CMF eZine

The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.

Romans 7:21 - The Law versus Evil

The conclusion: as the law of God exhorts to goodness, so does the law of sin (that is, the corruption in which we are born) force us to wickedness: but the spirit, that is, our mind, in that it is regenerated, coexists with the law of God: but the flesh, that is, the whole natural man, is bondslave to the law of sin. Therefore, in short, wickedness and death are not of the law, but of sin, which reigns in those that are not regenerated: for they neither wish to do good, neither do they do good, but they wish and do evil: but in those that are regenerated, it strives against the spirit or law of the mind, so that they cannot live at all as well as they want to, or be as free of sin as they want to. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

There can be no doubt that he refers here to his carnal and corrupt nature; to the evil propensities and dispositions which were leading him astray. His representing this as a law is in accordance with all that he says of it, that it is servitude, that he is in bondage to it, and that it impedes his efforts to be holy and pure. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (NASB)

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (KJV)

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. (NLT)

So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. (NET)

Galatians 5:17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (NLT)

It is probably a good thing at this point to recall a couple of important things from earlier in the chapter.  We often get focused in the near (like a microscope) and forget at what it is we are looking.

So then, dear friends, the point is this:  The law no longer holds you in it's power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ.  And now you are united with the one who was raised with the dead.  As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. (Romans 7:4 NLT96)

I felt fine when I did not understand what the law demanded.  But when I learned the truth, I realized I had broken the law and was a sinner, doomed to die. (Romans 7:9 NLT96)

THE POINT IS THIS:  we are empowered by our union with Christ Jesus our Lord!  But we can be deceived by our own sinfulness into thinking that we are fine!  If we look around the cosmos today we see a universe that is expanding whose end we cannot see (astronomy), whose enormity we cannot comprehend (even with the Hubble Telescope) yet our country is the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we find newborn babies in trash cans, the economy is in shambles, the ship of state has run aground, divorce is just as prevalent inside the church as outside, marriage is no longer a respected institution of the Almighty, and same gender marriages are commonplace.  But "I felt fine!"  We live in a world where armed guards now walk the halls of the churches, background checks are required for ministry workers, and famous church leaders fall like ducks in a shooting gallery.  But "I felt fine."  We must recognize that we are not able to see our own sin and our own deception apart from the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.  Our bellwether becomes our obedience.  "And how can we be sure that we belong to him?  By obeying his commandments." (1 John 2:3 NLT96)  If we are rebellious, the answer is obvious.  If we "feel fine" perhaps not so obvious.  If we are struggling, we should rejoice in our struggle and allow for the victory that is in Christ Jesus as we enter into His Sabbath rest.

God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.  So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness.  We are not living in the truth….If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth….If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts (1 John 1:5b, 6, 8, 10 NLT96)

Rom 7:21 
I find then a law - I am in such a condition and state of soul, under the power of such habits and sinful propensities, that when I would do good - when my will and reason are strongly bent on obedience to the law of God and opposition to the principle of sin, evil is present with me, κακον παρακειται, evil is at hand, it lies constantly before me. That, as the will to do good is constantly at hand, Romans 7:18, so the principle of rebellion exciting me to sin is equally present; but, as the one is only will, wish, and desire, without power to do what is willed, to obtain what is wished, or to perform what is desired, sin continually prevails.

The word νομος, law, in this verse, must be taken as implying any strong or confirmed habit, συνηθεια, as Hesychius renders it, under the influence of which the man generally acts; and in this sense the apostle most evidently uses it in  Romans 7:23. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

Who Controls Your Heart?


Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

February Fourteenth is known as Valentine's Day in the United States, and is a special day to remember the people we love. Men love to give chocolates and flowers to their wives and sweethearts. Cakes and cookies are baked to resemble hearts!

Hopefully this romantic day of the year isn't the only time we remember to recognize loved ones with gifts! Do we think only with our hearts?

The heart is the chief organ of our physical life. It is a hollow, muscular organ with its rhythmic contraction, and is like a pump maintaining the circulation of blood in our bodies. We see the importance of the heart in Leviticus 17:14-- "the life of every creature is its blood."

The Scripture encourages us to guard our hearts: Proverbs 4:23-- "Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." The heart is the very center and core of our life, the real self! Character is determined by our motives, and motives are a matter of the heart--what we choose to do.

Proverbs 14:30-- "A heart at peace gives life to the body."

Do we allow God to control our hearts each day of the year? We can plan our way, but God determines our steps.

Proverbs 21:2 —- "All a man's way seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart."

Proverbs 16:9 — "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

Proverbs 3:5 and 6 — "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."

Thought to Ponder:  Are you allowing God to control your heart and direct your steps?


Sharing Jesus Part 5

The Response

So far we have discussed with our friend ‘Pat’ the problem of evil in the world and the source of that problem in Adam’s sin against God.  We discovered that the root cause of the evil deeds of men is also called sin and that it’s a problem we all have, again thanks to Adam rebelling against God.  We also discovered that God presented a solution to the problem of the human sinful nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, his own Son, whom he sent to die on behalf of those who would repent of their sin and believe the message of the gospel—that Christ died for the sins of men.  The message of the gospel requires a response.

Understand that as you approach the need for responding to the gospel, you and Pat are standing on ‘Holy Ground’.  Approach the moment with much prayer—prayer that the Holy Spirit will let you know when the moment has arrived, and prayer that God will continue his supernatural work of drawing Pat to the foot of the Cross.

Be gentle, and don’t apply any pressure.  Don’t ‘push’ for a response. That means forget emotional appeals. Let God do HIS work.  It’s entirely possible that in the course of your conversation Pat might have privately trusted in Christ for salvation but just not told you.  You might have to part ways before getting to a response. Don’t fret.  God began the work in Pat and will bring it to pass. 

With that in mind, and as one pastor (Allistair Begg) suggests, a couple of simple questions for your friend might be appropriate:

  1. Based on what we’ve been talking about have you personally trusted Christ or are you still on the way?

    If God has already brought Pat to a place of repentance and belief, you will find out and you can rejoice together.  If you hear something like “I guess I’m still on the way.”   You might ask:
  2. How far along the way are you?

    It’s a simple question that will require some thought to answer. Maximum sensitivity is needed here! (Satan hates this and will try and disrupt things.)  Real difficulties in peoples’ lives sometimes surface. Your friend might want to go and think about it.  Don’t push. Say something like “If you must leave, that’s fine.”  Continue the conversation!
  3. If you hear “I’m pretty far along the way, you can something like:

    “Would you like to become a real Christian and be sure of it?  Remember, you are standing on holy ground at that moment.  When the answer is “yes”, you need to add one more thing to the conversation before leading in a prayer of response.

The last part of the conversation before a response should be about cost of becoming a Christian.  Very few ‘methods’ ever talk about this all important subject.  With the goal of obtaining a ‘decision’ for Christ, many of us charge right ahead without even mentioning it.  However, obtaining decisions isn’t our goal. Our only goal is that a lost sinner repents of sin and genuinely trusts in Christ for salvation.

You can say something like “The moment you become a Christian, you MUST become a Christian. Are you ready for a revolution?  To say no to sin, self, and secrecy?”

If God has done His work, the answer will still be ‘yes’.  You might be asked to explain what the ‘revolution’ would look like.  Be ready to lovingly share passages of scripture that talk about some of the ‘challenges’ facing the Christian who is open about his/her faith ((Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).  Be familiar with , which talks about the attitude of the world system toward Christians.  The one whom God, not your clever speech, has brought to the Cross of Christ will be inwardly readya for the challenge.

It’s then that you can lead in a serious and solemn prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I’m a helpless sinner before you.  I’ve tried to clean up my act so many times and failed.  I believe that the Bible is true when it says that you are the savior for my sin.  I’ve considered the revolution that will come.  I ask you to come forgive me of my sin and enable me to turn from sin and turn in faith to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Give me a desire for your Word and to share the good news with others.  Number me among those who are your own.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Be mindful that a prayer like the above example is not part of a ‘formula’ for or ‘method’ of evangelism.  Such a prayer is a response to a message that by nature demands a response.  Such a prayer summarizes the conversation that has been going on for days, or weeks, or perhaps months. Therefore the content of the prayer is what’s important. It restates the problem (sin), the solution to the problem (Christ’s substitutionary death), and contains a personal plea for mercy and forgiveness, trusting that God will make good on his offer of salvation.

Also remember that the ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer is just the beginning for the one who has now cast himself/herself upon the mercy of God and believed in Christ for salvation. There is now new life in a new creation in Christ, for the Bible tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And finally, be ready to walk with a new believer and help him/her grow!


Sharing Jesus Part 4

The Solution to the Sin Problem

Armed with a biblical understanding of ’spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ’dead men walking’, and knowing  that our friend ’Pat’ realizes that the issue if sin is the root cause of evil in the world, we can offer Pat the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

Since the conversation is reaching ’critical mass’ there are a few important things to remember.

First of all, pray that God would open Pat’s heart to receive this all important part of the message of the gospel.  Secondly, remember that God alone saves and you are just the messenger.  It’s not your job to get a decision or otherwise ’close the deal’ – the Holy Spirit does a fine job of applying the solution to a God opened heart! As one evangelist expressed it:

“Christ is going after His lost sheep, and He wants to use our lips that they may hear His voice today, and our hands that they may feel His touch.  He is the soul-winner.  People are not won by us for Him.  They are won through us by Him.  He can win them without us, just as He can speak to them through the Bible quite apart from anything we might say.  But He has chosen to work through us and with us.”  Leith Samuel

Spend a few moments going over a few things with Pat.  You might want to briefly summarize where the conversation has gone up to this point:

· The world is full of ’bad stuff’ (evil).
· The Bible calls the bad stuff ’sin’.
· Sin is a human problem that began when Adam blew it and disobeyed God.

Once you and Pat are on the same page it’s time to address the solution. You might want to ask Pat what he/she thinks is the answer to the problem. The answers you receive might be good answers even if they are just about temporal things like passing more laws, doing a better job of raising our children, raising the quality of our schools, easier access to higher education, and/or government programs to get rid of poverty.  If so, talk about them, acknowledge that they might solve problems, but that they are only external answers and cannot really address the inner problem of sin that we all have.

This is a good place to introduce, in simple terms and directly from the Bible, (not a 25 lb. Schofield reference Bible, but the small one you tend to carry around with you), God’s plan for dealing with sin.  Be gentle!  This is a conversation, not a used car lot!

Here are some suggested passages of scripture that were all written by the Apostle Paul.  You can even introduce some or all the following scriptures by telling Pat that this guy named ’Paul’ who absolutely loved to kick Christians around all over town wrote them!  Make sure to tell Pat how each passage relates what you have already discussed.

 The problem:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Rom 3:23

The natural consequences of the problem:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord..” – Rom 6:23

God’s plan to punish his own Son in our place:

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom 5:8

The applications of God’s plan – believe and call on the name off the Lord:

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Rom 10:9

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:13

The result of believing and calling on the name of the Lord:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 5:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom 8:1

The above passages are by no means a set mThe ethod that must be followed.  You might want to use other passages of scripture that also talk about the problem of man’s sin and God’s solution.  John 3:16 is a good example and a passage we probably all know by heart.  It also expresses God’s solution to our problem.

Always anticipate questions, and be ready with an answer or willing to find an answer.  Be able to talk about the Biblical context of passages you use in the conversation.  This communicates that you didn’t just memorize a few passages, but you know and are convinced of the truth of scripture.  That’s huge!

In the next article we’ll talk about the response to God’s offer of salvation through Christ.

Sharing Jesus Part 3

The Sin Problem – How Bad Is It?

Having realized that the issue of sin is at the center of what’s wrong with the world and that it’s a very human problem, we need to ask “How bad is it?”  If we know the answer, we can offer the best solution.

It’s like having a computer problem.  Do I just have to many ‘toolbars’ trying to all load at the same time, or is there a problem so deep that I need to call the Geek Squad to fix things?

If we have a heart for sharing Jesus with others, what we understand about the inner problem of sin defines ‘how’ we share Jesus with others.  If sin is a problem deep inside of us, where did it come from and again, how bad is it?

Most of us would agree that the problem of sin began when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  We would also agree that what followed their disobedience was physical death in this life and a separation from God.  What we might not agree on is the nature of the ‘separation’ from God. Assuming that Adam’s sin affected all of mankind, does that mean that all human beings are born basically good with some flaws but are able to help themselves out of a pickle?  Or does it mean that we are so messed up that we are totally unable to dig ourselves out of the ditch?  What does the Bible say?

The Bible tells us that those with carnal minds (the only kind possible for an unbeliever) are actually in active rebellion against God and can do nothing to please God (Rom 8:7).  The Bible also tells us that a person without the Spirit of God (all unbelievers) cannot understand the things of God and thinks they are a bunch of foolishness (1 Cor 2:14).  And the Bible tells us that the ‘natural’ man is completely unable to approach God on his own (John 6:44 & 65).

If just having ‘capability’ issues isn’t bad enough, the Bible tells us that we aren’t just wounded, we are totally and completely ‘dead’ in our trespasses and sin, not that we are basically good and just ‘do’ bad stuff now and again (Eph 2:1 & 5, Col 2:13).

It’s not that we are as bad or evil as we could be, but that we are as bad off as we could possibly be when we live apart from Christ.  After all, how ‘dead’ is dead?  What can a ‘dead’ man do? (If those aren’t rhetorical questions, we have a problem.)

We probably don’t need Ralph Venning’s Sinfulness of Sin, or be able to explain the difference between a ‘trespass’ and a ‘sin’ at this point, but what’s really important is understanding and being able to talk about the depth of the problem of sin.  That understanding will affect ‘how’ we share Christ with those who desperately need him.

So , armed with a biblically understanding of ‘spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ‘dead men walking’, we can now move on to the next part of our short series, providing the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

Romans 7:20 - Doing the Wrong Thing

But sin that dwelleth in me - the principle of sin, which has possessed itself of all my carnal appetites and passions, and thus subjects my reason and domineers over my soul.   Thus I am in perpetual contradiction to myself….This strange self-contradictory propensity led some of the ancient philosophers to imagine that man has two souls, a good and a bad one….(Dr. Adam Clarke)

But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. (Matthew Henry)

But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (NASB)

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (KJV)

But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (NLT)

Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. (NET)

We have thus learned three things:

1.  In me, that is in my flesh, ther is no good thng.
2.  I will do good but sin wills otherwise.
3.  Whan I will to do good, sin is too strong for me to succeed.

Deliverance is what I then must seek and deliverance is what is found in Christ Jesus!  Deliverance is found only when are convicted by the Holy Spirit and illuminated by His light to the fact that we are incapable of self-deliverance and are in great need of His power to deliver us.  The new world order is now in effect (Jesus in my heart).  The old world order is Sin, the very headwaters of my fallen estate.

Rom 7:20 
It is no more I - My will is against it; my reason and conscience condemn it.  But sin that dwelleth in me - the principle of sin, which has possessed itself of all my carnal appetites and passions, and thus subjects my reason and domineers over my soul.  Thus I am in perpetual contradiction to myself.  Two principles are continually contending in me for the mastery: my reason, on which the light of God shines, to show what is evil; and my passions, in which the principle of sin works, to bring forth fruit unto death.

This strange self-contradictory propensity led some of the ancient philosophers to imagine that man has two souls, a good and a bad one; and it is on this principle that Xenophon, in his life of Cyrus, causes Araspes, a Persian nobleman, to account for some misconduct of his relative to Panthea, a beautiful female captive, whom Cyrus had entrusted to his care: - “O Cyrus, I am convinced that I have two souls; if I had but one soul, it could not at the same time pant after vice and virtue; wish and abhor the same thing. It is certain, therefore, that we have two souls; when the good soul rules, I undertake noble and virtuous actions; but when the bad soul predominates, I am constrained to do evil. All I can say at present is that I find my good soul, encouraged by thy presence, has got the better of my bad soul.” See Spectator, vol. viii. No. 564. Thus, not only the ancients, but also many moderns, have trifled, and all will continue to do so who do not acknowledge the Scriptural account of the fall of man, and the lively comment upon that doctrine contained in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

The evil here spoken of is the evil that is in our nature, and the want of power to get rid of it. The forgiveness of sins had been fully taught.  What distresses here is the present working of sin which we cannot get rid of the sense of this is often a more painful thing than past sins, which the believer can understand as put away by the blood of Christ.  But here we have the conscience of sin still in us, though we may hate it, and the question of deliverance is mixed up with our experience, at least till we have learned what is taught us in this part of the epistle, to judge the old man as sin in us, not ourselves, and reckon ourselves dead. Christ, through whom we now live, having died, and being a sacrifice for sin, our condemnation is impossible, while sin is condemned and we free through "the law of the Spirit of life in him."  It is not forgiveness, but deliverance, sin in the flesh being condemned in the cross. (Dr. John Darby)


In early 2009 I was in training with the Navy and in charge of a team of over a hundred Sailors.  Our mission was to conduct detainee operations in a Theater Internment Facility.  This particular mission is highly scrutinized and regulated due to previous transgressions in professionalism and displayed in the media.  The atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detainee facilities are images that will reside in my memory for many years to come.

With the unit getting ready to conduct the detainee operations mission for the last time as we would be involved with training Iraqi Corrections Officers to take over the responsibilities, I had many trepidations.  This was my first time conducting this type of work in this type of harsh environment.  I relied on the Lord to carry us through the challenging nature of our assignment.


Lord, my God
Almighty Lord
Savior and healer
You reign
Entirely over the world.
All Holy is
Your name.
I take refuge in you.

I implore you!
Oh, Lord
Provide me with strength
To embody steadfast
Presence and leadership
To lead your children
Into battle
And harm’s way.

I am just one man
With heavy shoulders
Burdening the lives of many
And responsible for their safety.
Save and deliver me!
Allow me the presence of mind
And of situation.

Provide me with resources
The wherewithal
The training
And commitment.

Shield me from my enemies
Who are trained to harm me.

Don’t let me waiver
In strength
And leadership.
Do not let me
Compromise integrity
So that those in my charge
Benefit from unity
And solidarity
Of nature.

Hear my plea oh Lord!
I implore you!
Receive my cry!
Shroud me in your glory
Provide promise
And perseverance.

I rely on your grace
Every day
Every hour
Every minute
Every second
In foreign
And domestic lands
So that no harm
Shall fall on me
Or my men.

Let us conduct ourselves
Professionally and ethically
Train our counterparts
To the best of our abilities
Complete the mission
Turn over responsibilities
Return with honor.

I humbly implore you.
Shine your grace
On my mission.
Provide peace
And solace
To a troubled nation
And provide structure
And persevreence
To their efforts.

Provide for
Our safe return
Our safe passage
Weary and forlorn
To our families
With a sense
Of steadfast accomplishment.

In your hands
I place my mission
I relinquish our future
To carry out
Your wishes.
I am encouraged
By your love
And goodness!
I am emboldened
By your glory!
Ready and willing
To carry out your mission
For me and my men!
I bask in your grace
And thank you
For your love
As all things
Are your Creation.
We move
In your glory.

Romans 7:19 - I Do Not Do Good But

It is not the Will that leads men astray; but the corrupt Passions which oppose and oppress the will. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

Rom 7:19  For the good that I would, I do not,.... The apostle here repeats what he had delivered in Romans 7:15 to strengthen and confirm this part of his experience; that though he had a will to that which was good, yet he wanted power, and had none of himself to perform; and therefore often did what he would not, and what he would he did not. (Dr. John Gill)

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (NASB)

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (KJV)

I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. (NLT)

For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! (NET)

It would be good here to reiterate that Paul is explaining what it is like to try to obey the law of God in the power of the flesh.  This is the place where we daily live as long as we have breath and a pulse.  The question then becomes then where is the victory?  This will become apparent in Romans 8:1.  For now it is good to see that even the Apostle Paul struggled.  However, he also gave us a great many important ways to overcome this struggle with the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus!  As I have said before, the fact that we struggle is a good sign that we belong to Jesus.  If we had no struggle it would be because we were the unrighteous and ungodly against whom the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:18).  Our eyes have the power to see but without light they are rendered absolutely useless.  Only in Christ's light may we see the threat that endangers us.  Only in Christ's light may we find the victory!

It is not the Will that leads men astray; but the corrupt Passions which oppose and oppress the will.  It is truly astonishing into what endless mistakes men have fallen on this point, and what systems of divinity have been built on these mistakes.  The will, this almost only friend to God in the human soul, has been slandered as God’s worst enemy, and even by those who had the seventh chapter to the Romans before their eyes!  Nay, it has been considered so fell a foe to God and goodness that it is bound in the adamantine chains of a dire necessity to do evil only; and the doctrine of will (absurdly called free will, as if will did not essentially imply what is free) has been considered one of the most destructive heresies.  Let such persons put themselves to school to their Bibles and to common sense.

The plain state of the case is this:  the soul is so completely fallen, that it has no power to do good till it receive that power from on high.  But it has power to see good, to distinguish between that and evil; to acknowledge the excellence of this good, and to will it, from a conviction of that excellence; but farther it cannot go.  Yet, in various cases, it is solicited and consents to sin; and because it is will, that is, because it is a free principle, it must necessarily possess this power; and although it can do no good unless it receive grace from God, yet it is impossible to force it to sin.  Even Satan himself cannot do this; and before he can get it to sin, he must gain its consent. Thus God in his endless mercy has endued this faculty with a power in which, humanly speaking, resides the salvability of the soul; and without this the soul must have eternally continued under the power of sin, or been saved as an inert, absolutely passive machine; which supposition would go as nearly to prove that it was as incapable of vice as it were of virtue. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

The law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot conquer and subdue sin, witness the predominancy of sin in many that are under very strong legal convictions.  It discovers the defilement, but will not wash it off.  It makes a man weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28), burdens him with his sin; and yet, if rested in, it yields no help towards the shaking off of that burden; this is to be had only in Christ.  The law may make a man cry out, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? and yet leave him thus fettered and captivated, as being too weak to deliver him (Romans 8:3), give him a spirit of bondage to fear, Romans 8:15.  (Matthew Henry)

Romans 7:18 - Nothing Good Lives in Me

There is no principle by which the soul can be brought into the light; no principle by which it can be restored to purity: fleshly appetites alone prevail; and the brute runs away with the man. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

The will is right, but the passions are wrong. It discerns and approves, but is without ability to perform: it has no power over sensual appetites; in these the principle of rebellion dwells: it nills evil, it wills good, but can only command through the power of Divine grace: but this the person in question, the unregenerate man, has not received. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

The entire man in whom sin and righteousness struggle, in whose unregenerate condition sin is the victor, having its domain in the flesh. (Dr. Marvin R. Vincent)

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (NASB)

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (KJV)

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. (NLT)

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. (NET)

Once again we see our sinful selves in practice under the law.  The obstacle to doing good is me even though my desire is willing the evil propensity overshadows because it was enraged by the righteous law.  It demonstrates what Paul now exclaims in no small way, "nothing good dwells in me!"  How then do we see ourselves.  Can we begin to see the total debauchery of the flesh in which we make our abode in this life?  Only because the Spirit of Holiness now lives in us and enables us to see that which beforehand was invisible to our reprobate minds.  Present [in with] me (παράκειται  parakeitai) "that is, it was constantly before him; it was now his habitual inclination and purpose of mind. It is the uniform, regular, habitual purpose of the Christian’s mind to do right." (Dr. Albert Barnes)  However, it must be noted that, though it looms large in our view, the dynamic tension between the two natures is not the subject at hand but rather the effect of the law!  The point then becomes NOT condemnation, even though the holy writ does leave us under judgment, but rather the total absence of the required energy to fulfill it righteous standards to avoid condemnation.

A man walks in quiet indifference, doing his own will, without knowledge of God, or consequently any sense of sin or rebellion.  The law comes, and he dies under its just judgment, which forbids everything that he desires.  Lust was an evil thing, but it did not reveal the judgment of God; on the contrary, it forgot it.  But when the law was come, sin (it is looked at here as an enemy that attacks some person or place), knowing that the will would persist and the conscience condemn, seized the opportunity of the law, impelled the man in the direction contrary to the law, and slew him, in the conscience of sin which the law forbade on the part of God.  Death to the man, on God's part in judgment, was the result.  The law then was good and holy, since it forbade the sin, but in condemning the sinner. (Dr. John Darby)

Gen 6:5  The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. (NLT)

Job 14:4  Who can bring purity out of an impure person? No one! (NLT)

Job 15:14-16  Can any mortal be pure? Can anyone born of a woman be just? Look, God does not even trust the angels.  Even the heavens are not absolutely pure in His sight.  How much less pure is a corrupt and sinful person with a thirst for wickedness! (NLT)

Job 25:4  How can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone born of a woman be pure? (NLT)

Psa 51:5  For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. (NLT)

Isa 64:6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (NLT)

Mat 15:19  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. (NLT)

Mar 7:21-23  For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you." (NLT)

Eph 2:1-5  Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God's anger, just like everyone else.  But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!) (NLT)

Tit 3:3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. (NLT)

1Pe 4:2  You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. (NLT)

Psa 119:5  Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees! (NLT)

Gal 5:17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (NLT)

Php 3:12  I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. (NLT)

Romans 7:17 - Natural Corruption

That natural corruption, which adheres strongly even to those that are regenerated, and is not completely gone. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (NASB)

Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (KJV)

So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (NLT)

But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. (NET)

Here we have some figurative language expressed because we know that it is the person who commits sin.  However, Paul is illuminating the hidden motivation of reprobate hearts.  The power of sin that dominates us so that even our acts that are righteous in our sight fall woefully short of the mark because of this inward dwelling dysfunction.  Perhaps the NLT 1st Edition adds to the idea:

But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.

Dr. Albert Barnes explains well this tension between our new nature and our old self:

But the apostle makes a distinction between sin and what he intends by the pronoun “I”.  By the former he evidently means his corrupt nature.  By the latter he refers to his renewed nature, his Christian principles.  He means to say that he does not approve or love it in his present state, but that it is the result of his native propensities and passions.  In his heart, and conscience, and habitual feeling, he did not choose to commit sin, but abhorred it.  Thus, every Christian can say that he does not choose to do evil, but would wish to be perfect; that he hates sin, and yet that his corrupt passions lead him astray. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

We also see here that sin dwells in our hearts (makes itself at home) which (according to Dr. Barnes) is where the expression "in-dwelling sin" originates.  This is in contrast to:

Rom 8:9  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.) (NLT)

1Co 3:16  Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (NLT)

It is important for us to see the origin of our rebellion against God that darkens our ability to understand rightly and also perverts our judgment.  Dr. Adam Clarke describes this "principle" that  "acts in it, (our soul) as its lord, or as a tyrant."

Now contrast this with John's words:

1Jn 3:9  Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God. (NLT)

Now we begin to see the battle that is present in us each and every day!  But we shall soon see that there is victory already one in this daily battle because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

But sin that dwelleth in me; the old man, the carnal I, the evil present with him, the law in his members; which not only existed in him, and wrought in him, and that at times very strongly, but dwelt in him, had its abode in him, as it has in all regenerate persons, and will have, as long as they are in the body. (Dr. John Gill)

Gal 5:17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (NLT)

That coexistence and mutual hostility of “flesh” and “spirit” in the same renewed man, which is so clearly taught in Romans 8:4, etc., and in Galatians 5:16, etc., is the true and only key to the language of this and the following verses. (It is hardly necessary to say that the apostle means not to disown the blame of yielding to his corruptions, by saying, “it is not he that does it, but sin that dwelleth in him.” Early heretics thus abused his language; but the whole strain of the passage shows that his sole object in thus expressing himself was to bring more vividly before his readers the conflict of two opposite principles, and how entirely, as a new man - honoring from his inmost soul the law of God - he condemned and renounced his corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts, its stirrings and its outgoings, root and branch). (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)

Perhaps James gives us the insight into this struggle:

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But He gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble." So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. (James 4:1-9 NLT)

Christian Military Fellowship

An Indigenous Ministry • Discipleship • Prayer • Community • Support
Encouraging Men and Women in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Contact Us

  • Address:
    PO Box 1207, Englewood, CO 80150-1207

  • Phone: (800) 798-7875

  • Email:


Book Offers