I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ~ Romans 7:15This is one of the many segments of Paul's writing that has puzzled me. Is he saying he can't help but sin? Therefore, we also must face the fact that we cannot be without sin ourselves? That's what I've always thought, but I don't think that is exactly what he is saying.
When this scripture is read in context (at minimum all of chapters 7 and 8) there is much greater hope in this passage.
Paul tells us that we know what sin is because of the law. When we try to follow the law on our own strength, we quickly find that we can't do it - "for what I want to do I do not do."
I think he is saying that when I rely on myself, I will sin. However, the good news is that we have been rescued from having to rely on ourself! Think about that! It's great news.
Paul is saying, if I try to be a good moral person or if I try to live according to the law given to Moses, if that is my focus in life, I'm doomed. I can't do it. But, if I focus on the Spirit given to me through Jesus Christ, then I live and everything falls into place as it should.
Personal example. Several years ago, I battled an addiction which I knew was not good. In my prayers I focused on the stuff I didn't want to do. I was losing each battle until I finally responded to God's call to quit looking at the "law" and put my focus on him. This is impossible to do on our own strength. Only the Spirit can show us the mind of God.
Paul is not giving us justification for the bad things we do. This passage is a declaration of freedom from the bondage to that sinful life. Yes, for now, the battle continues. But the good news is that we are not prisoners of this war. We have been rescued to fight not on our own strength which always brings death but by the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.
More typical example. My child responds inappropriately to my instructions. The sinful self wants that kid to obey God's law - Honor your parents! By focusing on that law, I generally lose it - "mama volcano blows." But if I give up my control and focus on the Spirit of God within me, amazing life and peace appear in the midst of the battle. It may not be void of struggle but the stench of being imprisoned by death is overpowered by the sweetness of life.
May God add the exhilarating blessing of understanding as you read his Word today.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.~ Romans 8:5-11