Monday, July 04, 2022

Anonymous Asks (204)

“Is the person Paul describes in Romans 7:14-25 saved?”

The passage referred to in Romans 7 is the one in which the apostle Paul begins by saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” and ends by posing (and answering) the question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

I cannot see how this person can be anything but a believer.

The Wretched Man

This is a person who wants to do good (v15), who hates when he does not do good (v15), who agrees that the law is both good (v16) and spiritual (v14), who acknowledges that nothing good dwells in him (v18), who has the desire to do what is right (v18), who delights in the law of God (v22), whose inability to consistently please God makes him miserable (v24), who serves the law of God with his mind (v25) and who calls Jesus Christ his Lord (v25). This sounds like a man with two conflicting natures, not one. He’s got a new nature that is at war with his old nature.

The unbeliever does not have two natures at war in him. Contrast the man struggling with sin in Romans 7 with the unsaved man from chapter 1 who by his unrighteousness suppresses the truth, who prefers lies, and who is utterly shameless. He does not acknowledge God or his law at all, let alone delight in it. Or, contrast him with the religious legalist of chapter 2, who is a “Jew only outwardly”. His relationship with God is a pious fiction. There is no struggle there. He has fully embraced a lie, just as the Pharisees did. Or contrast the poor man in chapter 7 with the umbrella description of the religious and irreligious unsaved in chapter 3 which Paul has assembled from the Old Testament: where “no one seeks for God” and “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The man struggling with sin in chapter 7 fits none of these profiles. He doesn’t even come close.

A Christ Who Saves is a Christ Who Enables

It sounds very much to me as if Paul is describing his own experience as a new Christian whose acquaintance with the law from an early age equipped him to see himself almost as clearly as God saw him, and to despise the part of him that failed to live out the salvation he had gratefully accepted. But his relationship with the law is not what it was now that he has been saved by grace. The law cannot condemn him anymore because he is no longer under its dominion. His relationship to God does not stand or fall on the consistency of his ability to do the things the law commands or avoid the behaviors it condemns.

As we hit verse 25, he has come to the realization that the same Christ who saved him is the only means by which he can ever conquer sin and learn to control the impulses of his flesh. The same Lord who was victorious over death is able to give victory over sin to those who trust in him and walk according to the Spirit and set their minds on the things of the Spirit, as Paul will go on to teach in chapter 8.

Thanks Be to God

For this reason he finishes chapter 7 with “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He portrays a man who has come to the realization that Christians who make it their habit to walk with the Lord are no longer slaves to the flesh, but have victory in Christ.

That’s how I see it anyway. Many commentators disagree. Charles Leiter sets out an alternative view here.

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