Because of the truth, that in this body I will never attain sinless perfection, I am wretched! I understand that because this body of flesh is not perfect, nor ever shall be— and that there is actually sin in everything I do, even the very best and holiest of works done in the power of Christ. We read in 1 John 1:8,
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
“Refer again to the people of God, and they will tell you that since their conversion they have had much to weep over. Although they can rejoice that God has begun the good work in them, they often are abundant in faith yet there are times when they are superabundant in unbelief; that if sometimes they are full of works of holiness, yet there times when they weep many tears to think that those very acts of holiness were stained with sin. The Christian will tell you that he weeps over his very tears; he feels that there is filth even in the best of desires; that he has to pray to God to forgive his prayers, for there is sin in the midst of his supplications, and that he has to sprinkle even his best offerings with the atoning blood, for he never else can bring an offering without spot or blemish.”
Wretchedness comes from the revelation of Christ’s holiness. Do you remember the prophet, Isaiah, in the year that King Uzziah died? He “saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). He saw the pre-incarnate King of kings, the Christ, sitting upon the throne of heaven in all His glorious majesty, with seraphim above the throne; and that throne being so holy that the seraphim must have six wings: having two wings to fly above so as not to even light upon the throne room floor where the Son Omnipotent rests His holy feet; and covering their faces with two wings in holy humility so as not to irreverently gaze upon His absolute majesty; and covering their feet with two wings so as not to suggest that they stand independent of the sovereignty of almighty power (Isaiah 6:2). And such holiness bursts forth from the Lord Christ that the train of His robe fills the temple (Isaiah 6:1), and therefore, the seraphim declare that blessed truth, which not only cannot be denied, but must be proclaimed as they see and know and perceive and understand that which is eternally displayed before them, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). At that cry the thresholds shook and the house filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:4), and all the prophet could do was cry out,
“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” —Isaiah 6:5
Isaiah, too, like Paul, was wretched in the blessed presence of Christ’s eternal majesty. If we be not wretched, be afraid; for it implies that we know not the real presence of Christ. Fear thou, o confessing Christian, for if thou be not wretched, it implies that thou hast exalted thyself and diminished in thought, even in heart, the eternal loftiness and absolute highness of Christ the King.
But, if the Spirit has touched thee with the blessing of Christ’s magnificent splendor, as He did with Isaiah the prophet and Paul the apostle, know ye that ye are blessed, redeemed, and enlightened for where sin abounds, grace abounds that much more.
John Bunyan, the preacher of Bedford and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, also knew the bittersweet truth of redeemed man’s wretchedness in the midst of God’s great glory in Jesus Christ. He expresses it as much in his autobiographical account, to which he even applies the glorious truth to his testimony’s title, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
And because of our wretchedness, we must ask the same question Paul asks, “…who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is a question that Paul asks immediately because the answer must accompany my wrestling and my wretchedness; otherwise, we might despair. The chapter concludes with the glorious answer in Romans 7:25.
Yet, before we look at Romans 7:25, let’s conclude it with a devotional thought that considers our wrestling and wretchedness as Christian disciples of Jesus Christ, which we will meditate upon when next we post.
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Read the previous article in this series, from Romans 7:23, “My Wrestlings: Laws at War.”