What Does Romans 7:18 Mean?

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

Romans 7:18(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Romans chapter 7, gives a most thorough treatise on the Law and its place in the life of a believer. Though delivering a simple lesson, it has profound and far-reaching implications for all believers, both Jew and Gentile, who foolishly try to place themselves back under the Law. 

It starts by comparing a Christian's connection to the Law with a married woman's relationship to her husband - who dies. Before his death, she is legally bound to him, but following his death the marriage vows become null and void. Paul applies this principle to a believer's connection with the Law, by linking it to the previous chapter, which states, "you are not under the Law but under grace." He then expands his train of thought. 

The Law has dominion over a living person, but no control over a dead one! Paul explains that by faith we are placed IN Christ, and when He DIED - we DIED in Him and His death became our death. Because we are in Christ and identified with His death, the power of the Law in our lives and the burden of its requirements are all removed.

As unbelievers, we are linked to the Law and the consequences of breaking it - DEATH. But as redeemed people, we are in Christ and our relationship to the Law is null and void. Because of our position in Him, we have been made dead to the Law and its consequences. We are no longer part of the old creation that is under the curse of the Law. We are part of the New Creation in Christ over which the Law of sin and death has no power.

Paul found it necessary to use this illustration to address the issue "that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." No part of my old pre-salvation self is righteous before God. My old, former sin-nature was bound to the Law of sin and death and there is nothing good to be found in that old sinful, fleshly part of me. But the moment I am saved by grace through faith, I receive a new nature - the nature of Christ! 

There is no good in the old sin nature. Nothing that is good dwells in my old, fleshly self. As a member of the fallen human race, the Law is able to identify my sin but it can never give me the power to do good things. The Law helps me to understand what is good and holy, but can't make me good. My fleshly sin nature is incapable of being holy. My fallen sin nature is powerless to carry out good things that please God. As Paul wrote in this verse: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that isin my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not."

No part of the old creation in me is good because every member of the human race is born dead in their sin. Like Adam, we have knowledge of what is evil, but no ability to avoid it and do something good. Similarly, we have knowledge of what is good and an inner desire to do good things, but the old sin nature has no capacity to do anything that pleases God, even when we really want to!

Paul makes it clear that on the one hand "nothing good dwells in me," (in my fleshly self). No wonder he insisted in his letter to the Philippians, "we have NO confidence in the flesh, and that it is GOD Himself, who does the good work IN US, both to WILL and to DO for His good pleasure." Paul also points out on the other hand, we may desire to do good and nurture a heart that is willing to be righteous, but "we cannot do the good we wish to do."

This is a truth we need to recognise and take daily, for Scripture tells us that there are NONE that do good - not even one. But at salvation, God started a good work in each of His children and HE has promised to finish the good work in us. Praise His holy name.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, how I thank You for the book of Romans and the truths it contains about our changed relationship to the Law after we have been justified by faith, identified with Christ, and positioned in Him. Thank You that in Him, I am not under the Law but under grace. Thank You that the penalty for my sin has been paid and the power of sin in my life has been broken, all by grace through faith in Christ Jesus my Saviour. Help me keep my sinful nature nailed to the Cross, for in me there is no good thing. But thank You that You started a good work in me and will complete it on the day of Christ. May my life and witness be honouring to You. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.

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