Saturday, August 28, 2010

10 Reasons Why Paul is not Referring to His Struggle with Sin in Romans 7:7-25

In my review of Keener's Romans commentary I mentioned the helpfulness of a chart in the discussion of Romans 7 (found on p. 92) where Keener showed the problems with a common way of interpreting Romans 7:7-25. Many believe that Paul is talking about his own, current struggle with sin in that section. However, if we were to accept that reading, we have the problem of Paul contradicting what he says elsewhere. Danny asked me to reproduce the chart, so here it is below:

Rom 7:7-25 Believers in the context
Law, sin, and death (7:7-13) Freed from law (7:4, 6;8:2), sin (6:18, 20, 22) and death (5:21; 6:25; 8:2)
I am fleshly (7:14) You are not in the (sphere of) flesh, if Christ lives in you (8:9); no longer in the flesh (7:5)
I have been sold under (as a slave to) sin (7:14; cf. 7:23) Believers have been freed from enslavement to sin (6:18, 20, 22); they are "redeemed" (3:24)
Knowing right (in the law) without the ability to do right (7:15-23) Power to live righteously (8:4), not conferred by external law (8:3); contrast 2:17-24
Sin dwells in (and rules) me (7:17, 20) The Spirit dwells in believers (8:9, 11)
Nothing good dwells in me (i.e., in me as flesh; 7:18) The Spirit dwells in believers (8:9, 11)
The law of sin dominates his bodily embers (7:23) Believers are freed from the law of sin (8:2)
Sin wins the war and captures "me" as a prisoner (7:23) (Believers should win the spiritual war, cf. 2 Cor 10:3-5)
I want freedom from this "body of death" (body destined for death; 7:24) Believers who do not live for their own bodily desres (8:10-13) are freed from the way of death (8:2), in contract to those who follow the flesh (8:6, 13)
A slave to the law of sin in his flesh, vs. his mind (7:25) Believers are freed from the law of sin (8:2, cf. 6:18, 20, 22); the mental persepctive either belongs to the Spirit or the flesh (8:5-9)


  1. Thanks for posting this. I didn't need to be convinced, but this would do it if I did.

    The pastoral implications of this have the potential to be quite important, in my opinion.

  2. I agree with you. The pastoral implications are significant, especially in the often morally lax American church.

  3. great chart, thanks for posting

  4. It boils down to whether or not "sin" still lives in our flesh. Sin is death, Sin is the reason our bodies are dying as well as the whole of the universe. I have the Spirit but yet I will still die because of sin. This is a bodily death i.e. my flesh. It will be resurrected and regenerated into a perfect body because of the Spirit. The corruptible will be raised incorruptible. So, I live daily fighting a war against my flesh and it's evil desires. But the power of the Spirit is greater than my body or the material universe so I don't have to obey sin's evil desires. Sometimes I do however obey my old slave master even though I have been freed. The emancipation proclamation freed African-american slaves but it took generations for some to walk more freely in the freedom. They were free indeed legally but still living in intimidation and sometimes following any white mans directives based on habit and fear. We are the same. We are free but don't live like it a lot of the time. Thank God that I grow day by day into a better understanding of my freedom and my savior. HE that began a good work in me will complete it.

  5. I understand what you're saying. I don't think that Keener means that we don't battle sin in any sense anymore. However, some of the things Paul says in chapter 7 lead me to believe that he's not talking about Christian experience. We are not enslaved to sin anymore. I don't think Paul would ever say that we were. Jesus work of redemption is primarily a work of liberation from the power of sin, the devil, and death. Even though we will die we have been already transferred out of that realm.