Romans chapter 7 describes someone who lacks the ability NOT to sin. And Romans 7 explores the relationship between the law of Moses and human sin. Paul explains how knowing the law does not make a person holier; it can actually tempt us to sin even more! Paul tells us that even if we want to do what we know is good, the sin inside of us can cause us to do those things we don’t want to.
In Romans 7:21, Paul says he feels the desire to do what is right, but he experiences the sin inside of him take over and choose to do evil instead.
In Romans 7:21, Paul restates the conflict that he has been describing in verses 14-20. The conflict is that two powers are pulling Paul in polar opposite directions.
In verse 21, “Nomos” means a governing principal or an operating rule. Paul says the principle is that “evil is present in me” (verse 21). “Evil” (kakos) is a strong word for that which is wicked, bad, and destructive. In some ways, the word “evil” carries a shock value that is much larger than saying there is sin present within us.
We never know how hard it is to stop sinning until we try. Anyone who has tried to do good is aware of this struggle.
Paul says he feels the desire to do what is right, and then he experiences the sin inside of him take over and choose to do evil instead.
When Paul writes, “is present in me,” he is writing in the present tense. This is the reality of Paul’s Christian life, not in the past, but currently as he writes.
In verse 21, the verb “is present” (parakeimai) means ‘to lie beside.’ The idea is that sin is crouching, lying in wait, ready to spring at any moment. It is like a lion lying in the tall weeds ready to devour you as you walk by.
God said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). The sin that was crouching at the door for Cain is still crouching at the door for you and me, ready to spring forth and devour us when we least expect it. This is the first operative power that is present within the believer that Paul describes.
As believers in Christ, you and I can identify with Paul’s struggle with sin. Sin does not go away when we become a believer. There is an ongoing struggle that each one of us has with sin. This struggle does not mean that we are unconverted or lost.
Granted, some think they are saved but are actually lost. Not everyone who claims Christ is a true believer. But those who are genuinely born again will continue to battle with sin. Their life will be a battlefield between that which is good and that which is evil until the day they enter into glory.
In verses 21-23, Paul points out that while he wants to follow the law of God and joyfully concurs with the law of God in the inner man, he sees a different law in the members of [his] body, waging war against the law of [his] mind and making [him] a prisoner of the law of sin which is in [his] members.
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Romans 7:21 – I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (NASB)
If, within ourselves, there is a slight flare of resentment, a flash of ego, or a flicker of temptation that has been left to smolder unattended, then with the slightest wind of provocation it can flame into a fire raging out of control. We must completely douse these sparks of evil and enlist God’s help to quench the smoldering embers that are in our hearts.
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