Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Paul uses the word “slavery” to describe his experience of sin. This must have been incredibly frustrating, particularly for a “thinker” sort of person like Paul – one who in his letters builds elegant, logical arguments to support his claims. Yet to Paul’s dismay, knowing what is right and doing what is right are very different things. “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” (v.18).
In the old “confession and absolution” liturgy of the green Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) there is the statement, “We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves”. Taken in isolation this true statement is depressing. What good is it to know the will and ways of God if we cannot do it? A reading of the Old Testament elicits this question over and over as God’s people fail to obey the law and pay the consequences of death, defeat, famine, slavery, and more.
Then came Jesus.
By grace Jesus takes the burden our sin and gives to us righteousness in return. Sin (and death that accompanies sin) no longer has the last word. Grace and life through Jesus has the last, eternal word. Praise be to God!