What does Romans Chapter 7 teach anyway?
Does Romans chapter 7 teach that a Christian will always struggle with sin? Is Paul confessing he has a nagging problem with sin? My graphic shows a Paul who can not say no to sin. He is a drunk, abuses prescription drugs, gambles and is a chain smoker all because he does those things which he doesn’t want to do. That is, according to theologians. What is Romans chapter 7 teaching anyway?
Theological: Do as I say and not as I do.
Every person who has made it a practice to study scripture through some kind of higher educational system, such as bible college or seminary, have been taught to interpret scripture by scripture. No scripture standing on its own makes for doctrine. The thought is, by reading scripture in context (understanding how the scripture in question fits in with the rest of the passage it is found in) and having other supporting scriptures from other places in the Bible one can understand what God is saying to us in His word. This is supposed to be the form and practice for those who call them theologians.
What we find, however, in theology is the practice of ‘do as I say, and not as I do’ when it comes to Romans chapter 7. They teach and want others to take scripture in context and find other examples of what a verse teaches, but when it comes to Paul and the issue of sin in a believers life, the theologian rips scripture out of context and violates the teachings of the New Testament concerning what being born again means.
Does Paul in his letter to the Romans also say ‘do as I say and not as I do’?
If one follows the modern thought of Christianity concerning Romans chapter 7, then yes Paul also has a habit of disconnecting himself from what he teaches.
Paul in chapter 6 is answering the question, should Christians sin. “God forbid”. The believer is supposed to be dead to sin. The questions is asked, can one who is dead to sin still be alive to sin? Great question Paul. Many theologians answer Paul with a resounding, YES! They use Paul’s words in chapter 7 against Paul.
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
In the eighth chapter Paul teaches that what we believers have in Christ Jesus through the Spirit has made us free from the law of sin and death. Does this mean that Christians are forgiven but not perfect as theologians teach concerning Romans Chapter 7? Or is Paul teaching the believer something else?
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Paul is not teaching that a believer is simply forgiven and not perfect. Paul teaches those who live according to the flesh will die in their sins. But if we through the Spirit do kill the impulses of the sin nature and obey not sin, we shall live. To Paul this was the signature of a person who is lead by the Spirit and are truly the sons of God. (By the way, you will see that John also says this is the signature of the sons of God.)
Rom 8:12-14 KJV
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
But isn’t Paul only teaching that we are free from the consequences of sin as forgiven but not perfect believers in Christ Jesus?
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Or does Paul actually contend that believers in Christ Jesus are also faced with the second death, like the unbeliever, if they live not according to the Spirit?
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yes, Paul does contend exactly that. But Paul would add that if we are in the Spirit, if we think we are truly His, then we will have fruit of righteousness that leads, in the end, to everlasting life.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Surely what I am contending is not the truth of the gospel, or is it? Does Paul really teach that those who please the sin nature will die in their sins? Does Paul actually teach only those who live righteously in Christ through the Spirit have the hope of everlasting life? Why yes he does.
Rom 2:5-10 KJV
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; (6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (7) To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (8) But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (10) But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
Not only does Paul teach this exact thing in the book of Romans, he is more explicit about it in the book of Galatians. Concerning this very subject, he says do not be fooled. I would say do not be fooled by those who preach the forgiven but not perfect excuse of a gospel which does nothing but keep the old man off the cross.
Gal 6:7-8 KJV
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
For Paul the gospel is the good news of Christ who not only has enough grace to forgive sin, but to take away the sin nature. In the first couple of verses in Romans 6 Paul teaches that our old man (sin nature) was crucified with Christ. By the way, this is something we could not do for ourselves. This was God’s grace in action for mankind. Paul also says our old man was buried with Christ. Again, this is something we could not do for ourselves. We were eternally bound to be slaves to sin until Christ killed the sin nature by crucifying the old man who was a slave of unrighteousness. Also, Paul says in these first couple of verses of chapter 6 that just as Christ was raised to newness in life, so now we believers are also raised. Through Christ, the body of sin that was alive to sin is now dead to sin that we do not need to serve sin anymore. If we truly were crucified with Christ, we are free from the sin nature for those who are dead in Christ are free from the sin nature.
Rom 6:3-7 KJV
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (7) For he that is dead is freed from sin.
For those who only understand grace as forgiven and not perfect, please understand the full measure of grace given to us by God in Christ. The grace of God is killing us on the cross with Christ and now being dead and being buried us with Christ. Christ now being raised from the dead in newness of life, we too by His unmerited grace also rise to newness in life with Christ Jesus. None of this has anything to do with us, but everything to do with God and His love for mankind.
This is why scripture clearly teaches (not implied) that only those who live in the newness of the Spirit through Christ (through grace) are righteous as He is righteous. In fact, it is even more bold. It says only those who do righteousness is righteous as He is. These are not the words of Paul, but the words of John.
1Jn 3:5-10 KJV
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. (6) Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. (7) Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (8) He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (9) Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (10) In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
Understanding God’s full measure of grace does not change anything about Paul’s message of grace of not by works, instead it adds to the full meaning of his message of grace. We were not commended to God because of our works, just as Abraham was not counted for righteousness after he was circumcised, but before the work of circumcision. God’s gift of righteousness to Abraham was not based on works but on God’s grace. The same applies to us who walk in the faith of Abraham. This is found in Romans chapter 3.
But unlike Abraham who had the promise we get what was promised to Abraham, even the Holy Spirit.
Gal 3:13-14 KJV
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Blah Blah Blah
I could go on and on with scripture but I feel the need to get to the point of this post. What does Romans chapter 7 teach anyway? We have looked at a few scriptures in Romans to show how Paul looked at and taught about the grace of God. We also looked at Paul’s teaching from both Romans and Galatians, that eternal life it is not for those who are forgiven and not perfect. Instead eternal life is for those who walk in the newness of the Spirit and live unto righteousness through the grace given to us in Christ. We also saw how even John believed and taught this, with his very strong statement concerning the fate of those who do evil and those who do righteousness. The reality is, heaven is not waiting for those who are forgiven and not perfect. Instead it is for those who walk in the righteous life lived in the Spirit. After all, we are asked to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.
Understanding all of this, isn’t Paul still confessing his problem with his old sin nature? The answer is God forbid!
Paul did not write the book of Romans as a collection of a bunch random unrelated thoughts, which is how one must look at this letter to conclude Paul had a problem with sin. Instead Paul is writing a defense of the gospel is and what it it does. His letter also speaks of the corrupt nature of man and how we can not live righteously without Christ. (For no one is good no not one, we have all sinned.)
Rom 8:7-8 KJV
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (8) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
In chapter 6 Paul states the same thing, that those who follow the old sin nature and are without Christ, cannot do righteousness and cannot please God.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
Hence, by observing the Law, no one will be counted as righteous. Why? Because the Law does not work the grace of God to set us free from the sin nature so that we can actually obey God and be righteous as He is righteous. Instead the Law came to show us sin and make us utterly sinful. As taught in Romans 7.
So sandwiched between these two verses is an explanation of the sin nature that can not please God. Romans 7:14-24 is not a confession of Paul struggling with sin, nor is it this perverted and shortsighted gospel of grace that states, forgiven but not perfect. Theologians have not taken these verses in context with the rest of the letter, nor have they compared it to other of Paul’s letters or other teachings found in scripture.
The first part of chapter 7 speaks of the Law and how it brings death, but like a married person whose spouse dies and is free from the law of marriage, so we in Christ are free from the Law. Paul also describes how the sin nature in man works. Then in verses 14-24 he uses his old sin nature (before Christ, while still under the Law) as his example of how not even he could please God and be counted as righteous by observing the Law. Because the Law does not work righteousness in man. This only comes through the life lived in the Spirit.
Paul doesn’t leave it there, he ends chapter 7 with glorious praise for Christ who has set him free from the example of the sin nature just as he described. Which example was given to explain the condition of all mankind in the Law apart from Christ. Then he follows up with chapter 8 which is a discussion of living the life in the Spirit, given by grace to us as explained in chapter 6.
I personally think there is a rush to believe that Paul is confessing his own short comings, violating everything he and others teach in scripture concerning true grace and the life lived in the Spirit, because we are not living in the Spirit ourselves. Instead of us dealing with the truth of the gospel, that some of us are no more born again than the old man can live in the Spirit. Instead of humbling ourselves and seeking that which was promised through the working of the Spirit, we comfort ourselves with a gospel that Paul never taught. Theologians comfort themselves and mislead the flock. Instead of giving the seeking soul the true gospel and the knowledge of the true gospel to live in the Spirit, the seeking soul is taught grace is being forgiven and not perfect. Just like in the days of the prophets, scripture can say of the teachers of our generation, who heal the hurt of the people but a little. Just like those chosen people of God in Judah, we too are wounded with a grievous wound of sin in the church. Like them, our teachers do not speak to us what will heal the wounds of our lives wrecked with sin. Instead they too heal the hurt of our sin just a little by saying, ‘forgiven not perfect’ and making Paul out to be something he is not, making him out to say something he did not, changing the gospel for something it is not!
They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
This is the gospel the church refuses to believe. Will you continue to refuse the offer of a complete grace to save men from their sins and destroy the nature of sin in us. Or will you read the word of God with this understanding and let the Holy Spirit not only open the Word of God to you. Will you let yourself be led by the Spirit to serve God in newness and in righteousness or will you be the seed that never produces a fruit of righteousness. Will you be led by the Spirit or will you never produce fruit in keeping with your repentance to finally be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Now you know Romans chapter 7 was not Paul’s confession of sins that he struggled with. True, complete and scriptural grace is in your court. What will you do with what God has done for you?