24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
24 O wretched man that I am!
Now we come to a climactic conclusion to the chapter. After describing his struggle with the sin capacity, Paul asserted that he was a “wretched man” because of ongoing issues with his sin capacity. He saw himself with a persistent proclivity to commit sin because of this. He fell despairingly short of the standards of what God would have for him. There is no question but that Paul hated sin in his life.
Although Paul saw victory in the Christian life as possible, he did not view it without conflict. The struggle with sin has its anguish at times. The wretched man here is not a non-Christian but a frustrated believer who wants to be delivered from his sin capacity.
Re 3:17, Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked . . .
Who will deliver [set free, rescue] me from this body of death?
The answer to Paul’s dilemma was a “who,” not a how. It was a person who would deliver him from the condition of defeat. Paul could not do this by himself. He knew that he needed outside help to deal with the overpowering influence of the sin capacity.
The issue in chapter seven is not pardon but deliverance. The question concerns indwelling sin as a power, not sins committed at some point. Romans eight answers that deliverance from the body of this death (sin capacity) is found in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The law does not provide the power to overcome sin. We are “not under the law but under grace” (Ro 6:14).
God through Christ delivers us from sin in three phases: (1) from the penalty of sin when we become Christians, (2) from the power of sin daily, (3) and from the presence of sin in heaven. Our verse deals with deliverance from the daily influence of the sin capacity.
The “body of death” of the sin capacity pictures us dragging around a corpse on our human body all day. There was a Roman system of punishment whereby the authorities chained the body of the murdered person to the murderer. The murdered body stayed chained to the murderer as long as he lived. This corpse constantly interferes with our highest desire to please God. The sin capacity is a deadly weight.
“Death” here is the miserable condition of being out of fellowship with the Lord in time. It is a state of allowing the sin capacity to control or dominate us. Paul did not cry out for deliverance from his body in physical death here, but from defeat in the Christian life.
The spiritual battle in the believer never ceases until he meets the Lord in glory.
Every genuine child of God will struggle with the battle of his two capacities. Non-Christians do not go through this internal conflict.
Sanctification is incomplete for the believer in terms of the believer’s experience, but it is complete in terms of Christ’s work for him positionally. The believer died to sin when Christ died on the cross (Ga 2:20, 21). His justification was complete when he put his trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We will see this soon: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). Complete deliverance from the presence of sin will not happen until the believer enters the eternal state. Christians who seek perfection in their lives will end frustrated and discouraged. We need to accept the daily struggle with sin as a point of reality in Christian living.