Having given my prologue, let’s look at the text. Like I said, I can see why some people say Paul is speaking as a Christian and others say that he isn’t. Let’s start with the latter.
If you look at verse 14, it says,
I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
And again, in verse 25, he says,
In the sinful nature [I’m] a slave to the law of sin.
The question is very obvious. Weren’t we redeemed from sin? Weren’t we set free? How then, can Paul as a Christian say that he is sold as a slave to sin.
Again in verse 18,
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Yet isn’t the point of living by the Spirit that we can carry out our desire to do good?
All good points and must be answered. However, I think other verses are even more problematic if you hold that Paul is speaking as a non-Christian.
The most problematic verse is in verse 17 where he says,
As it is, it is no longer I myself who [sins], but it is sin living in me.
And again in verse 20 where he repeats himself saying,
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who [sin], but it is sin living in me that does it.
How can the unbeliever possibly claim that “It is no longer I myself who is sinning?” when he is still in rebellion against God, which is the ultimate sin?
There can be no separation between yourself and your sinful nature when you’re an unbeliever. You are your sinful nature. You are so intertwined, that you can’t tell where one ends and the other starts. Further, because you are married to your sinful nature, the only fruit you can possibly bear is sin leading to death. How then can you, as an unbeliever, say “It’s not really me?”
The believer, on the other hand, can say all these things. And I believe it is what Paul is saying as a believer.
To review, our sinful nature is dead in that the part of us that was rebellious to God has been crucified. Our old husband is dead. He no longer can actively influence us.
But though that part of us is dead, we are still bonded to a heart, body, and mind that has been influenced by sin from the time we were born. The scars left by it, namely all the behavioral patterns of sin, and all the emotional ties to it, all still remain and they affect the way we live. The old man is dead, but his influence in our hearts, bodies, and minds is still very much alive. And as long as we are tied to our physical bodies, we are very much still slaves to sin as long as those scars remain.
Now these other passages make sense. It’s not me anymore that desires sin. That part of me that was in rebellion to God died. Now I want to do what is right. I want to please God. But there are still those residual scars of sin in me. There are still those behavioral patterns and emotional ties to sin within me. The old man is dead, but even dead, he influences me. And right here, right now, influenced by the old man as I am, I find it impossible to carry out the good that I wish to. I want to forgive, but I can’t. I want to be patient with my kids, but I can’t.
So what am I saying? That there is no hope for the here and now? That there’s only despair for me in my fight against sin as long as I live? Not at all, and we’ll see that in tomorrow’s blog.