For centuries Bible scholars have debated over the man of Romans 7. The question has been: Does this represent the experience of a converted or unconverted person? The answer has tremendous ramifications for one’s peace of mind and assurance in Christ.
The two major views go something like this. Romans 8:6 and 7 says, “...to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. When the man of Romans 7 says “...I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” It is evident that this man is not carnally minded, therefore, it seems he must be converted.
On the other hand, when we read this mournful confession from the man of Romans 7, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (vs. 14, 15), It sounds as if this is a person who is living “according the flesh” (the sinful nature) doesn’t it? And Paul says in Romans 8:13 “if you live according to the flesh you will die…”
You certainly don’t have to be a Bible scholar to understand that the Christian experience described in Romans 6 and Romans 8 does not appear at all to be like the mournful confession of the man of Romans 7. (It would be worth your time to read those three chapters this Sabbath).
I want to propose another option. Another “lens” to consider the man of Romans 7 through. The key to understanding the chapter is found in Romans 7:25 and the Good News Translation renders this understanding most clearly: “This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God's law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin.” (emphasis supplied). I believe it is worth considering that the mournful confession of human weakness is not the consistent pattern of life for this man who loves God’s law but rather his painful realization that no matter how much he might love God’s law on his own he is powerless without Christ, the life-giving Spirit. The discourse of Romans 7 does not end by trying to comfort us with the idea that living in bondage to sin is the norm--not at all! Notice, “Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!” --Romans 7:24, 25 (GNT).
If we want to experience the deliverance that this man rejoiced in, we must learn to make the same confession he made! Kingdom life is upside down from this life. In this life it appears to be the “survival of the fittest” -- the strong will win. In the kingdom of God, the way up is down: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:14. Consider the confession of the man in Romans 7 with this counsel, “It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed. All our good works are dependent on a power outside of ourselves. Therefore there needs to be a continual reaching out of the heart after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the soul before Him. Only by constant renunciation of self and dependence on Christ can we walk safely.” --Christ’s Object Lessons p. 159.
Child of God, if you are feeling discouraged because you keep meeting with failure in your battle with sin, look up and remember -- the way up is down (on our knees), “We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” -- Steps to Christ p. 64