It is a difficult passage, but the meaning is clear when we realize that he is talking about his struggle with sin before becoming a Christian. As a child, Paul did not know right from wrong and was not accountable to the law of God. He “was alive once without the law” (v. 9). After coming of age, he realized he was a law breaker and now under the condemnation of the law. The problem was not with the law; it was “holy and just and good” (v. 12). The problem was with Paul; he was a sinner (vv. 13-14).
Paul described his struggle as a sinner (vv. 15-23). He knew what the law said and knew that the law was good, but he stilled sinned. Sin dwelled in him. He was controlled by the flesh. Evil was present with him. So, he did what he did not want to do, what he knew he should not do, and he did not do what he wanted to do, what he knew he should do. His mind was taken captive by his flesh.
These are the words of a Christian man that fell into an alcohol addiction. His wife and son left him almost a year ago. His divorce is supposed to be finalized in June.
“I have lost everything, but…
I saw God and have been trying to live as a Christian for several months. Life is hard now but not so bad as many have. My cross is small but it is still a little overwhelming…
Hoping that God will save my marriage and allow me my family going forward, like before, but this time with me different…
I am just a little lonely and concerned about the past, the present and future...
Am very human.”
I recently met Jeff at a Gospel Meeting. Because he committed adultery, his wife divorced him. He went into a great depression and started drinking. In time, he found himself in a dump of a hotel room with nothing left to his name but four beers in the refrigerator. That was all he wanted because it was the only thing that helped him forget everything.
The king of Bezek was defeated by Judah and when they caught him they cut off his thumbs and big toes. He said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me” (Judges 1:7). There are at least two lessons for us in this story.
One, even the seemingly most insignificant parts of the body are important. This is true in regards to the physical body. To lose our thumbs would make it quite difficult to handle things and to lose our big toes would be crippling. But, this is also true in regards to the spiritual body of Christ, His church.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135