THE LAWS IN ROMANS 7 AND 8
The laws that we are speaking about are not the laws known to the lawyers. In Romans 7 there are three kinds of laws. In chapter eight there is another law, which makes four laws altogether.
A. The Law of God
First, there is the law of God. Everything that God created has its laws. For example, the rising and setting of the sun and the four seasons all have their specific laws. The farmers have to sow and reap according to these laws. God has also placed specific laws upon man. He forbids man to sin and teaches him to do good. If a man wants to live, he has to obey God’s law. Once a man disobeys God’s law, he will be condemned by it.
B. The Law of Good in the Mind
Second, there is the law of the mind. The outward visible part of a person is his body. The inward invisible part is his spirit. Between the body and the spirit, there is the soul. Man is divided into three parts, which are, from the inside to the outside: the spirit, the soul, and the body. The soul includes the personality, the mind, the emotion, and the will. After man fell, the mind became the biggest part of the soul. From Romans 7:23 we see that the law of the mind is good. There, the law of the members wars with the law of the mind. These two laws are against one another. If they are complementary to one another, they will only be companions. But if they are against one another, it proves that one is good and the other is evil. The law of the mind is good. God created man a good man, and, as such, his mind must be good. Sometimes we are not very accurate in our preaching of the gospel. We tell others that there is no good thing within man. A few years ago, I followed others to say the same thing. Later, I reconsidered and felt that this is not right, because even an unsaved person has good inclinations, such as honoring the parents, helping others, and doing good. The Chinese sages said that within every person there is a heart of sympathy. It is true that the Bible tells us that within our flesh nothing good dwells, but this does not mean that within my whole being there is absolutely no good whatsoever. If that were true, there could not have been the warring mentioned in these verses. There is warring because the body wants to sin, while the mind wants to do good, and in making up one’s mind to do good, there is the conflict. The reasoning faculty is a part of the soul, and for the most part the reason chooses the good. Within man there is a natural law that urges man to do good. This is because man is created by God.
C. The Law of Sin in the Members
Third, there is the law in the members. The members here refer to the different parts of the body. The law of the members is the law of the body. This is not a good law. The law of sin in verse 25 is another name for the law in the members. According to the law of the mind, man wants to do good. But according to the law of the body, he feels that evil is present with him. Here it mentions "to will" (7:18), which is a question of the will. It also mentions to "delight" (7:22), which is a question of the emotion, and "to do the good" (7:21), which is a function of the mind. To will, to delight in, and to do good are all functions of the law of the soul. However, man is not strong enough to overcome. On the contrary, he is defeated and is carried away to obey the law of the members. This is why there is the sighing, "Wretched man that I am!" This man’s mind, will, and emotion all desire to do good. But he fails, and he is not able to overcome the law of the body. Here, man discovers that within him there is present a law of evil.
Before man fell, there was the law of good, because at the time God created man, man was good and he was pure. After man ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he took Satan into his body. The name of Satan is "the evil one." This word is the same in Greek as the word "evil" in Romans 7. Within every unbeliever, there are two laws, the law of good and the law of evil. The law of good is in man’s mind, whereas the law of evil is in man’s flesh. The Chinese have the so-called "conflict between reason and lust." The "reason" there is the law of good in the created life, and the "lust" there is the law of evil in the body. The conflict between reason and lust as described by the Chinese is similar to the conflict described in Romans 7.
For an opium smoker, his reason tells him that he should not take opium. Although he may make up his mind not to take any more opium, his body is addicted to it. Although his mind, emotion, and will agree that he should not take it, his body has been addicted to opium, and the addiction takes over his hands, feet, and his entire body, and it drags his body to the opium parlor. Although the law of the mind tells him not to take opium, once the opium-burner is lighted, he begins to take the opium again.
The same is true with losing our temper. The law of the mind tells a person not to lose his temper. But when the temper comes, a person cannot hold it down. His temper has taken him captive. Many times, after husbands lose their temper with their wives, they hit themselves in remorse. But then when they are stirred up again, their faces turn red, and they are led to do things against their will again. According to the law of the mind in their soul, they do not want to lose their temper. But when the law of evil in their body is activated, they lose their temper again, and the reason is once more overcome by the lust. In the end, they discover that their reason is weak, and their lust is strong.
(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)