The Law of Ever Present Evil

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Ro 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. T

The text  today, is one of the greatest texts of hope that the modern day Christian will ever hear. In this portion of Romans, the mighty Apostle Paul will give his testimony.  The Apostle Paul who has been rightly held up by the church for years as a sterling example of living a good dedicated Christian life will show  us another side of himself that most of us will be able to identify with.

As you listen to his testimony and as you reflect on your own sinful side, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the same point of desperation that Paul was led to, and then handle it in the same way he handled it.....thanking God for His great deliverance from your dilemma through Jesus Christ.

Paul writes:

Ro 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual,

Christianity 101, we know that the Law is God-breathed. The Word “spiritual” in the Greek here comes from the root word pneuma. It’s where we get many air-related words in the English language, like pneumonia, pneumatic hammer, and so on.

The same root word is used for “inspiration” in  2 Tim. 3:16:

 2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration (by breathing) of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (NKJV)

Every born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ accepts this as truth. We “know” the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it is God-breathed. And as far as Paul is concerned here...end of argument. “For we know the Law is spiritual.


Though many liberal mainline denominations are teaching otherwise and casting doubt on this word and leading many astray, we know it is nothing but a trick of the devil who from old has always asked the question, “Did God really say?”

But, even though we “know the Law is God breathed,” we have a problem. It’s the same problem that Paul had and he says, “the Law may be God-breathed, the law may be perfect and holy and good and just, (see v12) but I am not.” He says,

“but I am carnal, sold under sin.

I have a body made of sinful flesh. A body that was sold (and the word in the Greek means trafficked, as in slavery) under sin. I was sold for a piece of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and my flesh has a master and his name is sin.

Like it or not I have to live side by side with this taskmaster until my dying day and he is unbelievably powerful.  Look at the problems he causes the Apostle Paul!

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

Paul doesn’t tell us what manner of sinful behavior he would get caught up in, but it was puzzling to him. What the Holy Spirit prompted his “new man in Christ” to do through the God-breathed “spiritual” law, he wouldn’t do it.

Oh boy, I can feel the mattress story coming on again. Not all of you have heard this and for those of you who have, just make sure I tell it the same. I was driving down a street in Appleton one day and I saw a man struggling with a mattress, trying to carry it up a flight of stairs.

I wasn’t on any timetable, and I was prompted to stop the car and help him out. Did I listen to that prompting? Nope! I just kept driving along. I couldn’t believe it...I kept driving along! What’s wrong with me? What would’ve it taken to stop and help him out?

I ride my bike a lot in the summer, I think it would be a good idea to stop and introduce myself to people I meet along the way. I say I’m going to do it, but 9 times out of 10 I pedal right by. I don’t understand this! How difficult would it be to stop and give someone my card?

I was in Papa Murphy’s on Thursday and the woman behind the counter was having a tough day. Apparently some problems with her family and she wasn’t shy about mentioning them to me. I was the ONLY customer in the store.

I was prompted to ask her if I could pray for her. Did I listen to the prompting? Nope! Out the door I went. I wanted to tell my feet to stay but they kept moving out the door.

I wanted my hands to stop the bike and give that person a card, but my hands refused to grab the brake.

I wanted the car to stop and help that man with his mattress, even to turn around and come back, but my hands and feet had other ideas.  What’s wrong with me?  What is this awful and powerful force that is at work in my members fighting the Holy Spirit?

C. F. Walther in his book “Law and Gospel” calls this dilemma the doctrine of spiritual tribulations. The problem is Christians are double beings. We are flesh and Holy Spirit. Old man and new man.

The new man always desires what is good but frequently he doesn’t accomplish it. To will what is good is the main trait of a Christian. Frequently, he does not progress beyond the thought of good will to actually do something.

Before he is aware of it, he is gone astray; the sin within his old man has come forth and he is ashamed of himself. If you find this the case in your life, DO NOT DESPAIR! Hear the rest of Paul’s testimony!

16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, (If I ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit and disobey Him,)  I agree with the law that it is good.

The very fact that we are disturbed about our disobedience proves that the Law is good! One of the good things about the Law is the Holy Spirit uses it to convict us of any wrongdoing. That’s good because it tells us that there is spiritual life in these old bones after all!

What if we were to ignore His promptings, commit sin, and there would be no conviction? What if you willed to do wrong, giving sin no thought at all? I’ve been there, done that, and it is personal anarchy of the worst kind.

Praise God that you and I struggle with our sin nature! Praise God that we don’t want to violate His commands. Praise God that we feel bad about our sinful behavior! Because it proves one glorious thing! We agree with God that His Law is right, His Law is good. His Law is holy! And we agree with Paul, that we are sinners!

Problems develop however when we keep revisiting the same sin. Once you confess it, you have God’s promise that it is gone! Believe it! You don’t have to worry about that sin anymore. Move on, don’t worry, you’ll have another sin to confess soon enough! No need to hang on to the old one!


Does our sin grieve God? Hello! Who is residing in your temple? God! And because you are grieved, it proves that He’s still in house. Believe me, your flesh isn’t grieved one bit by your sin, but the Holy Spirit who dwells in you is grieved.

But the Holy Spirit’s grief is turned to joy when we avail ourselves of His great promise of 1 Jn 1:9:

 1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NKJV),

That mattress thing I told you about? Gone! Only resurrected for teaching purposes. That bike thing? Gone! Under the blood of Jesus. That prayer thing! Gone as far as East is from the west!

The Law and the Holy Spirit work together to remind us of our sin and more importantly, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit work together and remind us what has been done with our sin! Take it to Jesus, confess it, trust that it is covered, then “go and hide your sin no more!

Don’t pretend it’s not there, get it out there as the Apostle Paul did. Bring it into the light of Christ and let Him deal with it!   

 17 But now, (Big words! Precious words! Remember them! But now! Something has changed. Paul had been baptized. He was given the gift of faith and he believes that a new man was raised up out of the waters of his baptism. And this new man is his true identity and will remain his true identity as long as he has faith!

And so he says: But now,

“it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”

Sounds like a cop-out doesn’t it? I mean what is this the gospel according to Flip Wilson? The devil made me do it!”

The new man that is residing in each believer is incapable of sin. So Paul can say with full assurance, it is not me who is sinning! Well that’s fine and dandy Paul but the fact is someone is sinning here. Someone is not stopping and helping that guy with the mattress!

The answer is the old man that lives in us and is still under the spell of sin. On occasion, and more often than we like to admit. Sin rises up and seemingly overpowers the believer and breaks out of these earthly vessels.

If it were possible for us to be perfectly yielded to the Holy Spirit such overpowering by our flesh could never take place. Jesus was perfectly yielded and therefore did not sin.  We are not perfectly yielded and therefore lose many of these battles.

Let me give you another personal example. Several years ago I was driving back home from an extra trip to the store to exchange some parts for a project I was working on. What started out as a simple project was turning into a major repair and I was in way over my head.

I was literally fuming about my inadequacies as I was driving home from the store, but the new man in me, (The Holy Spirit) kept reminding me not to lose my temper as I had so many times in the past in similar circumstances.

I prayed, I got out of the car, confident that I was in control (that was my big mistake) I opened the door of the house and lost it! I threw the most childish temper tantrum in the history of the world right there in front of my trembling family.

I couldn’t believe it! When it was over, I was devastated. Lord, how could I do this? You prompted me. I prayed. I did it because I am not perfectly yielded to the Holy Spirit and I won’t be until I die or the Lord comes again. And I needed to learn to deal with that fact!

This whole incident gave me a new respect for the power of sin within....the dark side if you will.  I hate it, but I respect it. I know it lurks in every one of us waiting for an opportunity to break forth...and break forth it will. I can’t remember the last time I lost my temper, but I have learned to not say. “I’ll never do that again!” I respect sin too much to make such a stupid statement.

The true test for a Christian is not preventing sin from breaking out, (although we should strive to learn to yield to the Spirit so it won’t) the true test is how we handle it after it does. I have learned the best thing to do is immediately get on your knees and ask God for forgiveness according to 1 Jn 1:9.  

Then to immediately go to those whom you may have offended with your sinful action and humbly do the same, making amends wherever possible.

I have come to agree with Paul:

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; (Folks I mean to tell you that this is the most liberating truth you will ever know. It is at the heart of receiving the Gospel and inheriting eternal life. Know that nothing in your old man, nothing in your flesh has any worth. Your old man stinks to high heaven.

Apart from Christ, you are a stench in the nostrils of God! The aroma that is pleasing to God is flesh that has been yielded to the Holy Spirit. Flesh that has died to itself. After the flood Noah built an altar to the Lord....a picture of yielding, and he offered burnt offerings, a picture of flesh no longer alive to itself.

The Genesis account says, “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma, and He said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

God knows you my friend. He know me, He knows us! He knows the power of sin in our lives. He knows our dilemma. Now, let’s you and I know our dilemma. Let us agree with God that in our flesh, in our old man, nothing good dwells, and let’s offer it up as a sacrifice.

When, not if we fail, let’s take those acts of disobedience that arose from that part of our unyielded self and hang it on the tree with Jesus by simply confessing it! Your confession is the same soothing aroma that God smelled when Noah sacrificed those animals after he left the ark! The exact same aroma!

Know that! Cherish genuine personal confession. Make it a daily practice! Make it a continual practice! Remember when you confess just one sin, it’s like grilling a thick and juicy steak for God!

Now I know what you’re thinking, if that’s the case why not go out and grill a whole steer! How soon we forget what Paul said in Romans 6:1:2:

 Ro 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
 2 Certainly not!  (NKJV)

Something else needs to be said here. I hope you know by now that the old man in you is the problem. I hope you know he is very powerful. I hope you know that this same old man is alive and well in that person sitting next to you. He’s alive and well in your brothers and sisters in Christ, and in all the people of the world.

Armed with that knowledge we will be more quick to “forgive those who trespass against us.” After all, they have the same flesh problem we do. Perhaps now, more than ever you can see why Jesus instructed us to forgive 70 times 7 times.
After all, how many times has the Father forgiven you when your old nature acted up?

Back to the text:

“for to will is present with me, (the desire to follow the Law) but how to perform what is good I do not find. ( But how to consistently be able to do this eludes me. I can’t seem to find the spiritual strength)

 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  (Again a confession from Paul) 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Here he restates the fact that the new man is not guilty of this, it’s that old man that lives alongside the new)

 21 I find then a law, (now we need to pay attention to this biblical truth. Just as sure as there is a law of gravity, just as sure as water freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit, there is another sure law of nature. There is a universal law concerning the old nature that every Christian is subject to.

“ that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” (It is a law....stop denying it, and deal with it. Respect it as much as you respect the law of gravity, respect it as much as you respect walking on ice.  In acknowledging it’s presence, you will go a long way from running afoul of it.

Paul then restates the Law. It’s one of those verses that we should all memorize and grasp. It is an unchanging law for the Christian!

22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

As a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you will desire to serve the Law of God...you will want to be obedient. But your flesh will desire to serve the law of sin. Therein lies your struggle. An unbeliever has no such struggle, but you do. That’s what you got yourself involved in when you surrendered to Christ.

Praise God for it! Thank Him for it. The battle rages and we fall more often than we stand, but in this battle, we need fall no further than our knees, where we ask for and receive the Father’s forgiveness, then asking Him to pull us back on our feet and back into the fray.

And should we fall again, we can repeat the process, and again, and again, and again. We know we can keep getting up because Paul kept getting back up, indeed we must keep getting back up, because if we persevere, when the final bell rings, we will be standing with Christ, arms raised in victory over sin.

The sin that pummeled us life-long will be in a lifeless heap on the mat. Never despair when you fall my brother and sister, just confess it and run to the arms of the Champion...our Lord Jesus Christ.

 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (I thank God that I am delivered through Jesus Christ my Lord!) So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (NKJV)

So then, I have resigned myself to this lot in life. I will desire to serve my Lord, but I will fail. It’s a Law! Deal with it! And the only way to deal with it is not to give up and just sin. but look to the One who is able to deliver me from this body of death!

Everyone is familiar with the Rocky movies. Maybe one of the reasons they were so popular is they epitomize this struggle of Paul, This struggle of mine, this struggle of yours. We are all like Rocky. We train well, we know what we have to do to win the battle, but when we get into the ring we find out that Apollo Creed (sin) is a much tougher opponent than we thought.

And so we are hit time after time, we are bloodied, we are battered, but if we persevere to the end we will win. How can we lose for God the Father is the referee, making sure the fight doesn’t get out of hand. The Holy Spirit is in our corner. He’s our cut man and He’s giving us advice, and God the Son is dwelling in us.

He has already taken sin’s best shots and He beat him royally on Calvary. As long as we are found in Him, we win! Know that! In the meantime, respect your opponent, don’t underestimate his power, and at the end of each knockdown, get on your knees and confess!
It’s the only way you’ll be able to answer the bell for the next round!

And as the battle rages, we may get rocked, we may even get rocky, but the Rock lives in us and as long as He lives in us we can’t be ko’d! We can’t go down for the count. I know that My Redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on earth, He is risen!