Christian Wretchedness

In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul made an indepth study of man‘s relation to God and His law. Not by his own righteousness can man meet God‘s demands. It is only by the God-given righteousness of faith that a confrontation with God is safe for man. He is saved, renewed, through Christ, by grace. As such, he can have a delight in the law of God after the inward man (Rom. 7:22).

However, Paul makes clear also that this does not mean present unmixed happiness for the Christian now. He testifies to a different, a foreign element in his members (Rom. 7:22, 23), and its presence and workings lead Paul to admit and lament his wretched· ness (Rom. 7:24). But, thanks to God, Paul could also point to the great Deliverer from that wretchedness: Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:24, 25).

There are telling instances of such wretchedness recorded in Scripture. Jacob-Israel deceived Isaac, his father, to receive his blessing. Godly King David committed adultery and murder. Peter (leading disciple) denied his Lord. Some of us may know of shocking sins of contemporary outstanding Christians. Possibly our own lives, private or public, include such evil doing. How wretched God‘s people can be as they regret such misdeeds, and even when there have been no such subtle offenses each Christian conscience must deplore his many less obvious sins.

Yes, Christians! Paul by his outspoken distress, showed that he was a child of God. The unrepentant sinner does not understand or share this Christian sense of wretchedness. Judas’ guilty conscience drove him to suicide. The Pharisees of Paul’s day and the humanists of our time, envision self-improvement, self-congratulation! But with Paul (Rom. 7:24) we sense our own peculiar wretchedness as Christians.

But notice: With Paul (Rom. 7:17) and John (I John 3:6,9; 4: 17), we know that our new life, the life of one regenerated, does not sin. The work of God in us is perfect.. But we must remember that there is “another law in our members” (Rom. 7:23). There is a foreign tendency and activity, warring against the law of our (renewed) mind. That evil partner, the “old man of sin,” may incite us to all kinds of sin, and that may cause distress voiced in that “O wretched man, who shall deliver me from this death?” We Christians may be puzzled and distressed by evil foolishness of fellow Christians, or some gross sin in our own lives, and ask in painful concern: “How can we, Christians, commit such evil?” We also find that although, in the present life, our “better self” may fight against sin, we cannot pull ourselves out of it.

However, thanks to God, this situation is not hope· less. There is One, whom Paul knew, who is certain to deliver the troubled child of God from his wretchedness: Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 7:25).

So we Christians of the latter days may know that our sin problem is not unresolved. In Christ, our Lord, there is forgiveness of all our sins, and He stops short all kinds and workings of sin in us. And He also finally removes “the body of this death” (which caused our wretchedness) when we die.

At our death and burial, there is ample reason to rejoice in Christ‘s victorious resurrection life, and ours, too! Christ makes all things new (Rev. 21:5). Then all sin is removed completely. In Him, by grace, the new life takes over completely. In Him we shall indeed be “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8).

There is a future for the sin-troubled child of God.

There is no more reason to lament about our wretchedness. What a relief it is to know that now! THERE IS, THEREFORE, NOW NO CONDEMNATION TO THEM THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS . . . (Rom. 8:1).

We may wonder why God doesnt remove all sin at once. This is a mystery of His sovereign counsel. He seems to direct our attention to His own sovereignty in the experience of sin and redemption to teach us our utter dependence on Him. Also, to challenge our Christian faithfulness, and make us properly thankful for full redemption from sin and full participation in the life of glory.

Soli Deo Gloria! All praise to God—the God of our salvation as well as of creation!

My Savior ‘neath Thy sheltering wings My soul delights to dwell; Still closer to Thy side I press, For near Thee all is well. My soul shall conquer every foe, Upholden by Thy hand; Thy people shall rejoice in God, Thy saints in glory stand. Psalm 63