About Jesus - Steve Sweetman 

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This Body Of Death


Lucilla was a widow.  She had two sons, Camillus 18 years old and Decima 19 years old.  In the process of defending their Roman village from an enemy attack both sons were captured by the opposing army.  Her ear piercing screams echoed throughout the stadium.  In excruciating agony she fell face first to the ground at the sight of a soldier's sword puncturing the chest of Decima.  Her body quivered with terror as her son dropped to the ground.  His death was immediate, but the horror wasn't over.   


Lucilla glared up through her tear soaked eyes.  Decima's corpse was stripped naked.  After stripping Camillus naked they tied him to his brother's decimated dead body.  A steady stream of blood seeped from Decima's chest and wrapped its way around Camillus.  Face to face, chest to chest, poisonous pus, blood, infection, and maggots would slowly rob Camillus of his life. 


The above narrative portrays the cruelty of
warfare in the Roman Empire .  An example of such cruelty was seen when the Etruscan king Mezentius conquered Troy.   His soldiers would tie their live captives to dead bodies.  As the dead rotted away, the living would die a slow pitiful death.  The Roman poet Virgil (70 to 19 BC - Eaneid, book 8) described it this way.     

"The living and the dead at his command

Were coupled, face to face, hand to hand,

Till, choked with stench, in loathed embrace tied,

The lingering wretched pined away and died."


The Apostle Paul was born, raised, and traveled extensively throughout the Roman Empire.  His home town of Tarsus was less than 800 kilometres (500 miles) as the crow flies from Troy.  He would have been aware of such cruelty described above.  With this in mind I refer you to how Paul described the sin infested condition of his own human nature.  "Sin produced in me every kind of covetous desire.  Sin sprang to life and I died.  Sin deceived me.  Sin put me to death.  I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  Nothing good lives in me, that is my sinful nature.  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  Sin makes me a prisoner to death.  What a wretched man I am (selected statements from Romans 7)." 


Paul doesn't paint a very attractive picture of his human nature, but it's the picture the Bible paints of who you and I are at our core.  Jeremiah 17:9 states that we are so wicked that we don't know how wicked we really are.  Our best attempts at being righteous are like filthy rags in God's sight, or as menstrual clothes, as some commentators translate the Hebrew (Isaiah 64:6). 


With this depraved view of his human nature in mind Paul asked, "Who will deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24)."  Here's where the tragic story of Camillus being tied to his brother's rotting corpse comes into play.  Because Paul would have known about this form of torture some Bible commentators suggest that he had such torture in mind when he asked, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?"  In other words, "Who will rescue me from this rotting sinful nature that clings to me like a rotten corpse?"  Although this commentary is speculative, it does paint a clear picture of how Paul viewed his human nature in Romans 7.    


Paul understood that his human nature died with Jesus on the cross (Romans 6:4).  In Paul's mind, his human nature was a sin infested dead rotting corpse.  He also understood that a new nature in Christ rose with Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4).  It replaced his old nature that was now dead.  He was a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  He had been born again (John 3:5). 


Even though Paul's old human nature was dead, like Camillus being tied to his brother's corpse, it clung to his new nature.  For this reason Paul's new nature would serve God while his deceased nature would serve sin (Romans 7:25).  This accounts for the conflict between flesh and Spirit, between the old and new nature, as Paul puts it in Galatians 5:17.


Paul did not end his narrative of Romans 7 in defeat, and neither should we.  The rotten corpse of our old sinful nature, although clinging to us at the present, will not destroy us.  We have the Holy Spirit within us that has molded us into new created beings (Romans 8).  It is this deposit of the Holy Spirit into our lives that guarantees us of a death free eternity (Ephesians 1:14).  We thank our Lord Jesus Christ because He is delivering us from this body of death (Romans 7:25). 


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