Does Romans 7 describe the Christian life? Is it Paul’s way of saying: “I only write in absolute terms in Romans 6 and 8, the reality is Romans 7; Christians can’t stop sinning, because they have a sinful part (the flesh) and a holy part (the spirit) inside of them.”? Or does it describe the life before coming to Christ, since it is so different from Romans 6 and Romans 8? Can we hope to live our lives in Romans 6 and Romans 8 style, as Paul tells us to “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11) or does this only talk about seeing ourselves as positionally righteous in Christ and do we have to settle for less?
In this article I will briefly compare certain items of the controversial part of Romans 7 to Romans 8 and by doing this I will try to come to a proper conclusion.
7:18a: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”.
=> 8:9a, 12: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.”
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.”
conclusion 1: if you are a Christian = if you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you => you do no longer have to satisfy your own sinful lusts (= the flesh). We owe NOTHING to our former ways of living.
7:21, 23, 25: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
=> 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
conclusion 2: the law of sin was as certain as the law of gravity. Before coming to Christ we might have wanted to do good (7:21-22) but we understood that we couldn’t set ourselves free from the law of sin and death (7:24); we were entangled to the sinful habits that would have inevitably lead to death, its proper wages (6:23). NOW that we, as Christians are in Christ (8:1), we have not received the spirit of bondage [to our old sinful habits] but we have been liberated from that old spirit of bondage and we have received the Holy Spirit instead (8:15)!
conclusion 1 + conclusion 2 = we no longer have to satisfy our former sinful habits + we have been made free from them!
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”
– Galatians 5:16 (emphasis mine)
Those Christians who think that these conclusions only talk about positional righteousness should earnestly consider the following 2 passages:
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
– Galatians 5:19-21 (emphasis mine)
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
– Revelation 21:8
Notice that those passages do NOT say: “unless you are in Christ”. But rather they say: “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. Thus, those passages clearly talk about non-Christians. For example: a person cannot claim to be unbelieving and at the same time claim to be a Christian. In the same way, a person cannot claim to be a Christian and at the same time claim to be a sorcerer, witch or warlock. A Christian devil worshipper is of course a blatant contradiction.
Those who have been guilty of any (of those) sins, should immediately repent; they should confess their sins to Jesus Christ and abandon them immediately, planning to never do them again but instead to walk in the Spirit, for:
“(…) we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil (…); But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.”
– Romans 2:2-11
All Scripture passages taken from the King James Version (KJV). International copyright: public domain. Copyright in the United Kingdom (UK): The British Crown.