Romans 7

I want to know more about Romans chapter 7 deeply. Can anyone please explain about it ?

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@SHARATH welcome to Connect and thank you very much for posting this great question.
What part of Romans 7 would you like help with? I am happy to overview the chapter but if you can tell me which verses in particular, I would be able to give a much better response.

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@SHARATH Great question :slight_smile: One thing to consider is the possibility that Romans 7 is not about Christians, but about those trying to obey the law apart from the power of God’s Spirit (see my post below for more details). Plenty of intelligent, godly people do believe Romans 7 refers to Christians, but that view does not make any sense to me even after reading scholarly articles supporting that position.

There are a lot of parallels between Romans 6-8 and Galatians 5, so I think reading those together is helpful. I think it is important to note that in Romans 6, 8 and Galatians 5 we are told that believers no longer live according to the flesh! However, the person described in Romans 7 is ‘sold into sin’s power’ and therefore, in my opinion, cannot be a believer.

I think what Paul is trying to show us is this: as believers in Jesus we are no longer bound by the Old Covenant law, but that does not mean we do not obey God’s law - it means we obey a new law - the law of the Spirit of Christ who lives in us. We are not slaves to sin and we are not slaves to the law. Amen!

In Romans 7 your mind desires to do God’s law, but it is unable to because your body is slave to the flesh. But in Galatians 5 the flesh desires to sin, but you cannot because you live by the Spirit and must obey God. However – Paul is at pains to show that we are ‘not under the law’ – because the law brings death – only the law of the Spirit can bring life. Paul wants us to realize that we can keep the law by the power of the Spirit, but we are no longer captive to the law – Christ has bought our freedom. So even though we can keep the law – we look to Christ and His Spirit; not the law, for our justification.

Gal 5 - Spirit vs flesh - exhortation to obey Spirit (you cannot do what you ‘want’ because you have two ‘wants’ at war within you)
Rom 7 - mind vs flesh - slave to flesh (you cannot do what you ‘want’ because you are a slave to sin even if you ‘want’ to obey the law)

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@SHARATH, welcome. We love questions like this and we are so glad you deeply desire to understand God’s work in Romans 7.

Okay, so I’m probably weird, but bear with me. I’ve watched a lot of TV courtroom dramas, and when I read Romans, I picture Paul as a lawyer in a courtroom making a case to a jury. On that jury are potentially Jewish persons who are confused about Jesus and just what this new thinking means concerning the law, and Jewish believers in Christ–some of whom want every believer to follow all the laws of Moses (known as Judaizers), and new Gentile believers that do not have a background in the law of Moses. We don’t know Paul’s exact audience in his letter to Romans, but any and/or all of these are likely. And, there were misunderstandings and conflicts between these groups.

Who’s on trial? We are. All mankind.

So Paul takes the jury, step by step, through why God gave the law and how does it hold up in light of the new covenant. He is logically building each thought, dependent on the previous thought. So it’s really challenging to take just one part out of Romans without using the rest of the letter for a clearer understanding.

Paul starts with explaining why all mankind is deserving of God’s judgment and that we are all without excuse, and builds through to the knowledge that salvation can only come through faith in Jesus. And that salvation is for both Jew and Greek (which is really the representation again of all mankind).

He explains that the route to this salvation in Christ came through Abraham. So you can imagine that those with a Jewish background think they are better off than the gentile believers. But Paul changes that game, telling them it’s not the physical circumcision of their body that establishes their identity in Christ, but the circumcision of the heart.

In chapters 1-6, Paul has made many points about sin and about the law. And if it’s not obeying the law that brings salvation, but faith in Jesus through the new covenant – what does that mean about sin? Paul asks: if we are captive to the law and our desires, and only with grace–through Christ–can we be set free, then should we sin so that we can receive more grace? Of course the answer is no. So chapter 6 is the build up to chapter 7 and it is then the build up to chapter 8 (arguably the greatest of all in Paul’s letters).

So let’s talk about chapter 7. I think the key to understanding this chapter is the phrase: “—for I am speaking to those who know the law—.” So he’s looking squarely at those with a Jewish background in the jury box. He’s using the illustration of a married woman being release from marriage when her husband dies to make the point that we (believers) are released from the law through the death of Christ and our own death to self when we accept Christ. In other words, through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are released from the old covenant and into the new covenant. He’s making the connection with his audience using something that is common knowledge to them to help them understand this new way of thinking…and living.

Then Paul expounds on the question "is the law sin? Which of course is again, no. And goes on to explain why the law was needed. That without the law we would not be convinced that we are truly lost to sin and in need of a savior. That even when we desire to do the righteous thing and obey the law, we are self-destructive and often end up doing the opposite. Consistently our good intentions and actual actions are not in sync and we end up sinning. All of us. We have all fallen short.

Finally Paul comes to a key pivot point in his summation to the jury, “Wretched man that I am!” He’s built up a devastating case against mankind but then he springs the GOOD NEWS that though we are hopeless in the law of sin and death, we have hope in the saving grace of Jesus. Which then leads into chapter 8 where he exclaims, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

I’m hoping this distilling of content from Romans has added a little clarity, @SHARATH.

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Hey @SHARATH,

Given the feedback from others and your initial question, how are you interpreting Romans 7? How do you understand the context of Romans 7 in the rest of the book? What is your analysis and do you have any specific difficulties in interpretation? What would you say are the key general ideas or theological insights? How would it apply to the church today?

Looking forward to your synthesis of the text and how it weighs on your heart! :slight_smile:

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Romans 7 is about Christians, no doubt. Verse 4 says, “brothers and sister” and verses 14 until the end, Paul talks about his own struggle with sin in the present text. Paul has an acute awareness of his own sin. One cannot have that awareness unless the Holy Spirit exposes it in your life, which means you are a Christian. Non-believers do not have the same awareness as Christians do about their sin which is why Paul shares this constant wrestling between the flesh and the spirit. In your reference to final judgment, you tie it to sin. Our sin is already judged so Paul isn’t referencing judgement to sin in his life, just referencing his the daily struggle we all have so I’m not sure what you were trying to express there. Can you clarify, please? Verse 23 talks about the waging of war within himself, therefore that is about Christians, not unbelievers. Thanks

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@jrarourke Thanks for those thoughts :slight_smile: Below is an article from Biola explaining why this may not be about Paul - I pulled out the argument that is most convincing to me personally. I also respond to your other comments and provide an additional article from the Gospel Coalition below. I don’t think we have to agree on this one, but I do hope you can understand my perspective.

  1. Paul’s negative descriptions of the “me” in the passage are elsewhere applied to pre-Christians, not Christians.
  • “I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin” (7:14). Compare to “we were in the flesh” (7:5); “we were freed from sin” (6:18); “we were slaves to sin” (6:20); and “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (8:9).
  • “But I see another law… making me a prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23). Compare to “but now, freed from sin and enslaved to God” (6:22); and “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).

If Paul says that Christian are no longer in the flesh and are no longer slaves or prisoners of sin, then it seems to make the most sense to say that he is talking about pre-Christian experience here in Rom 7:14-25.

Verse 4

There is a change in topic between verses 4-6 and verse 7. In 4-6 Paul is saying that we now serve by the Spirit and not by the law. So Paul decides to head off what he thinks his opponents might claim he is saying - which is that the law is sinful. Paul then goes on to explain how the law was good and how, prior to our conversion, we were sold to sin’s power.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Change in topic:

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not!

Within Himself

It is true that the use of first-person present verbs in the passage (“I am” “I practice” “I want” “I hate” “I do”) sounds like Paul is talking about his present experience. But Paul sometimes uses “I” in a rhetorical sense to describe generic experience rather than his own experience (1 Cor 10:30; 13:2-3, 11). In at least one other place, Paul uses a first-person present verb to describe his opponents’ experience (Gal 2:18).

Another Article

Verse 5 depicts pre-Christian experience, describing a time “when we were in the flesh,” and explains that the flesh produced “death.” Verse 6 refers to Christians in four terms: “But now,” “released,” “died” (to our old life), and “Spirit.” Virtually all commentators agree that verse 5 refers to unbelievers and verse 6 to believers. But here is the key point: Romans 7:7–25 unpacks verse 5, and Romans 8:1–17 unpacks verse 6. In verses 7–25 we see how sin via the law brings death to those in the flesh, and in Romans 8:1–17 we see how the Spirit grants life to those who belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 7:5–6 forecasts what Paul is about to say in remarkably clear terms.

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Hi Sean. Looks like a lot of detail so I will read it real soon. Thanks and looking forward to it

Jason

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Thank you madam. It’s very good and pleasant to read your explanation. You said we are under new covenant , So what actually this new covenant wants us to do ? How can we live or keep this New Covenant and live for God?
@Jennifer_Judason

@Sharath, thanks for asking more questions.

First, let’s look at the idea of covenant. Here’s a definition I have found that does a better job explaining than I could do.

“covenants in antiquity represent sealing sacred kinship bonds between two parties by means of both legal sanction and liturgical rite.”

“a widespread legal means by which the duties and privileges of kinship may be extended to another individual or group, including aliens.” Covenants are sealed by oath-swearing, and the resultant familial bonds are ratified with the celebration of cultic rites and the regulation of legal conditions and obligations.”

Hahn, S. (2016). Covenant. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary . Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Generally speaking, when persons refer to the Old Covenant they are referring to the Old Testament. And when they refer to the New Covenant they are referring to the New Testament, specifically that which was instituted by God with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

In the Old Testament (OT), there were two main covenants – the Abrahamic Covenant (made with Abraham) and the Mosaic Covenant (made with Moses and the people of Israel after their deliverance from Egypt). Typically, the rules for living by that God gave to Moses which also included the Ten Commandments, is considered the Old Covenant.

When Israel, accepted the invitation to be God’s people–the kinship bond the definitions speak of–they entered into a relationship with God that had both privileges and obligations. In ancient days the spilling of blood was used to ratify the covenant – to seal it as final and complete. The covenant with Abraham involved the circumcision of the males as a sign of this covenant relationship and an animal sacrifice.

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. (ESV)

Animal blood was used to seal the covenant between God and the people of Israel.

3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (ESV)

In the covenant established through Moses came the law and instructions by God for how to live according to His ways. (The full story of the deliverance and these laws can be found in the books Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers.) When people strayed from the law, sacrifices were required to get back into right relationship with God. This sacrifice was conditional. It only lasted until the person sinned again, then another sacrifice was needed. Understanding this is critical to seeing the difference between the Old and New Covenants.

The New Covenant was established by Jesus at the Last Supper, with the observance of the Passover dinner. The next day it would be Jesus shed blood that would seal the covenant for all time.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (ESV)

In the Old Covenant it took continual rituals of sacrifice to come back into relationship with God. In the New Covenant, Jesus sacrifice is everlasting.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)

Truly, there is so much more on covenants that could be added, but I want to get on to your other questions.

So what actually this new covenant wants us to do ? How can we live or keep this New Covenant and live for God?

Jesus, gives us instruction for living throughout the Gospels. Jesus is who we follow and imitate.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (ESV)

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (ESV)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version . (2016). (Lk 9:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

There is so much more that can be said, but these fundamental verses encompass what it means to be a follower of Christ. It’s an intentional lifelong process to become conformed to the image of Christ. We continually die to self and live for Christ. We move from self-centered to Christ-centered by cooperating with the Holy Spirit, who enables us to change. Our perspective changes from the here and now to God’s eternal purpose.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with information, but they were really BIG questions, @SHARATH. Be blessed. God is good.

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Hey Sean
Thanks for the thoughts and articles. I did read them. Respectfully, I still disagree for a number of reasons but we will just end up going back and forth. I will comment on just one thing - this quote from the second article:

Yet that’s not what Romans 7:13–25 is talking about. Yes, we continue to struggle with sin. Yes, we fall short every day. But Romans 7:13–25 is talking about total defeat. As Paul says in verse 14, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” In other words, he is describing complete and total captivity to sin.

There is no way, I think, Paul accepts total defeat and captivity to sin - this is hyperbole. There are many example of hyperbolic language in the Bible. It’s an expression from deep within of the constant tension within us. Positionally, we are righteous but practically we still sin. That’s what Paul is trying to convey in my mind. What’s really important is that we need unity on the primary doctrinal beliefs (like who Jesus Christ is and salvation), liberty in secondary issue like Romans 7, but in all things, love.

We are in this together and I want to thank-you again for your thoughts and taking the time to share. I am open to them still as I ponder this more.
Blessings, brother
Jason

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@jrarourke Thanks for taking the time to read them :slight_smile: Romans is definitely a complicated book, so a diversity of perspectives is not surprising. Yes, it is a blessing when brothers dwell together in unity. Christ be with you.