Scriptures {0} Add your reply?

I Do Not Do the Good that I Want

{ Tags: , \ May31 }

For we know that the law is spiritual;

but I am of the flesh,
sold into slavery under sin.
I do not understand my own actions.

For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate.
Now if I do what I do not want,
I agree that the law is good.

But in fact it is no longer I that do it,
but sin that dwells within me.

For I know that nothing good dwells within me,

that is, in my flesh.

I can will what is right,
but I cannot do it.
For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Now if I do what I do not want,
it is no longer I that do it,
but sin that dwells within me.

Strange words from Paul. They’ve been there for the past 2000 years and yet it continues to defy the right explanation. I could imagine the Manicheans using the passage to promote their idea of man’s irresponsibility with regards to sin. And there are modern Manicheans who would quote this passage to justify their present state of moral turpitude.

I thought I’ve understood the context of this passage when I gave it a read yesterday. But then during this afternoon’s Mass I began to wonder: did I really understand it?

The Catechism of the Church gives a brief note on these passages:

The gap between the wanting and doing points to the conflict between God’s Law which is the “law of the mind” and another law “making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members”

Paul was trying to describe in this brief passage the condition of every man who, though trying hard to be just, still fails in his resolve. Just think of the time you made a New Year’s resolution that you later on broke. Did you break it because you were dishonest, and you were just lying in the first place when you made the resolution? Most people I know would say “I was honest; I tried. But I failed.” This is what Paul tries to describe in these passages. Even those who find it hard to obey the law admit that the law is good. But they could not follow it because of weakness. Paul had already pointed out in the beginning of his letter to the Romans that no man was capable of making himself righteous before God. And he had just contended in his letter, that not even the Law will help man to become righteous. And so this section actually ends with a cry of frustration, followed by a cry of relief: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:24-25)”

Understood from this perspective then, Paul was using as an illustration every man’s experience of failure before the Law. At the same time, he was also showing the inability of the Law to make man better. In a blog I posted elsewhere, I wrote

The Law is like God’s word of command in Eden. It was used by the Serpent to incite Adam and Eve to rebel against God, to be like Him in their own eyes. Paul seems to have this in mind when talks here of the Law becoming an occassion of rebellion because of SIN “dwelling in the flesh.” Paul is not here explaining away the sins that men and women freely commit. He is merely illustrating a point: the LAW is incapable of redeeming anyone.

So when Paul writes “It is not I, but the SIN that dwells in me”, he is not claiming — as the Manicheans used to think — that there is something within me, and apart from me that does the sinning, and so in the last analysis, I am not irresponsible of any sin whatsoever. The whole letter of Paul resists such a conclusion! Rather, Paul is here underlining the fundamental weakness of the FLESH (as opposed to the Spirit) infected by SIN and rendered incapable of the good which is proposed by the LAW.

Luther — NOT Augustine — used this text to promote the idea of man’s total depravity and his absolute need for God’s grace. But that would be something I’d discuss on a different occassion.

Originally posted 2005-10-21 21:06:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post

Related Posts

  • No related posts found.

Comments are closed.

© 2017 The Mystical Geek. Created by miloIIIIVII.
With 52 queries in 0.523 seconds.
Valid CSS 2.1. | Valid XHTML 1.0
404 posts within 33 categories, 265 tags and 31 widgets.