The Believer And Indwelling Sin

“For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me” (Romans 7:14-17).

Believers have been freed from sin’s power, but not from its presence.

Romans 7:14-25 is perhaps the most autobiographical passage in all of Scripture. In this poignant account Paul describes in vivid, striking language his battle with indwelling sin. So powerful is that language that some believe it refers to Paul’s life before his conversion. But the apostle describes himself as one who seeks to obey God’s law and who hates evil (vv. 15, 19, 21), who is humble and broken over his sin (v. 18), and who acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and serves Him with his mind (v. 25). None of those things characterize an unbeliever.

The word “for” indicates that Paul is not beginning a new subject but is continuing with the thought from the first part of Romans 7, that the law reveals our sin. The law is not the problem but reveals the problem—sin. The apostle then makes the startling statement that he is “of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” “Flesh” is our unredeemed humanness—that part of us that is still sinful and fights against our new natures. Paul’s words do not mean that God had only partially saved him; rather, they emphasize that sin is still a powerful force in believers’ lives and is not to be trifled with.

Christians are under attack from the outside, from Satan and the evil world system. But we also have a “fifth column”—the flesh inside us, aiding and abetting those attacks. Fight the flesh today by making “no provision for [it] in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

Suggestions for Prayer

“Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

For Further Study

What do the following passages teach about the possibility of a believer’s being “sold into bondage to sin”—Psalm 51:1-5; Isaiah 6:5; 1 John 1:8-10?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.