What Does ‘What I Want to Do I Do Not Do, but What I Hate I Do’ Mean?
Amazingly, even a Christian as mature as Paul understood that just because we love the Lord and delight in His ways (Isaiah 58:2), it does not mean that we are perfect or will always obey Him. Paul went so far as to call himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and a “wretched man” (Romans 7:24), recognizing that, though God’s way is spiritual, he was not (Romans 7:14).
Even redeemed, Christians make mistakes because we are at constant war with our old, sinful nature, which is fighting to reclaim its place of influence in our lives. When we sin, our sinful nature climbs back into the driver’s seat, steering us away from God.
This is why Paul wrote, “if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Romans 7:16-17)
And how do we know we have sinned and are being steered away from God? God’s word, the Bible, which Paul refers to as the law of God (Romans 7:22).
The law of God is what exposes sin and shows us where we have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Unfortunately, when we examine our lives by this law, we see just how warped, cracked, and imperfect we still are (Romans 3:23). And next to the law, no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:9-11).
This is why, in Romans 7, Paul places such prominence on the doctrine of grace.
Under grace, Paul argued, believers are free from the law’s condemnation. This doesn’t mean that the law is useless or obsolete, or that Christians have the freedom to keep sinning and doing whatever they want (Galatians 5:13).
As Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, “the law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot conquer and subdue sin.” Forgiveness, redemption, and the power to actually overcome sin in one’s life can only come through the power and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, which is freely offered to those who come to Christ through faith (Hebrews 9:14).
As a man who desired holiness, Paul hated his many sins because he longed to be more like Christ. His sin was a reminder that no amount of spiritual knowledge, willpower, or hard work can save a person.
Only God can transform and redeem a stubborn, rebellious heart, and only Christ can conquer sin in one’s life. “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Paul asked, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
Saved once and for all (Hebrews 10:10), we are being transformed into the perfect, holy image of Christ over time.
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