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.
4 thoughts on “Does Romans 7 describe the Christian Life ?”
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.
How can an unredeemed sinner say:
he desires to do good and not evil?
that it is not himself who sins?
in my inner being I delight in God’s law?
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord?
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law?
Paul clearly distinguishes inner sin and the redeemed new man.
Salvation does not end the struggle with the inner corruption of sin but initiates a battle against it that does not exist for the unredeemed person.
This is Paul’s struggle of putting of the old man and putting on the new man.
Romans and all Paul’s writings clearly reveal a continuing inner struggle against sin as the normal life of the redeemed. The indwelling Spirit and flesh are in a continuing opposition battle until glorification.
This norm is a life of initial and growing victory over sin due to the deliverance found in salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
The direction and desires for the redeemed are for righteousness instead of sin.
Progressive sanctification ending in sinless perfection at glorification.
Until verse 24 Paul is describing the person who wants to get rid of his sin addiction (law of sin and death). From then on he describes the remedy: I thank God (…) there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (…) walking after the Spirit.
Think it through: Holy Spirit vs. sinful nature (supposing for a moment that you still have a sin nature) => sin nature wins?
Growing victory over sin is not victory. Sin shall NOT have dominion over you. NOT: Sin shall sometimes have dominion over you.
Nowhere does the Bible say our characters will change magically at our glorification and then we will be sinless. And nowhere does the Bible say we have to sin every day. The Bible teaches that the bride HAS MADE herself ready!
From GLORY (not sinfulness) to glory!
Here are some links on whether sanctification is progressive or not and if you can overcome every single temptation or not:
Romans 7 is without a doubt Paul describing his past life before coming to Christ. I’m writing a book on this very subject because of all the confusion around the subject. How one views Romans 5 and 7 seems to have a great bearing on how one views many other parts of the Bible and can have a great deal of how one lives out their Christian life.
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I fully agree! 🙂 If you want to know my view on Romans 5, check out: https://crosstheology.wordpress.com/does-romans-5-teach-that-sin-is-imputed-to-all-descendants-of-adam/