BONDAGE IN THE FLESH BY THE INDWELLING SIN
The Law of God
Although it is somewhat easy for us to understand chapter six, it is not easy to understand chapter seven. It is a “hard hill to climb.” Even many Bible students do not understand chapter seven correctly. There are several key terms found in this chapter. The first important term is the law of God, that is, the Ten Commandments with all of its supplements (vv. 22, 7, 10). This is the law given by Moses.
The second key word is flesh. Paul said, “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells” (v. 18). Whereas chapter six speaks of the old man, chapter seven deals with the flesh. In the Scriptures the word flesh has at least three meanings. In a positive sense it refers to the flesh, bone, and blood as a part of our physical body, the element and constituent of our body. Second, the flesh is the corrupted body. This is on the negative side. Although God had created a body for us which was upright and pure, it was poisoned by Satan. It was corrupted by the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our body, created by God and clean in nature, was corrupted and degraded to become the flesh.
Third, in the Scriptures the flesh is the completely fallen man (3:20; Gal. 1:16). Man has fallen to such an extent that he is absolutely under the control and influence of the flesh. Therefore, the Scriptures tell us that the fallen man is called flesh. This is mentioned clearly in Genesis 6:3 and 12-13. All flesh in these verses indicates that fallen man lives under the control of the flesh, so in the eyes of God he has become flesh. In Romans 7 the word flesh implies the entire fallen man, including his spirit and soul, under the control of the flesh, but the primary meaning is the corrupted body.
The flesh is the living out of the old man. Before the life of the old man is lived out, it is simply the old man, but once it is lived out, it is the flesh. Regardless of how nice someone is, he is still the old man, but we do not realize he is the old man until we see the flesh, that is, his entire living, action, walk, and attitude. The old man in chapter six is expressed and lived out as the flesh in chapter seven. The flesh in doctrine is the old man, and the old man in experience is the flesh.
The flesh is the old man in testimony, living, and moving. In chapter six the old man is there in position only, not in action, but in chapter seven there is the old man in action, so he becomes the flesh. The old man there is very active, living, and moving, especially in striving to do good and to overcome evil. Therefore, he is the flesh.
The Law in the Members of Our Body
The third main point in Romans 7 is the law in our members. The first law in chapter seven is the law of Moses; the second law, the law in the members of our body, is an evil law. In chapter eight it is called the law of sin and of death (v. 2). This law in the members of our physical body is, no doubt, something of the satanic life. Due to the fall, when man partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the satanic life was injected into the human body. The fruit of the tree of knowledge was taken into man’s body, so his body was poisoned. Therefore, in the human body there is something evil. According to the revelation of the Scriptures, all of our doing that issues from the tree of knowledge is something related to sin.
When man took of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and ate it, the evil element of Satan entered into his body. This corresponds with the thought in Romans 7 that there is a law in our members. Since God did not create this law of sin in the members of the human body, it must be something from the fruit of the tree of knowledge which was taken into man’s body and which is something of Satan. Therefore, this law of evil, the law of sin and death, is something of the satanic life.
The principle of any law is that it always corresponds with its life. With a certain kind of life, there is a certain kind of law. For example, there is no need to teach a cat how to catch a mouse. Within the cat’s life there is a law to catch mice. In the same way, there is no need to teach a dog to bark; within the dog’s life is a law to bark. With the vegetable life, there are also laws. The cauliflower is a plant whose law produces white leaves. Another kind of plant has its own law that brings forth yellow leaves. Similarly, there is no need to teach flowers to bloom. There is a blossoming law in their life.
In the same way, we have the law of sin and death in our members because we have the satanic life within us. This can be proven by the fact that unbelievers are called the children of the devil. First John 3:9-10 says that a man who practices sin is a child of the devil, and in John 8:44 the Lord Jesus told the evil Pharisees that their father was the devil.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)