Warning: This post is not for the squeamish. I think the word picture contained in this verse is one of the grimmest portrayals regarding the effects of sin in all of Holy Writ. This perspective greatly increased my appreciation for the Atonement
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24
“O wretched man that I am,...” This affecting account is finished more impressively by the groans of the wounded captive. Having long maintained a useless conflict against innumerable hosts and irresistible might, he is at last wounded and taken prisoner; and to render his state more miserable, is not only encompassed by the slaughtered, but chained to a dead body; for there seems to be here an allusion to an ancient custom of certain tyrants, who bound a dead body to a living man, and obliged him to carry it about, till the contagion from the putrid mass took away his life!
Virgil paints this in all its horrors, in the account he gives of the tyrant Mezentius. AEneid, lib. viii. ver. 485.
What tongue can such barbarities record, Or count the slaughters of his ruthless sword? 'Twas not enough the good, the guiltless bled, Still worse, he bound the living to the dead: These, limb to limb, and face to face, he joined; O! monstrous crime, of unexampled kind! Till choked with stench, the lingering wretches lay, And, in the loathed embraces, died away!
Roasting, burning, racking, crucifying, etc., were nothing when compared to this diabolically invented punishment. We may naturally suppose that the cry of such a person would be, “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this dead body?”
And how well does this apply to the case of the person to whom the apostle refers! A body—a whole mass of sin and corruption, was bound to his soul with chains which he could not break; and the mortal contagion, transfused through his whole nature, was pressing him down to the bitter pains of an eternal death.
He now finds that the law can afford him no deliverance; and he despairs of help from any human being; but while he is emitting his last, or almost expiring groan, the redemption by Christ Jesus is proclaimed to him; and, if the apostle refers to his own case, Ananias unexpectedly accosts him with–“Brother Saul! the Lord Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way, hath sent me unto thee, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” He sees then an open door of hope, and he immediately, though but in the prospect of this deliverance, returns God thanks for the well-grounded hope which he has of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.