A Short Study of Romans 7:21
“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7.21)
The perplexing conflict between good and evil in the Apostle Paul was not an aberration; he said he had discovered a law to that effect. Paul was no religious wastrel, nor was he given to exaggeration. Simply put, this poor man, like all others called by grace, found his life to be swayed by these two principles; good and evil. Thus, by the Spirit of inspiration, he relates his lamentable condition as one of unremitting conflict.
Let us mention that this text is seldom the subject for Arminian inquiry, nor a theme likely to be expostulated upon by those trapped in the web of duty-faith. This text is, rather, a sure beacon in the dark experiences of those tried saints finding so much filthiness and vile imaginations working in the secret recesses of their being. Under God’s blessing they may often find comfort, and experience seasons of delight, in learning that such a man as Paul also was vexed by this warfare. It, the warfare, was the endless conflict raging between the old man and the new.
This is not a text to flee from when the great conflict boils within, when many distresses emerge from the love of sin, sinking us down to the lowest regions; it is rather a fountain of truth flowing with comfort and strength. There is no message here of condemnation. No thunderings of threatened punishment gush forth as might be supposed. This text simply sets before us the facts of the matter. In our times of intended good, evil is just as present with us as our aspirations to holiness. There is no “Ought to” or “Ought not to” here; just the exclamation of one who has discovered this law, or certain consequence, of attempting to do good. “Evil is present.”
Who is there that has not found a little glimmer of hope when hearing a more seasoned child of God lamenting his leanness, and his awful inclinations toward sin? “If that dear brother” we consider, “has these dreadful apprehensions of evil when he desires to do good, then how can we expect to do any better?”
No more sobering and presumption-killing truth ever entered the soul of a child of God than “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3.6). These are the sources of good and evil; good naturally flows from the spiritual birth, and evil likewise develops from the fleshly birth. We believe it to be a certain truth that this conflict will continue unabated to the grave.
J. Poole – 1994