Starting from Chapter 6 and continuing into Chapter 7, Paul focuses on what happens after one’s acceptance of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ. The word of God here starts to separate a “growing Christian” from a “baby Christian.”
Note that I did not use the term “grown Christian” but instead used “growing Christian”, for the best is still to be revealed later in the book of Romans.
If you allow me to use a few doctrinal words, we can say that here along with Romans we are moving from justification to sanctification, and expecting glorification. All these together constitute the complete salvation by God. It all starts with justification by which, as we have learned in early chapters of this book, the sinner comes to realize his sinful condition and receives forgiveness by God through Jesus Christ.
Receiving forgiveness from God is an essential start of salvation, without which man is eternally doomed. However, receiving forgiveness of one’s sin is not the same as being delivered from the power and bondage of sin.
Let me use an analogy. A child may routinely receive forgiveness of his or her parent, but that does not mean the child will stop doing wrong things.
God’s intention has never been to just give us forgiveness and leave us struggling with the bondage of sin. Not only has He given us forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ, He will also deliver us from the bondage of sin through the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
Tragically, not every child of God understands the Father’s intention. A child of God knows that he is justified by faith in Jesus Christ, not by his own effort. We have learned this truth in the previous several chapters in Romans. But many children of God don’t see that it is still through Jesus Christ that he is to be delivered from sin, not just forgiven of sin.
Many falsely believe that because he has received forgiveness of his sin, he is automatically sinless and he would be all right regardless of what he does. Still others think now that he is saved, it is all up to himself to behave well and overcome sin. Many even think that the Christian requirement of not continuing to live a sinful life is the price one has to pay in exchange for the salvation he has received. This is the case despite the fact that we acknowledge using our lips that salvation is grace. Without ever making such a statement, many children of God harbor inside the heart a hard feeling that salvation is not free after all.
But what does Paul say in Romans? “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7.21-25.
There has always been a great debate over whether Paul was hypothetically referring to an unsaved person using the pronoun “I” or he actually refers to the practical situation a saved person faces after receiving the justification. But personally, I believe the debate concerns too much of our theological distinction, not the truth itself. The truth is that whether we have accepted the only justification through Jesus Christ or not, one is dead in sin until deliverance by Jesus Christ from the death. The complete salvation isn’t a matter of merely acknowledging God’s justification, but a practical matter of being actually delivered from sin.
Despite of the commandment (for Jews) or an awake conscience (Gentiles), sin deceived me by taking opportunity by the commandment or conscience. The opportunity for such deception exists not because there is evil or loopholes in the commandment, but because of my sinful nature which responses to sin. My struggle with my own strength and effort does not help because I am bound to this condition. There is a law (as a law in physics) that dictates this condition.
Just as an unsaved person comes to a point of hopelessness of his sinful nature and cries out for forgiveness of God to get saved, a child of God comes to a point of hopelessness in his practical bondage to sin and asks for deliverance of God to be delivered.
Note that it is “who will deliver me?” not “what shall I do to escape?” or “how can I escape?” Salvation is a Person who personally delivers us in our life. Knowing this truth is what differentiate a maturing child of God from a baby.
Friend, if you are getting ready to receive Jesus Christ as your personal savior, start from asking for forgiveness by God through the blood of Jesus Christ shed for you. But be prepared to enter into fierce battles that you may have never experienced before even as an unsaved sinner. This is so, not because God’s salvation comes in short, but precisely because God’s salvation does not stop short. If you have heard promises of becoming a Christian to have everything easy without a struggle, you have not heard the accurate Gospel.
But if you are already a child of God and you are struggling with the bondage of sin, stop doubting God’s intention and power in the midst of your struggles but quickly come to full realization that salvation is more than forgiveness but also includes deliverance, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Through the Lord, the battle is worth fighting and the victory assured.