14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Paul reaffirms that the law is good when he writes that “the law is spiritual.” Though the law inflames the sinful nature, we can never blame the law. The problem is not the law, but the flesh. Paul writes, “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” It is important for us to understand what the word ‘flesh’ means. Paul is not using the word ‘flesh’ here to refer to our physical bodies. He is not talking about our skin and muscles and bones. Instead, he is talking about our sinful natures. When Adam fell into sin, his nature became enslaved to sin. As a result of being born, we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin and a sinful nature. The Bible frequently refers to this as ‘the flesh.’ When we become Christians, God renews our natures, but not completely. He has chosen to not completely eradicate the sinful nature from us. Instead, God has chosen to gradually renew the remnants of the sinful nature throughout our lives. Upon our death, the sinful nature will be immediately eradicated.
In this life, we will have to deal with the sinful nature or the flesh. Paul tells us something important about the flesh. He says that it is ‘sold under sin.’ What does this mean? I think this can be best illustrated by the relationship of a slave to his master. The slave has his identity as a slave. This means that he is “sold under” his master. In other words, he is completely subject to his master. When the master commands him to do something, he does it. If the master says to clean the house, the slave does it. If the master commands the slave to feed the horses, the slave obeys, without question. It is in the slave’s identity to obey his master. Again, the way in which you think about yourself profoundly affects your behavior.

Paul is telling us that as Christians, we still have a sinful nature and it is “sold under sin.” Though we are new creatures in Christ, we are not completely new creatures in Christ. Paul wants us to be aware of this. Even though our new identity is in Christ the flesh causes us to fall back into our old identity. The Christian life is a constant warfare between the flesh and the new nature in Christ. This causes a struggle in the Christian life where no struggle had existed before. Non-believers do not struggle with sin. They are completely sold under sin and they obey it without question. Sure, they struggle with certain behaviors. Maybe they want to change certain things about themselves and they struggle with this. But this is very different from the Christian. The Christian struggles because he wants to please God. The non-believer struggles not to please God but for some other personal benefit.    

What we have seen thus far is that the law is good. We can never blame God or his law when we sin. The problem is that we have remnants of our old identity as sinners. We have remnants of our old sinful nature. And this sinful nature is sold under sin. As Christians, in Christ, we are new creatures. But as Christians we have remnants of sin. When the Christian hears God’s law, it inflames his sinful nature. But his new nature loves the law and want to obey it. This means that there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, between the old identity and the new identity. Paul will show us how this struggle played out in his own personal life next week.