Romans 7.13-25 is not telling us everything about the Christian life, but it is zeroing in on something central: the normal Christian life is a heroic struggle with sin. This being the case, how do we now struggle with sin heroically?
The Apostle Paul’s answer is the Roman Renewal: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv.24-25). Let’s unpack Paul’s renewing answer.
First, Paul is saying, “I am sinful and lost.” Paul is neither suppressing nor deflecting the truth about himself… he faces it, releasing sanity, grace, and freedom into his life and into the lives of those around him. “Honey, you sound mean and condescending.” If the husband reaches into the reality of the Roman Renewal, he responds, “Yup, you are right. I am being both. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Transforming grace, love, and reconciliation is unleashed. However, if the husband suppresses his struggle with sin, he might respond, “You’re so sensitive. You’ve got the problem, not me.” Blame-shifting, self-justification, and relational wreckage is unleashed.
Second, Paul is saying, “I am helpless!” Paul asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” His answer is “Not me!” We cannot save ourselves, we cannot fix, control, or change our lives; we are weak, helpless, and in need of grace. “Nothing gets people worked up faster than the prospect (or fear) of powerlessness” (Law and Gospel, 29). Powerlessness strikes the nerve of failing to be our own god and savior, which is the essence of sin and the experience of an emotional death. “Not me!” replaces the unbearable pressure building up in our lives and relationships with a deep rest, relaxation, reliance, and rejoicing in the power and work of Another.
Third, Paul is saying, “I see afresh who saves me!” In Paul’s struggle with a specific sin, he sees afresh that Jesus died for that sin, thereby delivering him with both forgiveness and a received rather than achieved righteousness. Paul also sees that Jesus addresses the needs we all seek to address sinfully. The mean and condescending husband seeks to establish a righteousness of his own through his performance in some area that he perceives his wife to be falling short in, thus his meanness and condescension. If the husband sees afresh that Jesus’ righteousness is his worth, sense of self, or righteousness, then his meanness and condescension is cut-off at the root. Furthermore, Paul sees afresh that “Jesus loves me, not some idea of me. Jesus loves me even when I’m mean and condescending.”
Thanks be to God! Find the renewal you seek in Romans 7.