Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | August 9, 2011

The Civil War Within

Over the years I have often considered the will of God and why it is He does certain things certain ways. The Bible reveals some of those reasons but does not reveal others. If it had pleased God He could have taken a believer, at the point of salvation, immediately into His presence but He chose not to do that; He chose instead to leave the new believer on earth.

As I’ve mentioned before, living on this earth as a born-again Christian introduces some challenges; this is Satan’s world and at our salvation we become Satan’s enemies. At several points Paul describes the believer as being at war and engaging in warfare; he describes the offensive and defensive armor we should use and cautions us that this war is not carnal but spiritual.

In Ephesians 6:12 we are told: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We are now part of a war that started before Adam was created and placed in the Garden.

Not only have we joined an ancient war, we have brought along a private war which is being waged within us, our own internal civil war.  

In Romans chapter 7 Paul described his internal war with sin; a war which all believers must wage. Let’s review the big picture; we, as believers, are engaged in an ancient spiritual war and we’ve got a member of the opposing army within us.

That sounds like a scenario in which we would require a lot of help; thankfully God has already provided all of the resources we need to be victorious, we must, however, claim and put on the resources God has made available to us.

Paul begins Romans 7 with an explanation of our relationship to the Mosaic Law; God knew that mankind would fail to obey the law and the purpose of the law was to show the absolute need for a savior, one who could deliver mankind from the penalty of death.

The law was never intended to be a path to righteousness and justification before God; its purpose was to show us we needed God’s help. Paul expresses this thought with great clarity in Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

There’s that knowing word again; do you see how Paul keeps focusing on our knowledge and not our feelings? Keep in mind Paul had been a Pharisee, one whose dedication to the law was deep and personal and here he is saying by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. We can certainly agree the Holy Spirit had done a mighty work in the life of this man.

In Romans 7-14 Paul describes how the law had given him an awareness of his sinfulness. The Pharisees were expert at reinterpreting the law to a point where they could see themselves as obeying their version of the law. The problem came with the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” Even a reasonably honest Pharisee could see their failure when it came to coveting; they coveted many, many things as described by the Lord in His confrontations with the Pharisees.

In Romans 7:8 Paul writes, “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of coveting. For apart from the law sin is dead.”

From verse 15 to the end of the chapter Paul describes the frustration he experiences in his internal battle with his sin nature; I take comfort from these verses. If someone of Paul’s stature in the faith had to fight this battle how then can I expect to avoid it? 

Chapter 7 is a touching revelation of the spiritual battle waged by a faithful man of God within himself. From this chapter we should find encouragement as we deal with our own civil war within.

The chapter ends with praise to God for His presence in this civil war within and provides the bridge to Romans 8. Romans 8 has been described as the grand cathedral of Christian doctrine and Romans 8:1 as the spire on the cathedral. In my next blog we will discuss this grand chapter of Christian hope and joy.


  1. Very encouraging! Thank you!


    • I am so very grateful to the Lord for inspiring Paul to write Roman, especially chapters 5 through 8; they have been a joy and comfort to me for decades. I’m delighted that you found the article encouraging; I’m working on Chapter 8 now and hope, by God’s grace, to at least partially convey the majesty and beauty of that chapter.


  2. David,

    I just finished reading “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis and this post reminded me of that.

    There were characters in the story that were so “religious” that they weren’t even interested in relationship with God.


    • That reminds me of the Pharisees; they were so religious that wanted the Messiah to be killed.


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