Lesson 279: Romans 7:20…

Romans 7:20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it

This verse is so unusual, it hardly seems to belong in the Bible. If you stole money from your employer, and explained that it was not you who stole, but sin living in you—you would probably still be fired. Nevertheless, Paul is saying that when Christians sin, they are so out of character, that it is not the real them. It is leftover sin living in them. 

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king who lost his mind, and ate grass like an ox for seven years (Daniel 4). Then his sanity returned, and he began to rule again. No one suggested that the man who ate grass like an ox was the real Nebuchadnezzar—he was temporarily insane. God knows who we are, who we are becoming, and who we will be forever. Sin is not the real us, but a brief insanity left over from our sinful nature.

Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

Paul did not say What a wretched man I was, but What a wretched man I am. He didn’t say that he used to be bad, but then he was saved. He freely admitted that after believing in Jesus Christ, he still had remaining sin, which was a source of grief to him. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15), he wrote.

Only those who want to be good understand how bad they really are. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3), wrote the Psalmist. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you (Psalm 143:2), wrote David. We should always try to please our heavenly Father, but also understand that no one is perfect in this life (1 John 1:8).

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Christians don’t have to wait until Judgment Day to see how it will go for them. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, we are assured that we will never be condemned. Whoever believes in him is not condemned (John 3:18), wrote John. 

After his arrest, Jesus was dragged into court and cross examined. The high priest said to him, I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God. You have said so, Jesus replied. . . . Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, He has spoken blasphemy! . . . What do you think? He is worthy of death, they answered (Matthew 23:63-66). 

This is how the only person who never sinned was condemned to death for those who would believe. We can never be condemned because Jesus was condemned for us. Jesus heard the words of condemnation so that we will never have to.

When I was a new driver, I passed a cop who was parked by the side of the road in a police van. He gave me a ticket for running a stop sign, which I did not see. After he left, I went back and discovered that the officer’s van had blocked my view of the sign. I went to court, explained what happened, and the judge gave his ruling–not guilty. And yet, there was a moment when I was not sure what his verdict would be. That is a moment we will not have to go through on judgment day. [T]here is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Romans 8:9 [I]f anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 

The mark of a true Christian is not prayer, going to church, reading the Bible, or even becoming a missionary. We can do all these things and still not be true Christians. The indispensable mark of a true Christian is the indwelling Spirit, which people receive the moment they believe in Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of being religious, or spiritual, but of having the Spirit within.

If you give a fifty dollar bill to a cashier, they will hold it up to the light and look for certain characteristics, like a vertical strip that says USA. If it does not have the strip, it is not genuine currency, no matter how much it resembles a fifty dollar bill. The indwelling Spirit is the authenticating mark of every true believer.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children

Many years ago I went to a Christian meeting with a friend, and on the way there, a question popped into my head. Are you sure that you are going to heaven when you die? I did not think it was possible to be sure, so I put the thought out of my head. But at the meeting I gave my life to Christ and something unexpected happened—he sent the Spirit to live within me. 

On the way home the same question returned: Are you sure that you are going to heaven when you die? To my surprise, I had to answer yes because I could sense the Spirit of Christ giving me assurance that I was a child of God. Christianity is more than knowing about God; it is knowing God personally. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), and shares all things with his brothers and sisters. Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you (Matthew 25:34), he will say. 

Few people ever have much in this life, and whatever we have, must be given up eventually. But those who belong to Jesus Christ will have everything they want, and forever to enjoy it. Our future inheritance is not pie in the sky, but genuine wealth secured for us by Jesus Christ.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9), wrote Paul. Whoever has Christ will have everything else as well.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us

Being an apostle of Jesus Christ was not easy for Paul. He was hated, imprisoned, impoverished, and eventually killed. What kept him going was the glory that will be revealed in us. His vision of a glorious future carried him through a very difficult life.

If you want to imagine the age to come, take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side put everything you want to be there, like strawberry ice-cream and music you can dance to. On the other side put everything you do not want to be there, like tooth decay and overdue bills. Make the list as long as you like, because whatever you can think of will not even compare to what God has prepared for you.

Romans 8:23 [W]e wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Few things are nearer and dearer to us than our bodies. We admire those who are healthy and attractive, and we do our best to be like them. We diet, exercise, and even have plastic surgery. One lady had her legs lengthened about two inches to make her that much taller. But even the best grow old, gradually lose their powers and die. 

My mother was stunning when she was young, but after several children her beauty slipped away. Her only consolation was that it did not happen all at once. But God has given us real consolation—not just the redemption of our souls, but the redemption of our bodies. Imagine loving every part of your body forever. Our bodies are God’s idea, and he is going to make them new and improved, in ways we cannot even imagine (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

Reflection and Review
Are believers in Jesus Christ wretched or righteous?
How can we be sure that we have the Holy Spirit?
Is it good to receive an inheritance when you are young?