Romans 7:13-25 Sermon The Battle Within: The Redeemed Sinner (Rev. Erik Veerman)

Jul 23, 2023

Romans 7:13-25

The Battle within: The Redeemed Sinner

Rev. Erik Veerman


This morning, we’re wrapping up our summer study of Romans 6-7.

One thing we’ve learned is that our justification is the foundation to our sanctification. Our justification

is how God has redeemed us and restored us to a right relationship with him. Our sanctification is the

ongoing work of God in us as we are conformed to his image.

For example, Chapter 6 revealed that God has applied Jesus’ death and resurrection to us by uniting us

to him. Our justification comes through that beautiful union through which we receive the benefits of

what Christ has accomplished.

But the main point of Chapter 6 is that because we’ve been united to Christ, we should turn from the

ongoing sin in our life and pursue the things of God. That’s our sanctification. It happens through the

work of God’s Spirit now in us, as we seek to live out the grace of God. Our justification in Christ is the

foundation to and motivation for our sanctification.

That brought us to chapter 7. It has focused on our relationship to God’s law. His law is the ultimate

standard of right and wrong. Because of our sin, God’s law revealed condemnation and death. To put

that in terms of our justification, God’s law does not and cannot justify us. No, instead we need faith in

Christ – He fulfilled the law’s requirement of perfect obedience for us and he paid the law’s penalty for


The important thing we learned is that the law was not the problem before coming to Christ. No, rather,

our sin was the problem. In fact, the law is good and holy and right. It reveals our sin, points us to God,

and directs us to holiness and righteousness.

And that brings us to these final verses in chapter 7. We’ve already learned that the law is not the basis

of our justification. These verses reveal that the law is also not the basis of our sanctification.

So now, let’s come to these last verses of Chapter 7. You can find that on page 1121 if you are using the

provided Bibles. Chapter 7 verses 13-25


Reading of Romans 7:13-25.


About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Belgium. A group of us were visiting some missionaries

to experience their work. While there, we took a day to explore a couple of WWII battle sites. Of

particular note, we stopped by some of the Battle of the Bulge sites. In fact, we came across some of the

old foxholes that had been dug near the city of Bastogne. There was no sign, just a nearby monument

dedicated to the E Company from northeast Georgia. The men fighting in that location had been trained

near Toccoa, Georgia. It was moving to be there. The soldiers had hunkered down in the freezing cold

starting. It was December, 1944. They stood their ground, fighting for each other and against evil. Many

lives and limbs were lost.

The Battle of the Bulge was Germany’s last-ditch effort in the war. You see, by then, the allied forces had

already recaptured France. The successful invasion on the beaches of Normandy delivered a devastating

blow. The war was over… but it wasn’t. It was over in the sense that there was no path to victory for the

evil Nazi regime, but it wasn’t over because the Germans had not yet surrendered.

The war had been won but the battles continued. And those battles were real. Jeff and Dianne Chinery

had a neighbor who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He passed away recently, but he told them how

hard and cold it was.

Beloved in Christ, victory over sin has been achieved, but the battles against sin are still waging. Sin’s

power has been broken. But until we reach eternity with Christ, we will still battle. Not to win the war.

No, it’s already been won by Christ for us. We still battle, but we do so as victors in him. Sometimes we

call this the already and not yet. The war has been won in Christ already, but we have not yet reached

the full benefits of his victory.

That’s what I believe the apostle Paul is describing in these verses: the ongoing battle of sin in the

Christian but with the sure hope in Christ’s victory.

Now, I have to tell you, there have been different interpretations of these verses. Some believe, myself

included, that Paul is writing from the perspective of a believer, redeemed in Christ. Others believe that

he’s writing from the perspective as an unbeliever, not yet redeemed, such as his old self. In fact, many

of the early church fathers in the second and third century thought Paul was personifying someone else

– someone unredeemed. Augustine, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries started with that

perspective, but then changed his mind. He originally thought the apostle was writing as an unbeliever.

But later in life, Augustine decided it’s better to understand these verses as someone redeemed by

Christ but still struggling with sin. If you know a little of Augustine’s life perhaps his own struggle

influenced his understanding.

Today, you’ll find commentators on both sides and some in the middle.

Again, I believe Paul is writing as himself as a believer by faith in Christ. Let me give you the two reasons

which tipped the scales for me:

• First, there is a very clear change in verb tense. The verses we looked at last week, 7-12 were

referring to the past. For example, in verse 7 Paul wrote, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have

known sin.” In the next verse, he said, sin “produced in me” (past tense) and later, “sin “deceived me.”

Then Verse 9, “I once was alive apart from the law.” Do you hear that? And if you read those verses

again, you’ll get the clear sense that Paul was writing about his pre-conversion as the Lord began to

open the eyes of his heart. That is very different from our verses this morning - 13-25. He’s now

exclusively using present tense verbs. Over and over “I do” and “I do not” and “I agree” and “I know”

and sin “dwells with me.” Present tense. Let me add to that. In these verses, Paul continues to talk

about himself. Some believe he’s switched to now talking as an unbeliever. I just don’t buy that

argument. In verse 25 he writes, “I myself” He’s emphasizing himself. Plus, these verses are a

continuation from the previous verses. He connects them to the commandment he’s been referring to

as well as the rest of God’s law. So, I believe the apostle is talking about himself in the present tense, as

a believer in Christ.

• Second, the person who’s speaking is very affirming of God’s law with a heart desire to fulfill it.

As we go through these verses, notice that he refers to the law as good. He wants to do what the law

says, which is good. In these verses, he uses the word “good” over and over in reference to the law. And

he has an internal desire to do that which is good. There’s very much a heart motivation to do good, not

an external, pharisaical, “going through the motions” response to God’s law. A Christian’s view of God’s

law should be that internal heart desire to know it and obey it. God’s law is good. It’s not our salvation,

but it helps us to see our sin and to know how God desires us to live.

I hope that helps. I think by the end of this sermon, you’ll have an even deeper sense that this is

redeemed Paul speaking… that he’s writing as himself at this moment in his life.

With that perspective in mind, let me first summarize these verses.

Paul is acknowledging the internal struggle of sin that he and all believers deal with. We desire to do

what is right according to God’s good law, but we often fail because of the weakness of our flesh. This is

the ongoing and often intense battle against sin. But thanks be to God because the war has already been


As we start to look at some of the specifics, notice that Paul begins with a reminder of God’s law.

In fact, verse 13 is a good summary from last week. He writes, “Did that which is good,” meaning the

law, “bring death to me?” Did the law bring death? “By no means!” The law merely revealed our sin for

what it is – (1) totally contrary to God’s will; (2) deserving of death and condemnation.

“The law is spiritual,” Paul writes. God’s law is good and righteous as he stated one verse ago. But in

contrast, look at the end of 14, “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” I know what some of you are

thinking. “See, I told you so. This isn’t the apostle Paul talking as a Christian. No, a Christian has been

bought by Christ. He’s now free. Got you. Checkmate. Good game.”

Ahh! But I got you. Because you see, his train of thought does not end there! No, it continues. Look at

the middle of 15 “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” You see, in our minds, we

want to do that which is good. We have the earnest desire to do what is good. But what do we do

instead? We end up doing what we hate – sin! You see, it’s the Christian who hates his or her sin. “Sold

under sin” is referring to the sinful hearts that we were born with. Like David’s plea for mercy in Psalm

51. As we read earlier, he said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother

conceive me.” Even though we’ve been redeemed, the presence of sin is still there.

Every single one of us here has patterns of specific sin in our lives. What’s yours? Anger? Lust? Coveting?

Do you have an addiction? Or are you prone to laziness or selfishness. There are a whole host of things.

The Christian hates his or her sin. A maturing Christian hates his sin more and more.

Do you not cry out to God. “Lord, I know what is good, but I need your help because I continue to

struggle with this specific sin.” This is what these verses are saying.

This helps us understand Verse 16, which can be confusing. It says, “Now if I do what I do not want, I

agree with the law, that it is good.” Paul is saying that the law gives him the categories of right and

wrong. He recognizes his sin, which is good. It’s like he’s saying, “Lord, I’m agreeing with the law. When I

sin, I know that it is wrong. That is a good thing!”

Does not your heart grieve when that sin you are so familiar with raises its ugly head again?

The important question is: how should we understand the ongoing sin in our lives? What is going on

inside that causes us to sin? Verse 17 answers that question. “It is no longer I who do it.” But you say,

“What?! How can the apostle say that? Of course, it’s him, right. He’s the one who sinned.” Let me

explain it this way, Paul is saying is that his identity is now in Christ. That’s who he is. It’s what defines

him. He’s a new creation in Christ. Sin is no longer his core identity. Rather when he sins, it’s the vestiges

of sin in him from the fall. “It’s no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”

To say it again, the battles we wage against sin are not battles to win the war – it has already been won

for us. But that does not make the battles easy.

As you look at these verses, multiple times, Paul comments on the difficulty of the battle against sin.

He says in verse 18 “nothing good dwells in me.” But he’s very careful to qualify it. He adds, “that is, in

my flesh.” He goes on to say that the battle is so difficult. I am not doing what I want but I do the very

thing that I consider evil.

Do you feel that tension in your own life? I know many of you do. Because I’ve talked and prayed with

some of you about it.

For the believer, feeling overwhelmed by sin is common. I think the reason Paul repeats this tension is

because we all experience it. Because look, it’s repeated again in verses 22-23! “I delight in the law of

God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind…”

What is that war being waged? It’s right there at the end of 23. It’s the war seeking to make you “captive

to the law of sin.” On the one hand, there’s the law of God. On the other hand, there’s the law of sin, as

he puts it. Or we could say, “the law of how sin operates.”

Here’s what sin wants to do in your life: Sin wants to bring you back to your old ways. It wants you to sin

more and feel condemned more. Here’s how sin operates: it wants you to think that the battles you are

fighting are still battles to win the war. Sin wants you to think that you are losing the war or that the

answer is to run to God’s law.

A few years ago, I was counselling a man who struggled with pornography. A common struggle of many.

It was an on and off thing in his life. He would have times of victory. But then he would stumble and fall.

And he said to me one day in deep pain. “I don’t even know whether I am a Christian. I keep failing. I

keep losing the battle against lust.”

We went to Romans 7. “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” And “I

see in my members another law waging war in me.” I said to him, “the very fact that you are fighting the

battle and feel that ongoing conviction testifies to your faith.”

In his mind, he had been comparing the sinful part of his flesh to God’s law without reminding himself of

the Gospel. That caused him to feel condemned by his sin.

The law is not the means or avenue through which we are sanctified. Let me put that in another way:

The law’s function in our justification is very similar to the law’s function in our sanctification. It does not

justify us, and it does not sanctify us. Rather, it reveals our sin and either points us to Christ for the first

time or it points us back to him.

I really like how pastor John Stott put it: He said, “Having vindicated the law in verses 7-13 as not

responsible for sin or death, Paul now proceeds to show that nevertheless the law cannot be

responsible for our holiness either.” He continues, “The law is good, but it is also weak. In itself, it is

holy, but it is impotent to make us holy.”

As a Christian, what do you do when that persistent sin circles back around? …when you fall to its

temptation again? Where should you turn for help? Your temptation will be to go to the law. See how

bad I am! You’ll feel the weight of that sin.

What should do you do, instead? Two things!

First, go to Christ!

Paul proclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He’s not hiding

from the severity of his sin nor that the sin in his flesh is an affront to God. No, Paul is very upfront

about his sin, as should we. In his first letter to Timothy he writes, “The saying is trustworthy and

deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the

foremost.” Paul clearly recognizes the severity of his sin over and over. All that does for him is make him

all the more thankful for Christ. You see, Paul knows where to turn. “Thanks be to God through Jesus

Christ our Lord!”

Repeat these words in your heart. Not out loud but inside. “I am redeemed.” “The war has been won.” “I

can fight the battle of my sin in his strength.” “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ [my] Lord!”

Beloved in Christ, you have a Savior who loves you and who has died for you. You are united to him.

You’ve been justified in him. Let your justification in him be the foundation to your sanctification. Go

back to it as often as you need it.

Love God’s law. Love it not because it saves or sanctifies, but because it points you to God and directs

you to the one who does save and sanctify.

So that’s the first thing you should do when your sin weighs you down. Return to Christ, be reminded

that you’re victorious in him. Fight the battle against sin in his strength, not yours.

Second, draw upon the strength of God’s Spirit in you. There’s only one Holy Spirit reference in this

whole chapter - way back up in verse 6. To be sure, the apostle Paul is not downplaying the Spirit’s role

in the life of the believer. Remember, this chapter focuses on God’s law. What it is and what it isn’t.

What the law does and what it does not do. But when you turn the page to chapter 8, it is full of

references to the Holy Spirit - 20 references in chapter 8 to the Holy Spirit. Many of them about how

God applies his law in us.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of

life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Over and over. We are in the Spirit.

He dwells in us. We can set our minds on the Spirit. Through the Spirit we can put to death the deeds of

the body. Etc and Etc.

For those of you who were here three years ago. That was our very first sermon series. Romans chapter

8. We needed a Romans chapter 8 encouragement in the midst of Covid.

We can draw upon the strength of God’s Spirit who applies God’s Word in us. How do we do that? We

go to God in prayer. We ask him for strength. We dig deep in his Word. We seek to worship God

together and in our lives. And through all of it, his Spirit will be at work in us.

So, when the battle gets intense, go back to the salvation you have in Christ and draw upon the work of

God’s Spirit.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted about 40 days. 40 painful days. It ended on January 25, 1945. In the three

months that followed, the allied forces launched several counter attacks. As they advanced, they

liberated several concentration camps. They pressed on knowing the end was near. And finally, on May

7, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered. The war had already been won but now it was officially


There will come a day when believers by faith in Christ will be fully released from sin. That day will come

when either (1) we pass from this life into glory or (2) when Christ returns in glory. Until that day, fight

the ongoing battles of sin through Christ, in his Spirit, knowing that he has already won the war.