There is only a onetime deliverance from sin’s guilt and condemnation, but an on-going promised deliverance from sin’s “dominion” (Ro 6:14); in which dominion is the fact that one wills to follow sin with disregard unto God’s holiness and righteousness. Nobody realizes and understands the “law of sin” (Rom 7:23) that dwells within (Ro 7:17, 20) until it is manifested to the soul in rebirth! Just the issue of Paul’s discourse on the dichotomy of the old and new natures clearly describes one reborn, otherwise there would be only one nature.
It is found that though this “law of sin” (Rom 7:23, 25; 8:2) or principle ever remains, the “treasure” of the “heart” (Mat 6:21) from now on is “to will and do of His good pleasure” (Phl 2:13). The believer no longer “presumptuously” serves (Num 15:30; Heb 10:29) sin, but contrariwise, is as an unwilling “captive” (Ro 7:23), which denotes the “service” is against the will.
Because the “flesh” remains (not the body but the sin nature or “old man”), it will affect us; and there will be constant protest of the reborn against it all (Rom 7:25)—via the ever indwelling of the new nature or “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 2:15); “after the image of Him that created him (it)” (Col 3:10). Therefore, the freedom from the dominion of sin is not in the eradication of it, nor from its workings, but in the given grace of the will in our new nature against it, which is the permanent place of what God desires concerning His own—our heart and treasure!
“Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (i.e. “body of sin” - Ro 6:6, the old man and its “members” - Col 3:5—NC)? Poor wretched man! But (immense advantage) he knows it; he knows himself. Desires and efforts to do right have resulted in this—in the knowledge of himself and his real state: in him, that is, in his flesh, there is no good thing. But it is not (now that he is quickened of God) himself at all.
But this makes out no righteousness for him, no deliverance from the power of sin; he is still under it, being under law (i.e. yet under the law or principle of sin, which is its works against the believer, without effect to redemption—NC). It is an immense lesson to learn that we have no power (from self—NC). Thus taught, the man ceases to look to being better, or to doing (on his own power—NC); he has learned what he is, and looks for a Deliverer. The moment God has brought him there, all is clear. He thanks God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Though the subject treated be the experience of the soul under law (a principle—NC) when its spirituality is known through grace, the thing learned is not what law is, but what sin is—what we are (in our old man—NC). Hence, though the process be carried on under law (not the Law but a continuing principle, or tempting—NC), by which through the secret working of grace that knowledge is acquired, yet the thing we have come to know—what sin is in the flesh, is always true (old man works while we’re here—NC).
Hence, although it is the description of a soul under law, yet it is in a way in which the lesson remains for the believer at all times (e.g. Ro 7:14-25). Not that he is ever under law, or in the flesh—he never is (Gal 5:23; Ro 8:9): he has died as connected with the first husband, and for faith the flesh is dead (not its presence but its condemnation and dominion—NC), and he is delivered; but the lesson he has learned remains true. In him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing; and it is experientially known. The flesh may deceive him if he is careless, and he forgets and neglects to “bear about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (2Co 4:10); but it can no longer deceive him as to what it is itself. The power of the flesh is, for him, broken.
And further, he has no thought of being in the flesh before God. The Galatians shows his position. The flesh (old man) lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under law (Gal 5:17, 18). You are free with the liberty “wherewith Christ has set you free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1).
There is such a tendency in us to be occupied with ourselves, and really set up self in God’s place, that He uses these exercises to make us thoroughly glad to have done with ourselves (concerning how we are to respond to the old man - Eph 4:22; Col 3:9—NC). Thus we put ourselves under law, though born of God, which only leads us to cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am!” for it is only man and his efforts after good, not Christ. We have to learn that we are powerless, after owning and hating our wickedness (Psa 97:10; Pro 8:13; Ro 12:9—NC), and thus we are compelled to cry out, “Who shall deliver me?”
One looks for another to deliver him. It is not that self (old self—NC) gets better, but a deliverance from the old man we need, and God gives it (not deliverance from its guilt which is permanent at rebirth, but from its ongoing attempts to “rule” and regain its “dominion” – Ro 6:12, 14—NC). This may be soon, or not for a long time; but when one is thus brought to his true level (“irrevocable” redemption - Rom 11:29—NC), the Father in grace comes in, and brings out thanksgiving (due to reminding and assuring us that we are His – Ro 8:16—NC), “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
Strength follows when we find that we have none ourselves, not by gaining victory over self. Powerlessness is learned experientially, which leads to our having done with ourselves (old self—NC) and looking to the Lord Jesus for deliverance (from the old man’s opposition—NC). And we find that by grace we are in Christ, where there is no condemnation. On the one hand the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has freed us; on the other God has already executed the sentence of condemnation of sin in the flesh in the Cross of Christ. We are delivered to walk according to the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25).
—J N Darby (1800-1882)