. But listen to what Paul says. He says that he is rotten through and through so far as his old sinful nature is concerned. He can’t make himself do what is right. He says it is the sin within him (his sin nature) doing it. Which is what leads him to exclaim, “What a miserable person I am!” But then he calls out, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” (Vs 24 NLT). His answer? God did, through Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, Paul had a new capacity to bear fruit for God, keeping the Law out of a sense of devotion, not obligation. His life could now bear fruit for God instead of fruit for death. He no longer had to live controlled by that inner sin nature. It was still there. It was still alive and active, but he had a new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit that allowed him to live a new life. He could live in increasing victory instead of defeat. And the same is true for us. We can serve in newness of the Spirit (Vs 6). We can serve in a new way, by the Spirit. We have been set free from this body of death.
Father, Thank You that the answer to the question, “Who will set me free?” is your Son. He has set me free from having to live bound to the sin nature within me. I can live differently. I can live victoriously. Sin has not be eliminated, but it has been defeated in my life. It is no longer in control. Show me how to allow my new nature to become the dominant nature in my life as I allow your Spirit to guide and direct my life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men