does Romans 7:14-25 describe a believer or unbeliever?

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does Romans 7:14-25 describe a believer or unbeliever?

Post by email » Mon Aug 31, 2009 5:29 am

Does the passage of Romans 7:14-25 describe a believer or a non-believer? I've always believed that Paul was describing a believer, but I've also heard views that it describes a nonbeliever.
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Romans 7:14-25

Post by m273p15c » Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:43 am

Augustine, Calvin, and other like-minded commentators believed that Paul was referring to his personal experience at that time, as a believer, because of the references to himself in the present tense, ("I am ..."). This seems reasonable at first; however, Paul was known to typify and associate himself with others to accommodate his readers or to portray another group (I Corinthians 1:10-12; 4:6; Romans 13:11-14).

Augustine's and Calvin's thoughts represent an untenable position. Although Christians can sympathize with the ongoing struggle between our flesh and spirit (Matthew 26:41; James 4:1-10), Christians cannot completely identify with Paul's description in this context.

In the preceding verses of Romans 7, Paul anticipates the readers' question concerning the goodness of the law:
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! ... " (Romans 7:7)
This last question arises from the observation that Paul was once alive apart from the law (Romans 7:9a). Like all people, as babes and children, we were once innocent, naive, and unaware of spiritual law. However, once such concepts come to us, we become morally responsible and accountable. After we transgress that spiritual law, then sin comes to life in our life, and we die spiritually (Romans 7:9b). Based on this observation, Paul vindicates the justness and goodness of spiritual law.

>From here, he tackles a second question concerning the ongoing relevance and applicability of the law to all who have sinned, which in essence is, "Is the law still good to us, or has it become death?"
" ... Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! ..." (Romans 7:12-13)
In the following verses, Paul personifies all people who caught in this death trap: Aware of sin, guilty of it, and unable to escape from it, all cognizant beings are tortured by their guilt, temptation, and desire to do good. This description most accurately applies to the saint before he is a saint. Can any saint, especially the apostle Paul, be described as:
"I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14)
No! Although comprised of flesh, the saint is not dominated by flesh. He has been set free from sin, no longer in bondage to work it or suffer its eternal consequences (see preceding context, Romans 6:4-7, 9, 14, 18 22).
"... for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find." (Romans 7:18)
Is the saint, especially Paul, ignorant of how to do good and fight the flesh? No! Elsewhere, he advocates that we take up the whole armor of God that enables us to stand against the wiles of the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-18). He assures us that we should not be ignorant of the Devil's devices to destroy us (II Corinthians 2:11).
"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. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:23-24)
Can the saint describe himself as one being brought into the captivity of the law of sin? Can the saint describe his regenerated condition as wretched? What condemnation applies to the delivered saint, requiring further deliverance?

This hopelessness and utter despair aptly applies to those who recognize their sin but are unable to deliver themselves. However, the Christian's condition is anything but hopeless, wretched, despairing, and condemned.
"I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! ... There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 7:25-8:1)
"The answer is Jesus - an answer the saint already possesses and knows. Are saints unaware of Jesus? The very sense of looming condemnation described in Romans 7:13-24 is the very condemnation avoided by "those who are in Christ Jesus." Therefore, the description given in Romans 7:13-24 cannot be fully identified with the saint. Rather, think of Jews in Acts 2:36-37, who have learned their fate. Or, think of all those who struggle with becoming a Christian, wrestling with their guilt and inadequacy, but are yet not secure in the arms of Jesus.

Christians do continue to struggle with sin, but it is a foregone victory, if he will faithfully adhere to the weapons and blessings provided by Jesus. Christians will almost undoubtedly sin, but yet it is not their primary character nor habit (I John 2:1-3; 3:1-10).

Amazingly, Augustine and Calvin applied this passage in full to Paul's personal and then present condition, even though he was one of the most valiant saints. Therefore, such an interpretation acknowledges that the strongest of Christians can be brought again into the wretched captivity of sin and death, thereby surrendering either that Christians can fall from grace and be lost or that God's sovereign purpose is alterable, if even for a moment.

I pray you find this helpful. If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback about anything written here or otherwise, please do not hesitate to contact us.

BTW, there is a small, inexpensive, paperback commentary on Romans that you might find very helpful. (I can't remember, if I told you this before.) It is excellent for its readability and sensibility. It was written by Robertson L. Whiteside, entitled, "A New Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Saints at Rome". I would highly recommend it. Let me know if you would like help locating a copy...

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

May God help us to have a sincere love of the truth,

May God help us to love truth sincerely and supremely (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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