MLJ Trust Logo Image
Sermon #3129

The Wretched Man Identity (2)

A Sermon on Romans 7:13-25


Romans 7:13-25 ESV KJV
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is …

Read more

Sermon Description

Having unpacked numerous New Testament passages in the first part of this series, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones moves to an in-depth look at three possible identities of the wretched man: the regenerate, the unregenerate, or the immature Christian. In this sermon on Romans 7:13-25 titled “The Wretched Man Identity (2),” Dr. Lloyd-Jones shows that the identity of this wretched man in Romans 7 is not the regenerate man as this is incompatible with other scriptural teaching. But neither is it describing an unregenerate man, as the man is experiencing genuine conviction of sin. He shows an awareness of his own weakness and failure, but there is no mention of the Holy Spirit and indwelling Christ in the text, thus it cannot be an unregenerate man. Having shown he is neither a regenerate or unregenerate man, Dr. Lloyd-Jones turns to the question of whether this can be a description of an immature believer. He emphatically denies this possibility because no matter the situation, it is impossible for a Christian to utter the cry of verse 24. The Christian does not despair. No, he fights sin and uses restraint and care to mortify his flesh. So then how do we identify this man? How are we to understand the meaning of Paul’s words? Dr. Lloyd-Jones directs our attention to Paul’s intent in writing this passage. The intent is to show that the law is not salvific. This is the point Paul is trying to highlight in dramatic fashion. When man tries to keep the law, he falls under conviction, but has no hope. He doesn’t know or understand the truth of the gospel. This, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones is the central meaning of this difficult passage of Scripture. In Dr Lloyd-Jones’s own words, the man described in Romans 7 is “a man who is experiencing an intense conviction of sin, a man who has been given to see, by the Spirit, the holiness of the Law; and he feels utterly condemned. He is aware of his weakness for the first time, and his complete failure” ( D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Exposition of Chapter 7:1-8:4 The Law: Its Functions and Limits, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1973, p.255). Paul is showing us that there is one great and glorious hope for us. What the law could not do, thanks be to God, the grace of God provides.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. The passage in Romans 7:13-25 is not describing Paul's experience as a mature Christian or his highest spiritual state.
  2. This interpretation is incompatible with Paul's teachings elsewhere in Scripture about the Christian life.
  3. In Romans 5:1-2 and 6, Paul describes the Christian life as one of peace, grace, and victory over sin. This contrasts with the despair and defeat described in Romans 7.
  4. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 and 2 Corinthians 3, Paul describes having victory and liberty in Christ. This contrasts with the bondage described in Romans 7.
  5. In Ephesians 1:19 and 3, Paul prays that Christians would know God's power and be filled with His fullness. This contrasts with the weakness and wretchedness described in Romans 7.
  6. In Philippians 4:4, Paul calls Christians to rejoice always. This contrasts with the anguish described in Romans 7.
  7. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 and 4:3, Paul describes Christians as having joy, assurance, and sanctification. This contrasts with Romans 7.
  8. Paul frequently describes himself as a bondservant of Christ who lives for Christ (e.g. Phil 1:21). This contrasts with the defeat described in Romans 7.
  9. At the end of his life, Paul expresses confidence and anticipation of his reward (2 Tim 4:7-8). This contrasts with the despair in Romans 7.
  10. The interpretations of Romans 7 as describing an immature Christian or a Christian before entire sanctification are unbiblical and introduce unscriptural ideas. All Christians have the Holy Spirit, are married to Christ, and are freed from bondage to sin.
  11. The passage is not describing Paul's experience at all. Paul is using dramatic language to illustrate the weakness of the law and the flesh. His purpose is to show that only grace can save and sanctify.
  12. The man described is under deep conviction of sin and sees his utter helplessness to obey the law. But he does not yet fully understand the gospel. This describes the experience of many coming under Holy Spirit conviction.
  13. Paul's purpose in including this passage is twofold: to answer charges against him and to show that only grace, not law, can save. The passage is a parenthesis in his argument.

The Book of Romans

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.