Romans 7: “What Mistakes and Armpits Have In Common”

What Mistakes and Armpits Have In Common

One of the things I hate most about myself is when I mess up. Now that can sound incredibly confessional, which it is, but it’s also very true…unfortunately. All my life growing up I have been prone to try, try, and try again, only to fail. Have you ever been there? Although I wouldn’t go to the extent of Samuel Johnson that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” I can sure tell you that there have been many times in my life that the road to failure is paved with good intentions. So you may be asking, what did you do about it? Well… I grew up. It may have started in college and actually “took” during my first pastoral assignment, but I reached the place where I stopped making excuses for my own mistakes and started accepting responsibility.

Have you heard the saying, “Excuses are like armpits, everyone has two and they stink?” Well, It’s true! I used to have an excuse for everything: my alarm was turned down, my car needed gas, you didn’t tell me what time it started, I didn’t realize the book was bound incorrectly and there was a repeat of the same chapter… wait, that really happened, that wasn’t an excuse, but I should have realized it sooner than two days before the biggest paper of my college career was due!

Paul’s Armpits

Now, we would be quick to think that Paul’s just making excuses, which in a way he is, but he’s doing more than that in this section of scripture. You see, what Paul is really doing is accepting responsibility. He’s understanding that there is something at war with his decisions, something keeps fighting against his best intentions. I love how the Message reads…

Romans 7:17-24 (MSG) 17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!

I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

He CAN and He DOES

Scholars have long debated if Paul was writing first hand or metaphorically, but in my opinion it doesn’t matter because it all sounds too true! Again, I can only speak for myself but I too at one point or another have cried out, “Is there no one who can do anything for me?”

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.


Sin has disoriented things but Jesus’ actions set things right! And because of Jesus’ actions we can be set free from the power of sin. We don’t need to make excuses anymore, instead we can accept responsibility and confess.

1 John 1:9 (NIV) But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (Salvation) and to cleanse us from all wickedness (Sanctification).