Romans 7: Believer or Unbeliever?

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The interpretation of Romans 7 is long disputed. My wife once told me that as a Christian teen she read Romans 7:14ff in the Living Bible and thought, “That is me!” Was she wrong in her hermeneutics? Is Paul talking about his Christian or pre-Christian experience in this very auto-biographical chapter?

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (ESV, Rom. 7:14-19)

Here are some arguments for the pre-conversion and post-conversion positions. You will be able to tell where I stand.

Describing Paul’s Pre-conversion Experience

  1. Prevailing view among Greek Fathers.
  2. Expressions such as “sold as a slave to sin” and “unspiritual” more fitting as a description of unsaved rather than genuine believers.
  3. If the “now” of 8:1 means “now” in a temporal sense, Paul is passing from description of unsaved to the saved condition.
  4. Absence of Holy Spirit from discussion hard to understand if a redeemed experience is under review.

Describing Paul’s Experience as a Christian

  1. The conclusion of Augustinian and Reformed interpreters.
  2. Paul’s change from past tense in Romans 7:1-13 to present tense in Romans 7:14-25 indicates a change from a pre- to a post- conversion description.
  3. Description of pre-conversion life in Philippians 3:6 as a “blameless” condition regarding the law does not square with wretchedness described in this passage.
  4. Progress of thought in Romans has passed beyond description of unsaved state (Rom. 1:18-3:20 and 3:21- 4:25) and he is now giving attention to sanctification, etc.
  5. Conflict described here can and does characterize the Christian life apparent elsewhere in Paul (see Gal. 5:16, 17).
  6. The power of self-diagnosis at such a penetrating level (Rom.7:22, 23) is beyond capability of an unbeliever.
  7. Use of  ton eso anthrwpon according to which Paul delights in the law of God (Rom. 7:22) is used elsewhere only of a believer (2 Cor. 4:16, Eph. 3:16).
  8. A person desiring such holiness of life could only be a believer, since in Romans an unbeliever does not long for God, but is hostile toward Him (see Rom.3:10 ff).
  9. Last verse acknowledges deliverance in Christ, yet goes on to state that the very problem described in 14-24 as though it continues to be a problem for one who knows the Lord.
  10. If the language of Romans 7:24 seems too strong for Paul to apply to himself as a believer, consider the language of 1 Tim. 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” ( αμαρτωλους σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ)

Leon Morris’ comment:

I do not see how it can be denied that what Paul says refers to the regenerate.  But this is not the whole story: Romans 7 leads right into Romans 8. But it is part of the story and an important part. Paul is not talking about the whole of his Christian experience but what happens when the believer sins.  [Quotes Packer] “This passage reproduces Paul’s present theological self-knowledge as a Christian: not all of it, but just that part of it which is germane to the subject at hand – namely, the function of the law in giving knowledge of sin.” [emphasis added]

John Brown: “as he has proved from his own past experience that the law cannot make a bad man good, he now proves from his present experience that law cannot make a good man better.  The law can tell us what we ought to be and do, but it cannot make us what it requires us to be.”

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If Paul is referring to a

If Paul is referring to a converted man, then the victory spoken of in Rom 6 is impossible, and Paul is crazy.

Poor Romans 7 never stood a chance on Augustine's torture rack.

Acts 8

18 When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power too, so that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter told him, "May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought the gift of God could be obtained with money! 21 You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."

Despite claiming to believe and get baptized, Simon was not converted.  The believer is not bound by iniquity or still of the flesh, sold under sin (John 8, Rom 6, Gal 5).

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Reasons

Rom 7 is like parts of Hebrews (and certainly other passages as well), there is no interpretation that is without difficulties.

But the OP lists ten reasons why the passages is best understood as descriptive of the Christian experience. It would be interesting to see these countered by those of you who favor a pre-conversion interp of the chapter.

As for Rom 6, where does it describe a "victory"? It's a call to obedience based on our union with Christ.

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Aaron, the contrast in Rom 6

Aaron, the contrast in Rom 6 is clear: live according to sin or live according to righteousness.  The man described in Rom 7 not only lives according to sin, but he cannot do otherwise.  No Christian can say this unless Paul was wrong in Rom 6.  I will leave it to you if you think the contrast to slavery is freedom or failure is victory.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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James K wrote:

James K wrote:

Aaron, the contrast in Rom 6 is clear: live according to sin or live according to righteousness.  The man described in Rom 7 not only lives according to sin, but he cannot do otherwise.  No Christian can say this unless Paul was wrong in Rom 6.  I will leave it to you if you think the contrast to slavery is freedom or failure is victory.

Actually, every Christian says this. Despite being freed from the slavery of sin, we still carry around this corrupted flesh. While it is true we no longer have to sin at any given time, it is also true we will still sin because of the residual lawlessness that has yet to be eradicated at our glorification. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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The man in Rom 7 was not

The man in Rom 7 was not freed from the slavery of sin.  He admitted it up front.  He was still enslaved to it.  This is the problem for those who think Rom 7 is for the believer: language is turned upside down in this chapter and a contradiction, not a tension, exists.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Are you not still entrapped

Are you not still entrapped by sin even when you don't want to be? If you are the sinless living believer, then write a book. Because the rest of us would love to know how you did it.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Ten reasons

Still ten reasons in the OP I'd like to hear refuted if they can be.

There is plenty in Rom. 7 that doesn't fit a non believer. For example in the portion quoted in the OP, Paul says he consents to the law that it's good. How does he do that? By wanting to do right. He says he wants to do right but doesn't actually do it (of course, he doesn't say or mean he never does right!). Does an unbeliever desire to obey the law of God, yet fail?

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It is hard to reconcile

It is hard to reconcile "joyfully concurring with the law of God in the inner man" with an unbeliever. That runs contrary to everything the Bible teaches about the unbeliever. It is equally difficult to reconcile "sold under sin" with a believer. These kinds of statements should point us in another direction, namely, the direction that seeks to ascertain what the passage is actually talking about and what it is saying about it.

The correct position on this, if I may say so myself, is the one espoused by Schreiner and others, that the question of believer or unbeliever is not being addressed here. Paul is discussing the law, and the passage must be read in that context. The point is that the law is unable to transform. It is not because the law is bad; it is good. It is because of the flesh. 

It is abusing this passage to try to make it answer the question of "believer" or "unbeliever." It is not the question the passages is addressing.

Paul description is simply that of the experience of humanity. Both believers and unbelievers quite often find themselves in the quandary described of wanting to do one thing while actually doing another. What's the answer? It's not the law who can deliver us from that; It is Christ.

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Topical focus isn't binary

I agree that the passage is about the law. The chapter begins with it and pretty much ends with it. And ch.8 shows he is not quite done with it. However, there's no escaping the fact that Paul makes statements about his own relationship to law, and I'm not sure it's possible to get all that he's saying about law without also answering the question "what sort of person has this relationship with law?" Is it possible to get most of the intended law message without answering that? Probably. But is it necessary to do that and is there insight to gain from understanding what sort of life the law is fitting into in ch.7b? I would say no to the first and yes to the second.

I do think it can be unfruitful to get bogged down the pre/post conversion question, though. My advice to students is if you can't reach a confident conclusion on that, just move on. Chapter 8 pretty much clears up the loose ends on how law relates to the believer.

But a text does not have to be "about" a topic to reveal information on that topic, nor is it abusing a text to grasp all of what it reveals. What I mean is that whatever is in focus in a text, it's never all that's there. What's in focus is being related to other things... and truth about those other things is still there and still true, regardless of the thematic focus. For example, with this chapter, would we argue that because it's about the law, the "I" does not refer to Paul and reveals nothing about Paul? (I think there is a view out there that takes the personal pronouns as somehow not being him... but they don't make the case on the grounds that Paul is not "what the chapter is about." There is some other argument involved.) When you have a subject and predicate, something of both is revealed.

My main objection to the "pre-conversion" view (other than not fitting the text as well as the alternative) is that it usually seems to arise from a view of sanctification in which there is no struggle and no frustration. And this idea has led so many believers into, ironically, a whole lot of frustration.

As for 'sold under sin,' I don't think it's as big a problem as it may seem. Although those "in Christ," are no longer slaves to sin by identity/standing (Rom. 6), we are people who were once sold under sin and the results of that former relationship to sin continue. So Paul's point may simply be that as one who was previously sold under sin he continues to be one who lives with many of the results of that.

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But a text does not have to

But a text does not have to be "about" a topic to reveal information on that topic, nor is it abusing a text to grasp all of what it reveals.

This is certainly true, but I think making a text answer a question it doesn't intend to address is tenuous, particularly when the evidence doesn't point us clearly one direction or the other. That's what I mean by "abusing" the text. It is trying to force it to a side that it doesn't reveal. Schreiner argues that the balance between pre and post is "so finely balanced because Paul does not intend to distinguish believers from unbelievers in this text."

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Larry wrote:

Larry wrote:

1. It is hard to reconcile "joyfully concurring with the law of God in the inner man" with an unbeliever. That runs contrary to everything the Bible teaches about the unbeliever. 

2. It is abusing this passage to try to make it answer the question of "believer" or "unbeliever." It is not the question the passages is addressing.

3. Paul description is simply that of the experience of humanity. Both believers and unbelievers quite often find themselves in the quandary described of wanting to do one thing while actually doing another. What's the answer? It's not the law who can deliver us from that; It is Christ.

1. It goes against what is assumed about the unbeliever.  Does the Bible really state that the unbeliever cannot see himself as joyfully agreeing with the law according to the inner man?  Of course not.  Paul's own testimony of how he viewed himself while a pharisee in Phil 3 negates your point.  He thought he was blameless with righteous zeal.

2. Your assumption that it is abusing the text is also false, since Paul just described the believer as free in chapter 6 (cf Jn 8) and stated that to be carnally minded is death in chapter 8, he would be schizophrenic to say he was really enslaved as a believer.

3. If Paul can't do it, no one can and efforts to fight sin are a waste of time.  Rom 7 is not about a defeated person who sometimes wins but of an enslaved person who cannot do otherwise.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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10 Reasons for thinking Rom 7

10 Reasons for thinking Rom 7 describes a believer:

1. Some count this as a benefit.  I reject this as having any substance as the matter is really what God said.  Augustine and the reformers also had some pretty bizarre views.

2. Not so fast.  It was not uncommon in Greek literature to use the dynamic present style.  This even occurs in everyday English.  Is this a plausible explanation?  Sure.  Is it what Paul did?  Maybe, maybe not.  Perhaps this is how Paul wanted to begin the discussion of what life was truly like for him if he didn't have the Spirit.  The tense issue should not be forced to carry such a burden as is placed on it since reasonable alternatives exist.

3. This is actually reason to reject the converted position.  In Phil 3, Paul was describing himself as he saw himself while a pharisee.  In Rom 7, Paul was describing himself as a pharisee after he had been converted and understood it all.  Phil 3 is a testimony of deception and human bragging.  Rom 7 is the regret of a saved person having been deceived so horribly.

4. Dr Jon Pratt of Central Baptist wrote his doctoral dissertation on the issue of sanctification and assumed that Rom 7 was addressing the preconverted Paul.  Non-issue.

5. Not so fast, the battle in Rom 7 is between the flesh and the law.  The battle in Gal 5 is between the flesh and the Spirit.  Why would Paul talk about freedom from the law in Rom 6 and then demand adherence to it in Rom 7?  More schizophrenia I suppose.

6. You assume the point you are trying to make.  I can do that too.  The penetrating level is possible for an unbeliever.

7. So the NT uses a specific phrase twice about a believer.  The only other usage is not crystal clear.  Is that really proof?

8. Gonna have to call a false start on this one.  Just a couple chapters over, we find out that the unbeliever actually can do what it is supposed he can't.  Rom 10:2 - I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

9. The last verse gives the triumphant answer to all these problems.  The law won't help.

10. The claim to be a sinner and the claim to be a slave of sin unable to ever do anything but sin is not the same thing.  Does anything think Paul was running swords out of the back of a chariot to gangs, maybe running an opium operation, bowing down to idols, or consorting with women?  Recognizing one's depravity and need for Christ is what Paul did.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Finney

Finney fought long and hard to wrest Romans 7 from the grasp of the Old Calvinists. For him, in that chapter, you find the story of the moralist, or the story of the awakened sinner who is trying to do everything that he can to please God--except surrender, in abject humiliation, to Christ. Of course, the impression that Finney leaves--and I believe that he held--is that you can move back and forth between Romans 7 and Romans 8. And you had better hope that you were on the high side when you breathed your last.

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 Does the Bible really state

 Does the Bible really state that the unbeliever cannot see himself as joyfully agreeing with the law according to the inner man?

Romans 8:5-8   For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,  7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,  8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Ephesians 4:17-19  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;  19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

Romans 3:10-12   as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;  11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;  12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."

All of these passages are examples of passages that describe the unbeliever in ways that at the very least seem incompatible with joyfully concurring with the law of God in the inner man, unless "joyfully concur" has a meaning that is not immediately obvious. If we take "inner man" as an anthropological statement rather than a soteriological one, we can conclude that an unbeliever can delight in the law of God in the inner man (cf. Moo). But this would be the only occurrence of "inner man" in such a use, as contrasted to the other two usages that are clearly soteriological.

However, to picture the believer as "sold under sin" is compatible with Romans 6 when we understand the commands of Romans 6 to Christians to not be a slave to sin are commands addressing an actual possibility. In other words, Paul commands Christians to not present themselves as slaves to sin (worded in various ways in Rom 6) because it is actually possible for them to do so. Were it impossible to be "sold under sin," the commands of Rom 6 would have no meaning at all. He might as well command them to not rise up and fly.

But again, the text appears to have no intent of answering this question. It is addressing another topic, namely, the role of law in the life of humanity, and it does so by painting a picture every Christian can identify with. In fact, one of the marks of Christian growth and maturity is the struggle recorded here of wanting to do one thing (because of the law of God in the mind), but continually doing something else (because of the law of sin in the flesh). The answer to such struggle is not law; we are not transformed by the law (whether Mosaic or more general). We are transformed because God did what the law could never do by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be an offering for sin (Rom 8:3). Thus, it is best to let the text speak for itself rather than thrust a question upon it.

Trying to make a text answer a question it has no intention of answering is to misuse a text. Oftentimes, a text will reveal information on a tangential topic, but those cases must be handled with extreme care. After all, when we stand up and say, "This is what God says," we better be sure it is what he says. IMO, there is not sufficient warrant in this text to declare God's view on the distinction of pre/post conversion, and there is ample reason to believe this text cannot be used to declare either way.

 

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Larry, let's try this from

Larry, let's try this from another angle:

1 Cor 6

9 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom. 11 Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I will suppose you agree that those who would identify with those sins is what that is talking about, not someone who has committed those sins before.  In other words, the idolater IS an idolater.  That IS who he IS.  It is so bound to his person.

Such a person will not inherit God's kingdom.

Counter that with Paul's statement in Rom 7:14 - "...I AM of flesh..." and 8:9 - "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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I do think that Shreiner's

I do think that Shreiner's view is better than the postconversion view.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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Strange Solutions

Although it's been 20 or 25 years ago now, I still remember reading D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' strange interpretation of the "wretched man" in Romans seven.  The best I can recall, he said this was not a normal situation, and the wretched man was a man under conviction, but not yet saved.  He also said this situation only occurred during periods of revival.  What was even stranger was his statement that his man was neither regenerate nor unregenerate.  (What's that again?)  So far, I've never found anyone who agreed with the learned doctor.

What his interpretation taught me is the challenge to interpreting Romans seven.  It's not easy to fit every statement neatly into a "saved" or "lost" man category.  It taught me not to be too dogmatic with my own interpretation, and to be suspicious of anyone who is overly confident that their interpretation is correct and nobody who disagrees with them could possibly possess a modicum of Biblical understanding. If this passage doesn't produce humility among interpreters, surely there is little hope for humility anywhere.

However, I am happy to throw my hat in the ring of those who believe Paul is describing himself and others who are truly saved and wrestling with remaining corruption.

G. N. Barkman

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Schreiner etc

Larry wrote:

But a text does not have to be "about" a topic to reveal information on that topic, nor is it abusing a text to grasp all of what it reveals.

This is certainly true, but I think making a text answer a question it doesn't intend to address is tenuous, particularly when the evidence doesn't point us clearly one direction or the other. That's what I mean by "abusing" the text. It is trying to force it to a side that it doesn't reveal. Schreiner argues that the balance between pre and post is "so finely balanced because Paul does not intend to distinguish believers from unbelievers in this text."

Does Schreiner argue that Paul is intentionally obscuring his (or whoever "I" and "me" is in the passage) conversion status in order to focus on the nature of law in relation to man in general? Seems plausible, though I haven't studied that through. I still don't see any show stoppers for the postconversion view.

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Counter that with Paul's

Counter that with Paul's statement in Rom 7:14 - "...I AM of flesh..." and 8:9 - "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."

Until we figure out what question Paul is answering, we can't really decide what the answer to that question is, and we can't really create our own questions. If one thinks he is answering the question of pre vs. post, then there are some severe difficulties for both (as evidenced by the number of solid theologians who identify the obvious strengths and weaknesses of both positions). However, if one sees Paul as answering another question, then things become much clearer. Trying to force Rom 7 into one side or the other is going to leave some big holes.

Take your citation of Rom 7:14 and "I am of flesh." The contrast in the verse is that "the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh." By seeing it in context, we can see that Paul isn't contrasting saved vs. unsaved, unless one wishes to say that the Law can be saved. It is more likely that Paul is saying that the problems with obedience in mankind isn't due to the law; it is due to the flesh. The law is good and holy; we are fleshly, sinful.

Consider another point, made by Mounce: In Paul's pre-conversion life, he was blameless, considered himself above all others (Phil 3). "It seems quite improbable that he was at that time deeply involved in a personal struggle against sin" (Mounce 167).

So I continue to say it is better not to force a question on a text such as this, particularly since the text does not point us one direction or the other.

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One quick follow up Larry.

One quick follow up Larry.  In my belief that Romans 7 is descriptive of preconversion, I believe it is Paul as a Christian looking back on what was actually true of his preconverted experience.  The Phil 3 passage is how he would describe himself as one having confidence in the flesh, ie, the pharisee Paul.

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Romans 7 is Paul's

Romans 7 is Paul's description of his life as a Pharisee. Saul was zealous for the law. He delighted in it. He was advancing faster than his contemporaries. But as a Pharisee he could not do what he commanded us to do in Romans 6. What he desired to do, he could not do. What he did not want to do, he did. The devout Pharisee was incapable of a life of true righteousness. "What a wretched man I am," he stated. "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).

As has been pointed out in the comments above, "death" belongs to the arena of "the flesh." Paul was describing his life as the Pharisee Saul, a man of the flesh, a man under the law.

Only one person could rescue Saul - Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 8:3 explains that God through the sin offering that is Christ condemned sin in the flesh. The sacrifice of Christ condemned sin in us so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us (Romans 8:4). Sin is condemned in us. It no longer has the right to control us, to enslave us, to bind us. It is condemned.

There are only two arenas in which we may live - two spheres of existence. We are either "of flesh" or we are "of Spirit." When Saul the Pharisee encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was transported from "of flesh" to "of Spirit." Paul states, "You, however, are not of flesh but of Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 8:9, personal translation).

Romans 6 and Romans 8 make no sense whatsoever if Romans 7:7-25 describes the converted Paul. But as the description of the Pharisee Saul, it makes perfect sense. Romans 7:5-6 summarizes the change that takes place between Romans 7:7-25 and Romans 8. As believers in Christ, we are "of Spirit." We are dead to the "flesh" and it no longer binds us. Our bodies are dead because of sin, and yet in the Spirit even our bodies are now made alive through his Spirit who lives in us (Romans 8:10-11).

As believers, we don't live in the flesh and we are not "of flesh." We are "of Spirit" and even our bodies are made alive. Therefore, the command by Paul in Romans 6:11-14 is not only attainable, it is our new reality. We now offer the parts of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. It is what we do!

 

 

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Didn't ML-J hold to ... ?

Didn't Dr. D.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones hold to Romans 7 as referring to an unconverted person?  I don't have his set on Romans to verify what was once said to me.

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What about...

What about reasons 2-10 in the OP, especially 10?

Don Sailer wrote:
As believers, we don't live in the flesh and we are not "of flesh." We are "of Spirit" and even our bodies are made alive. Therefore, the command by Paul in Romans 6:11-14 is not only attainable, it is our new reality. We now offer the parts of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. It is what we do!

Believers still sin

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (ESV, 1 John 1:8)  

Believers still struggle with sin and fail

4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (ESV, Hebrews 12:4)  

2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (ESV, James 3:2)  

Believers are still very much connected with the flesh and struggle with the flesh.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (ESV, Galatians 5:16–19)  

This last passage really brings it together, harmonizes the seeming contradictions. Paul says we are "led by the Spirit" yet commands that we walk (implying that we are able to choose not to) and describes a life of conflict ("these are opposed to eachother to keep you from doing the things you want to do"). We are led by the Spirit but we do not always choose to follow. Sounds a whole like Romans 7 to me.

Romans 6 tells who we are and what we have then shows us what we are called to grow toward, much like Matt. 5:48.

James K's picture
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Aaron, can you explain why

Aaron, can you explain why Paul labored to explain why we are no longer under law in Rom 6 and then cursed his inability to obey the law in Rom 7?  Did he or did he not believe he was free from the law?  Did Paul not know what Paul wrote?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture
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The conflict in Rom 7 is

The conflict in Rom 7 is between the flesh and the law.  The Christian is not under law, has been set free, etc.  The struggle in Gal 5 is between the flesh and the Spirit.  Rom 7 doesn't mention the Spirit.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Law of Moses vs. Law

I don't think Paul is talking about Moses most of the time when he says law. There is rarely any definite article either. It would usually be better to render it simply "law" not "the law." In any case, God still requires obedience of His children and Romans 8 describes how we are eventually brought to in fact comply with God's law (not specifically it's Mosaic application).

Here's the reasoning in a sequence: sin is lawlessness, believers still sin, they shouldn't sin, ergo, lawlessness is a bad thing in believers and obedience to law is good.

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