At the end of Romans chapter seven, Paul tells us about a struggle, wherewith the mind wants to serve righteousness, but the flesh wants to serve sin. This is a battle Christians may find themselves facing. However, if our flesh serves sin, then aren't we a servant to sin? If we are servants to sin, then how are we servants of Christ? Christ said "by their fruits ye shall know them." We don't see the fruits of someone's righteous thoughts, if outwardly in their flesh they are serving sin.
In the first epistle of John the apostle, John says that if we sin, we are not of the Father. This is deep, deep, scary stuff, and something I don't think I've ever heard gotten into from the pulpit, or delved into in many books. In fact, I haven't yet read a book that goes into this.
The word of God is clear and concise, and if we let Scripture interpret Scripture, we can get to the bottom of this. Let's get our answer, shall we?
First, the main Scripture of this article:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 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. -Romans 7:18-25
At first glance, one may look at the above passage, and get a bit lost. Here's a tip to help in reading the above: Every place you see the word "would," remember that it means 'want to do,' "would not," means 'don't want to do,' and 'will,' means 'want.' This may make the above passage easier to navigate.
Leaving the above, many have come away thinking that just as long as they want to do the right thing in their mind, then it's okay if they sin in the flesh. Some think they can't help it, and that is the nature of this fallen world. I know this is not the proper conclusion of the above, because if it were, it would contradict many other Scriptures. When an interpretation of a certain Scripture leads to a contradiction with other Scriptures, then either:
1) The interpretation of said Scripture is incorrect,
2) The interpretation of the supposed contradicting Scriptures are incorrect.
To determine which of the above is the correct answer in a confusing situation in reading a seemingly puzzling portion of the Word of God, go with the most literal interpretation of all Scriptures concerned, and find other Scriptures that line up with your findings. If you are finding you have to go to sources outside of the canonical bible, or to things written by man to get what you believe to be the correct interpretation, then you may be twisting the Scriptures, rather than taking them at what they really say. An exception to this, would be if the outside sources happen to be correct. If that be the case, then it would cycle back to the most literal interpretation of the Bible, meaning no outside source needed to be pursued in the first place.
There are many Scriptures in the Bible that disagree with the view that a Christian can be righteous in mind, but serve sin in their flesh, but still be a servant of Christ. We are not stuck with the law of sin and death. See, for example:
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. -Matthew 7:20
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. -1 John 3:8-9
Even the same chapter as our above Romans 7:18-25 agrees with the above Scriptures. Take a look:
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. -Romans 7:4
Therefore, if we were to keep the interpretation that we can serve Christ with our mind, but can't help but sin in the flesh, and we try to reconcile that belief with the above Scriptures, then we'd have to conclude that no one can be saved, and Christ therefore died in vain.
Any Christian who has read the Bible, or even just the Gospel of John or Romans, etc, knows the above conjecture cannot be true. Therefore, we'd have to conclude that either our interpretation of 1 John 3:8-9, Romans 7:4, and Matthew 7:20 are wrong, or that our interpretation of Romans 7:18-25 is wrong. I can tell you that the latter is true - the example of the skewed view of Romans 7:18-25 is wrong. I can state this factually, for two very concrete reasons:
1) The above other Scriptures show said skewed interpretation must be wrong,
2) Don't stop reading at the end of Romans 7 and come to a conclusion. Keep reading into chapter 8, and get the full story.
Remember, the Bible wasn't originally divided up into chapters and verses. That was done years later, for ease of communal reading, and to share Scriptural references with one another, etc. This means that each chapter in the Bible isn't always going to punctuate a complete thought or subject. The thought and subject put forth at the end of Romans chapter 7 continues into Romans chapter 8.
Before we see the conclusion of the matter, and the truth of what the end of Romans 7 means, I first want to point out two key words - "mind," and "flesh." The above Romans 7 passage, at the end of the chapter, says "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin." Here we have mind and body - "mind," and "flesh." Where's spirit? - Mind, Body, Spirit. Spirit is in the next verse. Take a look:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. -Romans 8:1
We see from other Scriptures that there is condemnation to those who walk after the flesh, but the above says if we walk after the Spirit, we are not condemned. This is the key to answering the dilemma of "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
We saw in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation to those who walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:2 answers the above quoted portion about the law of sin (and death):
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. -Romans 8:2
We now see that we are only stuck serving sin in the flesh, but wanting to serve Christ with our mind, if we are not walking the Spirit. Notice the above has 'Spirit' capitalized. It is through the Holy Spirit of God that we are able to not only stand against sin, but also overcome it.
Of ourselves, in our own flesh, we only have so much will power. Our minds have a lot of will power, but the flesh can eventually overpower our mental will. But, walking in the Holy Spirit of God, which indwells every truly born again Christian helps us overcome the flesh and its sinful carnality.
If a Christian sins, which is against the Spirit within them, do they then lose their salvation? No. Take a look:
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. -1 John 1:6-10
Walking in the light is synonymous with walking in the Spirit, because Jesus is the light of the world, as we see in John chapter 1 and other Scriptures.
The above also says we are to confess our sin. Who do we confess it to? It is obviously to God, and not man:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
We now know that the key to not walking in the flesh which can result in falling under the law of sin and death is to instead walk in the light, or in the Spirit. What does walking in the Spirit look like? The Bible tells us this in many places. Below are two such Scriptures that show us:
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. -Romans 8:5-14
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. -Galatians 5:16-26
Jesus said that by their fruits ye shall know them. Are you producing the fruits of the Spirit, or the works of the flesh? Those who are committing the works of the flesh are either not saved, and need to get saved, or they are backslidden, and need to follow 1 John 1:9 and get right with God. This is important! Remember, the above says of those who walk after the flesh - "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Get right with God, if you are not walking in the Spirit, while there is still time. For there may be not much time left. We don't really know, do we?