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Two Laws and the Believer

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after 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 shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

—Romans 7:13–25

Often when we think about laws, we think of rules set down as the proper procedures for living. As Bible believing Christians, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of law is God’s law, and specifically, the law as set down in tablets of stone in the ten commandments. We also know, that because of the change of dispensation, we are not under law, but under grace.

The Apostle speaks in this passage about a law in his members battling the law of his mind. What is the law that he is talking about?

These laws are more like the laws of physics than they are laws as we commonly think when we are looking at the Word of God. The law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics, for instance, are not laws that say “do this or there will be retribution”, but they are laws that describe the nature of things as they are, and that in no physical phenomenon are these things violated. These physical laws are used as an evaluation point to determine whether a design is possible or whether it is a dream only possible in the imagination of the designer. The laws battling it out in our members are our very natures. The laws in our members can serve as a starting point to determine whether or not the ordering of society can function as intended, or is it only a dream that will never work. If we are ignorant of the laws of our nature, we will make attempts to better humanity and when it doesn’t work, we’ll scratch our heads wondering what happened. If we understand humanity and the laws at work in our nature, we will do things accordingly.

All human beings are partakers of Adam’s nature. We are born that way. The Apostle describes our state in Adam this way:

Ephesians 2:1–3 — “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

In Romans 6, we learn that our old man (the person that each one of us is by natural birth) is crucified and that we are to reckon him so. This is a positional crucifixion. As we are believers baptized into Christ (not into water), the death He died was reckoned to us, because God declared it so. We never felt the nails, but God said we are crucified with Him, so we really are. We didn’t spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, but God reckons us as buried with Christ. Christ arose victorious over death around 2000 years ago, long before any of us were born, yet God accounts us to have risen to new life with Him.

How could all of this happen?

2 Corinthians 4:6 — “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

God has created a new man. This new man is created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). Paul speaks of the new man in Ephesians 2:15, 4:24, and Colossians 3:10. This new man, when compared to the old man, is often called the spirit when compared with the old man, the flesh. The new man is a new creature, or we could say, a new created order. The incorporation of this new created order is the one new man who is called the Body of Christ.

Man has a nature. In his nature he has laws that operate. These are the laws of his nature. This nature is called the old man (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9) and the flesh (Romans 8:1–13; Galatians 5:13–24; Ephesians 2:3). Because man is a sinner, his nature is sinful. Sinful man even sins in doing things that are against his own nature (God’s created operative laws). See Romans 1:26–27.

The new man, created in Christ Jesus, has an operative law as well, and this operative law is the law that the Apostle is speaking of when he refers to the law of his mind. It is a back and forth struggle between the law in our members (the old man) and the law of our mind (the new man).

The old man, though positionally dead, is still operative and alive in our members, even as we are regenerated believers. Those who think that the sin nature is no longer present in believers have to be willfully blind. Such a person should take a look at reality, and instead of contemplating one’s own or others’ salvation, he should look to the Word of God for answers, because the answer is found here.

In Romans 7, we do not have a description of a man before salvation, or of a man who is not matured in his Christian walk. We have a statement of fact about the man in Christ with two opposing laws operating in him. The apostle is laying out the way it is, and he describes his own thoughts and feelings about it. The chapter begins its end with the lamentation, “O wretched man that I am!” and a cry for help:

“Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Rather than leaving us in that state of despair, he answers with the answer of faith, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This answer of faith leads us into the next chapter, where many a believer in despair has found great hope. It is indeed a pinnacle in God’s revelation to man through the Apostle Paul.

The operative laws in our members are at constant war. We do not find in this chapter how the victory of the new man is won. Ultimately it will be won when “the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

Until that time, the Word of God does have a prescription for victory in the guerilla warfare that our old flesh does wage against us from its place on death row.

Galatians 6:8 — “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Nothing that is done for that “dead man walking” will benefit, so take that to heart when making your decisions. We are not powerless against his attacks, but we can be undone by them if we do not take heed to the scriptural warnings and prescriptions for victory. The prescriptions for victory are not even particularly mysterious or conceptually difficult.

One comes to mind below:

Psalm 1:1–2 — “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

The law of the LORD in this psalm can and should be understood directly as the law of the LORD revealed to the children of Israel through Moses. That we today are not under that law is fully understood by this writer. But as David said this, the law was the word of God to him, and meditating day and night in it (not the mindless meditation of new age, but having the word of God his constant thought, that which he consistently “chewed on”), was the prescription for a blessed life.

Today, walking in the word of God to us, and mediating on it day and night, will have benefits for us as we fight the good fight of faith. Further, we can know that the war with our flesh is not abnormal, but should be expected. We should know too that it does not have to win:

Romans 8:37 — “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

In Christ, we have victory and are not the helpless victims of anything. If you are not in Christ, you are not right with God. You need salvation that is found in Christ, and you will find it by believing the Gospel that God gave to us, how that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again all according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Your sins, all of them, past, present, and future will be forgiven and you will be translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son of God (Colossians 1:13, 2:13).



Romans Study

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

5 thoughts on “Two Laws and the Believer Leave a comment

  1. Chuck, your last paragraph says that we will be forgiven upon belief is this correct? Do you hold that God imputes our sins until we believe?
    I would take issue with that because 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 clearly states that God reconciled the world to Himself because He is not charging man’s trespasses against him. God made Christ to be sin for us that we MIGHT be made the righteousness of God in Christ. Forgiveness does not equate salvation; being made righteous is the issue.
    Consider Paul’s words in Romans 5:6-10, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” His death satisfied the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) as you clearly stated. He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25). God will impart righteousness to us when we believe.


    • Hi Laurie
      If we use the term forgiven when speaking of the unsaved, there is a problem. If an unsaved man dies in his sins, they are held against him, as we see at the white throne judgment. It is a mistake to equate the non-imputation as forgiveness, because there is no need to forgive a debt that is not on your account.
      Today, in God’s relationship to mankind, sins are not imputed, in that there is not a single sin standing between us and the Savior from saving us. God does not think of some people as His enemies as in the Old Testament when Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies and He dealt out judgment against them. Even the worst hater of God is not considered by God to be His enemy because Christ has completely reconciled the world to God by the cross. People sin and do very wicked things and God does not strike them dead or give them sickness or other immediate judgment because of this reconciliation.
      Those sins that are today not being imputed, or held to account, will one day be imputed to the unsaved or the judgment at the great white throne is meaningless. There will be nothing to judge. But for the forgiven, our sins will never be imputed because we have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God’s grace. A forgiven debt is one that is recognized and scrubbed from the account, as is the case for us who are in Christ.
      I hope that helps you to see my position on that.


      • Hi Chuck,
        For some reason I never got a message that you had responded. I thank you so much for taking the time to answer me! I am going to share my own study notes with you that you might consider and see my position.
        God bless you my brother!
        At the GWT people are not judged for sin, but works.
        Revelation 20:12-13, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
        Please keep in mind that the DBR of Messiah was all part of Israel’s prophetic Scripture. Consider the following verses.

        He would be crucified with criminals:

        Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

        Matthew 27:38, “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.”

        Mark 15:27-28, “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.”

        He would be buried with the rich:

        Isaiah 53:9, “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

        Matthew 27:57-60, “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathæa, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: he went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”

        He would rise from the dead:

        Psalm 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

        Psalm 49:15, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.”

        Matthew 28:5-7, “ And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
        Acts 2:22-27, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
        What was revealed to Apostle Paul was what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished in His DBR:
        —1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
        —Declare, Greek verb gnōrizō meaning reaffirming what was already known. In this case they knew the Gospel of the Grace of God.
        —How, Greek conjunction hoti meaning it is demonstrative or causative, because, since or as concerning that.
        —2 Corinthians 5:18-21, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
        —This is the how that Christ died that Paul was putting the Corinthians in remembrance of in his first epistle. Paul paid a heavy price to make all men see this glorious Good News.

        The reality of reconciliation is so clear! The wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23). How does our believing that He died for sins satisfy that demand?

        According to Romans 5 we are justified by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! He died for us while we were ungodly, sinners and enemies. It was in His death we were reconciled to the Father. This is only the first part – the propitiation (fully satisfying payment) was accomplished. But we are saved by HIS LIFE!!! You and I must be joined to His Resurrected life in order to be justified unto eternal life.

        Paul makes this so clear in 1 Corinthians 15:16-23, “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

        Romans 5:12-19, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

        Notice the FREE GIFT is justification; it is being made the righteousness of God in Christ! NOT forgiven of sins!

        1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

        The issue is LIFE!!! We must be joined to Christ’s Resurrected Life in order to receive the gift of righteousness. It is this simple!!! This is the GOOD NEWS that we are to BELIEVE!!!

        To piggyback on Paul’s words in Romans 5:13, “sin is not imputed when there is no law” look at Colossians 2:13-15, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

        Glory Hallelujah!!!


  2. Really wonderful teaching, Charles! Gonna pass this along to all my social networks hoping others might be helped with the clarification that you delivered here. Thank you!


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