The Call To Separation: The War Within Us

We have seen that it is a necessity for the true followers of Christ to live their lives separated from sin to His service.  We have also seen that we find everything necessary to live our lives for Him in the Holy Scriptures.  It is within the pages of His Word that we can find His laws, His instructions and His desires which are needed for every aspect of Godly living.

In today’s study, let’s look at some practical aspects to living separated lives in the midst of a sinful world and under the influence of our sinful flesh.


Matthew 26:41                   John 6:43-47            Romans 7:1-25         Galatians 5:16-18

1 Timothy 2:3-6                 James 5:4-6             1 John 1:5-10           1John 4:14-19


Rom 7:1-25

1) Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?  2) For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband.  3) So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.  4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Paul begins our study by using a physical example of marriage and death to present to us a spiritual truth our changing relationships to the law and Christ at our salvation.

  1. The marriage – Paul uses the picture of marriage to help us understand our relationship to the law as an unbeliever.  Before our salvation we were legally dominated by the law.     This “legal bondage” meant that we are under the authority of the law and must keep it perfectly, or else face punishment for breaking its commands.   We learn from many other portions of Scripture that, although as a lost person we must keep the law perfectly, in actuality this was an impossibility for us to accomplish.      (Psa 14:1-3, Rom 3:9-18 etc etc)
  2. The death of the spouse – Paul now uses the death of the spouse to illustrate that once we have been saved by God’s grace the law no longer dominates and rules over  us. In other words, we are no longer obligated to perfectly keep the law to escape punishment.  The law no longer possesses that type of authority over us.

(Please note this death does not do away with the EXISTANCE of the law, it only does away with the AUTHORITY of the law. We can see this clearly in the phrases “dominion”, “loosed from the law” “free from the law” etc. etc. )

  1. The remarriage –  Paul now uses “another man” to represent our newly attained salvation through the gracious work of Christ.  Why is salvation pictured as obtaining a new husband through marriage?  When we are saved we are placed under a new authority holder… Jesus Christ.  He now possess authority over us.  We are now obligated to serve Him as our Lord.
  2. The result of the new marriage – Because of the work of Christ on the cross we are no longer obligated to keep the law perfectly to escape its punishment.  We have received the righteousness of Christ and no longer are facing the law’s punishment.  Therefore, our concern is not to “serve” the letter of the law to escape wrath, but we are now “servants” of Christ and our main concern to live lives that “bring forth fruit unto God”.

Paul now continues to examine the idea that, before salvation we were servants of the law, but now that we are saved we are the servants of Christ…

5) For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.  6) But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter.

  1. Verse 5 – Paul’s condition in the past as a lost individual. When we lived our lives      according to the desires of our flesh, our outward actions of sin only brought forth death.  Why? Because we were under the dominion of the law which stated we must live a perfect life to avoid punishment for our sins.  Physical and Spiritual death are results of sin and punishments for sin.
  2. Verse 6 – Paul’s condition as a saved individual, please notice the present tense “now we are”. Now that we are saved, we are delivered from the law’s authority over us. It  is no longer necessary for us to perfectly keep the law to escape it’s punishment, for Christ (through His work on the cross) has taken that punishment from us.

Also our salvation now allows us to keep the law as an act of service to Christ.  We now keep it (“serve”) with a new spirit (motivated by love and appreciation), no longer enslaved to the law (motivated by desire to escape its punishment).  Note we still keep the law, but it is now with a new attitude and motive.

7) What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin [was] dead. 9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  10) And the commandment, which [was ordained] to life, I found [to be] unto death.  11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew [me].

Paul now begins to list the different effects of the law before His salvation….

  1. Verse 7-8 If the law’s bondage was harmful and impossible to bear under, does that mean that God is displeased with the law?  Is it sinful?  “God forbid”  is Paul’s answer. God used the law in our lost condition for a very important purpose… to show us our lost condition, to show us the impossibility of saving ourselves through our good works and define sin for us.  Without the law sin appears  to be non-existent (dead) in one’s life.
  2. Verse 9-10 – When      Paul did not spiritually understand the law, he did not see his sinful, lost, spiritually dead condition.  The “commandment came” to Paul when Christ, through the Spirit, applied the law to Paul’s heart. Paul, then, began to recognize that sin that was in his life and that he was spiritually dead.
  3. Verse 11 – Paul, at that point, came understand the impossibility of Him keeping the law perfectly and escaping its judgments by perfectly keeping its demands.

12) Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  13) Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

  1. Vs 12 – When we understand how the Lord used the law to show us our sin and need of salvation, we must come to the realization that the law is holy (separated by God for His use), just (in alignment with the desires of God for us)  and good (pleasing to God).
  2. Vs 13 – Paul was already spiritually dead before the Spirit applied the law to His life.  God did not use the law to make him harm Paul or bring death upon him. The Lord used the law to show Paul the sin in his life which resulted in Paul’s salvation.

14) For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  16) If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good.  17) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.  19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Please note that Paul now switches from the past tense to present tense verbs beginning in verse 14. Beginning in verse 14 and forward we find Paul describing his condition as a saved individual….

  1. Verse 14 – Paul now begins to explain the war that takes place within everyone who is genuinely made a new creature in Christ…
    1. The law is used of God for the spiritual gain of an individual.  This takes place in two ways:
      1. first, before salvation, He uses it to show them their sinfulness and need of salvation
      2. secondly, remember sin is a “transgression of the law”.  The Lord uses His law for the saved to define sin and set a standard for Christians have a walk of life that avoids sin and glorifies Him.
      3. Therefore Paul’s conclusion is that the law is of spiritual benefit for both lost and saved.
    2. Paul continues by telling us that AS SAVED INDIVIDUALS we continue to struggle with our sinful flesh.  Our flesh, because of its fallen condition, still naturally submits itself to sin. It is bent towards the commission of sin and will continue to do so until the day that we die.  Our flesh will only be liberated from this condition at its glorification that will take place at Christ’s second coming.
  2. Verse 15 – Here is the result of that internal struggle… Paul finds himself committing sin due to his sinful flesh. What he desired to do, he found was tainted with sin.  His actions were still touched by the sin that he hated.  “I allow not” is the Grk phrase “I know not”  This can be taken in one of two ways….
    1. Either Paul says that, at times, he finds himself acting on his sinful desires without him even thinking about it.  If this is the meaning, he is emphasizing how his sinful flesh naturally points toward sin.
    2. Or else by “I know not” he is saying that as he continues to serve the Lord, he realizes that his service may have sinful attributes to it that he doesn’t even recognize.   If this is the case, he is emphasizing that his flesh has an active part in everything that he does in his life.  Even the spiritual service is never perfect in God’s sight.
  3. Verse 16 – 17 – Paul say that when he finds himself transgressing the law, he doesn’t say the law is a wrong and corrupted.  He takes the blame on himself and recognizes the law is a perfect standard that his flesh is hindering him from reaching.
  4. Verse 17-20 – Paul recognizes the sin that he continues to commit does not come from the new man that he has been given at salvation (1 John 3:9-10) but it stems from His sinful flesh that continues to exist and to be active in his being. Paul desires to do good, but cannot fully and perfectly obey the Lord because his flesh is still active within himself.

21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 

1.  Verse 21 – Through his experiences with this war within himself, Paul is under the control of a very basic principle… when he serves the Lord in a way that is pleasing to Him he finds that his sinful flesh is “present”.  The Grk for present means “to be laying at hand, near, hanging upon”.  Paul says his flesh is always near him, hanging upon him, to hinder his walk for Christ.

2.  Verse 22- The desires of Paul’s heart is to serve his Lord but…

3.  Verse 23 – he finds that there is another authority, his sinful flesh, to which he can submit… it wars against his Godly desires and causes him to commit sin.

24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Paul, because of his sinful fallen flesh that retains influence in his being, describes himself as “wretched”.

The grk word for “wretched” is defined as “to bear under sufferings, trials or torments”

Paul is saying that he is burdened with his sinful flesh as if he has to drag it and struggle against its weight wherever he goes and whatever he does.

25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Why thank the Lord? The realization of his sinful flesh’s influence in his life causes Paul to remember his prior servitude to the law and sin.  As a new creature, through the new man that He has been given he is no longer under that servitude.  Therefore, he thanks the Lord for his salvation, his liberation from the punishment and bondage of the law and his ability to serve Christ through the keeping of His law.  He is content knowing that in spite of the influence of his flesh, he can serve the Lord now, while awaiting the liberation from his fleshly body that will take place at the second coming of Christ.

Here are a few other passages that speak of this war that is taking place in the being of any genuinely saved individual…

Gal 5:16-18  [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh 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 the law. 

Matt 26:41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak.

Jas 4:5-6  Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

1Pet 2:11-12  Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;  Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.


For those who have been made separate to His service by His wondrous grace….

It is vital that we understand the character and activity of our sinful flesh that we have retained following our salvation experience.  Because of this, we are to be constantly on guard against our flesh’s influence in all of our deeds.  We are to be sensitive to the sin that we commit and come to Him in repentance, so as not to allow the actions of our sinful flesh to corrupt and lessen our communion with our Lord.

1John 1:5-10  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

For those who have yet to be separated from the bondage of sin ….

The war within that we have been discussing has no application to your life.  The Word of God describes your condition as being sinful, not desiring of the things of God and unable to come to Him apart from the Lord’s intervention in your life.

John 6:43-47 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

1John 4:14-19  And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world.   Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love him, because he first loved us.

Read His Word, come to an understanding of the sin in your life and the resulting spiritual condition that you are in. Turn from your sin and humbly turn to Christ, trusting Him as your only hope of salvation from your sins. Seek the Lord and His rule in your life.  Realize you cannot live a perfect life to escape the law’s punishments; nor can you do anything to merit the application of Christ’s work on your behalf.

1Tim 2:3-6God our Saviour;  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.  For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

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About Rob Barkman

A retired pastor, Bible teacher and author of 20 years, he is currently ministering through Settled In Heaven Ministries. SIH Ministries is an on-line Bible teaching ministry that was founded by Bro Barkman in 2010. Settled In Heaven’s mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by fulfilling two different roles... rendering encouragement and Biblical knowledge to the saints in an effort to enhance their service to Christ; and proclaiming the gospel message to those who are in need of salvation, explaining to them their urgent need to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
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7 Responses to The Call To Separation: The War Within Us

  1. ptl2010 says:

    We have a choice – to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit or to follow self and the flesh. We must. be aware tht we can quench the Spirit and God forbid we ever do so.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      This is one of the greatest fears for the Christian to ignore the Spirit’s leading us to obey God’s Word and in doing so render our lives useless for the cause of Christ. May the Lrod always help each of us to continue to apply the principles of God’s Word to our lives through the leadership of the Spirit.

  2. Me too – AMEN and AMEN!
    With so many Scriptures talking of the war within us and giving instructions to be victorious, I fail to see how some people can say it is impossible for a Christian to sin.
    Thank you Rob for such a clear teaching on this.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Angela, To say that a Christian CANNOT sin can only result from a total misunderstanding of what took place when the Lord saved us and gave us a new nature. Just as you say there are so many Scriptures found throughout both Old and New Testaments that address sin in the life of a believer that it makes your head spin to think that there are those who totally misunderstnad these many passages.

  3. Lyn Leahz says:

    All I can say is, “AMEN!”

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