Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ROMANS 7:14-25


1.     This is our fifth message in this series on victory over indwelling sin.  Here in our text this morning, the power of indwelling sin is referred to as “the flesh” (7:18, 25).

2.     This is important to understand because the Bible has much to say about “the flesh” and carnality (7:14). There are some people that intended to get up early this Lord’s Day and come to Sunday School but they decided to sleep in.  We say, “They are in the flesh.”  Yes, but what exactly does that mean?  It means the power of indwelling sin prevailed.

3.     A Christian can be driving to work minding his own business when a reckless driver cuts him off on the highway almost causing a collision.  The Christian shouts out a word that a Christian should not use.  Again, this is the flesh rearing its ugly head.

4.     A Christian is pushing the buttons on his TV remote and he sees a scantily clad woman.  All of a sudden he stops to watch.  This is the flesh.   First Peter 2:11 says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”

5.     Romans 13:14 says, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

6.     Our Lord said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

7.     Here in Romans 7:18, the apostle Paul declares, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”  The problem is this power of indwelling sin (7:17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25).

8.     F.F. Bruce wrote, “There is something in humanity, even in regenerate humanity, which objects to God and seeks to be independent of Him.  This ‘something’ is what Paul here calls his ‘flesh’ (cf. vs. 18), which lays him wide open to the tyranny of indwelling sin” (Romans).

9.     Last time we studied Romans 7:7-14.  We saw what the law can and cannot do.  We saw that the law is holy but the law cannot make a man holy.

10. We have seen over and over in this series in Romans 6—8 that the law cannot save anyone.  The law cannot justify a sinner.  And the law cannot sanctify a believer (cf. Romans 7:6; 8:4; 10:4; 11:6).

11. Here in our text this morning, Paul continues in this vein.  The law is weak because of the power of sin in the flesh (cf. 8:3a).

12. The law cannot deliver us from the flesh.  Have you ever wondered why so many religious people are often entangled in terrible sins and scandals?  It is because they are trying to serve God in the flesh.

13. Here is an article from Wednesday’s newspaper:

A state appellate court yesterday declined to get involved in the ugly battle over control over the Satmar Jewish sect - saying the First Amendment bars judges from “inquiring into religious disputes.” The decision is seen as a victory for supporters of Zalmen Teitelbaum, who says he is the handpicked successor to the late Grand Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum. But supporters of Zalmen's brother Aron vowed to appeal to the state's highest court. The two sides have been fighting, sometimes violently, since 1999, when the grand rabbi selected Zalmen his younger son, to lead the Brooklyn congregation while Aron headed the community in upstate Kiryas Joel. It heated up even more since the grand rabbi's death in April. Zalmen supporter Joel Braver said, “Three things are with us. The law is with us. The grand rebbe is praying with us, and God”
(NY Post, July 12, 2006).

14. There are so many strange statements in this article one doesn’t know where to start.  First of all, the sight of two brothers and their followers getting into ugly fistfights and court battles is bad enough, but these are the two leaders of the Hassidic Jewish movement.

15. Secondly, one side is boasting, “the law is with us.”  But Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

16. But these religious Jews are so deceived that they think they are obeying the law even while they hate each other and are viciously fighting each other.

17. I am not picking on the Hassidics.  Any man or woman, Jew or Gentile, who thinks they can serve God in the flesh is deceived. 

18. Any person who thinks they can be saved by the law – Jew or Gentile, SDA or RC or Baptist (etc.) is deceived.

19. Again, I will repeat: the law can only condemn; it cannot enable.



1.     I wish I could tell new converts that they will never have to worry about the flesh, but unfortunately this is not the case.

2.     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.

3.     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?  

4.     Those who insist that Paul is referring to the unregenerate man point to verse 14 – “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”  If Paul were speaking of a believer, this verse would then seem to contradict Romans 6:2, 14, and other Scriptures.

5.     Those who believe Paul is speaking here of saved individuals, point to 7:22.  They say that no unregenerate lost sinner delights in the law of God.  Furthermore, “the inward man” refers to “the new man” (Eph. 4:24).

6.     Without trying to avoid the question, 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 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.     These Scriptures do not describe the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 6:17, 18; 7:4, 6; 8:1, 2).

9.     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). It is my hope and prayer that these messages from Rom. 6—8 will be of some help.

10. 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.”



1.     The power of indwelling sin is seen very vividly in Romans 7:14-17.   The apostle Paul says, “But I am carnal, sold under sin” (7:14).

2.     “Sold under sin” means subject to the power of indwelling sin.

3.     Self is unable to stop what it knows is wrong.   Paul states, “Now it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (7:17).  The apostle Paul is not making excuses for his sinful behaviour; he is only stressing the power of indwelling sin. 

4.     Paul recognized that sin, dwelling in him, exercised control and caused him to do things he knew were wrong.

5.     In verse 18, a distinction is made between “I” (“For I know…” – referring to Paul’s regenerate self; his real self as a born again child of God) and “my flesh” (i.e., the power of indwelling sin, which pulls us away from God).  

6.     This same distinction is seen in verse 25 – “So then with the mind I myself (the renewed mind) serve the law of God; but with the flesh (indwelling sin) the law of sin.”

7.     There is more to us than the flesh, but we have to understand that we are powerless to overcome the flesh apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is developed in Romans 8 (cf. 8:1).

8.     So when Paul says in verse 18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” he is emphasizing man’s failure – on account of the flesh – to do right. 

9.     But this is certainly not the normal Christian life (cf. 8:1).  Back in 6:2 Paul said we are dead to sin.  Our old man was crucified with Christ (6:6, 7).

10. Paul says in Romans 7:5, “For when we were (PAST TENSE) in the flesh…”  In verse 5, Paul is describing the unregenerate man who is controlled by the power of indwelling sin. 

11. Then in verse 14, Paul says, “But I am carnal, sold under sin.”  Here Paul is describing the believer who struggles with the power of indwelling sin.

12. On Friday night, Bro. Knickerbocker used the well-known illustration of the two dogs.   Some of you may recall that last year Bro. Van Gelderen referred to that illustration. 

13. Both these preachers are right.  What Bro. Knickerbocker was saying is the dog we feed will be stronger.  What Bro. Van Gelderen was saying was we often assume the dog representing the old nature is fiercer and meaner, and will therefore dominate but this is not necessarily true.

14. Many believers struggle with the power of indwelling sin because they have not apprehended these precious truths: we have been crucified with Christ; we are dead to sin; we have victory over sin; we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, etc. (Cf. II Peter 1:3-9).

15. There are two laws referred to in Romans 7.   There is “the law of God” (7:22).  Paul delighted in the law of God, but he discovered that the “law of sin” was pulling him away from the law of God (7:23, 25).

16. In Rom. 8:2, the law of sin is called “the law of sin and death.”  

17. That’s why Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24; cf. 6:20, 23).

18. In Rom. 7:23 the law of sin is called the “law in my members” and “the law of sin which is in my members.”

19. This is the power of indwelling sin asserting itself in the members of a person’s body so that oftentimes the eyes look with lust or perhaps the tongue will say an unkind word.

20. Preachers have pointed out that our secular universities teach every law known to science, except the most important one – this law of sin and death.

21. People are perplexed over crime, war, and mental disorders.  But the law of sin is at the root of all behavioral problems.   The law of sin “acts in the moral realm exactly as the law of gravity operates in the physical realm.  It exerts a downward pull” (John Phillips, Exploring Romans).



1.     Paul uses the terms “warring” and “captivity” (7:23) to describe this fierce struggle with the flesh.   We are in a constant battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

2.     If churches would teach this, we would not see so many backslidden and discouraged Christians.

3.     Many Christians mistakenly believe that if they put themselves under the law, they will not backslide.

4.     In fact, the very opposite is true.  I have seen many backsliders who were discouraged and frustrated by failing to keep the law.

5.     The law exposes sin, but the law cannot remove sin (cf. 3:20).   This is because “it was weak through the flesh” (8:3).

6.     The law cannot save us.  If we could be saved by the law, then why did Christy have to go to the cross?  The Bible says Christ died on the cross to give us victory over sin (8:3).

7.     The apostle Paul (speaking on behalf of all law-abiding Jews) declares, “For I delight in the law of God” (7:22), and yet he also admits that this could not keep him from struggling with indwelling sin (7:15-20).

8.     “Consequently he continually finds himself going contrary to the deepest desires of his divinely-imparted new nature.  He practices things he does not want to do.  He fails to carry out his determinations for good.  The sins he commits he hates.  The good he loves he has not the strength to perform” (H. A. Ironside, Romans).

9.     James Stifler, in his commentary on Romans 7:15-20, refers to this as a “Laocoon contest.”  According to mythology, Laocoon was a Trojan priest of Apollo, who tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the Trojan Horse from the Greeks.

10. Laocoon told the Trojans, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” but they would not listen to him.  The Trojans disregarded his advice, and in his anger Laocoon threw his spear at the Trojan Horse.

11. Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, then sent sea-serpents to strangle Laocoön and his two sons.  This is a picturesque illustration of what Paul is describing here in Rom. 7.

12. Picture Laocoon and his two sons, entangled by horrifying sea-serpents.  Imagine them struggling with these terrible serpents.

13. Laocoon and his sons were squeezed to death by the sea-serpents.  But the Christian does not need to be squeezed to death by the power of indwelling sin.  

14. Chapter 7 ends with the statement, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25).  Chapter 6 ends with “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:23); and chapter 7 ends with escape from the flesh through Jesus Christ our Lord.

15. This brings us to chapter 8, and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is the key to victory over the power of indwelling sin.

16. Some have thought that, “I thank God…” should end the chapter and, “So then…” seems out of place.

17. But nothing in the Bible is out of place.  Paul is summing up his lesson before moving into a new lesson in chapter 8.



1.     There is a fascinating story associated with Paul’s reference in Romans 7:24 to deliverance from “the body of this death.”

2.     The Romans had devised many cruel ways of torturing prisoners.  One of them was to take a dead body and fasten it to the body of a condemned criminal. 

3.     The body was tightly strapped on forehead to forehead, nose to nose, lips to lips, chest to chest, arms to arms, hands to hands, loins to loins, legs to legs, and feet to feet.  A frightening picture!  But there is deliverance (7:25).

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