I outline Romans 7:7-8:11 as follows:
Romans 7:7-8:11 The Battle We All Face: A New Spirit in a Fallen Mortal Body
1. Romans 7:7-14 The Law & Sin
2. Romans 7:15-25 The Rude Awakening: My Mortal Body Fights My Spirit
3. Romans 8:1-11 Paul Tells Us How to Solve This Problem: Follow the Spirit!
In this part of the text Paul addresses the idea that we are spirit beings living in a fallen mortal world. We are in enemy territory. To survive, the only option is for us to follow the path set out by the Savior by listening to the Spirit, to “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
One way to help illustrate this is by viewing the video Enemy Territory – a story told by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Just like those soldiers who fought for freedom in World War II, youth today face enemies and obstacles that will bring them ruin. The youth of today are truly in enemy territory, where good is called evil and evil is held up to be good. The changes that they are facing are intense, and I do not expect things to get any easier!
President Packer’s counsel is that of the apostle Paul: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you”(Romans 8:11).
Many years ago I pulled a sports quote out of the newspaper. When asked what advice he gave to those fishing on the Amazon River, Alejandro Filipich stated, “Don’t get in the water.” This is great advice to those that know what is in the water! Many of the youth of the church do not know what is in the water. Thankfully, they have parents, teachers, and church leaders that are there to warn them of the dangers that are near- the unseen and seen.
Romans 7 For What I Would That I Do Not
Paul makes a couple of statements in Romans 7 that should not be overlooked. He is very human in this chapter. I enjoy reading his words as he expresses his deepest desires, while not hiding his shortcomings from me. He is totally open when he states, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I… For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:15 & 19).
If you’ve ever wanted to do good, to be good, but have fallen short, you have a friend in Paul. He totally relates with the downtrodden, frustrated Christian. There are so many times when we fall short of what we know we ought to do. We know that “the good that I would I do not…” and it causes us to be sad. Paul’s message is simple: keep on going! Things do get better! Christ has overcome the ends of the law and because we love him, we will become like him. Every day we fight the fight we find ourselves at the foot of the cross looking up and realize that because of his victory the good in him will become part of us! What a wonderful, powerful and motivating message! No matter what we have done, no matter our circumstance, Paul’s message is that Jesus Christ has overcome the flesh and so will we as we follow him.
Spirit Versus the Flesh
Paul continues explaining the war our spirit and flesh wage: “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. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:23-24)
We fight this battle every day. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate this is the first decision we make everyday. The alarm clock goes off early in the morning, and our spirit and our body each have a say in the decision we make. Who usually wins? This is a great way to illustrate Paul’s message. We teach this idea each month when we fast. Part of our mission here on earth is to teach our bodies to obey the spirit. Paul teaches us that as we listen to the voice of the Holy Ghost, we become more holy, more sanctified, eventually because of Christ and his goodness and mercy, winning the war with the flesh.
The Battle Worth Fighting
The story of Joshua Chamberlain illustrates how our decisions have lasting consequences. On July 2, 1863 Joshua Chamberlain’s commanding officer looked him in the eye and told him to defend Little Round Top “at every hazard”. It was of utmost importance that the Union Army hold this position this day as they fought the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Confederate Army knew that if they could break through the Union lines, they could then flank the Union blue and take control of the battlefield. The battle of Gettysburg was a pivotal point in the Civil War, and it proved a tipping point as the Union took control of momentum, eventually winning the war to preserve the union and thus bring about freedom for millions of God’s children.
The soldiers of the 20th Maine regiment were the very end of the Union line. If Joshua Chamberlain and his men gave way under pressure, they knew that the rebels would be able to destroy the Union men by flanking them. They fought on through the day, and came to a difficult point when the 20th regiment was low on ammunition. All seemed lost. Chamberlain was faced with a crucial decision. Should he surrender to the rebels? His men were out of ammunition. Running away would bring disgrace. It is at this juncture where Joshua Chamberlain made a decision that will ring through time. His decision would change the course of this battle in particular, and in my opinion, the course of the Civil War.
Joshua Chamberlain told his soldiers to fix bayonets. His men obeyed. Charging down the hill, without ammunition, into the face of devastating fire, the Union boys charged the Confederate soldiers, bravely fighting in hand to hand combat. The soldiers of the 20th Maine will live as heroes. They did something that went against their natural instincts, and won this part of the battle for the Union forces, holding the line as ordered.
For his role in the defense of the Union line, Joshua Chamberlain received the Medal of Honor. He was cited for “extraordinary heroism on 2 July 1863, while serving with the 20th Maine Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top.”
How are the youth of today like Joshua Chamberlain? It is doubtful that 34 year old Joshua Chamberlain thought he would be a hero the day he strapped on his boots that July 2nd. He probably was wondering if he would live another day. Perhaps he was worried about the men under his command. It is a heavy thing to command. Yet his actions that day had a ripple effect throughout time.
Like Joshua, the youth of today do not see themselves as Heavenly Father sees them. They are to become like our Heavenly parents. There are many unseen souls who are very interested in the choices they are making. Their decisions will affect so many lives! When compounded by the number of souls that we are to teach on both sides of the veil, the numbers are staggering. Truly this is a battle worth waging. The fight must go on – we must hold the line.