Romans 7:24. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Have you come to the place of realizing and embracing your own wretchedness? Your desperation? Your need? Your inability? Your attachment to the body of death? Or are you still trying to please God with your good deeds? Are you still finding your worth in what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day? Are you daily crying out for deliverance? Or are you still taking matters into your own hands, managing your own self-salvation? Your own spiritual growth?
If you’ve ever read any of Romans 8 then you know that it is one of the greatest, most glorious chapters in all of scripture. It begins with “no condemnation,” and ends with the everlasting love of God. Romans 8 is what life in Christ is supposed to be. It is the normal Christian life.
But (this is crucial) there is no Romans 8 experience without first a Romans 7 experience. Romans 7 is all about the internal battle that rages between our flesh (indwelling sin) and the Spirit (indwelling Christ). Between trying to live under the law, or under grace (6:14). And this battle climaxes with 7:24 – Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
If you’re thinking right now “Gee, I don’t think I’ve ever had a Romans 7 type struggle. I don’t feel a battle going on inside of me. I don’t feel wretched. I don’t need deliverance. I’ve got my sin under control.” If you think and believe this, then, Christian, you have a big problem.
Honestly, I’m way more worried about Christians who can’t recognize or feel the struggle then I am those who are beat down from the battle. Why? Because we only desire and receive grace from the place of the battle. Only the person who knows they are wretched will cry out for God’s gracious deliverance. Only the dying man will cry out for life. And only the crucified man will experience resurrection.
So although Romans 7 is not supposed to be the normal Christian life, it is the necessary Christian experience if we are to move forward into Romans 8 – Spirit empowered living. If you are living in true Romans 8 victory, you only got there through Romans 7:24.
Why is this Romans 7:24 experience so difficult for us? Maybe it’s because we are so bad at self-awareness and because we are so good at self-righteousness. Many Christians believe that now that I’m saved I can keep God’s law. Nope. If you think that you are able to obey the law of God then you have missed the whole point of indwelling sin, imputed righteousness, and especially the cry of Romans 7:24 – O wretched man that I am!
Why does Paul call himself wretched? Why is he so desperate, and despondent? Because he wants to keep the law of God, but he knows he can’t. Look at how he describes it in the very next verse:
Romans 7:25. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
And aren’t we the same? We want to obey God. We want to show our appreciation. We want to prove ourselves to God. To show that he didn’t make a mistake when he saved us. And to prove our holiness to others.
But Romans 7:24 leaves us with this reality – we can do nothing for God. All is grace. This is why we are dead to law. Even once they are saved most Christians try to live from law, trying to do things for God. Earning his approval. The great Chinese evangelist, Watchman Nee, compared this mindset to a clumsy servant. If nothing is asked of him, he can sit still and his clumsiness stays hidden. But once demands are placed upon him (the law) he begins to trip and spill and break things. His clumsiness and weakness are revealed. This is what law keeping does to us – it only reveals how clumsy we are. What bad servants we are.
Why? Because what the law requires it never empowers. It gives no help in carrying it out. Instead it only reveals our weakness. Our wretchedness.
So is freedom from the law a freedom from requirements? Doesn’t God still require things from us? Of course he does. And Christ himself requires even more than the Mosaic Law ever did. But herein lies the importance of substitution. All that is required is fulfilled by Christ. He did it and he still does it. So where does that leave us? What is my part? Faith! Faith that Christ is fulfilling all of God’s demands in me. Faith in his law-keeping, not your own. Faith in his unconditional love and mercy.
Again from Nee – “We all need to come to the point where we say, ‘Lord. I am unable to do anything for Thee, but I trust Thee to do everything in me’.”
“To live is Christ” allows us to take a deeply honest look at our own wretchedness as law keepers and then place our hope in the one who will deliver us from the body of death.
Romans 7:25. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Can you recognize and embrace your wretchedness as a law-keeper? Have you been trying to do things for God?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ end the demand for us to do things for God?
Christ in you
What is the difference between doing things for God and Christ living his life through you?
Playlist: My Inability