Romans 7:15-24 (by Donald Grey Barnhouse)

It is indeed true that a Christian is not the servant of iniquity. A Christian tries to resist the impulses of sin that dwell within him. To say that a Christian yields himself up to sin, that he cannot help obeying sin, this is sheer lawlessness — antinomianism. So also is the attempt to take these words the evil I would not, that I do, and make them mean that the Christian does and must serve sin. I do not deny that lawlessness has been taught from this passage, but certainly not rightfully so. Are the words “to do evil” capable of no other meaning than that in which we apply them to the habitual service of sin? Is there no inner man, no inward world of thought and feeling which His eye scrutinizes? Is not a thought of foolishness sin? (Proverbs 24:9). Is not sin the slightest bias toward anything false or wrong? Or the slightest turning from the path of holiness? We do things which in “the new man” we hate. Although the world will call it not sin but human frailty, the law of God determines otherwise. It is characteristic of lawlessness to say that impulses to sin are not sin, if resisted.

Grace, it is true, does not impute these impulses to a believer as sin; but we are here discussing not the pardoning power of grace, but what grace pardons. If an active power within us hinders, mars and taints our efforts toward good and renders hopeless the performance of perfect good, and if we cannot free ourselves from the presence of this evil power, or its working, then we are subject to its actions which, in “the new man,” we hate. — Barnhouse, page 240.


It is reported that near Tarsus, where Saul was born, a tribe of people lived who inflicted a most terrible penalty upon a murderer. They fastened the body of the victim to that of the killer, tying shoulder to shoulder, back to back, thigh to thigh, arm to arm, and then drove the murderer from the community. So tight were the bonds that he could not free himself, and after a few days the death in the body communicated itself to the living flesh of the murderer. As he stalked the land, there was none to help him. He had only the frightful prospect of gangrenous death. He could well cry in horror, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Barnhouse, page 241.


Even though the believer can live in triumph over eruptions of sin, the old carnal nature is still within, contaminating everything. Suppose sewage is carried away in a wooden flume which passes a clear-flowing spring. The flume loses a board, and the sewage pours into the spring, thoroughly contaminating it. Its waters become unsafe to drink. Just as this condition can be remedied, the sewage of the believer’s Adamic nature also can be contained, its death dammed so that it cannot completely contaminate the spring. The Holy Spirit enters the believer, and holiness flows from His presence. But in some Christians the Adamic nature spurts through at weak spots. Such Christians are carnal, living like unsaved man (1 Corinthians 3:3). This need not be, for God tells us, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). There are no ifs, ands, buts or maybes about that promise. It is categorical and final. To apply my illustration, the flume need not lose any boards; the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will confine the sewage so that the contamination of death need never more flow.

However, my illustration in no way supports the false doctrine of the eradication of the old nature. The first phase of the illustration condemns the doctrine of antinomianism. But that flume and its sewage are within every one of us. Even though no boards come off to foul the spring, there is always seepage; this keeps the water from having the unmixed perfection of Jesus Christ, which we shall possess only in Heaven. When technicians analyze the water of natural ponds, lakes and springs, they never find it completely sterile. Although it may be fit for human use, every analyst reports “traces” of contamination. — Barnhouse, pages 242-243.

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1 Response to Romans 7:15-24 (by Donald Grey Barnhouse)

  1. jeff says:

    well said

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