Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?Romans 7:24(NASB)
Paul was stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus by the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus. Having been saved by grace through faith on that epic journey... his entire outlook on life and his understanding of the Law was radically changed.
Before his conversion, Paul could boast of his unsurpassed confidence in his own good works and his strict, stringent law-keeping. As an orthodox Jew, he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin - a Hebrew of the Hebrews. As far as the Law was concerned he was perfect, for he was a zealous Jew, a renowned Pharisee, an impassioned persecutor of the church - and Paul considered himself blameless regarding the Law.
However, after having been saved he came to understand that there is no-one who is righteous. Indeed, Paul began to realise that the Law not only exposes the sinfulness of man's fallen nature and makes us aware that we need a saviour... but it indirectly points us to Christ, the one and only God-Man Who fulfilled the Law perfectly and sacrificed His life for the sin of the world - to the glory of God and for our eternal redemption.
Romans chapter 7 is the preeminent chapter that explains the Christian's relationship to sin... and the place of the Law in the life of a believer. The perfect Law of God exposes inherent sin in the heart of fallen man. In this chapter, Paul explained his own personal frustration that although his desire was to do good and obey God, to be perfect, to live a holy life, and to fulfil the Law, he discovered that fallen man is incapable of doing good and obeying God. Man is incapable of being holy and fulfilling the perfect Law of God... in his own strength.
The Law not only commands outward purity of the body, but the inner purity of a heart and mind that honours God. This caused Paul the same frustration that everyone else discovers when we try to keep to the letter and spirit of the Law, in our own strength.
Paul came to understand the futility of trying to be perfect when the soul of man is impregnated with sin... and so he cried out in deep frustration, "Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"
Paul wanted to be good, but only found that he ended up sinning. Paul wanted to follow the Law, but ended up breaking the Law. Paul wanted to please God and sought to do it in his own strength, but came to understand that he was incapable of keeping the Law by human effort. "The good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want to do," was his great lamentation.
Paul began to recognise that there was a sin principle that works deeply in the heart of all humanity that prevented him from obeying God in his own strength - a sin nature that is at enmity with God and all that is good. "I find that there is a fundamental principle of evil that is present in me," he wrote, "waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner to the law of sin, which is in my members."
However, although Paul was distressed to discover the wretchedness of his sinful nature and that he was incapable of harnessing the good he wanted to do... he praised God to discover the one and only way to overcome this principle of sin and death. "I thank my God, through Jesus Christ our Lord," was Paul's amazing discovery.
Paul discovered the answer to living a godly life was found in Jesus Christ Whose grace is sufficient... for His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul discovered that the only way to victory over the principle of sin, was by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ - as he allowed His Holy Spirit to rule and reign within until he could say, "it is not I that live, but Christ that lives in me."
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful truths that are contained in Your Word. Thank You that although there is nothing that I can do to gain Your approval, I am accepted in the Beloved. Thank You that my salvation was completed by Christ Who died from me and rose again to pay the penalty for my sin and to break the power of sin in my life. I pray that I may live to Your praise and glory until I can say, "it is not I that lives but Christ Who lives in me." Thank You Father, in Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.