Paul in Romans 7 Believer or Unbeliever? Berean Bible Study Christ Bible Church

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1 Believer or Unbeliever? Berean Bible Study Christ Bible Church

2 My Journey in Romans 7 I formerly held the position that Romans 7 is Paul s description of his spiritual struggles in his current state (at time of writing) as a mature believer and apostle of Christ After studying the Scriptures, I was genuinely converted to believe that Romans 7 is Paul s description of his futile effort to be justified by the Law, and God s supernatural drawing and convicting power (by the Spirit through the Law), leading to recognition of sin and need for the Savior, and ultimately, his conversion. 2

3 Our Objective Today First and foremost, we desire to know God intimately We desire to develop an accurate understanding of the truth of God s Word We desire to allow the truth of God s Word to transform our lives Therefore, we need to be careful to NOT be desirous of simply winning an argument 3

4 Theological Significance Why is it important to have a proper interpretation of Romans 7? Romans 7 is a pivotal passage in Scripture A person s view of Romans 7 will have a tremendous impact on their theology of sin in the Christian life. 4

5 Theological Significance Those who hold to the Paul as a Believer view fear that the other camp jeopardizes the doctrine of Total Depravity Those who hold to the Paul as an Unbeliever view fear that the other camp jeopardizes the doctrine of the believer s freedom from slavery to sin Which is true and which is reconcilable? 5

6 Theological Significance I will argue today that holding to the Believer View places you into one or more of the following categories: 1. Dualism (spirit is good, body is evil) 2. Antinomianism (freedom to sin) 3. Theological Inconsistency (holding to the Believer View yet rejecting #1-3) 6

7 Evidence for Unbeliever View 1. Contextual Evidence 2. Exegetical Evidence 3. Answers to Objections 7

8 Contextual Evidence 8

9 Contextual Evidence 1. Book Context Book of Romans 2. Section Context Romans Passage Context Romans 7 9

10 Overall Context of Romans The Barrier to Salvation (chapters 1-3) The Cause of Salvation (4-5) The Effect of Salvation (6-8) The Security of Salvation (9-11) The Application of Salvation (12-16) 10

11 Overall Context of Romans The Barrier to Salvation Chapter 1 Gentiles are sinners Chapter 2 Jews are sinners Chapter 3 All are sinners The Cause of Salvation Chapter 4 Salvation is not by works Chapter 5 Salvation is by grace through faith because of Christ 11

12 Overall Context of Romans The Effect of Salvation Chapter 6 Contrast between the untransformed and transformed life Chapter 7 An illustration of transformation Chapter 8 Contrast between the untransformed and transformed life If chapter 7 is a reference to a believer It does not fit into the flow of thought It contradicts chapters 6 and 8 12

13 Overall Context of Romans The Security of Salvation Chapter 9 The establishment of God s plan of salvation before time began Chapter 10 The outworking of God s plan of salvation in time Chapter 11 The culmination of God s plan of salvation at the end of time 13

14 Overall Context of Romans The Application of Salvation Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter Devotion Government Conscience Unity Fellowship 14

15 The Context of Romans 6-8 Believers can not live in sin Romans 6:2 How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 8:5, 12 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. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- 15

16 The Context of Romans 6-8 Believers are no longer slaves to sin Romans 6:6-7 our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 16

17 The Context of Romans 6-8 Believers are not slaves to sin BECAUSE they are not under the Law Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 8:3-4 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us 17

18 The Context of Romans 6-8 Believers are slaves to righteousness, resulting in holy living Romans 6:17-18, 22 though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification Romans 8:9-10 you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 18

19 The Context of Romans 7 Being freed from the Law produces fruit Romans 7:1, 4 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?... 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (see vv.2-3) 19

20 The Context of Romans 7 The thesis statement of Romans 7 Romans 7:5-6 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Which of these two verses represents 7:14ff? 20

21 The Context of Romans 7 The outline of Romans 7:14ff Romans 7:7-11 I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind 9 when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. Paul was spiritually dead in sin 21

22 Exegetical Evidence 22

23 Exegetical Evidence 1. Contrast Between Spirit and Flesh 2. Contrast Between Law and Grace 3. Contrast Between Slavery to Sin and Slavery to Righteousness 23

24 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Romans 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. The term flesh in 1 Corinthians 3:1 describes spiritual infants, not Paul! Elsewhere (Romans 8:6; 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15, 15:44, 46), it describes that which is natural / unspiritual 24

25 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Paul s language demands unbelief because Fleshly is contrasted with spiritual (not spiritual vs. more spiritual) Fleshly is described/qualified as slavery to sin Romans 7:5-6 For while we were in the flesh [i.e. unsaved], the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. 25

26 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Paul s language demands unbelief because Believers have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24) Believers do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4) Believers are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Romans 8:9) Does this sound like the person described in Romans 7:14ff? 26

27 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Paul s language demands unbelief because Unredeemed flesh is evil by definition BUT the believer is being sanctified in body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) Believers are commanded to cleanse themselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1) See also 1 Thessalonians 4:4, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 7:34) 27

28 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Paul s language demands unbelief because Paul always assumes that a believer CAN and SHOULD honor God with his body 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. See also Romans 12:1 28

29 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Paul s language demands unbelief because The Christian s body is his slave, not the other way around 1 Corinthians 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. Versus Romans 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 29

30 Spirit/Flesh Contrast Anyone who holds that Paul was a believer in Romans 7:14ff must either accept dualism (i.e. spirit is good and body is bad) or creatively explain it away Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh Romans 7:25 on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. 30

31 Law/Grace Contrast The purpose of the Law is to bring the knowledge and conviction of sin Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 7:5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 31

32 Law/Grace Contrast The believer has been freed from the law through Christ Romans 7:1-4 The believer has died to the law through Christ Romans 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 32

33 Law/Grace Contrast All agree that the believer is not under law but under grace John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 33

34 Law/Grace Contrast The person in Romans 7 places himself under the Law The word law is used 23 times in Romans 7 Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law Romans 7:9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 34

35 Law/Grace Contrast The person in Romans 7 compares and contrasts himself to the Law Romans 7:14, 16 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. Romans 7:22-23 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. [contrast this with 8:2, which states that the believer has been set free from the law of sin and death ] 35

36 Slavery Contrast Romans 7:14 I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin [literally sold under sin ]. Romans 7:14 describes someone sold into bondage to sin (NASB), sold under sin (ESV, NKJV), sold into sin s power (CSB), sold as a slave to sin (NIV) Verb sold indicates slavery (cf. Leviticus 25:39-48; Deuteronomy 15:12; Esther 7:4; Psalm 105:17; Isaiah 50:1, 52:3; Jeremiah 34:14) 36

37 Slavery Contrast Sold under sin same construction as Romans 3:9 Jews and Greeks are all under sin; Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. It is clear that unbelievers are slaves to sin. Believers are not sold under sin. 37

38 Slavery Contrast Believers are slaves of righteousness Paul serves God (Romans 1:9) Believers are no longer slaves to sin (6:6) Believers are slaves of righteousness (6:18) Believers are freed from sin (6:18) Believers are in the Spirit (8:9) Romans 6:19 For just as you presented [past tense] your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness 38

39 Slavery Contrast More slave language Romans 7:6 released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery but you have received a spirit of adoption This person is taken captive to sin and defeated by it (v.23) Captivity pictures defeat (cf. 2 Kings 24:14; 2 Chronicles 28:8; Luke 21:24; 2 Timothy 3:6) Contrast with 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ 39

40 Slavery Contrast More slave language The Greek word prasso (i.e. practice) indicates a lifestyle of sin Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. Romans 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Galatians 5:21 those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The wrong view of this leads to antinomianism and the doctrine of the carnal Christian or an excuse for sin (cf. vv.17, 20). 40

41 Slavery Contrast How could Paul command believers to resist sin in their body if he could not do so himself? Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts On the contrary, he could and did live a victorious Christian life Philippians 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Paul could not have been referring to his practice in Romans 7:15,

42 Slavery Contrast John did not blur the lines; why should we? 1 John 3:7-10 the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. 42

43 Slavery Contrast Romans 7:24-8:1 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?... 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Being set free from slavery to sin is equated to no longer being condemned (i.e. justification/conversion) Occurring only 3 times in the NT, all in Romans (cf. 5:16, 18), condemnation is used exclusively in judicial settings as the opposite of justification. (MacArthur Study Bible, note on Romans 8:1) 43

44 Answers to Objections 44

45 Answers to Objections 1. How can an unbeliever love the Law of God and desire to do what is right (e.g. 7:22)? 2. How can the present tense verbs used in 7:14-25 describe something in the past? 45

46 Loving the Law of God All unbelieving Jews loved the Law of God. Paul, as a former Pharisee, was a prime example (cf. 9:31-32; Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14). Philippians 3:5-6 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Martin Luther is another good example of an unbeliever whose desperate attempts to please God through human effort eventually led to his conversion 46

47 Present Tense Verbs First, notice that Paul uses the present tense to refer to unbelief and need for justification... Romans 7:24-8:1 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?... 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Note: v.25a is an interjection by Paul, speaking as the regenerate author (compare to Ephesians 2:5) This passage describes the point of conversion (8:1) after recognizing the need for a Savior (7:24) as a result of conviction of sin by the Spirit through the Law, which is described in 7:5ff (God used the 10th commandment to convict Paul of sin per vv.7-12). 47

48 Present Tense Verbs The Historical Present is a well-known use of the present tense to emphasize certain points and events that occurred in the past to intensify the description. Used five times in Matthew 8 (e.g. 8:20) In regard to the use in Greek of the historical present Greek authors frequently used the present tense for the sake of heightened vividness by transporting their readers in imagination to the actual scene at the time of occurrence. (NASB, Explanation of General Form, p.x) 48

49 Present Tense Verbs Recognition and translation of the Historical Present is up to the translator. John 1:15 The NASB changed to past tense and the NIV left it as present There are no abrupt changes in context from 7:17:13 to our section and from our section to 8:1ff Translating the passage as past tense flows smoothly, makes perfect sense, and vivifies Paul s conversion. 7:14-25 only fits between chapters 6 and 8 if the verbs are translated as historical present tense verbs. 49

50 Conclusion 50

51 Conclusion Contextual and exegetical analysis both demand that Romans 7 is not a description of the Christian s struggle against indwelling sin but a description of an unbeliever who eventually becomes convicted of his sin through the Law and converted Having the wrong view of Romans 7 can have a severely detrimental impact on one s Christian walk. It can lead to dualism, lawlessness, inconsistency, and keep one from living victoriously in Christ 51

52 Conclusion Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law's commands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone. Rock of Ages, verse 2 Augustus M. Toplady 52

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