Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

I Am Carnal
Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 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. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 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. (NKJV)





Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, Greece during a three month visit to the church there in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

The teaching for chapters six through eight is sanctification. Sanctification can be defined as the process of being made holy.

Chapter six introduces positional and practical sanctification. Paul then elaborates on positional sanctification in chapter seven and practical sanctification in chapter eight.

In chapter six, Paul taught sanctification as being positional, meaning our standing with God, and as being practical, meaning how we work out this standing in our lives.

Referring to positional sanctification Paul wrote: “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:10). On the cross, Christ finished the work of sin. Sin died and Christ was risen to “live to God” a new life as the Resurrected Christ.

Next, he wrote “Just as Christ died to sin, likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin (Romans 6:11a). Positionally, Christ’s death on the cross put sin to death and we Christians died to sin with Him. Practically, Paul commands us to “be dead indeed to sin”.

Christ has declared us dead to sin. Positional sanctification says that we are dead to sin, we are unable to sin. When we become a Christian, we become a new creation, dead to sin and alive to righteousness, “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 11b).

In this passage, Paul continues on the subject of positional sanctification. Even though Christians are dead to sin, we pack around that old flesh with us until we go to Heaven. And that causes a lot of problems.

Paul writes: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (v. 14). The law is spiritual and our spiritual self makes up its mind to obey the law. But our physical self, our carnal self, is still a slave to sin and has a mind of its own.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (vv. 14-15). So our physical self still wins out, at times. Our spiritual self does not understand or like this.

“If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.” (v. 16). Our spiritual self agrees with the law that the law is good, and that we should not sin.

“But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (v. 17). So our spiritual self is no longer under sin, but sin still dwells in us in the form of our old physical self that we are lugging around.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; (v. 18a). Nothing good dwells in our physical self.

“For to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” (v. 18b) Our spiritual self wants to perform what is good, but we don’t know how.

The Israelites wanted to do what was good for thousands of years before Christ came, but they always failed in the end. They proved that mankind is not good, in the eyes of God, apart from Christ.

“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (v. 19). We want to do good, but we fail. We don’t want to do evil, but that is what we practice.

“Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (v. 20). So, if we do what we don’t want to do, it is not our spiritual self doing it. It is our physical self, where sin dwells.

“I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” (v. 21). It is a fact that we want to do good, but evil is present in us.

“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” (v. 22). As Christians, our “inward man”, our spirit, “delights” in obeying “the law of God”.

“But I see another law in my members” (v. 23a). But, there is “another law” in our physical selves.

“Warring against the law of my mind,” (v. 23b). The law of our physical selves is at war with the law of our spiritual selves.

“And bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (v. 23c). And the law of our physical selves, “the law of sin”, takes prisoner the law of our spiritual selves.

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24). So, as wretched as we are as sinners, we need someone to deliver us from “this body of death”.

“I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25a). We thank God that He has provided Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit, to deliver us.

“So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (v. 25b). In conclusion, we serve the “law of God” with our spiritual selves. But we still serve “the law of sin” with our physical selves.

So, we, as Christians, still have a problem, positionally. We must work out this problem practically.

That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “indwell”, theologically, as meaning “to be permanently present in someone’s soul or mind; to possess spiritually”.

The Holy Spirit ministers to our spirit (Romans 8:16). When we allow the Holy Spirit to control our actions, He will overcome our physical selves.