Part 6: “O wretched man that I am!”

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 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 7:24-25)

You know the wondeful place that this text has in the wonderful epistle to the Romans. It stands here at the end of the 7th chapter as a gateway into the 8th. In the first 16 verses of the 8th chapter, the name of the Holy Spirit is found 16 times. You have there the description and promise of the life that a child of God can live in the power of the Holy Ghost. This begins in the 2nd verse: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) From that, Paul goes on to speakof the great privileges of the child of God, who is to be led by the Spirit of God. The gateway into all of this is in the 24th verse of the 7th chapter: O wretched man that I am!”

There you have the words of a man who has come to the end of himself. He hasin the privious verses described how he has struggled and wrestled in his own power to obey the holy law of God, and had failed. But inanswer to his own question he now finds the true answer and cries out “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” From that he goes on to speak of what that deliverance is that he has found.

I want from these words to describe the path by which a man can be led out of the spirit of bondage into the spirit of liberty. You know how distincly it is said: “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” We are continually warned that this is the great danger of the Christian life, to again go into bondage; and *I want to describe the path by which a man gets out of bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rather, I want to describe the man himself.

1. These are the words of a regenerate man

You know how much evidence there is of that from the 14th verse of the chapter on to the 23rd. “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me“: that is the language of a regenerate man, a man who knows that in his heart and nature have been renewed, and that sin is no a power in him that is not himself. “I delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man“: that again is the language of a regenerate man. He dares to say when he does evil: “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” It is of great importance to understand this.

2. These are the words of an impotent man

Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people. They think that when there is a renewed will, it is enough; but that is not the case. This regenerate man tells us: “I will to do what is good, but the power to perform I find not.” How often people tell us that if you set yourself determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man was as determined as any man can be, and yet he made the confession: “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”

But, you ask: “How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a confession, with a right to will, with a heart that longs to do good, and longs to do its very utmost to love God?

Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had the angels who fell, in their own will, the strenght to stand? Verily, no. The will of the creature is nothing but an empty vessel in which the power of God is to be made manifest. The creature must seek in God all that it is to be. You have it in the 2nd chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, and you have it also here, that God’s work is to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here is a man who appears to say: “God has not worked to do in me.” But we are taught that God works both to will and to do. How is the apparent cantradiction to be reconciled?

You will find that in the passage of Romans 7:6-25, the name of the Holy Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man is wrestling and struggling to fullfill God’s law. Instead of the Holy Spirit and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly 20 times.In this chapter, it shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God with his regenerate will. Not only this, but you will find the words I, me, my, occur more than 40 times. It is the regenerate I in its impotence seeking to obey the law without being filled with the Spirit.

3. These are the words of a wretched man

He is utterly unhappy and miserable; and what is it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is because God has given him a nature that loves Himself. He is deeply wretched because he feels he is not obeying his God. He says, with a brokenness of heart: “It is not I that do it, but I am under the awful power of sin, which is holding me down. It is I, and yet not I: alas! alas! it is myself; so closely an I bound up with it, and so closely is it intertwined with my very nature.” Blessed be God when a man learns to say: “O wretched man that I am!” from the depth of hi heart. He is on the way to the 8th chapter of Romans.

There are many wo make this confession a pillow for sin. They say that Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way; what are they that they should try to do better? So the call toholiness is quietly set aside. Would God that every one of us had learned to say these words in the very spirit in which they are written here! When we hear sin spoken of as the abominable thing that God hates, do not many of us wince before the Word? Would that all Christians who go on sinning and sinning would take this verse to heart. If ever you utter a sharp word, say: O wretched man that I am!” And every time you lose your temper, kneel down and understand that it never was meant by God that this was to be the state in which His child should remain. Would God that we should take this word into our daily life, and say it every time we are touched about our own honour, and every time we say sharp things, and every time we sin against the Lord God, and against the Lord Jesus Christ in His humility, and in His obedience, and in His self-sacrifice! Would to God you could forget everything else, and cry out:  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” 

4. These are the words of a man who is on the very brink of deliverance

The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it, he has wept over his sin, he has tried to conquer, he has tried to overcome fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure.

What did he mean by “the body of his death”? Did he mean, my body when I die? Surely not. In the 8th chapter you have the answer to this question in the words: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” That is the body of deathfrom which he is seeking deliverence.

And now he’s at the brink of deliverance! In the 23rd verse of the 7th chapter we have the words: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” It is a captive that cries: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He is a man who feels himself bound. But look at the contrast in the 2nd verse of the 8th chapter: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” That is the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord; the liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings. Can you keep captive any longer a man free by the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus“?

But, you say, did not the regenerate man have thee Spirit of Jesus when he spoke in the 6th chapter? Yes, he did, but he did not know what the Holy Spirit could do for him.

God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in nature. He leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings, and therefore when He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He brings us first to the end of self, to the conviction that though we have been striving to obey the law, we hhave failed. When we have come to the end of that, then He shows us that in the Holy Spirit we have the power of obedience, the power of victory, and the power of real holiness…

 

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