How do you deal with indwelling sin? Whereas the first part of Romans looks at the problem of sin and the solution of justification, Romans 6–8 moves into the idea of sanctification.
Sanctification means becoming more and more in our practice who we are in our position in Christ. We are a new creation in Him, but we still live in the midst of this soul-forming world. As a result, sin will tempt us. Daily surrender to God will help us remember our new identity, a daily dethronement that removes us from an egocentric perspective to a Christocentric perspective.
Released from the Law
No one can live up to the standards of the Law—only Christ could perfectly fulfill it. The Law itself is not sin, but it reveals the standard of which we fall short. The Law is good, but the problem is, we are not good. As a result, the Law convicts us of our sin and shows us of our need for Christ. In Him, we are freed from the Law to walk by the Spirit.
A Struggle with Sin
Romans 7 can be a difficult passage to understand as Paul wrestles with indwelling sin. Many people claim that Paul was not referring to his Christian life, but to a time before his salvation. However, this does not seem to be the case; instead, he seems to be focusing on the struggle he still faces with sin. All of us, after all, also have this struggle with sin after we come to Christ.
In order to understand this, we can draw a distinction in the way Paul uses the word “I.” In one sense, Paul is referring to the inner self; in another sense, he is referring to the outer self, which has not yet been perfected. Even when we come to Christ, we will still wrestle with old habits, traumas, and sins. This is not the deepest, truest self, but the one wrestling with sin.
The inner self is the truest, redeemed self. The outer self is the one that is being shaped and transformed. I prefer to use this language of “self” instead of “nature” in order to avoid the implication that both are equally ultimate. The outer self will not always wrestle with sin; instead, we will one day be fully sanctified.
This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture.