About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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O Wretched Man  

O wretched man that I am…" (Rom. 7:24) These are the words of Paul, the same Paul that told us that we live in heavenly places with our Lord , clothed with His righteousness. (Eph. 1:3-14) What is Paul talking about here? How can he call himself wretched? Why is he so negative? Shouldn’t he be more positive about himself.

Paul, like many of the Reformers of the fifteen and sixteen hundreds realized the fact that without Jesus’ sacrifice, without Christ in a life, man is utterly wretched. Jeremiah 17:9 says that "the heart is deceitful, and above all things desperately wicked." I believe Paul, as well as the Reformers saw something here. The Reformation brought many important truths out into the open, one of which is the teaching on the "depravity of man". In many areas of the church this teaching has fallen by the wayside.

It seems to me the "I’m okay – you’re okay" thinking that penetrated modern society in the sixties and seventies has also found its way into the church. We tend to see ourselves better than what we really are. We are not okay. We are far from being okay. We have great problems. We are sinners beyond the point of return. The point Paul makes in the first three chapters of Romans is that we are all far beyond help, so wretched that the only way we can get out of our misery is for God Himself to get us out. Paul makes it clear in these chapters of Romans that it doesn’t make any difference if you are Jew or Gentile, religious of non religious. We have all been given over to sin. (Rom. 1:24 and Rom. 11:32)

If we can only see how low we are, it would make us appreciate just how high Jesus has elevated us. To be clothed in His righteousness, to sit with Him in heavenly places, to have His Spirit within us, is beyond our comprehension. This is why Paul can say that God’s love is beyond our knowing, surpasses our understanding. (Eph. 3:19) We certainly experience His love, but we can’t say that we really understand it. Why did Paul say God‘s love is beyond knowing? Without Christ he knows how miserable he is. Compared to God we are nothing. When we understand who we are without Christ, we can better appreciate His love He has towards us. The doctrine of the "depravity of man" is one of the great historical teachings of the church. Let’s restore it in our thinking. We will be the better for it.   Besides, this is what Romans 1 and 2 are all about. In laying out the plan of salvation Paul begins with how depraved we are. In many cases the modern day church skips these chapters and moves right into Romans 3 and 4 to the detriment of the newly saved.

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