Scripture Reading: Rom. 7:15—8:2
It is possible for a person to be free from sin immediately after he has believed in the Lord. However, this may not be the common experience of all believers. After believing in the Lord, many people fall back into sin instead of being freed from sin. It is true that they are saved. They belong to the Lord and possess eternal life. However, they are still troubled by sin and are unable to serve the Lord as they wish.
It is a very painful experience for a person to be continually troubled by sin after he has believed in the Lord. A person who has been enlightened by God has a sensitive conscience. He is sensitive toward sin and has a life that condemns sin. However, he may still be bothered by sin. This results in much frustration and even discouragement. It is indeed a very painful experience.
Many Christians try to overcome sin. Some think that if they try hard enough to renounce sin, they will eventually be free from sin. As a result, they try their best to reject the temptations of sin. Some realize that sin should be overcome, and they continually wrestle with sin in the hope of overcoming it. Others think that sin has made them a captive and that they must strive hard to free themselves from its bondage. However, all these are man's thoughts; they are not God's word or teaching. None of these methods lead to victory. God's Word does not tell us to struggle with sin by our own efforts. It says that we should be delivered from sin, that is, be released or freed from sin. Sin is a power which enslaves man. The way to deal with this power is not by destroying it ourselves but by allowing the Lord to free us from it. We have sin, and there is no way to separate ourselves from it. The Lord's way is not to vanquish sin. He is saving us from sin's power by moving us away from it. New believers should know from the start the right way to be delivered from sin. There is no need to travel a long and tortuous path to find deliverance from sin. We can take the way of freedom as soon as we believe. Now let us try to deal with this matter according to Romans 7 and 8.
I. SIN BEING A LAW
Romans 7:15-25 says, "For what I work out, I do not acknowledge; for what I will, this I do not practice; but what I hate, this I do...For to will is present with me, but to work out the good is not. For I do not do the good which I will; but the evil which I do not will, this I practice. But if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that work it out...I find then the law with me who wills to do the good, that is, the evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me a captive to the law of sin which is in my members...So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin."
In verses 15 through 20, Paul repeatedly uses the word will and the phrase do not will. The emphasis
is on willing or not willing, resolving or not resolving. In verses 21
to 25, there is another emphasis on the law. These two things are the
keys to this passage of the Word.
First, we need to understand
the term law. The common understanding of a law is that it is something
that remains the same all the time, something that allows no
exceptions. Moreover, there is power in a law. This power is a natural
power, not an artificial power. All laws have power. For example,
gravity is a law. If you throw something up, it will eventually fall
back to the ground. You do not have to pull the object down with your
hands; the earth has a force that pulls it down for you. If you throw a
stone up, it will fall. If you throw an iron up, it also will fall. If
you throw something up in China, it will fall. If you throw the same
thing up in other countries, it will fall. An object in the air will
fall the same today and tomorrow. Any object in the air, as long as
nothing is holding it, will fall regardless of time and space. A law
remains the same all the time and allows no exceptions. It is a natural
force which requires no human effort for its perpetuation.
7 shows us that Paul was trying to be victorious. He was trying to free
himself from sin. He wanted to please God. He did not want to sin or to
fail. However, he eventually admitted that his resolutions were all
futile. He said, "To will is present with me, but to work out the good
is not." He did not want to sin, yet he sinned. He wanted to do good
and walk according to God's law, yet he could not do it. In other
words, what he willed he could not do, and what he resolved to do, he
was unable to accomplish. Paul willed again and again, but the result
was only repeated failure. This shows us that the way to victory lies
not in the human will or human resolution. Paul willed and resolved
again and again, but he still failed and sinned. Obviously, to will is
present, but to work out the good is not. The best that a man can do is
The willing is present but not the good,
because sin is a law. Following verse 21 Paul showed us that he
remained defeated even after he made numerous resolutions. This is
because sin is a law. This law of sin was present with him every time
he resolved to do good. He was subject to the law of God in his heart,
but his flesh yielded to the law of sin. Whenever he willed to obey
God's law, a different law rose up in his members, subjecting him to
the law of sin.
Paul was the first person in the Bible to point
out that sin is a law. This was a very important discovery! It is a
pity that many who have been Christians for years still do not realize
that sin is a law. Many people know that gravity is a law and thermal
expansion of objects is another law. But they do not know that sin is a
law. Paul did not know this at first. After sinning repeatedly, not
voluntarily but involuntarily by a potent force in his body, Paul
discovered that sin is a law.
Our history of failure tells us
that whenever temptations come, we try to resist them. But we are never
successful in this resistance. When temptations come again, we again
try to resist them, only to end up in another defeat. This experience
repeats itself ten times, a hundred times, or a thousand times, and we
still find ourselves defeated. This is the story of our failure. We
fail again and again. This is not something that happens by chance; it
is a law. If a person committed only one sin in a lifetime, he could
consider sin as something incidental. However, those who have sinned a
hundred or a thousand times will say that sin is a law; it is something
that continually drives them on.
II. MAN'S WILL BEING UNABLE
TO OVERCOME THE LAW OF SIN
failed because he exercised his will to make resolutions. After verse
21, Paul's eyes were opened. He saw that the enemy he was dealing
with—sin—was nothing less than a law. When he saw that sin was a law,
he could only sigh and say, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver
me from the body of this death?" He realized that it was impossible for
him to prevail over sin by his will.
What is the will? The will
is man's own volition. It is what man wants, determines, and decides to
do. It is man's opinions and judgments. Once a man's will resolves to
do something, he begins to carry it out. Man's will can produce some
power. Therefore, there is power in the will.
But herein lies the
problem. When the will comes in conflict with the law of sin, which one
prevails? The will usually prevails at the beginning, but ultimately
sin prevails. Suppose you hold up a book that weighs one catty [a
Chinese measure of weight] with your hand. Gravity is pulling it down
while you are trying your best to hold it up. But the unceasing
operation of the law of gravity will eventually prevail, and the book
will fall to the floor. You may try to hold it up with your hand. You
may prevail for an hour, but after two hours you will feel tired, and
after another hour your hand will no longer obey you. Eventually, you
will let go of it. Gravity never tires out, but your hand does. The law
of gravity is pulling the book down continuously, every hour, every
minute, and even every second. Your hand cannot fight against the law
of gravity forever. The longer you hold the book, the heavier it feels.
The book has not become heavier, but the law of gravity has triumphed
over the power of your hand, and you feel as if the book has become
heavier and heavier. The same principle applies when you try to
overcome sin with your will. The will can stand against sin for a
while. But the power of sin far exceeds the power of the will. Sin is a
law; it is not destroyed by the resistance of man's will. Whenever the
power of the will slackens, the law of sin surfaces. The human will
cannot persist forever, but the law of sin is always active. The will
may prevail for a little while, but in the end it will always be
overcome by the law of sin.
Before we see that sin is a law, we
keep trying to overcome it by our own will. When temptation comes, we
hold our breath and try to overcome, only to find that it has overcome
us instead. When temptation comes again, we make a stronger resolution
because we think that our last failure was caused by a faulty
resolution. We tell ourselves that we will not sin this time and that
we will overcome. But the result is the same—we fail again. We do not
know why our resolution cannot bring us victory over sin. We do not
realize that overcoming sin by the will never works.
It is easy
to see that temper is a sin. When someone says something unkind, you
feel hurt and upset. If he continues to speak unpleasant words, you may
hit your desk, blow up, exchange words, or do anything. Afterwards, you
may feel that as a Christian you should not have lost your temper, and
you may resolve to control your temper the next time. You pray and
believe that God has forgiven you. You confess your sin to others, and
your heart is once again filled with joy. You think that you will never
lose your temper again. But a little later, you hear more unkind words
and become upset once again. When these words come to you the second
time, you begin to murmur within. By the third time, your temper
explodes. Afterwards, you realize that you were wrong again, and you
ask the Lord for forgiveness, promising Him that you will never lose
your temper again. But the same thing happens the next time you hear
unkind words; after a while, your temper flares up again. You exercise
your will again and again, only to find that you fail again and again.
This proves that sin is not an accidental mistake; it is not something
that happens only once. It is something that happens repeatedly,
something that haunts you all your life. Those who lie continue to lie,
and those who lose their temper continue to lose their temper. This is
a law; no human power can overcome it. Paul did not learn this lesson
at first, so he exercised his will repeatedly to no avail. It is
impossible for man to try to overcome the law of sin by his will.
the Lord grants you mercy and shows you that sin is a law, you will not
be far from victory. If you continue to think that sin is an occasional
act and that victory can be secured through additional prayers and
struggles against temptations, you are far from victory. Paul's story
shows us that sin is a law. The power of sin is strong; our own power
is weak. The power of sin always prevails, while our own power always
fails. As soon as Paul realized that sin is a law, he knew that none of
his methods would work. His determination was useless; he would never
overcome the law of sin by his will. This was a great discovery, a
great revelation to him.
Paul saw that a man cannot experience
deliverance by the exercise of the will. As long as a man trusts in the
power of his own will, he will not turn to God's way of deliverance.
The day will come when you will prostrate yourself before God and
acknowledge that you can do nothing and henceforth will do nothing.
That will be the day you find deliverance. Only then will you
understand Romans 8. Brothers and sisters, please do not belittle
Romans 7. We must first have the knowledge of chapter seven before we
can have the experience of chapter eight. The problem is not whether
you understand the doctrine in Romans 8 but whether or not you have
emerged from Romans 7. Many have buried themselves in Romans 7; they
are still trying to deal with sin by their will. The result is nothing
but failure. If you have not seen that sin is a law and that your will
can never overcome this law, you are trapped in Romans 7; you will
never arrive at Romans 8. Our newly saved brothers and sisters must
accept God's Word as it is written. If you try to find your own way
out, you will end up with nothing but sin. You will sin again and
again, and your eyes will continue to be veiled. You will remain in
your blindness. Your eyes need to be opened to see that all your
willing and struggling is in vain.
Since sin is a law and the will cannot overcome this law, what is the way of victory?
III. THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE
FREEING US FROM THE LAW OF SIN
8:1-2 says, "There is now then no condemnation to those who are in
Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ
Jesus from the law of sin and of death." The way to victory is to be
freed from the law of sin and of death. This verse does not say, "The
Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from sin and death." (I am
afraid that many Christians think this way.) Rather, it says, "The law
of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin
and of death." Many Christians see the Spirit of life setting them free
from only sin and death. They do not see the law of the Spirit of life
freeing them from the law of sin and of death. It takes many years for
some Christians to realize that sin and death are a law in them and
that the Holy Spirit is another law in them. When the Lord opens their
eyes, they will see that sin and death are a law and that the Holy
Spirit is a law as well. The realization of the Holy Spirit as a law is
a great discovery. When we realize that the life-giving Spirit is a
law, we will jump up and exclaim, "Thank God, Hallelujah!" Man's will
cannot overcome the law of sin, but the law of the Spirit of life has
freed us from the law of sin and of death. Only the law of the Spirit
of life can free man from the law of sin.
Once we realize that
sin is a law, we will no longer try to do anything by our will. When
God grants us mercy to see that the Holy Spirit is a law, we will
experience a great change. Many people only see the Spirit of life
giving us life. They do not see that the Holy Spirit is another law in
us, and that we can be freed spontaneously from the law of sin and of
death when we trust in this law. There is no effort involved for this
law to deliver us from the other law. We do not need to will, to do
anything, or to hold on to the Holy Spirit. We do not need to be that
busy when the Lord's Spirit is in us. If we fear that the Lord's Spirit
will not work in us unless we rush in to help Him in times of
temptation, we have not seen the Spirit as a law within us yet. May we
see that the Holy Spirit is a spontaneous law within us. The way of
deliverance from sin is not through the exercise of the will. If we
exercise our will, we will end up in failure. God has given us another
law which spontaneously frees us from the law of sin and of death. The
problem of one law can only be resolved by another law.
no effort involved when we try to overcome one law with another law. We
have mentioned before that gravity is a law. It pulls every object down
to the ground. But helium is a gas which is lighter than air. If we
seal it in a tight balloon, the balloon will rise up. It will rise
spontaneously; there is no need to fan it or support it by any force.
As soon as we let go, the balloon will rise. The rising is a law, and
we do not need to do anything about it. In the same way, no effort is
involved when we deal with the law of sin and of death by the law of
the Spirit of life.
Suppose someone scolds you or strikes you
without cause. It is possible for you to overcome the situation even
without realizing what has happened. After the whole thing is over, you
may wonder how you did not get angry when you were scolded. You should
have been very angry at the other person's word. But surprisingly you
overcame the situation without even realizing it! Indeed, all victories
are unconscious victories because the law of the Holy Spirit is
operating and upholding us, not our own will. This kind of spontaneous
victory is genuine victory. Once you experience this, you will realize
that only the indwelling Spirit can keep you from sin; you do not have
to will not to sin. It is also the indwelling Holy Spirit who is
enabling you to overcome; you do not have to will to overcome. Since
this law dwells in you, you are delivered from the law of sin and of
death. You are in Christ Jesus, and the law of the Spirit of life is in
you. Spontaneously, you are free. As long as you do not rely on your
own will and effort, the Holy Spirit will bring you into victory.
victory over sin has nothing to do with our effort. We did not exert
any effort when the law of sin directed us to sin. Similarly, we do not
need to exert any effort in order for the law of the Holy Spirit to
free us from sin. Genuine victory is one that requires no effort on our
part. There is nothing for us to do. We can lift up our eyes and say to
the Lord, "All is well." Our past failures were the result of a law and
today's victories are also a result of a law. The former law is
powerful, but the present law is more powerful. The former law is
indeed potent in bringing us to sin, but the present law is more
absolute in saving us from condemnation. When the law of the Spirit of
life is expressed through us, its power is far greater than that of the
law of sin and of death.
If we see this, we will truly be freed
from sin. The Bible does not say that we can overcome sin with our
will. It speaks only of freedom from sin: "The law of the Spirit of
life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death."
The law of the life-giving Spirit has pulled us out of the realm of the
law of sin and of death. The law of sin and of death is still present,
but the one on whom it worked is no longer there.
person should be clear about the way to deliverance. First, we must see
that sin is a law in us. If we do not see this, we cannot go on.
Second, we need to see that the will cannot overcome the law of sin.
Third, we need to see that the Holy Spirit is a law, and this law frees
us from the law of sin.
The sooner a new believer realizes this
way of deliverance, the better it is. In fact, no one needs to wait for
many years before seeing the way of deliverance. You do not need to
suffer many hardships before experiencing freedom. Many brothers and
sisters have wasted their time unnecessarily; they have shed many tears
of defeat. If you want to experience less pain and tears, you should
realize from the start that the way to deliverance lies in these words:
"The law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus." This law
is so perfect and powerful that it will save you to the uttermost;
there is no need to do anything to help it. This law frees you from sin
completely, sanctifies you wholly, and fills you with life
Brothers and sisters, do not think that the Holy
Spirit within us only expresses His life through us occasionally. If we
think this way, it proves that we only know the Spirit; we do not know
the law of the Spirit. The law of the Spirit expresses His life
continuously. It remains the same at all times and in all places. We do
not have to tell this law to behave in a certain way; it behaves the
way it does without our guidance. Once the Lord opens our eyes, we will
see that the treasure within is not just the Holy Spirit or a life, but
a law as well. Then we will be released, and the problem of sin will be
May God open our eyes to see this way of deliverance. May
He open our eyes to see this secret to victory, and may we have a good
start on this straight path.