Wednesday

12 February 2014

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25)


Background

Just as Paul had to defend himself against those who said he was giving licence for people to carry on sinning, he also had to defend himself from accusations that he believed that the law is sin. (This is understandable, given how closely he associated sin with the law.) But he denied this and uses the sin of covetousness as his prime example and defence. By covetousness, we are referring to desiring something which is owned by someone else.

It has been suggested that Paul fell on this example because it describes the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, who desired the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-7). We can see how Adam and Eve were innocent; then came the commandment not to eat the fruit, followed by the desire for the fruit and then the sin of eating it. Before the commandment came they did not particularly desire it and they didn't know it was wrong to desire it. It was the serpent who personifies evil (or sin for our purposes) and as it says in verse 11 "seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me".

In verses 14-25 Paul describes an internal struggle about keeping the law. These verses are not therefore about keeping the law per se for there are many laws which people are able to keep. For Jews the keeping of the Sabbath, laws of purity and other laws are all kept, whilst today, most people do not steal or murder; all of which is done without too much internal struggle. Instead Paul is probably talking here about desire, taking again the theme of covetousness.

These verses are probably something to which we can all relate; that desire to be a better person, to be more loving and sensitive and to say the right thing. And we can probably all relate to that sense of frustration and guilt as we cry out with Paul: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?"


To Ponder

  • How do you know the difference between good and bad desires?
  • To what extent do you feel that sense of exasperation and frustration described by Paul? 


Bible notes author:  The Revd Jonathan Mead

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