The Wretched Christian
Thankful

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 31c 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” (Romans 7:24-25a).

[We have been considering this famous personal testimony of the apostle Paul. In the first instalment of this article, we saw how Paul feels wretched because he still has a remnant of corruption in him. But as we noted in our previous study, he does not resign himself to the situation but seeks deliverance. And as he seeks, he testifies of gratitude in His heart. —JJL]

3.  Why is He Thankful?

He is thankful because he has an answer to his seeking! He cries: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But he does not stop there; he has an instant answer to his own cry: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Notice how this reply burst upon his soul? “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” he exclaims. Do you realise that this reply is grammatically out of context? Do you see how his answer speaks eloquently of the excitement in his heart? Even as he speaks of his wretchedness and asks who shall deliver him,—the answer was bursting out of his heart. His heart has been overflowing with gratitude so that words of thanksgiving simply escapes his lips without regards to context.

We must not imagine, as some would, that the Christian life is lived in phases: a period of seeking, a period of rejoicing and a period of resting. No, no, only the converted man will truly seek deliverance; and even as he seeks, the answer is right there.

Paul seeks someone to deliver him. His deliverer is right there! Who is his deliverer?

It is none other than Christ Jesus our Lord. He has delivered, he is delivering and will deliver.

Christ Jesus our Lord has, by His blood, delivered him from the wrath of God due to Him. Paul has been pardoned of his sin because Christ took his place and was punished on his behalf.

Christ Jesus our Lord,—by His Spirit,—has secured his deliverance from the body of this death by washing him in regeneration. Paul has begun a journey towards the Celestial City because the Spirit of Christ has made him a new man with a new home in heaven.

Christ Jesus our Lord is,—by His Spirit and the means of grace,—delivering him from sin by sanctifying him day by day. Day by day he is changing, growing in holiness. Day by day indwelling sin is becoming smaller and smaller. It is melting away through of the heat that the Sun of Righteousness shining into his heart.

Christ Jesus our Lord will,—by His power,—deliver him from sin when he leaves this present body. His soul will be made perfect in holiness and will enter paradise to be with the Lord forever. Absent in the body, present with the Lord.

And Finally, Christ Jesus our Lord will, one day, by His power, raised Paul’s body again. This body will be incorruptible and fitted for eternal glory and enjoyment. And then, forever and ever, Paul would dwell with Christ in perfect fellowship and worship.

It is with these thoughts in mind that Paul cries out elsewhere:

“O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:55-57).

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The word ‘thanks’ in the Greek means literally “good grace to you.” Paul acknowledges that what he has, comes from God, by His grace.

He is powerless to deliver himself; Christ must deliver powerfully. He does not deserve to be delivered; Christ must deliver freely.

Paul is a wretched Christian. But he is not just a wretched Christian; he is a grateful and responsible Christian. He does not say: “Christ my Lord will deliver me,” I need not do anything. He says, “I will be delivered through Christ Jesus our Lord,” therefore “with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom 7:25).

He is living his life thoughtfully and gratefully, keeping the law of God for Christ’s sake. This he would do even as he awaits final redemption when he shall never sin again.

This is the portrait of a true saint.


Conclusion

Dear reader, is this your portrait too? Do you feel the burden of sin? Can you say with the apostle Paul “O wretched man that I am!

Perhaps you are still not converted though you are searching. Perhaps you are reading this article because someone suggested it to you, and you were hoping to find something inspiring that might tip the scale and make you put cast in your lot for Christ.  If that is so, and you are still reading, I wonder if you are getting quite impatient. You may be saying in your heart: What burden of sin? I don’t feel anything. How can sin have any weight: “Tell me pastor, how many kg is the burden on you, is it 5 kg or 50 kg?”

Well friend, if this is what you are thinking, let me ask a question in return: If you put a heavy weight on a dead person, will he feel it? Well, I want you to realise that you do not feel your sin because you are dead in your soul. Oh will you not flee from your deadness and seek salvation in Christ?

But if you profess to be a Christian, let me put it to you that every healthy Christian will feel the burden of sin with the apostle Paul. The extent that you do not feel wretched is the extent that you are dead or have gotten use to sin (and therefore departed from your first love).

Call, therefore, upon the Lord to search your heart with the searchlight of His Word and Spirit. Look for sin. He should not be in your heart. If he is there, you ought to be alarm! You ought immediately to cry out unto Christ Jesus our Lord to evict him.

But if sin is not there in your heart, look in the outer rooms. You can be sure that he is there. He dwells in you, that is in your flesh. But see how comfortable he is. Is he enjoying himself? Is he sitting on the sofa with his feet on the coffee table? Is he smiling at you? You are in trouble! He is plotting your ruin. You have become too comfortable with him!

Oh do not allow that to continue. Smoke him out with the incense of prayer. Make him uncomfortable with the music of holy conversation. Go against him with the sword of the Spirit with a holy vehemence.

He will not leave you in this life. You will feel miserable because of that. But you must make his life difficult or he will rule over you and destroy you.

And be encouraged! You do not fight alone. Christ Jesus our Lord has conquered, is conquering and will conquer. At length, sin will be completely eradicated from your heart.

Today it pleases God to leave a remnant of corruption in you. We do not have all the answers why God has so decided to deal with us. But one thing I know, the remnant of corruption humbles me so that I am forced to rely on Christ. Sin in my flesh tries to betray me to Satan; but I can always flee to Christ. He understands, He powerful, He strengthens me and He delivers me. Over and over He has delivered me, and I am assured that one day He will completely evict sin from me on my behalf.

Oh how this thought strengthens my failing heart. How it boost my courage so that I can look up even as I daily fight against sin.

But unlikely as it may be, perhaps you are one of the jaded Christians who had once been very zealous. I say it is unlikely because if you are so jaded, it is unlikely that you will be reading this article up to this point. But if you are, allow me to address you. You were seeking deliverance. Like Paul, you cried, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But you stopped short. You did not seem to have deliverance. You find it hard to say honestly: “Christ has delivered me, is delivering me and will deliver me.”

You feel that you are seeking, but you do not find. You have been addicted to pornography; you seem to have no victory over it. You are proud, you know it and you hate it, but you can’t seem to change. You are impatient and ill-tempered. You know it, you wish to change. You are seeking deliverance, but you do not find it.  You search you heart and you say I am seeking sincerely; and yet you do not find. Why?

Well, the answer is not that you will find: “in God’s time.” Why? Because God says: “before they call, I will answer” (Isa 65:24).

Why then do you not find when the Word of God promises, and Paul’s experience shows us that all who seeks deliverance finds. Let me suggest 3 possible reasons.

First, it may be that you are not truly seeking. The human heart is so deceitful. It is possible that a person who is crying “who shall deliver me” is actually secretly thinking: “I hope the Lord will not hear me!” This can be the case especially when there is a cherished sin. I want to be rid of my addiction to pornography, but really, I still want to enjoy it! If that is your case you will not find.

Secondly, it may be that you are seeking for the wrong thing. Some think that they are seeking deliverance from sin, when in fact they seeking deliverance from the consequence of sin. You don’t care so much that your sin displeases God, but that your sin brings you dishonour, pain and quarrels. If that is your case you will not find.

Thirdly, it may be that you do not find because you are looking for the wrong answer! You are waiting for an answer to come supernaturally to you. You want God remove your bend to sinning miraculously. You want to be freed of temptation. You want a short cut to sanctification. Well, you may wait your whole life because you do not believe God’s Word that Christ has conquered, is conquering and will conquered; and because you do not believe, you are not using the means as you should. Oh will you not repent of your wrong thinking!

Dear friend, if you are wretched because of sin and you truly seeking deliverance, you will find. This is the promise of the word of God. Seek and ye shall find. If you believe the Word of God, you know that you have been delivered, are being delivered and will be delivered completely. Therefore repent of the hardness of your heart and believe and walk in the Spirit of Christ with all gratitude.

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

—JJ Lim