No Longer I Who Do It- Romans 7:20

In Romans 7:20, Paul, referring to himself, tells us that “if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it”. At first glance, this sounds like a rather strange thing for Paul to say, sounds as if he is trying to avoid taking responsibility for what he does. This, however, is not what he is doing here. He is, rather, giving us insight into the very nature of who we are and how we go about identifying or defining ourselves. We will turn to two other passages in Scripture to better see what Paul is saying here, then return to Romans 7 to sum things up. We will first turn to 2 Corinthians 5:16-17. Paul begins verse 16 by telling us that “so from now on, we no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view”. The Greek word “regard” here is oida, which is derived from a Greek root meaning “to see”, used here as to “recognize or identify”, to determine who or what something is. Paul, and all believers, used to see or identify everything (including themselves) as the world does. They also regarded (saw or identified) Jesus that way, they used to see Jesus as the world does. And how did the world identify Jesus? By what He did, seeing Him as a healer, teacher, miracle worker, good man, spiritual avatar, etc. What they did not see is who He truly was, God incarnate, the Son of God sent to die for our sin. His identity, according to the world, was based on what He did rather than on what He was, for this is how the world determines identity. From the “worldly point of view”, what we do determines who we are. When most people are asked who they are, they will generally respond by telling you what they do, i.e. I’m a doctor, I’m a plumber, I’m a stay at home mom, etc. In the world’s way of “seeing” things, who we are is determined by what we do. This, however, is not the case in the biblical way of “seeing” things. Those who come to Christ, who see Him and accept Him for who he truly is, will then begin to “see” everything else from a new “point of view”. From the biblical point of view, who we are determines what we do, and we don’t always do (live like) what we are (more on that in our next post). As Paul tells us here, when we see and accept Jesus Christ for who He truly is, we literally become a “new creation”. In other words, we receive a new identity, the “old has gone, the new has come”. This is the natural and logical conclusion to all Paul has told us in verse 16. Because we do what we are (and not the other way around, as the world tells us), in order to change the way we behave, God first changes what we are, gives us a new identity, makes us a “new creation”. Our identity is no longer determined by the world, but by God. We are who God says we are. This is why Paul tells us here of our new identity, and why he refers to believers over and over as “saints”. He wants us to understand who we are, because we will live out what we see ourselves to be. This is why this issue of identity is so critical, for we look to others to identify ourselves, we derive our identity from others. Even the most basic facet of our identity (our name) was given to us by someone else. We are all then faced with a choice, as to who we will turn to for our identity, who we will derive our identity from, who we look to, to tell us who we are. Will we base our identity upon who God says we are, or continue to define ourselves from a “worldly point of view”? Will we live as the new creations that we are, or continue on in our old ways, in what Paul refers to as the old man or flesh? Our next post will examine the biblical basis for why we look to others for our identity, then return to Romans 7 to see what Paul really is telling us there, and how it relates to what we have seen here in 2 Corinthians.

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