"If I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in my, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:16-18).
The Apostle Paul's confession of sin's origin in his flesh constitutes one of the most intriguing and illuminating proclamations in Scripture.
First, Paul declares sin to be that which he really doesn't desire - "I would not." Our ongoing proclivity to distrust and disobey God resides not in the "I" that constitutes our redeemed spiritual personhood in Christ. Therein, Paul declared, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," and "with the mind, I myself serve the law of God" (Romans 7:22; 25). In the flesh, however, that is, in the earthly faculties and members inherited from Adam, a "law of sin" remains - "the flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17).
If we sin, we walk after this part of our being that no longer comprises who we most deeply are - "ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:9). Note Paul's chronological confirmation of this truth - "it is no more (longer) I that do it." Once it was, the Apostle implies. Before salvation, sin proceeded from Paul's Christless self, as dominated by unrighteousness. After the new birth, however, sin no longer originated in the "inward man" or the "I myself" of Paul's Christ-regenerated and indwelt person. "With the flesh, [I serve] the law of sin" (Romans 7:25). Thus, Paul could accurately state that if he sinned, "it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me… that is, in my flesh."
This did not absolve Paul - or ourselves - of responsibility for sin. We freely determine whether to walk after the newness of life in our spiritual selves, or the law of sin in our members. However, the Scriptures make clear the importance of our understanding the origin of obedience and disobedience in the components of our being. If we believe ourselves to still be the sin-dominated servants of unrighteousness we were before faith in Christ, we will live out our unbelief. Moreover, we will always have an excuse for our sins. Believing and submitting to Paul's plainly-state affirmations of our new life and person in Christ as the truth of who we most deeply are establishes the strong basis for godliness upon which we must stand. A "no excuses Christianity" emerges from such grace, even as the Lord Jesus declared, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48).
We will never live as swans so long as we still perceive ourselves to be ugly ducklings. More to the point, we will never consistently walk in God's truth if we do not know and subsequently choose to believe it. The New Testament proclaims a new man, a new creature, and newness of life regarding those who trust in Christ. A rich experience of the presence and working of our Lord awaits as we realize and affirm that who we are in Him is not who we were without Him.
"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
Weekly Memory Verse
Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."