It is vital that we get a straight understanding of Romans 7. Paul is taking us into his personal struggle with the law and sin before his great release as accounted for in Romans 8. His problem wasn’t the law. There is nothing wrong with trying to follow the law, because the law is good. What took him down to that hellish state of introspection, separation and condemnation was trying to do good. In the instant we have said this we are facing a huge paradox. Nothing wrong with following the law, but the law exposes our attempts at being good, that is, becoming like the most high. Trying to be good is the sin in the context of Romans 7. The idea of changing ourselves and becoming good is so subtle that we easily fall for the enemy’s trick again and again until we have learned our lesson.
It is Paul himself who reveals that the law really wasn’t the problem, but sin seized an opportunity by the law and tricked Paul into trying to be good. In his words: “sin came alive and I died.” Death is a hellish state of condemnation which effect for a believer is a low self-esteem. Trying to be good will not help the least towards accepting ourselves or aid us towards appreciating the encompassing completeness of the cross.
When examining this chapter of Paul’s life it is also of great importance that we understand that Paul is sharing his consciousness with us as well, that is, how he perceived everything while wrestling with the law. He for instance tells his readers that in his flesh dwells no good thing. That was his self-perception while in this turmoil. He didn’t say that his flesh was no good. It was the power that dwelt there which was the problem. In other words, his flesh was neutral. Then comes the great revelation: When Christ died on the cross Paul died too and that power which dwelt in his flesh was cast out. This is the release that renews Paul’s consciousness, and thus his entire self-perception changes. His flesh isn’t the problem as he thought it was. His flesh is perfectly made to express Paul as a wonderful expression of God in Christ. Hence Paul triumphantly cries out: There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He becomes fully conscious of that he is everything Jesus died to produce.
Paul also provides us with a detailed account of how he opposed himself by trying to suppress his covetousness. Of course, he failed miserably. Why? Because to covet is a vital part of our human makeup. His great error was trying to change himself and consequently change his covetousness. When going against himself he was doomed to fail. Paul couldn’t change himself and of course neither can we. When by the Spirit Paul’s focus changed from himself (due to his release) to his fellow countrymen and their predicament we find that that change he desired spontaneously followed. He told the Galatians when they returned to flesh effort that he coveted them. Covetousness was still a vital part of Paul, but now it was for others.
Norman Grubb maintained: “There is no such thing as plain self-reactions. Through the Fall, our responses formerly expressed Satan’s self for self nature, whether in apparent good or evil form.” Since we in our former state expressed Satan in apparent good and evil, we now express Christ in apparent good and evil (John 3:20-21 – Doing evil vs doing truth). However, as we know, good and evil loses its meaning when we partake from the tree of life. Therefore Paul boldly writes that our members now are instruments of righteousness and that we walk in the Spirit. This is the mystery of the redemption. Everything is wrong in the old Adam! Everything is right in the new Adam!
Genesis 1:29 reads: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” The deeper meaning of this verse is as follows: We are entitled to enjoy every emotion, every faculty, every trait that constitutes our unique person-hood. Adam partaking of the wrong tree ruined this rest of being. It is crucial that we allow the Spirit to show us how dead we were when we died with Christ and what happened when we were resurrected with Him. The plain fact is that we are living an exchanged life (Gal 2:20). And by this we have returned to the origin and the freedom it provides to enjoy every part of ourselves.