Romans 7 can be a confusing passage – one that leaves even a studious Christian confused. I have sought to provide a summary in my own words (a paraphrase one might say) to help elucidate the passage. I’d suggest reading the passage first in an English Bible (NASB, ESV, or NKJV). Hopefully this will help the Spirit of God enlighten you in some capacity.
7:1-13 – Continuing, the apostle asks another question: do not the brothers know that the law has authority over them their whole life? Marriage provides a perfect picture of such jurisdiction. One is obligated to honor the covenant they have made until the spouse has died. Once the spouse is dead, they are free to lawfully join with another in marriage. In this same fashion, the justified man has died to the law, and been rejoined with Christ. Further, this reconciliation has been brought about to produce fruits of righteousness for God. Conversely, sin was joined with man to bring about fruit for death. This marriage unto sin, however, has been released by the death of the law, and therefore joining with Christ permits service in the newness of life. One should not hold that the law was sin, for its function was only to bring about the knowledge of sin. Sin used the law to bring about its full expression and consequence, death, but the law is still holy and good.
7:14-25 – Therefore, a Christ follower is presented with a conflict: the law is spiritual, and man is carnal. Therefore man is consumed with acting under his carnal bondage to sin despite having spiritual intentions. However, this simply means that the man is not conducting the sin; rather the sin is conducting the sin. The inner man, the spiritual man, is still consumed with God and His joy – this cannot be plagued by sin. Yes, this is what urges Paul to cry out that he, in the flesh, is a wretch, yet his mind still holds fast to the deliverance and grace of Christ.
What is your ‘inner man’ crying out for? The desires of your soul speak to your identity. We would have to be extremely cautious with the wording, and careful not to follow the slippery slope, but as Paul speaks in Rom. 7, it appears that the Christian life is more about the renewed desire for good, rather than the actual ability to act accordingly. Almost as if it is not a matter of what you do, but what you want to do. I would not die by that statement, but I think it is getting at Paul’s point – that being, the Christian is one who has not simply changed his ways, but he himself has been changed. The inner man has died and come to life with new desires. Conversion is a deep, deep inner transformation, which is why Scripture calls for new birth, dead to life, “born again.” Amidst the obscurity, two things are certain: 1) the child of God desires not to sin, and 2) yet, on this side of eternity, the child of God is still is “in the flesh,” and sin will act through him.