Wretched Man

Bible Reading: Romans 7:7-25; Romans 8

Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Before we move forward to explore the treasures to be found in Romans 8, it’ll be good for us to visit the preceding context.  The therefore of Romans 8:1 looks back to Romans 7.  As we shall see, there’s quite a contrast between Romans chapter 7 and Romans chapter 8.

One question raised regarding this passage (Romans 7:7-25) is the identity of the “wretched man” spoken of.  Three possibilities have been suggested: 1) an anonymous unconverted man; 2) the Apostle Paul before his conversion; and 3) the Apostle Paul in his “present tense” experience.  Both 1) and 2) cannot be true since Paul speaks of attitudes towards the law that are not concurrent to that of an unconverted person (Romans 7:16, 18-21, 22). Since the verbs used in verses 24-25 are all in the present tense, the logical conclusion is that the Apostle Paul is speaking of himself in his “present tense” experience as a converted (i.e., saved) person.  The deliverance he longs for and expects can only be fully realized in the future redemption of his body.

The passage repeatedly references the law. Three main points are made: 1) the effect of the law is to give knowledge of sin (Romans 7:7, 13; 3:20); 2) the law does this is by declaring God’s prohibitions and commands which work to goad sin into active rebellion, thus making a person aware of the specific shortcomings into which sin then leads him (Romans 7:8, 19, 23); 3) because of the weakness of the flesh, the law avails no power to a person to do the thing commanded and cannot deliver a person from sin (Romans 7:9-11, 22-24).  The term “flesh” is used to describe the fallen human condition, which is the old, earthly temporal order subject to the power of sin—weak and corruptible and unimprovable. 

In Romans chapter 7, the pronoun “I” occurs 27 times and the Holy Spirit is not found once.  The passage, in its ‘self’ focus, ends with this question: “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  In self, there can be no rescue from sin.  No amount of wanting, willing, or working can work to deliver a man from sin. In Christ alone can victory be found.  As the hymn aptly puts it, ‘None else can heal all our soul’s diseases!’”

No amount or wanting, willing, or working can work to deliver a man from sin. In Christ alone can victory be found.

A victorious change of perspective takes place in the transition from Romans chapter 7 to Romans Chapter 8.  In Chapter 8, the pronoun “I” is found only twice, and the Holy Spirit is referred to repeatedly.  The chapter begins with a promise of “no condemnation” (8:1) and a declaration of freedom (8:2), and concludes with the assurance of “no separation” (8:39) and a promise of overwhelming triumph (8:37). 

F B Meyer has commented on this: “The key to the plaintive moan (Romans 7:24) of this chapter consists in this. It is the result of the endeavor to live a holy life apart from the power of the indwelling Savior, and independently of the grace of the Holy Spirit. All such efforts are sure to end in wretchedness. We can no more sanctify ourselves than we can justify. Deliverance from the power of sin is the gift of God’s grace, as forgiveness is. And it is only when we have come to the very end of all our strivings and resolvings, and have abandoned ourselves to the Savior He should do in us and for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that we are led to cry, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Wretched men are set free from sin only through the indwelling presence and power of a Wonderful Savior!


Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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