Romans 7: The Christian Experience? or Not?

Some say there’s no real victory over sin on this side of heaven. And they cite Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 as evidence. If the Apostle Paul couldn’t say “no” to coveting, then how is there any real hope for us?

But the truth is that Romans 7 is not the normal Christian life by any stretch. No, it’s actually just the inevitable outcome for anyone – saved or lost – who puts themselves under the Law.

This series of sermons, entitled “The New Creation” covers Romans 5-8. In this sermon, #4 in the series, Andrew Farley discusses a very controversial passage: Romans 7.

How do you read Romans 7? There are three major views on this passage:

  1. The Retrospective View: This is Andrew Farley’s view, as well as mine, and it is that Paul is reflecting on his past as a Pharisee of Pharisees. He “fought the law, and the law won.”
  2. The Flesh without the Spirit: this view claims that this passage is Paul’s Christian experience, and is normal for Christians today.
  3. The passage is about humans in the presence of law.

Not sure I understand the difference between #2 and #3…  Perhaps that – even as a Christian – if you fail to comprehend what Jesus has done for you, what exactly IS the “New Creation” in you, and you still believe it is Grace Plus Law, then this will also be your experience.  In other words, you are unable to enter the rest, peace and joy that Jesus has for you, because you do no believe the transformation Jesus has perfromed on your heart, your spirit, and your personal history/identity (you are now “in Christ” and no longer “in Adam) is actually real, rather than merely doctrinal or positional.  Or more likely, it has never, ever been explained to you, as most churches teach grace plus law.

There are many reasons that I stand on #1, including consistency with the rest of Romans. Paul certainly teaches that we are no longer under the law, and we have died to the law, and we are alive to God. So how could he be describing a Christian when he says, in Romans 7:14 “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin?” If we are in bondage, we have no choice. Romans 6 and Romans 8 are both quite clear on this matter:

Romans 6:13 “…and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 8:15 “For you have not received a Spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption, as Sons…”

Thus, in Romans 6, it is clear we have the ability to choose how our body is used – either by the entity sin, for unrighteousness, or by God, for righteousness. A slave to sin (sold in bondage to sin) does not have that choice. In fact, in Romans 6:20, Paul says “for when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”

Wow. Do you understand that? As a slave to sin, you are free from righteousness. This means it is not possible for you. Outside your capability. This is confusing unless you understand righteousness, as Paul does. He calls Christians “the righteousness of God” because we have been given – as a free gift – His righteousness. It is not from our works that we become righteous. Out of understanding our new 100% forgiven, righteous nature – the new creation – our new identity in Christ – that righteous behavior can and will come.  Righteous?  That is Who We Are, as Sons and Daughters of the Living God, having been transformed by being crucified with Christ (died to self and sin), buried with Christ (dead to sin), and resurrected and ascended with Christ (alive to God, hidden in God, God in us).

Paul is quite clear in all his letters: if you are an unbeliever, you are unrighteous, a sinner, you are on a path to judgement and hell – separated from God, you are a slave, sold into bondage to sin. If you are a believer, you are righteous, a saint (so now start acting like who you are), there is no condemnation (all your sins have been taken away, paid in full by Jesus), and you are on a path to eternity with God, a slave of righteousness, free from, dead to, sin.

Thus, Romans 7:14 cannot be Paul talking about his experience as a believer, a new creation. He therefore must be talking about his previous experience as a Pharisee, and his inability to keep the law. As Paul says in Romans 3 “No flesh shall be justified by the law” and “All have sinned and fall short…” No one is justified, i.e., saved, by following the law, and in Paul’s experience, it was impossible. His particular issue was with coveting. But every person has their own weakness.

If you find that Paul’s description in Romans 7 fits your experience, perhaps you are still placing yourself under the law, which gives sin an opportunity in you – i.e., sin will abound in you. Paul says “count yourself dead to sin and the law.”  Here, “count yourself” does not mean “pretend it is so” but act on it because it is true, it is real, you ARE a new creature in Christ.

If you think this is helpful, I encourage you to listen to the entire sermon: it is an eye-opener. If you can, check out the entire series (currently ongoing at the time of this writing).  Andrew explains is MUCH BETTER than I do!

Watch the sermon: The New Creation – Part 4 | ANDREW FARLEY MINISTRIES

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