Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 7
Thesis: Good does not exist "in the flesh" of men.
Introduction: Last week I argued that Paul's double disclaimer of personal responsibility in Romans 7:17 and 7:20 had a very critical consequence. That consequence, in a nutshell, is this: if one is not to take responsibility for the evil that comes out of one's body, neither can he take credit for the good. Men are pretty heavily invested in trying to get out of the "blame", but are equally invested in taking the "credit". Both are severe bondages that end up generating more death than most of us want to endure.
After that study I decided that I might ought to review at least one aspect of the larger picture so that we do not get unbalanced in our grasp of reality. It is true that Paul twice declares his lack of responsibility for sin that arises out of his body; but it is also true that Paul declared at least seven times in these verses that he "did/practiced/accomplished" the evil that was arising out of his body. So I want to briefly review the facts as the larger context presents them. First, there is the fact that the Bible claims that human beings are, at the most basic level, "souls", not "spirits" and not "bodies". Then, Paul claims that the best analogy of the inner human realities is that of the marriage of a man and a woman. In that analogy, the "man" is the "spirit" which is the ultimate "fruit producer" and the woman is the "soul" that is the ultimate "fruit bearer" and the body is the physical level agent by which the fruit is given its ability to make its impact. Thus, there are actually four ways a person can be viewed as an "I". A person can be viewed as the visible person -- the body. A person can be viewed as a "soul" that is only made visible by inference that arises from the actions of the body. A person can be viewed as a "one" made of two (the two shall become one flesh) in the union of "soul" and "spirit" when the "spirit" is seen as the Adamic husband. And a person can be viewed as a "one" made of two in the union of "soul" and "spirit" when the "Spirit" is seen as the resurrected Christ husband. Thus, when Paul refers to the various "I" realities in making his statements, we must be careful to understand which of the four possibilities it is to which he refers.
When Paul disclaims both the "blame" and the "credit", he is doing so at the level of himself as a "soul". The "spirits" which are responsible for the blameworthy, or credit worthy, actions are not "him" and "they" get either the "blame" or the "credit". In Ephesians 2, Paul claims that it is the prince of the power of the air that is the "spirit" that produces the fruit in the sons of disobedience, and in Galatians 5, Paul claims that it is the Holy Spirit Who is the "spirit" that produces the fruit in those who walk with God.
So, as we continue in our study this evening of Paul's explanation of the inner workings of the believer who is living in a significant internal conflict, we need to be aware that Paul is working at the most profound level of explanation so that we may understand how we may best be "loyal souls" in respect to our resurrected Lord.
May 1, 2007
- I. Paul's Structure.
- A. Verses 15 and 19 are very similar.
- B. Verses 17 and 20 are very similar.
- C. This makes verse 18 a stand-out statement.
- II. The Issue(s) of Verse 18.
- A. Good does not dwell in me.
- 1. This is both critical and problematic.
- a. This is critical because of the delusions surrounding both "blame" and "credit".
- 1) In the "blame/credit" milieu, the vast majority of people believe that there is a mix of both good and evil in everyone and it is often stated as "there is at least a little good in everyone".
- 2) This milieu is a deception created by the adversary of our souls because it is by this deception that men are maintained in their bondage.
- a) If the real issues are to be found in human beings, how does Paul adamantly declare that we struggle not with flesh and blood?
- b) If human beings were the real culprits, how does Paul assign the responsibility to a "spirit that now works in them"?
- c) If human beings are the real heroes, how does Paul insist that God has taken human accomplishment out of the picture so as to remove boasting?
- d) When the "blame" issues are removed, men are released from their life long bondage to the fear of death and when the "credit" issues are removed, men are released from their life long bondage to false glory issues.
- i. When men are released from the fear of death, they are ready for eternity.
- ii. When men are released from the lust for glory, they are ready for time.
- b. This is problematic because Paul has, in other places, clearly taught that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in all believers.
- 1) How can Paul say that good does not dwell in him when God dwells in him?
- 2) How can Paul say that good does not dwell in him when a hearty agreement with the goodness of the Law dwells in him?
- 2. This is explained by Paul's self-interruption.
- a. He "qualifies" the "me" as "my flesh".
- b. This qualification anticipates both the need for clarification because of an almost knee-jerk misunderstanding and explains the true meaning.
- 1) Paul would not have stuck the explanation in if he had not anticipated that some would misunderstand him.
- 2) Paul did stick the explanation in so that we could focus where he is focused: upon the "flesh".
- B. Good does not dwell in my "flesh".
- 1. The word "flesh" is used in many places and with different meanings.
- 2. The best explanatory, parallel text is probably Philippians 3.
- a. Here Paul claims that believers have "no" confidence in the "flesh"...the exact parallel to the fact that we cannot have any such confidence if no "good" dwells there.
- b. Here Paul explains what the "flesh" is by way of two basic issues: heritage and action.
- c. The summary is that the "flesh" is what has come down to us from Adam as the post-fall reality of total corruption -- body, soul, and spirit.
- 1) The "flesh" is not primarily the body, though the body is seriously corrupt.
- 2) The "flesh" is the combination of the humanity that comes from Adam: a body under the sentence of corruption; a spirit that is wide open to the spirit of disobedience; and a soul that is married to that spirit.
- C. If "good" does not dwell there, it can not come out of there.
- D. The explanation.
- 1. The issue of "will" has already been addressed to some degree as having the ability to legitimately agree with the goodness of the Law, but here Paul simply claims that he can "will".
- 2. The problem is that "will" is not where "production of the good" comes from.
- a. It is an odd thing that most of the people who subscribe to biblical truth still believe in the primacy and power of the will.
- b. But it is not odd once we see that it is the false teaching on the primacy and power of the will that our adversary knows will defeat us if we buy into it.
- i. It is here that the "blame" issue is welded to our souls.
- ii. It is here that the "credit" issue is paraded before our view as a constant attraction.