Reflection on Rom 7:22-23Post date: 2019-08-24
Reflection on Rom 7:22-23
«For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.»
In verse 20, we read: “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” It speaks about original sin, or the “old self”, which is in every one of us. The old self manipulates us and causes us to become slaves. It is a sad inheritance from our first parents. This spiritual poison, the devil’s seed, is programmed to keep us independent of God. From God’s Word we learn that its strength lies in the law of sin. Verse 23 says: “But I see another law in my members … bringing me into captivity to the law of sin…”
The verses also speak about the law of our mind, i.e. about conscience – God’s voice in us. This law is at war with the law of sin. When a certain phenomenon occurs repeatedly, we can speak about a law. Thus, sin becomes an enslaving force. This is the objective reality in all people whether they are aware of it or not, or do not want to be aware of it. The verses reveal an inward fight between the higher and the lower – the spiritual and the natural.
The inward man mentioned in God’s Word is in agreement with the law of the mind and delights in the law of God. In another place in the Scripture, the Apostle Paul calls this spiritual man “pneumatikos”. The spiritual man is led by the Spirit of God. The natural – old – man, by contrast, is governed by the lusts of the flesh and pride. We have to fight against the old man, i.e. original sin in us, until the end of our lives. He must not be our Lord! Jesus must be our Lord! When we are deceived by sin and we fall, again and again we must repent and arise on the way of following Christ. This is a daily programme for a true Christian.
Awareness of the essence of our faith
How did we obtain the forgiveness of sins? Was it perhaps through our piety? No, piety only obtains for us the grace to know that the forgiveness of sins is granted to us without our merits through the shed Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We looked at Christ’s cross with faith, gave Him our sins and believed in the work done by our Saviour.
The next experience is that just as we obtained the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus, so also we obtain deliverance from the slavery of sin on the same foundation. If we desire deliverance from sin, we obtain it when we enter into union with the crucified Jesus by active faith. As the Apostle said: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) In our deliverance from sin, we are dependent on what Jesus has done on the cross and what He works in us through faith. In both cases – that means, in the forgiveness of sins as well as in deliverance from the slavery of sin – we are dependent on Him alone. We have to know that however good our intention, however great our efforts or however strict our asceticism, we cannot deliver ourselves from sin. Only in Christ, and nowhere else, do we have forgiveness and deliverance. Our task is not only to know it but also to try to enter into this union with Jesus and to enforce His victory in certain life situations. We should above all learn it in interior prayer.
In Romans 6 we see how God delivered us from sin, and in Romans 7 we see how He delivers us from the Law. In chapter 6 we are shown the way of deliverance from sin in the picture of a master and his slave. In chapter 7 we are shown deliverance in the picture of two husbands and a wife. The first husband is a most particular man and represents the Law which requires much but offers no help in the carrying out of its requirements. The second husband is Christ, who requires just as much, even more, but He Himself fulfils in us the very demands He makes.
Let us cooperate with God’s grace and sincerely seek God’s will. For if we try to do something by our own efforts – that means, without Christ or, in other words, seemingly for Him but without Him – we unknowingly put Jesus aside so that He cannot work in that situation. We take matters fully into our own hands. We have forgotten that we must put them fully into God’s hands and then try to do God’s will in His way. The problem is that even though we know God’s will, we usually do it in our own strength. And then, when we have to suffer for the sake of God’s will, we do not understand it and often revolt against it. We forget the basic principle, namely that once we begin to serve God with a sincere heart – whether in the form of evangelization or mission or other good deeds or service – we experience God’s chastening. God permits so-called failures in our life and our task is to accept them and to learn more and more to let God into our work so that we can work not only for Jesus but with Jesus. The highest stage of our dedication in work is to allow the Lord Himself to do His work through us. Let us entrust the whole matter to Him and be aware that without Him we can do nothing. In the parable of the vine and the branches Jesus says clearly: “Without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Nevertheless, we often try to work for God without God, and that is why we fall on the way of following Christ. Our disappointment and disillusionment with failures in our service to the Lord will never end unless we fully understand that the essence of pure love for God is to lose our soul for the sake of Christ and the Gospel (Mk 8:35).
A certain religious sister asked a saint: “What more should I gain to follow the Lord Jesus more perfectly?” The saint looked at her and said: “Better ask, ‘What more should I lose?’”
A zealous Christian struggled to win by his own strength but failed. He said sadly: “I don’t know why I am so weak.” An elder Christian brother said to him: “The fault rests with you. You still have the power of your own strength. Only when you understand your complete powerlessness and become truly convinced that you can do nothing without God’s help, God will work something great through you.”
After Christ, His Mother is the supreme example of humility for us. At the moment of the greatest miracle, she fully relied on God and just said: “I am the slave of the Lord.” When Elizabeth greeted her, the Immaculate Virgin said: “God has looked with favour on the humble condition of His slave, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy.” Through her humility and awareness that all she has is from God and that she alone can do nothing, God accomplished the greatest work – the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. It was the greatest work of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit wants to use you, too, but the condition is to grow in humility. It means to renounce your own will and to love God with pure love.
Our misery is so great that God delivered His Son to death to save us! If we believe this, we will give up the effort to be saved on our own. If we try to change or improve ourselves by our own effort, we unknowingly reject Christ’s cross. God’s law is righteous; however, it cannot be perfectly fulfilled by a sinful, i.e. unrighteous, man. If anyone tries to fulfil the demands of God’s law on his own, thinking that he is good and trying to be even better, the reality soon begins to torment him. This is expressed in chapter 7. The constant repetition of the word “I” is the key to our powerlessness: I do not do the good that I will to do, but I practise the evil I will not to do (Rom 7:19). There is a basic misunderstanding in the mind of such a person. He thinks that God wants him to fulfil the Law and that this will make him good in the sight of God. What is the result of such an effort? Everyone comes to the conclusion that he is far from pleasing God. We even find out that we cannot please Him at all. Why? Because we ignore everything God did when He sent His Son to die for us. It was His death on the cross that made our old “I” powerless to hinder God’s life in us. The secret of victory therefore lies in a single word: together – Jesus and I!
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