The Zombie Apocalypse
An Exegesis of Romans 7:14-8:4
Ever watched a zombie movie? Zombies are critters who used to be people, but they died from some sort of disease, usually contracted by getting bit by a zombie.
The old zombie movies had slow moving zombies that walked like Frankenstein's monster or something, with arms stretched in front of them and slow, stiff walking motions. But the newer ones have them running at high speed. Regardless, they also end up traveling in packs or crowds—or they take over everything, and it becomes the zombie apocalypse.
Here's the problem with zombies: you can't kill them, because they're already dead. You can hack limbs off, you can shoot them multiple times, you can cut them in two, and they keep coming after you. The only way to permanently stop a zombie is a head shot—shoot them between the eyes.
Did you know that you have a zombie inside of you? We all do.
Remember that in Romans 6:3-4, you are baptized, and that baptism buries the old person who you were. You then arise out of the water in newness of life, a new creature in Christ. You killed that sinful self. But that sinful self you put to death in baptism keeps coming back, and at the most inopportune times! You keep killing it, but it doesn't ever fully die. Even a head shot doesn't work. The only thing that works is a heart shot.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
Genesis 37: Joseph was sold into bondage, forced to labor against his will. Many people in that time volunteered to go into slavery to pay off debts—it was for a limited time as an indentured servant. Joseph went against his will. There is true anguish here.
God made us to be spiritual beings, with His Law written in our hearts. He also gave us free will and the weakness for temptation. This weakness is so strong that our desires can overrule our hearts and minds when we quit fighting them due to being tired or worn out—or we just don't want to fight it anymore.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
When I was a new Christian, I realized my struggle with sin. I'd see something I liked, did the same thing I did before I was a Christian, then I woke up the next morning hating myself. It was not an issue before I was a Christian—I didn't care about it. But once I became a Christian, I had a conscience.
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
The Law IS right. It IS good. I don't want to break it. This isn't me having a bad attitude and not caring what the Law says, this is me breaking the Law regardless of how I feel about the matter.
That old sinful self WON'T DIE. It keeps coming back. In some cases, we try to will it out of existence. That never ends well. Luke 11:24-26 “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” You can't just remove it. You have to replace it with something else. But even then, you still have problems.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
The sinful self crowds out and kills of your ability to do good—while yet you still WANT to do good.
This is explaining the last verse's concept, and that the doing of evil is against my will.
Paul was a rabbinical student. The rabbis taught that there are two impulses within a man, both from God. When a young man comes of age, they contend for mastery within him. The remedy taught by rabbis was devoted study and application of the Law. But Paul says no, the law cannot counteract it.
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
There is a parasite: an evil overlord in my body's temple.
God is right, and that's Who I want residing in my heart!
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
But my mind is surrounded by these evil zombies in the rest of my body.
Absolutely wretched is the one who is enslaved against their will. Recognize the fact that you need outside help. There isn't a single solitary mortal person who can go it alone successfully.
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Here comes the Cavalry! It happens in most of the zombie apocalypse movies—the rescuers show up at the very last minute to save the day.
No, here comes Calvary. Jesus could not have conquered sin or death if He had not appeared in the FLESH to do so. It is the FLESH that has the sinful nature, and Jesus had to conquer it where it resides.
*One side note here: A lot of scholars think that Paul is referring to the Law of Moses here. If that's true, what does that mean for us, we who do not come from the Jewish tradition? Paul looks at Israel's problems with the Mosaic Law as similar to what any people will have with any kind of law. It's already proven that we can't live up to any kind of law, code, or personal resolution well enough to deliver ourselves.
This is because any law can only tell us what to do—but not how to do it.
As long as we're slaves to our sinful nature, law will only reveal our problem and frustrate our efforts to live up to its standards.
Deliverance comes only through Christ.