I am having trouble understanding Romans 7 which describes the war between the old man and the new man (I think!) and at the end Paul asks who shall deliver me and he says that thru Christ he will be delivered. But then he says only with his mind will he serve the law of God? And is this related in any way to Gal 5:24?
Are these fleshly desires to be eliminated in the future or present?
Thanks for your great question! The detail in Romans 6-8 is very precise, but there is enough detail involved that it can get confusing.
Prior to salvation the human constitution possesses three negative entities: the old man, indwelling sin (old master), and the flesh. The old man is the unregenerated human spirit (Rom. 6:6). Indwelling sin (Rom. 7:17, 20) is personified as someone who is served (Rom. 6:6), thus the label “old master.” The old man and old master are in a union. The flesh is the sphere or turf for the activity of indwelling sin involving both body and soul levels. The phrase “sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3) reveals the concept that indwelling sin is not the same as the flesh, but rather operates in the arena of the flesh.
At salvation the old man dies with Christ unto indwelling sin (forever severing that union) and is raised with Christ the new man, now joined by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, the old man is gone forever! You cannot have an unregenerated spirit and a regenerated spirit in the same body. The new man is the new creation consisting of God’s divine nature (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:9; Eph. 4:24). This is where the Holy Spirit moves in to dwell. Since the old man is gone, there are only two negative entities remaining: the old master of indwelling sin and the sphere of the flesh.
The battle believers experience is not between the old man and new man because the old man died with Christ and has been raised the new man. The battle is between the flesh, where the old master of indwelling sin seeks to operate, and the Spirit, now joined to the regenerated spirit (Gal. 5:17). Indwelling sin stays with us this side of heaven and seeks to deceive us into thinking that his desires are our desires. But the real us—our new man consisting of God’s divine nature—always desires Christ in us. The real us always desires to trust the indwelling Spirit.
The debacle of Romans seven comes when you try to do right without depending on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not mentioned throughout the section that describes failure (Rom. 7:7-24). Thus the question at the end of the chapter, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Who, not what? After trying the “whats” Paul now says Who? The answer is in a person. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Trust the Indwelling Christ—the Spirit, to overcome indwelling sin. Christ always wins!
It seems that the next phrase, “So then with my mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin,” summarizes the debacle of leaving out the Spirit of Christ. It shows that when there is a view to do right but you’re focusing on the law, then that law-focus leads to law-dependence. Law-dependence is really flesh-dependence, and that leads to failure.
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