I want to draw your attention to the following Biblical passage by the apostle Paul on the topic of sin, because it so simplifies the subject. But don’t worry, this isn’t about making you feel bad or uncomfortable; in fact, it’s pretty liberating.
If the topic of sin only remains a religious concept that we intellectually toss about, adopting various stances concerning, and then bickering with each other as to whose stance is most correct, well, then, we will forever remain in this concept-argument syndrome and be no further along in our spiritual journey and no further benefited than when we first encounter it.
But when we consider sin on a personal level, as St Paul has done here, why then, it changes the entire dynamic. We no longer wrestle with a religious argument, we confront a reality that is very much a part of who we are and how we operate.
Here’s the apostle’s passage verbatim, which, I then want to touch on a little more specifically:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
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.
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
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. [Romans 7:18-25]
Paul first of all states that he realizes there is this irreconcilable conflict within him and that conflict has to do with his will and actions. He wants to do the right thing, he knows within him that a certain course of action is the right thing to do and yet he recognizes that he’s pretty much powerless to do that thing. In fact, he goes so far as to recognize and say that, ‘not only does he have a problem doing the right thing but instead he more often does the thing he shouldn’t.’
Paul is able to step back still further and thus sees his problem from an even greater spiritual perspective; he realizes that if he has this struggle within him between the right and the wrong, that this isn’t just an issue about him, this is something greater than himself he’s struggling with and he recognizes this thing as sin.
And then he utters what is to me the clincher, ‘I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.’
Think about that for a moment. If we are honest with ourselves, as Paul is here, we can know sin exists because it’s up close and personal, something we struggle with daily on a personal level, affecting everything we do or don’t do.
Does such a struggle sound familiar? It’s not really that often that we are clueless as to what is the right or wrong thing to do. The problem we have is most often accomplishing or doing what we know we should do and not doing or allowing ourselves to accomplish the thing we shouldn’t.
No such thing as sin you say. Let’s get real, as Paul is able to do here, because when we do, that’s when we also find deliverance in Christ. Paul didn’t bemoan or live in condemnation concerning sin; he thanked God that Jesus provided the way out.
George MacDonald expresses the situation best:
“It may sound paradoxical, but no man is condemned for anything he has done: he is condemned for continuing to do wrong. He is condemned for not coming out of the darkness, for not coming to the light, the living God, who sent the light, his son, into the world to guide him home.”
A mini studies article from Through the Bible in 52 Weeks
Copyright © 2014 by John Hislop