Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 7
May 1, 2007
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 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.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
1901 ASV Translation
15 For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practice; but what I hate, that I do.
16 But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is
19 For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice.
20 But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me.
- I. Paul's Rationale For Denying Personal Responsibility.
- A. In 7:16 it is his claim that there is an "I" who "wills" but does contrary to that "will" and, by the contradiction, proves an agreement in "me" with the Law's goodness.
- B. In 7:18 it is his claim that he "knows" that "good" does not dwell in his "flesh".
- 1. Paul deliberately "qualifies" the statement "I know that good does not dwell in me" with "that is, in my flesh". This indicates that he immediately understood that he was very likely to be misunderstood if he let the "I know that good does not dwell in me" stand without further explanation. The question is this: in what sense(s) does good dwell in Paul that makes him have to qualify his statement?
- a. First, it is a fundamental doctrine for Paul that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in the bodies of all believers. Thus, it would be a bit confusing for a believer to declare that he "knows" that "good" does not dwell in him.
- b. Second, he has already claimed that there was "something" in him that "agreed with the goodness of the Law". Whatever this "something" is, it cannot be "evil" and agree with the Law's goodness. "Evil" does not "wish to do good" and "hate to do evil".
- c. Thus, because he has already "promised" his readers that they have a new Spirit by which to operate, it would, indeed, be confusing if he was misunderstood to mean that "good does not dwell in me" in an absolute sense.
- d. So, he "qualifies" his meaning of "me" as "my flesh" with the phrase "that is, in my flesh". This raises the question of what he means by "my flesh".
- 1) It seems impossible to conclude that "my flesh" is the equivalent of "my body" since the body is precisely where the Holy Spirit dwells as well as that aspect of Paul that agrees with the Law's goodness.
- 2) That pushes us to consider to what "habitation" Paul is referring when he says "dwells in me."
- a) He has already addressed a "habitation" reality by claiming that "sin dwells in me".
- b) The issue of "dwelling" is the issue of "present residence". This is distinct from "a temporary visit" and "an external influence". This is also a distinct declaration that, as a resident, the indwelling presence has some level of impact.
- c) Thus, the "dwelling" has to be, in some respect, the physical body, but it cannot be the physical body in the same sense that the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies so that they are temples of God.
- d) Therefore Paul makes a distinction between "in me" and "in my flesh" and he makes a distinction between "my flesh" and "my body". So, what is "my flesh"? "Flesh" is a term that Paul often sets at variance with "spirit". He told the Galatians that the chief difference between the kinds of attitudes and actions that spring forth from our bodies was whether we were walking "in the flesh" or "in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:13-25). In Paul's letter to the Philippians he said that the true circumcision were those who had "no confidence" in the "flesh" (3:3) and then immediately claimed that "trust in the flesh" meant "trust in the things one has done/can do apart from the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit (3:4-6). Thus, we are almost forced to conclude that "my flesh" is the composite entity that is partially made up of the members of the body and partially made up of the energizing spirit that gives power to those members as a distinct entity from God's Spirit so that the "flesh" is that which is passed on by generation from Adam. It is not the "body" per se (though that does come from Adam), nor is it the "empowering spirit" per se (though Adam would be able to pass nothing on if this spirit was not a part of the "generation" issue). It is the unique combination of "body" and "old man" that is distinctly the Adamic heritage. There is some sense in Paul's theology that what Adam did so affected the body that no spirit is really "free" from what he did. Even the Spirit of God does not, perhaps can not, really get free from the Adamic impact on the body -- else we would be able to be "perfect" in this body and there would be no need for death and resurrection and our attitudes and behaviors could/would be only godly.
- 2. He claims that the ability to "will" is his.
- 3. But he also claims that the ability to accomplish the good is not his.
- a. His rationale for this is that "the good that I will, I do not" and "the evil that I do not will, I practice".
- b. Out of this "both ways" contradiction arises the proof that the accomplishment of good is beyond him and that, in turn, proves that "good" does not dwell in his flesh.
- C. This inner conflict, which depends entirely upon an inner "will" to do the "good", is the basis for claiming that it is not "I" that does the evil "I" despise.
- 1. The fact that Paul wrote this as a believer ("I was alive apart from the Law" -- this has to refer to a post-conversion reality since Paul had never been "apart from the Law" in all of his pre-conversion life and there is no "life" before conversion) makes everyone suspect who takes his claims to have a "will" that "wills the good" and applies them to general humanity along the lines of "men all have a free will, an ability to choose the good". Only believers have any ability to "will the good" because they alone have had a new "heart" created within them (this is an essential element of the New Covenant).
- 2. Thus, the definition of the "flesh" that possesses no "good" indwelling it is not Paul's "body", which, as a believer, does have the Holy Spirit in residence, but Paul's "Adamic heritage". There is no "good" that dwells in Paul's "natural composition", which is from Adam.