The Christian Struggle
Victory Over Sin

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 30c of 83


“…24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).

[The apostle Paul is describing his own experience of struggling against sin as a Christian. He has described how he would disown sin and not allow it to reign in his heart. In this final instalment, we are given to share not only in his anguish against sin, but his assurance of final victory over it. —JJL]


3.  The Christian
Will be Victorious Over Sin
(v. 24-25)

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a greatly instructive statement. Notice the apostle’s great grief that he continues to struggle with sin. Though he has the right to disown sin, he knows that sin will continue to taint everything that he does.

 

Whether it be preaching, or worshipping, or praying, or singing, or simply listening or keeping the Law, nothing he accomplishes is perfect by itself. How he longs for perfection so that he can serve the God he loves perfectly! He feels wretched because of indwelling sin. He does not feel wretched because of the consequence of sin, but because of sin!

So he cries out:

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

O wretched man that I am! As long as sin dwells in me I will feel wretched. Who, O who will deliver me from the remnant of my corruption?

Paul is aware that his old man is dead and crucified. But he is also aware that he is, as it were, carrying him about behind his back! “Who?” he cries, “will deliver me from the body of this death?” Notice how he speaks of “the body of this death” rather than “the death of this body”?

Paul is not wretched because he is afraid of eternal death. He feels wretched because indwelling sin prevents him from achieving the glorious perfection that full enjoyment of God will require. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

His answer is emphatic: “25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christ Jesus our Lord will deliver him! Christ Jesus his Lord had already paid for his sin. Christ Jesus his Lord would one day deliver him completely from all remnant of corruption. This is and will happen in three steps. First, he is being sanctified day by day; secondly, his soul will be made perfect in holiness at his death; and thirdly, his body will be raised incorruptible at the resurrection.

These things are guaranteed by Christ our Lord!

But because the full redemption is future, Paul recognises that he will continue to struggle today. So he says:

So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

This is our lot in this present life. But it is not hopeless. God has already begun a good work in us. He will perfect it unto the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our struggle with sin will not abate in this life. But we will be more and more victorious as the Spirit of Christ sanctifies us. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov 4:18).

One day, the struggle will be over. Then we will look back and say with the apostle Paul:

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).

We will be finally victorious, halleluah!

Conclusion

But what do we say to these things?

First, do not think it strange that you have to struggle against sin today. If you are a new man, you will struggle. You should be worried if you have no struggle.

Secondly, do not allow sin to reign over you. Recognise that he is dwelling in you, and do all you can to evict him. Do not entertain him. Do not get used to him. Do not allow him to take control of your life. Be much in prayer and make use of the means of grace. Sin hates these things. The more you make it uncomfortable for him, the less he will trouble you.

Thirdly, do not be discouraged by a seeming lack of victory. Christ has already conquered, and He is still conquering. One day you will have perfect victory and will be revealed with Christ in His glory.

But dear reader, if you are a stranger to the struggles that we speak about, do not congratulate yourself. You ought really to be very concerned. You ought to feel wretched.

Many years ago, I was in Medan to conduct a seminar. We stayed in a sort of river-side resort. The only problem was that this river was black! Nevertheless, there were people who lived off the river. So every morning when we look down the river, we would not only see rotting vegetation and dead animals floating down the river, we would also see families using the river. Some would be washing their dishes, some would be bathing, some would be relieving themselves, and the children would be playing in it. They seem oblivious to the smell and horrible worms and germs that must be in the river!

A doctor friend of ours who saw the situation explained to me that if we were to go down to the river and do what the natives were doing, we would fall violently ill.

But for the natives, they seem to be quite immune. Are they not being affected? Of course they are! The worms and germs are already in them eating them from inside. But they are oblivious to the dangers that they are in.

Dear friend, if you are not struggling with sin, it is because sin is in your heart. You are a sinner, and you love sin. Sin is eating you from inside out.

Sin will lead you to eternal damnation. Oh will you not flee from it? Will you not repent of your sin? Will you not flee to Christ who alone can free you from the guilt and power of sin? Go to him! Go to him today. Do not delay. We do not know when sin will finish its work with you and you will be ready for judgement. Go while there is yet time. Go while Christ is calling sinners unto himself. Amen.

—JJ Lim