Thursday, 27 June 2013
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24
It has been since verse 5 of chapter 7 that Paul has written of the conflict that we experience between the flesh and the “inward man.” During these verses, he has repeated his thoughts as if to stress them to us. He has made a comparison, using himself as an example of all humanity; he has used personification, such as the presence of sin in us; etc. These tools have been used to highlight the state we are in as humans, and even as believers. We have a war which rages in us and tears at us as we struggle in this battle.
Today he cries out his wretchedness using the Greek word talaipōros. It is a word which indicates being beaten down from continued strain. The battle leaves a person as if full of calluses and in a state of deep misery. Such a state includes immense side effects from the great, ongoing strain and hardship of the battle. The word is used only one other time in the New Testament. In Revelation 3:17, Jesus says this to those in the church at Laodicea in describing their wretched state, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…”
After the exclamatory cry, Paul makes his begging plea to whatever ear will heed him, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” It is the pitiful cry of any person who understands and feels the conflict and who desires relief from it. There are several prominent viewpoints on what the “body of death” means.
The first is that it is the law of sin found in our members which Paul has been describing. Albert Barnes sees the term “body of death” as a Hebraism which denotes the tendency of the body – “the corrupt principles of man, the carnal, evil affections that lead to death or condemnation.” If this is correct, then the body of death is tied directly to the “body of sin” mentioned in earlier verses. This body of sin has been done away with as is noted in Romans 6:6. Thus the struggle which remains after salvation is real, but it is defeated. Only we cling to the old self, but in reality the victory is won.
A second option is given by the Jew Philo who says it represents the physical body which is a burden to the soul of man. This body is carried about like a dead carcass. It never rests properly from birth even to death. However, the Bible teaches that man is a soul/body unity and that the soul without a body is “naked.” Therefore, if the analysis of Philo is even close to correct, it can only be ascribed to a fallen body, not one as it was originally created for man.
The third option is that it refers to the ancient custom of taking a captive and tying him to a dead body as a type of punishment – face to face, hand to hand, body to body. He would then be compelled to drag this “body of death” with him wherever he went. It’s possible that this is actually what Paul was thinking of and he is merely using it as a description of the on-going battle we face. We are alive, but we still carry this “body of death” with us. Will we break the chains? Will we be free from the corruption which clings to us, infects us, and weighs us down? “Who? Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Life application: Yes, there is corruption in our earthly, fleshly body. We drag around the consequences of our past sins, and we often add to the corruption through more sins. But there is a way out. There is victory in this battle if we will but yield to Jesus. He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Let us endeavor to truly live as if this is true.
O God, I carry around the weight and the heavy burden of the sins I’ve committed. Some have affected me physically, some mentally, and some emotionally. And Lord, I know some have affected those around me as well. Deliver me, O God, that I may not bring more pain to myself or others. And above all, deliver me that I might not bring discredit upon Your glorious name! Amen.