The Law of the Mind vs. the Law of Sin

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

- Romans 7:22-23

Who are we? According to Scripture, the answer depends on where we are. If we are in Adam—if we have not submitted to Christ through faith in Him alone—we are at enmity with God, wholly set against Him and with no fear of Him before our eyes (Rom. 3:9–20; see Gen. 8:21; Ps. 7:12). But if we are in Christ—if we trust in Him alone—we have the Holy Spirit and are no longer bound to live by sinful passions (Eph. 1:13–14; 1 Peter 4:1–2).

Freedom from sin’s bondage does not mean we will be perfect before God glorifies us and removes the presence of sin from us entirely. Because we have been justified in Christ—declared righteous in Him alone—this glorification is sure to come (Rom. 8:29–30). Still, we trod the path of sanctification from our justification to our glorification. As we walk this road and the Holy Spirit conforms us to Christ, we live in the already and the not yet. Already the power of sin has been broken, but freedom from its presence is not yet. Sometimes we lose battles with the flesh. But in Christ Jesus our Lord, we will win the war (Rom. 7:14–25).

Who are we as Christians? In a sense, we are of the flesh (v. 14). Ultimately, however, that is not our true identity. Our true identity is in Christ (Col. 3:3). His Spirit has transformed our innermost selves—who we are at the core of our being—so that we rejoice in His law, the same law that was an unbearable burden before our regeneration. We experience conflicting desires—the desire to please God and the fleshly desire to sin—but only the desire to please Him represents who we truly are in Christ. We do not always follow through on this desire. Sometimes we give in to the old Adamic desire and sin against the Lord, but if we are in Christ, our true, renewed nature shows itself through ongoing repentance. John Murray writes in his commentary Romans: “Notwithstanding all the frustration of his determinate will to the good, [Paul] delights in the law of the Lord. And this delight is not peripheral but belongs to that which is deepest and inmost in his moral spiritual being.”

Though our truest selves as Christians consist of the will and mind to love God, let us not forget that sin’s presence still affects us. Paul gives this warning implicitly in today’s passage when he says, “the law of sin dwells in my members.” He does not mean that sin lives in our physicality such that the physical body is bad; rather, he cautions us that sin taints us thoroughly even though our true selves are in Christ. We must therefore be on the lookout for the flesh, the remnants of our fallenness that have not yet been purged from us.

Coram Deo

Though we have changed hearts if we truly believe in Christ, that does not mean we are not thoroughly affected by sin. Our minds, emotions, bodies, and everything else are tainted by our flesh—the fallenness that God does not eliminate fully until He glorifies us. The battle between the new self and what remains of the old is real and fierce, and we should have no illusions of final victory before our deaths. But we should not be discouraged. In Christ, we will finally defeat the flesh.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 119:11
John 15:1–17
1 Corinthians 9:24–27
Philippians 1:6

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