Romans 7:14–25 is a passage that has caused some confusion because of the strong language Paul uses to describe himself and by extension, all Christians, as “unspiritual,” a “slave to sin” and a “prisoner of the law of sin”? The key to understanding Romans 7:14–25 is Paul’s description of the two natures of a Christian. Prior to salvation, we have only one nature—the sin nature. But once we come to Christ, we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), but we still abide in the old flesh which has the remains of the sinful nature within it. These two natures war constantly with one another, continually pulling the believer in opposite directions.
The desires of the believer’s spiritual nature pull him in the direction of good while the flesh in which he lives pulls him in the other. He wants to do one thing but has something within him that does the opposite. So how do these evil desires differ from those of an unbeliever? Simply put, the believer hates the evil flesh in which he lives and desires to be freed from it, whereas unbelievers have no such desire. So strong is Paul’s desire to live godly and so frustrated is he that his flesh wars against his spirit that he finally cries out in desperation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is Jesus the Christ our Lord (verse 25).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his”. Romans 8:1–9
To walk in the Spirit is to be first be filled with the Holy Spirit that takes place at the moment of salvation. (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30) the way we operate in the fruit of the Spirit is to do the very opposite of our nature as prompted in your mind by the Holy Spirit in the moment. The speak the truth when you wan to lie, to be kind rather then mean, to forgive rather then holding a grudge etc.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”. Galatians 5:16–25
One day believers will be completely freed from the body of death in which we live when we are glorified with Christ in heaven, but until that day we rely on the power of the Spirit who indwells us and gives us victory in the ongoing battle with sin.
In Romans 7:14–25, Paul puts into practical language the fact that he is a redeemed sinner who still has a carnal body, the flesh that wars against the indwelling Spirit. In another place the he says, “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief” 1 Timothy 1:15. The personal pronouns in these passages are not just an artifice but a statement of reality and the honest evaluation of a man who examines himself in the light of who he is and who the Lord Jesus is and comes to the conclusion that he is a wretched man in need of deliverance. This is not the deliverance from the penalty of sin—that was paid for on the cross—but deliverance from the power of sin.
In Romans 7:14–25 Paul uses his own experiences and what he has learned through them to teach other believers how to use God’s provision and our position in Christ to overcome the struggle with our carnal nature.
Paul’s thesis not only truthfully exposes the struggle between the spiritual nature and the flesh in which it resides, but most importantly presents us with the tremendous hope and confidence in our salvation:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1