A Wretched Man

Romans 7:24-25

In Romans 7:14-23, Paul finds himself BAFFLED AND BEFUDDLED because he does what he does not want to do—but does what he hates to do. In the midst of his frustration and confusion, this giant of the Christian faith allows God’s Law to penetrate his heart and the apostle discovers that he is:

UNSPIRITUAL

SOLD AS A SLAVE TO SIN

DOES WHEAT HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO—EVIL UNABLE TO DO GOOD

EVIL IS RIGHT THERE WITH HIM PRISONER OF THE LAW OF SIN

God’s Law has done its job—the work described in Hebrew 4:12—

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Paul has discovered that two natures reside in the born-again believer—the old nature and the new nature. The old is fleshly; the new is spiritual. He had written in Galatians 5:17—

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

The tug-of-war of the sinful nature and the Spirit have brought Paul to a state of despair. He is BAFFLED and BEFUDDLED by this constant pull in opposite directions. As a Prisoner of the Law of Sin, he is rendered more miserable by the very presence of the Spirit of God, who convicts him of sin, righteousness and judgment as his inner being delights in the Law of God. Yet, he is powerless to do what he wants to do. With a wail of anguish, Paul sends out a plea for help in verse 24—

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

This is NOT an unsaved man who is crying, “What a wretched man I am!” This is a saved man! The word WRETCHED carries with it the cry of AFFLICTION and EXHAUSTION because of the struggle of the warring natures.

Paul’s cry of anguish is very similar to the prophet Isaiah’s cry. Turn to Isaiah 6:1-4—

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

What would your response be to an encounter with the Holy God? When we were born again, the Holy Spirit filled our temple—our body—and His holiness and glory encountered a wretched man inside of it.

How did Isaiah’s react to his encounter with the LORD Almighty?  There was a wail of anguish.  Verse 5—

 

“Woe to me!” I cried.  “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).

 

The prophet confess that he is a man of unclean lips—that he is impure! What’s on the lips manifest what’s in the heart!  Jesus said in Matthew 15:18—

 

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean’.

 

Isaiah sees himself as ruined—undone—cut off in light of the holiness and glory of the LORD Almighty. Seeing God, he sees himself for what he truly is. A big problem with many of believers today is that they don’t walk in the light of the Word of God. If they did, they would see themselves as ruined and unclean.

 

That is what John is talking about in 1 John 1:7—

 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

If we walk in the light of God’s Word, we are going to see exactly what Isaiah saw—that we are ruined and unclean. You have never really seen the LORD, my friend, if you feel that you are worthy, or merit something, or have some claim upon God.

 

Job had an experience similar to Isaiah and his reaction is recorded in Job 42:5-6—

 

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

 

Job could maintain his integrity in the presence of his friends who were attempting to tear him to bits. They told him that he was a dirty rotten sinner, but he looked them straight in the eye and said, “As far as I know, I am a righteous man.” From his view point he was right, and he won the match with them.  But he was not perfect. When Job came into the presence of God, he no longer wanted to talk about maintaining his righteousness. When Job really saw who he was, he said, “I DESPISE MYSELF.”

 

If you walk in the light of God’s Word, you will despise yourself, you will recognize that you are ruined by sin—a wretched person! And you will know that even as a child of God you need the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all sin.

 

The apostle goes on to say in 1 John 1:8-9—

 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

 

We saw last Sunday that when Paul said in Romans 7:16, “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good,” that this was true confession, that is to agree with God says about sin! He was able to agree or confess sin because in his inner being he delighted in God’s Law (Romans 7:22).

 

Of tremendous significance is what happens next in Isaiah 6:6-7—

 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

 

Isaiah’s experience foreshadowed our own experience. At the earthly temple, the live coal from the altar would have been soaked with blood and fat from the sacrifice. At this altar sinned was dealt with—an innocent animal was sacrificed—death the wages of sin was paid. In His death upon the Cross, Jesus died for our sins, but because He lives His blood cleanses us from sin.

 

The fact this LIVING COAL represents the cleansing blood of Christ is found in the words spoken by the seraph, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Ah! the blood soak live coal (ablaze with fire) symbolizes the Holy Spirit purging our sin with the blood of Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

And so the lips of the prophet Isaiah are cleansed by the living coal—an external manifestation of what happened in the inner man. Isaiah was God’s man before this experience, but it still had a tremendous effect on him. Isaiah, cleansed of sin, is ready to be used of God. Verse 8—

 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

Many Christians have never felt like they were called to do anything for God because they never see the LORD in His Word and they remain uncleansed of the sin that so easily pollutes us. The never come to the point in their life when they cry—

 

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

 

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

 

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law . . . What a wretched man I am!

 

By the purifying power of the atonement, WRETCHED—WOEFUL ISAIAH serve the LORD as the prophet to Israel. JOB DESPISED HIMSELF and became God’s priest to his friends. PAUL DECLARED HIMSELF A WRETCHED MAN and turned the world upside down for Christ.

 

If we are going to serve the LORD, we need to come to place of repentance and confession so that our sins are be forgiven and we are purified from all unrighteousness.

 

Paul was helpless to help himself! So he cried out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Verse 25a—

 

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

What a cry of victory! Paul thanks God who rescues him from this affliction and exhaustion through Jesus Christ! Our Lord has conquered sin. The death he died, he died to sin once for all.  He died to save us from our sin. So through Jesus Christ we are rescued!

 

His blood atones for our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness! THANKS BE TO GOD! However, Paul’s thanksgiving goes beyond forgiveness to the full assurance when a believer dies, this death is a gain! To be with Christ is better by far. Sin will have been left behind forever. The conflict will have ended, never to return. In the language of the apostle John, nothing that is impure will enter the Holy City. Moreover, the time is coming when even the body will be redeemed. Here Paul is looking forward to the resurrection, which he writes about in Romans 8:23—

 

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

He realizes that his rescue is through the One he mentions by full name: JESUS (SAVIOR)

CHRIST (ANOINTED ONE)

LORD (SOVEREIGN RULER, OWNER & MASTER)

 

The second part of verse 25 seems strange after this cry of victory—

 

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The apostle knows there is VICTORY IN JESUS! Yet, we also recognize the sharp conflict: The Law of God versus the Law of Sin

My Mind versus the Sinful Nature

 

Clearly, Paul is no longer BAFFLED and BEFUDDLED—he has experienced victory from the frustration and confusion caused by the warring natures! Now he understands what is taking place within him.

 

The flesh is the intruder, who is being driven out and the flesh will certainly lose the battle. That is due not to our goodness, but to God’s grace. That is why he shouts, “THANKS BE TO GOD—THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!”

 

To read into this sentence any suggestion of complacent acceptance on our part continued sinfulness would be quite perverse. Yes, our new nature will continue to struggle with the old sinful nature until death separates, but until then, our minds are to be enslaved to God’s Law. Romans 12:1-2—

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

The old nature wants no law, the new nature desires God’s Law. The Law cannot transform the old nature, but it does reveal how sinful that old nature is and it directs us in that narrow way, which is holy, righteous, good and spiritual.

 

Certainly, Paul has communicated five keys to the victorious life in Romans 6: KNOW, COUNT, REFUSE, OFFER and OBEY.

 

From his own experience, he has told us that living the Christian life involves struggle. He does the evil he hates; yet he delights in his inner being in God’s Law.

 

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in

  1. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

 

This is not the testimony of an unregenerate man, but a saved man. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul declares that unsaved man is under sin and neither desires good or righteousness; and he does not delight in the Law of God. These three desires are marks of a born again believer.

 

Another reason why we know that Paul is writing his life as a Christian is that he uses present tense when He says:

 

I AM UNSPIRITUAL, SOLD AS A SLAVE TO SIN;

I KNOW THAT NOTHING GOOD LIVES IN ME; and EVIL IS RIGHT THERE WITH ME.

 

Consequently, he finds himself to be a WRETCHED MAN since the two “I’s” (the old nature and the new nature) coexist and they are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

 

Thus, Paul the Christian is depicting in his own person the character and extent of the weakness of all believers. He knows that complete deliverance from THE BODY OF SIN awaits GLORIFICATION. He speaks of the end of this struggle and frustration at the redemption of our bodies in Romans 8.

 

The more seriously a Christian strives to live from GRACE and to submit to the discipline of the Word of God, the more sensitive we become to the fact of our continuing sinfulness.

 

The many personal pronouns in this section indicate that Paul is having a problem with SELF—the sinful nature. We cannot escape the war waging within us, but we can be rescued from the frustration, tension and confusion that makes us feel like a wretched man.

 

We can rejoice in the fact there is a serious conflict in us. This proves that the Holy Spirit, who acknowledges the goodness and righteousness of the Law, lives in us. The fact that there is real conflict and tension is a sign of hope. This assures us that we belong to Christ.

 

Anyone who does not abhor sin and desire to please God had better question their salvation, for true believers come to Christ not to be free to sin, but to be delivered from sin. More and more we should see sin and righteousness, truth and error, in their true light. If we want to have victory in Christ, we need to apply Romans 12:1-2—

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Our minds once alienated from God by sin, have been renewed as they been reconciled to God. But the renewing of the mind is not consummated at conversion. Renewing of the mind takes place daily as we delight in the Law of the LORD and meditate on His Word day and night.

 

With a renewed mind, we take Jesus admonition to heart—

 

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

God cannot work His righteousness in us, much less through us, until we become hopelessly weak in ourselves and come to the end of our self-effort. When we take up our cross and crucify the old sinful nature we will be able to triumphantly say with Paul, “THANKS BE TO GOD—THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.

 

How do we crucify our self? The answer has already be given in Romans 6—we need to apply the truth found in that chapter. Our deliverance comes through appropriating our identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

 

Then you will experience—VICTORY IN JESUS!

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