"0 WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM!"
- Andrew Murray,
"0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from
the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans
You know the wonderful location that this text has in the epistle to the
Romans. It stands here at the end of the seventh chapter as the gateway into
the eighth. In the first sixteen verses of the eighth chapter, the name of
the Holy Spirit is found sixteen times. You have there the description and
promise of the life that a child of God can live in the power of the Holy
Spirit. This begins in the second verse: "The law of the Spirit of life in
Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
From that, Paul goes on to speak of the great privileges of the child of God
who is to be led by the Spirit of God. The gateway into all this is found at
the end of chapter seven: "0 wretched man that I am!" There you have the
words of a man who has come to the end of himself. He has in the previous
verses described how he had struggled and wrestled in his own power to obey
the holy law of God, and had failed. But in answer to his own questions, he
now finds the true answer and cries out: "I thank God through Jesus Christ
our Lord." From that he goes on to speak of what that deliverance is that he
I want, from these words, to describe the path by which a man can be led out
of the spirit of bondage into the spirit of liberty. You know how distinctly
it is said: "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear"
(Romans 8:15). We are continually warned that this is the great danger of
the Christian life, to go again into bondage. I want to describe the path by
which a man can get out of bondage into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. Rather, I want to describe the man himself.
First, these words are the language of a regenerate man; second, of a weak
man; third, of a wretched man; and fourth, of a man on the border of
THE REGENERATE MAN
There is much evidence of regeneration from the fourteenth verse of chapter
seven on to the twenty-third verse. "It is no more I that do it, but sin
that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17). That is the language of a regenerate
man-a man who knows that his heart and nature have been renewed, and that
sin is now a power in him that is not himself. "I delight in the law of God
after the inward man" (Romans 7:22). That again is the language of a
regenerate man. He dares to say when he does evil: "It is no more I that do
it, but sin that dwelleth me." It is of great importance to understand this,
In the first two great sections of the epistle, Paul deals with
justification and sanctification. In dealing with justification, he lays the
foundation of the doctrine in the teaching about sin. He does not speak of
the singular sin, but of the plural, sins-the actual transgressions. In the
second part of the fifth chapter, he begins to deal with sin, not as actual
transgression, but as a power. Just imagine what a loss it would have been
to us if we did not have this second half of the seventh chapter of the
epistle to the Romans-if Paul had omitted in his teaching this vital
question of the sinfulness of the believer. We should 'have missed the
question we all want answered as to sin in the believer. What is the answer?
The regenerate man is one in whom the will has been renewed, and who can
say: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
THE WEAK MAN
Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people-they think that when
there is a renewed ,will, it is enough. But that is not the case. This
regenerate man tells us: "I will to do what is good, but the power to
perform I find not." How often people tell us that if you set yourself
determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man was as determined
as any man can be, and yet he made the confession: "To will is present with
me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not" (Romans 7:18).
But, you ask: "How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a confession?
He being with a right will, with a heart that longs to do good, and longs to
do its very utmost to love God?"
Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had the
angels who fell, in their own will, the strength to stand? Surely, no. The
will of man is nothing but an empty vessel in which the power of God is to
be made manifest. Man must seek in God all that is to be. You have it in the
second chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, and you have it here also,
that God's work is to work in us both to will and to do of His good
pleasure. Here is a man who appears to say: "God has not worked to do in
me." But we are taught that God works both to will and to do. How is the
apparent contradiction to be reconciled?
You will find that in this passage (Romans 7:6-25), the name of the Holy
Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man is
wrestling and struggling to fulfill God's law. Instead of the Holy Spirit
and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times. In this chapter, it
shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law of God with his
regenerate will. Not only this; but you will find the little words, I, me,
my, occur more than forty times. It is the regenerate I in its weakness
seeking to obey the law without being filled with the Spirit. This is the
experience of almost every saint. After conversion, a man begins to do his
best, and he fails. But if we are brought into the full light, we no longer
need to fail. Nor need we fail at all if we have received the Spirit in His
fullness at conversion.
God allows that failure so that the regenerate man should be taught his own
utter inability. It is in the course of this struggle that the sense of our
utter sinfulness comes to us. It is God's way of dealing with us. He allows
man to strive to fulfill the law so that, as he strives and wrestles, he may
be brought to this: "I am a regenerate child of God, but I am utterly
helpless to obey His law." See what strong words are used all through the
chapter to describe this condition: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans
7:14); "I see another law in my members bringing me into captivity" (Romans
7:23); and last of all, "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from
the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). This believer who bows here in deep
contrition is utterly unable to obey the law of God.
THE WRETCHED MAN
Not only is the man who makes this confession a regenerate and a weak man,
but he is also a wretched man. He is utterly unhappy and miserable. What is
it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is because God has given him a
nature that loves Himself. He is deeply wretched because he feels he is not
obeying his God. He says, with brokenness of heart: "It is not I that do it,
but I am under the awful power of sin, which is holding me down. It is I,
and yet not I: alas! alas! it is myself; so closely am I bound up with it,
and so closely is it intertwined with my very nature." Blessed be God when a
man learns to say: "0 wretched man that I am!" from the depth of his heart.
He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.
There are many who make this confession a pillow for sin. They say that if
Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way, who are they
that they should try to do better? So the call to holiness is quietly set
aside. Pray God that every one of us would learn to say these words in the
very spirit in which they are written here! When we hear sin spoken of as
the abominable thing that God hates, do not many of us wince before the
word? If only all Christians who go on sinning and sinning would take this
verse to heart. If ever you utter a sharp word say: "0 wretched man that I
am!" And every time you lose your temper, kneel down and under stand that
God never meant His child to remain in this state. If only we would take
this word into our daily life, and say it every time we are touched about
our own honor! If only we would take it into our hearts every time we say
sharp things, and every time we sin against the Lord God, and against the
Lord Jesus Christ in His humility and in His obedience and in His
self-sacrifice! Pray God that we could forget everything else, and cry out:
"0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
Why should you say this whenever you commit sin? Because it is when a man is
brought to this confession that deliverance is at hand. And remember, it was
not only the sense of being weak and taken captive that made him wretched.
It was, above all, the sense of sinning against his God. The law was doing
its work, making sin exceedingly sinful in his sight. The thought of
continually grieving God became utterly unbearable. It was this that brought
forth the piercing cry: "0 wretched man!" As long as we talk and reason
about our inability and our failure, and only try to find out what Romans,
chapter seven, means, it will profit us little. But once every sin gives new
intensity to the sense of wretchedness, and we feel our whole state as one
of not only helplessness, but actual, exceeding sinfulness, we will be
pressed not only to ask: "Who shall deliver us?" but to cry: "I thank God
through Jesus Christ my Lord."
THE ALMOST-DELIVERED MAN
The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it; he has
wept over his sin; and he has tried to conquer. He has tried to overcome
fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure. What did he mean
by "the body of this death"? Did he mean, my body when I die? Surely not. In
the eighth chapter, you have the answer to this question in the words: "If
ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live"
(Romans 8:13). That is the body of death from which he is seeking
And now he is on the brink of deliverance! In, the twentythird verse of the
seventh chapter, we have the words: "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." It is a captive that cries: "0 wretched
man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body I of this death?" He is a
man who feels himself bound. But look to.the contrast in the second verse of
the eighth chapter: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
me free from the law of sin and death." That is the deliverance through
Jesus Christ our Lord, the liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings.
Can you keep captive any longer a man made free by the "law of the Spirit of
life in Christ Jesus"?
But you say, the regenerate man did not have the Spirit of Jesus when he
spoke in the sixth chapter. Yes, he did not know what the Holy Spirit could
do for him.
God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in nature. He
leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings. Therefore, when He
wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He first brings us
to the end of sel brings us to the conviction that though we have been
striving to obey the law, we have failed. When we have come to the end of
that, then He shows us that in the Holy Spirit we have the power of
obedience, the power of victory, and the power of real holiness. God works
to will, and He is ready to work to do, but many Christians misunderstand
this. They think because they have the will, it is enough, and that now they
are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an
attribute of the new nature. The power to do is not a permanent gift, but
must be received each moment from the Holy Spirit. It is the man who is
conscious of his own weakness as a believer who will learn that by the Holy
Spirit he can live a holy life. This man is on the brink of that great
deliverance; the way has been prepared for the glorious eighth chapter. I
now ask this solemn question: Where are you living? With you, is it, "0
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? " with now and then a little
experience of the power of the Holy Spirit? Or is it, "I thank God through
Jesus Christ! The law of the Spirit hath set me free from the law of sin and
What the Holy Spirit does is to give the victory. "If ye through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). It is the
Holy Spirit who does this-the third Person of the Godhead. It is He who,
when the heart is opened wide to receive Him, comes in and reigns there, and
mortifies the deeds of the body, day by day, hour by hour, and moment by
I want to bring this to a point. Remember, dear friend, what we need is to
come to decision and action. There are in Scripture two very different sorts
of Christians. The Bible speaks in Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians about
yielding to the flesh; and that is the life of tens of thousands of
believers. All their lack of joy in the Holy Spirit, and their lack of the
liberty He gives, is just owing to the flesh. The Spirit is within them, but
the flesh rules the life. To be led by the Spirit of God is what they need.
If only I could make every child of His realize what it means that the
everlasting God has given His dear Son, Christ Jesus, to watch over you
every day, and that what you have to do is to trust. If only I could make
His children understand that the work of the Holy Spirit is to enable you
every moment to remember Jesus, and to trust Him! The Spirit has come to
keep the link with Him unbroken every moment. Praise God for the Holy
Spirit! We are so accustomed to thinking of the Holy Spirit as a luxury, for
special times, or for special ministers and men. But the Holy Spirit is
necessary for every believer, every moment of the day. Praise God you have
Him, and that He gives you the full experience of the deliverance in Christ
as He makes you free from the power of sin.
Who longs to have the power and the liberty of the Holy Spirit? Oh, brother,
bow before God in one final cry of despair: "0 God, must I go on sinning
this way forever? Who shall deliver me, 0 wretched man that I am! from the
body of this death?"
Are you ready to sink before God in that cry and seek the power of Jesus to
live and work in you? Are you ready to say: "I thank God through Jesus
What good does it do that we go to church or attend conventions, 'that we
study our Bibles and pray, unless our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit?
That is what God wants. Nothing else will enable us to live a life of power
and peace. When a minister or parent is using the catechism, and a question
is asked, an answer is expected. How sad that many Christians are content
with the question put here: "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me
from the body of this death?" but never give the answer.
Instead of answering, they are silent. Instead of saying: "I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord," they are forever repeating the question
without the answer. If you want the path to the full deliverance of Christ,
and the liberty of the Spirit-the glorious liberty of the children of
God-take it through the seventh chapter of Romans. Then say: "I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord." Do not be content to remain ever groaning,
but say: "I, a wretched man, thank God, through Jesus Christ. Even though I
do not see it all, I am going to praise God. "
There is deliverance; there is the liberty of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom
of God is "joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).