Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ROMANS 7:15-25


  1. I would like to talk this morning about spiritual conflicts. The apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:17, “The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other” (Galatians 5:17).
  2. Our Lord said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
  3. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
  4. The Bible teaches that there are two distinct and diverse springs of action in the Christian, from which proceed either evil or good works.
  5. Galatians 5 draws a contrast between “the works of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-26).
  6. The Christian has had two births, and so he has two natures.  When he was born physically, he inherited a sinful nature from his parents.
  7. And when he was born again, he received a new nature, which is “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
  8. We were all born with a sinful nature.  David wrote, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
  9. Psalm 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (cf. Mark 7:20-23).
  10. But the born again believer has received a new nature – a partaker of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4), i.e., the nature of God Himself.
  11. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).
  12. The new birth is described in various ways in the Bible.  It is likened to the implanting of an incorruptible “seed” in the soul (I Peter 1:23; I John 3:9), and to a cleansing of the heart, a “washing of water by the Word” (Titus 3:5; Eph. 5:26).
  13. The figure of the “seed” conveys the idea of subsequent growth; and the washing of water suggests a process of cleansing, which begins with conversion.
  14. Therefore, at the new birth the believer receives a new life or nature, so that he now has two natures, and his responsibility is to mortify the old nature – and feed, strengthen, and be governed by the new nature.
  15. One preacher (AW Pink) explained it this way: “The flesh is in no way improved by the presence of the ‘spirit,’ any more than weeds are bettered by planting flowers in their midst, (because) the flesh and the spirit are contrary to each other.”
  16. The flesh will always be a problem, but thank God we can victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (8:5-9).
  17. As we consider this conflict between the flesh (old nature) and the spirit (new nature), let us look at four different men described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7 & 8.



  1. These Scriptures here in Romans 7 represent Paul’s own experiences, and yet his experience is not unique.  It is characteristic of all men everywhere.
  2. Now, for nearly 2,000 years, Christians have debated over this question: Do these verses refer to Paul in his unregenerate state?  Or do they describe his struggle after his conversion on the road to Damascus? 
  4. I believe Paul is speaking here of saved individuals. Unregenerate, lost sinners do not delight in the law of God (cf. 7:22).
  5. Furthermore, “the inward man” (7:22) refers to “the new man.”  “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
  6. I think these Scriptures can apply to both the saved and the unsaved who are trying to be good and holy by their own efforts, but are frustrated because of the fierce power of the flesh.
  7. H. A. Ironside was right when he said, “The flesh of the believer is no better than the flesh in an unbeliever.”
  8. There are certain preachers who insist that carnal, backslidden believers were never genuinely saved.  Unfortunately, it is true that there are some professing believers who have never been genuinely born again. 
  9. However, to insist that all backsliders and slackers are unsaved does not line up with Scripture.  Getting people “saved” over again only makes things worse.
  10. Weak, carnal, and backslidden believers do not need regeneration – they need revival.  If they have trusted Christ, they are saved.
  11. Romans 7:15-20 does not describe the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 6:17, 18; 7:4, 6; 8:1, 2).
  12. Nevertheless there are many Christians who find themselves in this conflict between the old nature and the new nature (7:15; cf. Gal. 5:17).
  13. Again I will quote H. A. Ironside, “All Christians doubtless know something of the state depicted in verses 14-25 of this 7th chapter, but once out of it no one need ever go through it again.”
  14. Andrew Murray said, “This is the experience of almost every saint. After conversion, a man begins to do his best, and he fails. But if we are brought into the full light, we no longer need to fail.”



  1. Many Christian people think that because they are born again, and now have a renewed will, they will be able to serve God without any difficulty. But unfortunately, that is not always the case.
  2. This regenerate man in Romans 7 tells us: “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (7:18).
  3. Some people think that if you have enough drive and determination, you can do just about anything. But this struggling man in Romans 7 was as determined as any man can be, and yet he admitted, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not” (Romans 7:18).
  4. God allows such failure so that the believer should be taught his own utter inability. The sooner we learn this lesson the better.
  5. It is in the course of this struggle that the sense of our weakness and utter sinfulness comes to us. It is God’s way of dealing with us, and working in us, and leading us.
  6. One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 1:10.
  7. First God has “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down,” before He can “build and plant.”
  8. Why is Paul describing a Christian struggling in Romans 7? You will notice that in Romans 7, the name of the Holy Spirit does not occur once. While the Holy Spirit and of our union with Christ is not mentioned, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times.
  9. Not only this; but in Romans 7 you will find the personal pronouns I, me, my, occur more than forty times.
  10. This chapter shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God with his regenerate will and his weak flesh (Romans 7:18-21, 24).



  1. The apostle Paul cries out in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am!” Here are the words of a man who has come to the end of himself.
  2. In the previous verses Paul described how he had struggled and wrestled in his own power to obey the law of God, and had failed.
  3. But at the end of chapter 7, Paul declares, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The next chapter (Romans 8) speaks of that deliverance (8:1, 14).
  4. In the first sixteen verses of the eighth chapter, the name of the Holy Spirit is found sixteen times. Romans 8 speaks of the great privileges of the child of God who is led by the Spirit of God.
  5. We have seen that the man who makes this confession is a regenerate man, but he is a carnal man.  He is a struggling man.  And he is also a wretched man (7:24).
  6. He is miserable. What is it that makes him so miserable and wretched?  He is miserable because of the conflict between his two natures. He is struggling trying to obey God.
  7. Andrew Murray said, “Blessed be God when a man learns to say: “O wretched man that I am!” from the depth of his heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.”
  8. It is evident that one cannot experience the joys of Romans 8 until he first goes through the struggle of Romans 7.  But once one has struggled through Romans 7, he does not need to ever go through it again.
  9. Over the years I have noticed that there are many who make Paul’s confession in Romans 7 an excuse for sin. They say that if the great apostle Paul had to confess his weakness and utter helplessness in this way, surely they should not be expected to do any better.
  10. But that is not the proper way to understand this passage of Scripture.



  1. The regenerate man had the Holy Spirit when he spoke in Romans chapter 7.  But he did not really understand all that the Holy Spirit could do for him.
  2. When we are born again, we have a new will.  In fact, II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Behold, all things are become new.”
  3. The new will is permanent, but the power to serve God is not permanent. It must be received each moment from the Holy Spirit.
  4. Our Lord said in John 15:5, “For without me ye can do nothing.”
  5. It is the man who is conscious of his own weakness as a believer who will learn that by the Holy Spirit how he can live a holy life.
  6. The Holy Spirit gives us the victory. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13).
  7. We must not yield to the flesh (Rom. 8:5-8).  For some Christians, the Holy Spirit is within them, but the flesh rules the life.
  8. To be led by the Spirit of God means we are to trust the Lord Jesus Christ every day, every hour, every minute, and every second.
  9. Andrew Murray said, “The Holy Spirit is necessary for every believer, every moment of the day. Praise God you have Him, and that He gives you the full experience of the deliverance in Christ as He makes you free from the power of sin.”



  1. I think we have here today some carnal believers. 
  2. And some struggling ones too.
  3. Perhaps even a few wretched ones as well.
  4. Perhaps you are ready today to claim the promise of Romans 8:1, 2.

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