“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.”
We know that no man can serve two masters. — “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). But isn’t that what Paul is saying that he does here? No, remember that Paul identifies two “I’s” in this context. “If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (16). The “I” that Paul says does the evil that the other “I” would not do, is the one that serves the law of sin. The “I” which he describes in verse 17, is the one who serves the law of God.
It is not one man serving two masters, but two “men,” the old man and the new man, each serving their own master. They just both happen to be me. One is born of the flesh, the other is born of the Spirit. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5).
One is willing and able to watch with Christ, the other cannot watch for even one hour. “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40).
Notice the words, “I, myself.” These two natures are not some foreign entities that possess our bodies and act out independently, using our members. They are me. When Paul says in verse 17, “it is no more I, but sin that dwelleth in me,” understand he is not excusing his sinfulness by claiming that sin acts independently of him. We are sin. In verse 16 he confesses, it is “I” that do the things that the other “I” would not. Paul either had two distinct natures, or he was a victim of advanced schizophrenia. But understand, the old nature is personified as “sin that dwelleth in me,” but when it acts, it is “I myself” that is complicit in the act.
Likewise, we know that the new man consists of “Christ in us” (Colossians 1:27), the “Spirit that dwelleth in us” (Romans 8:11), but understand that He does not possess us as a foreign entity, but becomes one with us in such a way that it is “I myself,” that loves, serves, worships and believes on Christ. The flesh can do none of these things, and so Paul says, “not I, but Christ that dwelleth in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Christ did not ask Peter, “does the Spirit love me?” Nor did Peter answer for Someone else, but for himself. Yet, we know that it was not Peter’s flesh that loved Christ. The flesh only loves self, and never improves. We live unto God (Galatians 2:19), and we do love Him; yet it is not us (flesh), but it is Christ that dwelleth in us. All glory goes to Him without Whom we can do nothing (John 15:5), but through Whom, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Chris Cunningham, Pastor
College Grove Grace Church
College Grove, Tennessee (USA)
Sent to me by Don Fortner