So I will now go through Romans 7 and the beginning of 8 point by point to show why, if we say "oh what a wretched man I am" we show that we are under the law, and not under grace and that rather than being delivered from sin daily, we are hopeless captives to it, without mercy or victory. That is the message of this following chapter. The entire chapter of Romans 7 is dealing with the experience of one who is under the law, whether it be an Israelite, or a Christian who has been bewitched by what we would call Judaizers who wish to place anyone they can back under captivity. Paul dealt with that in Galatians. Let's do it:
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Paul gives us a valuable metaphor: When a man dies he is released from the authority of the law. When a woman's husband dies, she is free to marry another because she is free from the law that bind her to him. What the chapter shows is that this is a metaphor for those who have the Spirit. Christ is our husband now, right? We are his bride? What were we married to before? A body of sin. And the law kept us married to that body, until our husband is put to death, thereby releasing us from the law so we can be joined to Christ. We see here that "the law" is something to die to, or be delivered from, not something to be under.
For when we were controlled by the sinful nature (KJV "when we were in the flesh") the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
It is interesting, that phrase "when we were in the flesh" because Romans 8 says that "we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in us." So, everything Paul is about to say regarding the law, applies to them who are "in the flesh" when all the sinful passions were at work in their bodies. Now, even though Spirit carriers do struggle with sin to some degree, they do even as they are not "in the flesh" rather "in the Spirit." That means our struggle is under grace unto deliverance not under the law unto captivity.
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
Here Paul is still speaking in the past tense, and he is still talking about what it was like when we "were in the flesh" married to sin, still needing to die to sin to be married to Christ. Paul establishes that the law is not sin itself, but is holy and righteous. Sin in us is there but it lies dormant with no law to reveal it. When the holy law comes, sin uses the law to trick us, and produces lust within us, which is lawless. So the law is weak in delivering us from sin, which is why Paul says that none can be made righteous by works of the law.
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Again, Paul is still speaking in the past tense, as when we were in the flesh and not in the Spirit, when the motions of sin worked in us unto death in sin.In another place, Paul says that the law engraved in stone and written in ink are "ministrations of death." Here, Paul clarifies that while the law is holy, it nevertheless kept us in bondage to death, because of sin. What is critically important here is that the purpose of the law is revealed: "that sin be recognized as sin." In order for sin to be recognized as sin, it grew "utterly (KJV "exeeding") sinful"
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 me. 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. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Now, Paul suddenly switches to the present tense. Hopefully you can see through my earlier example, that just because the present tense is used, does not mean Paul is speaking about the present tense, but is using it to illustrate the past. The law is spiritual. I am carnal, sold under sin. This is still "while we were in the flesh, the motions of sin worked in us." Was Paul intending to say that he couldn't do good under the Gospel of Grace? Of course not, as you saw, Grace teaches us to do good when before we could not, as illustrated here.
He says he is carnal but the law is spiritual. The law of Moses is spiritual, but veiled in the flesh, just like Christ was. He was veiled in the flesh, still being spiritual, yet brought no spiritual conversion to the inward man, until he died and was resurrected unto Pentacost. Christ only healed people outwardly, but did not convert anyone until the flesh was removed. So the Law of Moses, in like fashion was spiritual, but veiled in the flesh, and brought healing to nobody, because while being spiritUAL, it was not THE SPIRIT.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul, being a former Pharisee, delighted in his inner man after the law, but could not do good when he was "in the flesh" and married to sin under captivity to the law. Who would deliver him from the body of death? Wait a minute, did Paul in present time not know the answer to that? Of course he did, but when he was "in the flesh" and not "in the Spirit" he had no idea who could deliver him from slavery. The answer of course is Christ who comes to destroy the old man (to kill him), as we see in Romans 6 and 8, so that a new man can be born.
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.
Here Paul recaps the former struggle in the mind that he had in slavery to sin. Turn the page
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For 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, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are NOT in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Here is the turning point of the struggle. Paul speaks about the righteousness of the law, yet he says that the law was weak through the flesh (because sin used it to trick us). However, Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh pronounced a death sentence against sin so that the righteousness OF the law (which is LOVE with the flesh-veil removed) can be fulfilled in us. This is why it says that those who are "in the flesh" cannot please God. However, once recieving the Spirit and being placed under GRACE, our minds are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. This is why BY GRACE we do not need to be condemned to say "I am so wretched" if it means continually not doing what we want. Grace gives us the ability to do what we wanted, by setting us free from that. This does not mean we don't struggle, but we do not have to join the struggle of them who are under the law.