Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The apostle Paul was speaking to a legal situation. Paul’s readers were aware of that to which he was referring although we are not.
Here’s the background. As we in the American legal system deal with the crime of murder in terms of first, second and third degree, the Roman legal system described several levels of guilt for the offense. Romans 7:24 refers to one of the most severe punishments of Roman law. The dead body was literally chained to the murderer—face to face, hand to hand, toe to toe. The condemned man was sentenced to go through the remainder of his life chained to this decaying corpse. Keep in mind the acceleration of the decomposing process in that warm climate, then try to imagine how it would be if this body were in front of you while eating or attempting to talk to your wife or children. Imagine the horror as each day the stench becomes increasingly offensive, bringing alienation from family and friends, depriving you of intimacy with another human being. As the decaying corpse becomes rigid and stiff when rigor mortis sets in, sitting down becomes virtually impossible. Sleep escapes you as death permeates every waking moment. Each day the stench grows worse and becomes increasingly more offensive, both to you and everyone around you. Therefore, you are progressively more isolated from family and friends. There is no escape from the reminder of your crime.
The murderer could not avoid breathing in the stench of this decaying body which was his constant companion. It is not hard to understand that many times the condemned man would lose his mind if he did not first die of inhaled putrefaction.
This is a picture of sin. Using his knowledge of the Roman legal practice to draw a vivid comparison, Paul was talking about Christians who sin. Though we may make a desperate attempt to live a sinless life, the apostle Paul became more and more aware of the fact that the harder he tried the more frustrating his failure became.
In Romans 7:24 Paul said: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That is all of the stench and filthiness of my sin that clings to me as the corpse of a dead man. What then is our hope? In Romans 6:18 Paul said: “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” This verse tells me that we as Christian people have been freed from the sin which clings to us. Christ has cleansed us and made us free from the burden of indwelling sin. In Romans 6:6 the apostle Paul said: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that they body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” We do struggle with besetting sins daily but the bottom line is we now have the power of God at our disposal so that we can enjoy victory over every sin. On this earth we will never live a perfect life. We are constantly bombarded with many opportunities for sin but the God who raised us from spiritual death has given us the grace to resist. No longer do we sin under compulsion as a convicted murderer carrying a corpse.
Let us realize first of all the burden that our sin places on us and secondly the freedom that Christ bought us.
See you Sunday.