July 3, 2011
Romans 7:15-25

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a famous book titled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The book chronicles the life of Dr. Jekyll, who believes good and evil exist in everyone. Through personal experimentation, however, Dr. Jekyll discovers his evil side—Mr. Hyde. He develops a potion that attempts to separate his good side from his darker impulses, allowing him to be transformed into a creature free of moral conscience.

While he initially delighted in becoming Mr. Hyde and in possessing moral freedom, Dr. Jekyll finds himself burdened and conflicted. Mr. Hyde impulsively harms and murders people in the city. Dr. Jekyll begins to lose control of his ability to suppress Mr. Hyde. He finds himself turning into Mr. Hyde involuntarily in his sleep, even without taking the potion.

As the potion begins to run out, Dr. Jekyll is unable to reproduce the quality of a necessary ingredient for the potion. As a result, his ability to change back from Mr. Hyde into Dr. Jekyll slowly vanishes. Dr. Jekyll knows he soon will become Mr. Hyde permanently, and he wonders if Mr. Hyde will face execution for his crimes or choose to kill himself.

As the book draws to a close, two individuals investigating the crimes of Mr. Hyde find him dead of an apparent suicide. They find a letter that Dr. Jekyll composed before his final transformation into Mr. Hyde. He ends the letter with this statement, “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.”

The apostle Paul felt a conflict within his own human nature. His sinful flesh constantly waged war against his new nature in Christ. This is the experience of every person who is a believer. How do we overcome our sinful nature and live obedient lives to God? In this passage, the apostle Paul shares the lessons he has learned in his struggle.

I. The Problem Is Not the Law
In v. 14, Paul says “the law is spiritual.” He affirms the divine origin of the Old Testament law. God’s law reflects His holiness and righteousness, but while the law reflects the nature of God, the law cannot provide the righteousness needed for salvation. The law is impotent to rescue us from sin. The law informs us of our duties before God, but it does not give us the ability to fulfill those duties. The problem is not the law. The holy, just, good law of God makes us aware of our sinfulness. It sheds light on our problem: sinful flesh.

II. The Problem Is the Sinful Flesh
As good as it is, God’s law encounters people when they are already fleshly, indwelt by sin. God’s law reveals the depth of divisions in our beings, between willing and doing, the mind and the flesh (vv. 15-20, 25). Thus, we find ourselves doing the very things we desire not to do, which is sin. Even though we have a new nature acquired by spiritual birth, our old nature continues to exert its maleficent influence. Our desire to do what is right inevitably is confronted by sin’s insistence that we do the opposite (v. 18). Why? The problem is our sinful flesh: “What a wretched man I am!” (v. 24).

III. The Resolution Is Jesus Christ
Is our plight hopeless? Will the sinful desires of our flesh always triumph over our new nature that desires obedience? Or as Paul said in v. 24, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The only resolution to the problem is Jesus Christ. We are justified by Jesus Christ when we call upon the name of the Lord and believe (Romans 10:9-13). The process of sanctification also begins with this trust and belief in Christ. When we walk according to the Spirit and with His mindset, we are able to live obedient lives to the glory of God’s name (Romans 8:5-6; Galatians 5:16).

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