Jew and Gentile
Restored to Israel
Slaves to Sin
Slaves to God
Slaves Serving God
Life by Faith
Service by Faith
Modified from Irving
L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's
Survey of the NT"
(because) WE KNOW THAT THE LAW IS SPIRITUAL
BUT I AM OF FLESH: Oidamen (1PRAI) gar
hoti o nomos pneumatikos estin (3SPAI) ego de sarkinos
eimi (1SPAI): (Lev 19:18; Dt 6:5; Ps 51:6; Mt 5:22,28; 22:37, 38,
39, 40; Heb 4:12) (Ro 7:18,22,23; Job 42:6; Ps 119:25; Pr 30:2,5; Isa
6:5; 64:5,6; Lk 5:8; 7:6; 18:11, 12, 13, 14; Eph 3:8) (Mt 16:23; 1Cor
3:1, 2, 3)
Romans 7:14 Paul begins to discuss the conflict of two natures. This
section has been one of the most controversial in the New Testament. The
majority of commentators (e.g., John MacArthur, John Piper, Warren
Wiersbe, S Lewis Johnson, Robert Mounce, Harry Ironside, Donald Barnhouse, Albert
Barnes, William MacDonald, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Melanchthon, Beza,
Delitzsch, Hodge, Shedd, Kuyper, F F Bruce, and
C E Cranfield, et al) favor this to be a description of a regenerate man
(Paul) wrestling with the sinful propensities still present in his
mortal body as it is in every saved person. Others feel Paul is
discussing his unsaved state prior to conversion. Some feel the text
addresses the experience of any man, whether saved or unsaved, who seeks
to obey the law. See below for the
Excursus on believer vs non-believer.
divides Romans 7:14-25 into three sections...
(a) Romans 7:14-17 -- here he
shows his inability to keep himself from doing what he disapproves of;
(b) Romans 7:18-20 -- here he
shows his inability to carry out that which he approves of;
(c) Romans 7:21-25 -- finally,
bringing his discussion to its appointed conclusion, he shows how
deliverance from this condition is to be effected. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
One other point
that should be made is that the spiritual conflict in Romans 7:14-25
although having some similarities to the conflict in Galatians 5:16-23,
nevertheless does have differences as summarized below...
(1) The opponent of the sinful human nature in Romans 7 is the whole
Christian individual, but in Galatians 5 it is the Holy Spirit.
(2) The condition of the believer in Romans is under the Law, but in
Galatians it is under Law or grace.
(3) The result of the conflict in
Romans is inevitable defeat, but in Galatians it is defeat or victory.
(4) The nature of the conflict in
Romans is abnormal Christian experience, but in Galatians it is normal
Christian experience. (See Stanley D. Toussaint's analysis “The Contrast
Between the Spiritual Conflict in Romans 7 and Galatians 5, ”
Bibliotheca Sacra 123:492, 1966)
Lewis Sperry Chafer adds
In Romans 7:15-25 the conflict is
between the regenerate man (hypothetically contemplated as acting
independently, or apart from the indwelling Spirit) and his flesh. It is
not between the Holy Spirit and the flesh. Probably there is no more
subtle delusion common among believers than the supposition that the
saved man, if he tries hard enough, can, on the basis of the fact that
he is regenerate, overcome the flesh. The result of this struggle on the
part of the Apostle was defeat to the extent that he became a wretched
Ryrie commenting on Romans 7:14-25 feels that
The intensely personal character of
these verses and the use of present tenses indicate that this was Paul's
own experience as a believer. This is his diagnosis of what happens when
one tries to be sanctified by keeping the law. (The
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody
Harry Ironside feels that
describes the exercises of a
quickened soul under law who has not yet learned the way of deliverance.
This once learned, one is free from the law forever. I have said earlier
that primarily here we have a believing Jew struggling to obtain
holiness by using the law as a rule of life and resolutely attempting to
compel his old nature to be subject to it. In Christendom now the
average Gentile believer goes through the same experience; for legality
is commonly taught almost everywhere.
Therefore when one is converted it is
but natural to reason that since he has been born of God it is only a
matter of determination and persistent endeavor to subject himself to
the law, and he will achieve a life of holiness. And God Himself permits
the believer to be tested in order that His people may learn
experientially that the
in the believer is no better
in an unbeliever. When he
ceases from self-effort he finds deliverance through the Spirit by
occupation with the risen Christ. (Ironside,
John MacArthur is confident that Romans 7...
...describes a believer. However, of those who agree that this is a
believer, there is still disagreement. Some see a carnal, fleshly
Christian; others a legalistic Christian (Ed note: cf Ryrie
above, Barber below), frustrated by his feeble attempts in his own power
to please God by keeping the Mosaic law. But the personal pronoun “I”
refers to the apostle Paul, a standard of spiritual health and maturity.
So, in Romans 7:14-25 Paul must be describing all Christians—even the
most spiritual and mature—who, when they honestly evaluate themselves
against the righteous standard of God’s law, realize how far short they
fall. He does so in a series of 4 laments (Romans 7:14-17, 18-20, 21-23,
24, 25). (MacArthur,
J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word
MacDonald agrees adding that...
Up to this point the apostle has been
describing a past experience in his life—namely, the traumatic crisis
when he underwent deep conviction of sin through the law’s ministry. Now
he changes to the
to describe an experience he had since he was born again—namely, the
conflict between the two natures and the impossibility of finding
deliverance from the power of indwelling sin through his own strength.
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
Kent Hughes comments that...
This section of Romans 7 has known centuries of controversy: who is
their subject? There are basically three views. The first is that
this passage describes a non-Christian Pharisee under the Law (this was
the view of the Greek Fathers). The second view is that it
describes a normal Christian (the view of Augustine, Luther, and
Calvin). The third position is that it describes a carnal
Christian. I believe the second view is correct, mainly because Paul
continues to write in the first-person singular but in the present
tense. It seems most natural to understand this section as Paul talking
about what he was then experiencing.
R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word. Wheaton,
Ill.: Crossway Books)
F. F. Bruce
In this section Paul continues to speak in the first person singular,
but he leaves the past tense and uses the present. Not only so, but
there is an inward tension here which was absent from Romans 7:7-13.
There, sin assaulted him by stealth and struck him down; here, he puts
up an agonizing resistance, even if he cannot beat down the enemy.
There, he described what happened to him when he lived in 'this present
age'; here, 'the age to come' has already arrived, although the old age
has not yet passed away. He is a man living simultaneously on two
planes, eagerly longing to live a life in keeping with the higher plane,
but sadly aware of the strength of indwelling sin that keeps on pulling
him down to the lower plane.
has an interesting approach to this controversial section, as explained
in his introductory comments on Romans 7:14-25...
When a person understands what it
means to "live under grace," he understands the hymn "I Need Thee Every
Hour." He is a person like the apostle Paul who has learned to never
again put any confidence in his own flesh. He has learned that the only
works the flesh can produce are unrighteous works. He understands that
sin is when he has failed to put his trust into Christ and His Spirit to
do in him what he failed to admit that he could not do. He realizes that
just as his own self-effort to please God could not save himself,
neither could his self-effort sanctify himself.
It is comforting to hear the reports of revival that is happening all
over our country. I was listening to a tape of a pastor in Texas sharing
what took place in his church. The thing that impressed me, was not what
took place in his church, but what took place in him. He came to the
realization that grace brings us all, that all of his training, all of
his efforts were useless apart from the empowering grace of God. In
short, he realized that "he could not, and God never said he could, but
God could and always said He would."
In Ro 5:2
Paul told us how the transforming power of grace is accessed. He says,
"through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this
grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God."
When we cast all of our expectations upon Christ and upon His Word,
trusting only in Him, then we have just accessed His grace, which is not
only His undeserved favor, but His transforming power. If we choose to
put ourselves back under law, instead of His grace, we are putting
ourselves back under bondage to the very thing from which Christ has
In chapters 6 and 7, Paul is showing us the connection between the
controlling power of sin and the law. Have you seen it yet? It is under
the law that flesh is energized. It is dead apart from the law, but,
when you take your focus off of Jesus, and begin to trust in your own
efforts, then you are once again back up under the law, performing for
God, and your flesh will frustrate you beyond measure.
How sad for a free person to foolishly put himself back under the
bondage of sin. You see, under the Law, the flesh is commanded to
perform, and then it is condemned in all that it does because it cannot
measure up to the same law that commanded it.
Well, it is with these thoughts that we encounter Romans 7:14. Remember
I told you that I’m preaching this as "I SEE IT!" For years I missed the
point of what Paul is doing in Romans 7:14-25. A lot of folks spin their
wheels trying to decide whether the use of the first person singular
pronoun is Paul referring to a time when he was lost, etc. His use of
the present tense when it comes to not being able to do what God
requires also causes confusion. But, if you go back to the premise of
being under the law and the flesh being commanded to perform but being
unable to do so in a way that pleases God, then the problem with
interpretation is not as great. (See his sermon
Any time you place yourself back
up under the Law, and you depend upon your self efforts to please God,
you will encounter frustration, and experience bondage to your flesh.
Wiersbe agrees with Barber writing...
Having explained what the Law is
supposed to do, Paul now explains what the Law cannot do...Our nature is
carnal (fleshly); but the Law’s nature is spiritual. This explains why
the old nature responds as it does to the Law. It has well been said,
“The old nature knows no Law, the new nature needs no Law.” The Law
cannot transform the old nature; it can only reveal how sinful that old
nature is. The believer who tries to live under Law will only activate
the old nature; he will not eradicate it. (Wiersbe,
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor
John MacArthur on the other hand writes...
Some interpreters believe that
chapter 7 describes the carnal, or fleshly, Christian, one who is
living on a very low level of spirituality. Many suggest that this
person is a frustrated, legalistic Christian who attempts in his own
power to please God by trying to live up to the Mosaic law. But the
attitude expressed in chapter 7 is not typical of legalists, who tend
to be self-satisfied with their fulfillment of the law. Most people are
attracted to legalism in the first place because it offers the prospect
of living up to God’s standards by one’s own power.
It seems rather that Paul is here
describing the most spiritual and mature of Christians, who, the more
they honestly measure themselves against God’s standards of
righteousness the more they realize how much they fall short. The closer
we get to God, the more we see our own sin. Thus it is immature,
fleshly, and legalistic persons who tend to live under the illusion that
they are spiritual and that they measure up well by God’s standards. The
level of spiritual insight, brokenness, contrition, and humility that
characterize the person depicted in Romans 7 are marks of a spiritual
and mature believer, who before God has no trust in his own goodness and
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
S Lewis Johnson writes that...
Not only are there many human
formulas for salvation, there are also many for sanctification. There
are purveyors of sanctification by taboos, sanctification by such
positively good things as witnessing, Bible study, and prayer done in
our own strength. What results is a form of Christian legalism, a pride
of righteousness done in the power of the flesh. It, too, discounts our
state before God and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Apostle
Paul makes it very plain that, even after our birth from above, we are
in ourselves unable to overcome indwelling sin. We need something done
in us (cf. note
or the continual working of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Just as a
man cannot save himself, so a Christian cannot sanctify himself. We
believers cannot of ourselves live the Christian life. We cannot of
ourselves keep any law of God due to indwelling sin. That, in essence,
is the point of the apostle in Romans 7:13-25....
Another question that has arisen is
this: Is Paul drawing upon his own experiences, or is he using himself
as representative of one in the throes of this spiritual condition? In
answer to this one may say that it is not a question of an either/or,
but of a both/and. He is using himself as an example based upon his own
experiences. What we have is no abstract argument, but the personal
struggle of an agonizing soul.
It has also been asked whether this
is necessary Christian experience. I am inclined to think that it is
necessary Christian experience, that is, that struggle characterizes us
as long as we are in the flesh. On the other hand, it is not complete
Christian experience. There are occasions of glorious victory in the
believer's life, although complete victory awaits the future (cf. Romans
What we have, then, in Romans 7:13-25
is the picture of a believer seeking to keep the Law (cf. Romans 7:22;
8:4) with the resources of the Law and his new life alone (cf. Romans
8:3). Sixteen times we find ego used (Greek for I) , thirty times
the "I" is found in the AV, while the Holy Spirit is not used at
all in the section, that is, Romans 7:13-25. The Law is mentioned
in chapter seven twenty times, but only four times in chapter eight
(nomos itself five times). In chapter eight there are at least twenty
references to the Holy Spirit. These things, I believe, are the key to
We know (1492)
tense) refers to
intuitive knowledge. It indicates an absolute, positive, beyond a
peradventure of a doubt, knowledge. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt
that the Law is spiritual. The Law is not fleshly. Paul has just explained
that the Law is
holy and righteous and good. These facts are not in question. We
admit. It is a conceded, well-understood point.
(pneumatikos from pneuma = spirit) in the NT is usually
used in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit. Some commentators (UBS
Handbook) feel Paul is using pneumatikos to refer to the human
spirit as opposed to human flesh (see comments below).
Pneumatikos - 26x in 21v in
the NAS - Rom. 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1 Co. 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11;
10:3f; 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44, 46; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 1:3; 5:19; 6:12; Col.
1:9; 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:5
However, most commentators interpret pneumatikos as referring to the
Law so that Paul is saying
that the Law is spiritual, in the sense that the Law is
divine, from God (cf phrases "Law of God" in Ro 7:22
[note], Ro 7:25
The fact that the law is spiritual means that the Law is a
reflection of the character of God. Godly people recognize this fact (we know).
Vine comments that
There are two ideas essentially
connected with this word, pneumatikos, those of
invisibility and power. It is said of that which owes its origin to God
and is therefore in harmony with His character. Here the word
spiritual sums up the three qualities, holy, righteous, and good, in
verse 12. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
I am carnal
- This is the KJV translation which reflects the original Greek
manuscript (Textus Receptus) use of the Greek word sarkikos, which
speaks of flesh in its ethical or moral sense. The verb is in the
Paul is saying "I am continually carnal". He is not
talking of his past unsaved state but of his present state.
(sarkikos) means of flesh and can refer to physical flesh or to
the moral/ethical aspects of flesh. In the present context the KJV (and
other translations) translates it carnal (Ro 7:14KJV) which suggests that one is dominated by
the indwelling sinful tendencies, in contrast to the spiritual, which
finds its origin and source in God, and is in affinity with God.
11x in 10v in the NAS - Rom. 7:14; 15:27; 1 Co. 3:1, 3f; 9:11; 2 Co.
1:12; 10:4; Heb. 7:16; 1 Pet. 2:11 and is rendered by the KJV as
carnal 9, fleshly 2.
an interesting thought commenting that...
If Paul had been speaking of himself
before being quickened, he would have used the word natural: "the
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1Co
2:14). Carnal is not used to describe an unregenerate person, but
a Christian not delivered from the power of the flesh: "I, brethren
could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto
babes in Christ" (1Cor 3:1)
Many scholars feel the
modern Greek manuscripts are more accurate in their use of sarkinos
(see below) in place of sarkikos (above). Most of the modern translations reflect the modern Greek
manuscripts and so u
Of flesh (4560)
(sarkinos) is used in some
contexts to refer to that which is made of or consists of flesh
However, sarkinos can also
refer to the moral/ethical aspect of human nature in its base behavior.
4x in 4v in the NAS - Rom. 7:14; 1 Co. 3:1; 2 Co. 3:3; Heb. 7:16
So Paul is either saying I am totally a fleshly being sold into bondage
to the sin that is in my body if sarkinos is interpreted here to
have a moral/ethical slant. In this case he is saying that there is something about my
flesh that is
wicked and devoted to sin. This wicked flesh lives in my
mortal body (which is true of both the saved and unsaved) and I cannot divorce myself from
it. A number of translations favor
the moral/ethical sense over the physical sense -- "of the flesh
[carnal, unspiritual]" (Amplified), "I am fleshly [being dominated by
the sinful nature]" (Wuest), “carnal” (RSV,
Phillips), “unspiritual” (NEB, NJB), or “weak flesh” (NAB).
Now if Paul is using sarkinos with the physical meaning, he could be
implying that he is "earth bound and mortal" or still has to deal with
the things that are of the flesh, but even then one of the things that
the physical body of flesh has to deal with is the moral/ethical aspect
of the flesh that indwells these mortal bodies.
John Piper's view on this passage
I think the second position is right (description of Paul's experience
as a Christian). Paul is speaking about himself here as a Christian. Let
me say immediately that I do not mean we should settle in and coast with
worldly living and a defeatist mentality. We should not make peace with
our sin; we should make war on our sin. Defeat is not the only, or the
even the main, experience of the Christian life. But it is part of it. I
agree with J. I. Packer who wrote an article on this passage two years
ago to defend the view that I am taking here. (See sermon
Who Is This Divided Man?).
SOLD INTO BONDAGE TO SIN: pepramenos (RPPFSN) hupo ten
hamartian: (Ro 7:24; Ge 37:27,36; 40:15; Ex 21:2, 3, 4, 5, 6;
22:3; 1Ki 21:20,25; 2Ki 17:17; Isa 50:1; 52:3; Amos 2:6; Mt 18:25)
Sold into bondage to sin - There is no word in Greek for
"bondage". The preposition hupo preceding sin means
under and the implication then is to be "under the
power of sin". The KJV/NKJV are more accurate than NASB or NIV in
translating the phrase "sold under sin".
is no longer a believer's master (Ro 6:12,14). It can become such but it
is not the expected or desired state. And furthermore if it is the
CONTINUOUS STATE (Ro 6:2-3) that individual has serious cause to examine
the genuineness of their salvation (2Cor 13:5). So this translation
might not be the best to study with, especially if one favors this man
is a regenerate man.
Wuest also renders it more literally...
For we know that the law is
spiritual. But as for myself, I am fleshly [being dominated by the
sinful nature], permanently sold under the sinful nature.
(piprasko) means to sell. Figuratively, in the passive voice as
in this verse it means to be sold to
Sin, thus becoming
its slave. The
means they “had been sold and remained under the dominion of sin”. This
tense pictures the permanence of their state.
A T Robertson paraphrases the perfect tense of sold picturing Sin
as a banker who has foreclosed...
Sin has closed the mortgage and owns its slave.
The question that
naturally arises is how can a genuine believer be "permanently" under
the power of sin? (See also
Excursus on believer vs non-believer)
How it is possible for a Christian to
be carnal, fleshly, a slave of sin. First of all we recognize that there
is a sense in which a true believer is not carnal. Ro 8:9
says "ye are not in the flesh (carnal), but in the Spirit." Paul
referred to his unsaved life as the time when he was "in the flesh" (Ro
In other words, positionally speaking, a true believer (saved person) is
no longer in the carnal realm, but he is in the Spirit realm (Ro 8:9-note).
He is in Christ and Christ is in him. Also positionally the saved person
is no longer a slave of sin as we have seen in Romans 6 (Ro 6:17, 18,
22- see notes
in Romans 7:14 Paul is not referring to his glorious position but to his
actual condition. He is referring to his actual experience of living the
Christian life. And it is possible for a true Christian to have a carnal
WALK (compare 1Cor 3:1, 2, 3, 4). This does not mean that Paul’s Christian
life was marked by and characterized by carnality. This is contradicted
by everything we know about the apostle. But we must say that Romans
7:15-24 was the apostle’s very real experience and every honest believer
must confess that to one degree or another he too has experienced the
very same thing and gone through the same struggle that is here depicted
by the apostle. (See
a distinction that...
What is expressed (by the phrase
sold under sin) is not the condemnation of the unregenerate state,
but the evil of bondage to a corrupt nature, and the futility of making
use of the Law as a means of deliverance. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
Stedman addresses this question explaining that
is simply describing what happens when a Christian (or even an
unbeliever) tries to live under the Law. When a believer (or an
unbeliever) by his dedication and will power and determination, tries to
do what is right in order to please God, he is living under the Law.
And Paul is telling us what to expect when we live like that -- for we
all try to live that way from time to time. sin, you see, deceives us.
(For full sermon click
The Continuing Struggle)
comments that the phrase sold under sin...
describes all of us by nature.
Instead of being spiritual and therefore able to hearken to, delight in
and obey God's holy spiritual Law, we are turned back, since Adam
sinned, to a fleshly condition, our spirits by nature dead to God, and
our soul-faculties under the domination of the still unredeemed body.
Now Paul, though his spirit was quickened (Saved, born again); and his
inward desires, therefore, were toward God's Law; found to his horror
his state by nature "carnal, " fleshly, "sold under sin." How little
humanity realizes this awful, universal fact about man- sold under
sin! Sold under sin is exactly what the new convert does not
know! Forgiven, justified, he knows himself to be: and he has the joy of
it! But now to find an evil nature, of which he had never become really
conscious, and of which he thought himself fully rid, when he first
believed, is a "second lesson" which is often more bitter than the
first-of guilt! (Romans 7)
has an interesting insight explaining that...
When Christians fail to take account
of the fact that they (and all their fellow Christians also) are still
pepramenoi hupo ten hamartian (sold under the sin), they are
specially dangerous both to others and to themselves because they are
self-deceived. The more seriously a Christian strives to live from grace
and to submit to the discipline of the gospel, the more sensitive he
becomes to the fact of his continuing sinfulness, the fact that even his
very best acts and activities are disfigured by the egotism which is
still powerful within him—and no less evil because it is often more
subtly disguised than formerly. At the same time it must be said with
emphasis that the realistic recognition that we are still indeed
pepramenoi hupo ten hamartian (sold under the sin) should be no
encouragement to us to wallow complacently in our sins. (Cranfield, C.
E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.
London; New York: T&T Clark International)
there is no question in Paul's mind
that, while the believer is unable of himself to win the battle, he is
nevertheless responsible for his failure. Inability is consistent with
feels that in Romans 7:14-25 Paul is describing a believer living
according to the flesh (carnal) explaining that ...
the carnal man who is sold
under sin. That is, he is subject to the power of the evil
nature to which he has died in Christ, a blessed truth indeed, but one
which he has not yet apprehended in faith. Consequently he continually
finds himself going contrary to the deepest desires of his
divinely-implanted new nature. He practices things he does not want to
do. He fails to carry out his determinations for good. The sins he
commits he hates. The good he loves he has not the strength to perform.
But this proves to him that there is something within him which is to be
distinguished from his real self as a child of God. He has the fleshly
nature still, though born of God. He knows the law is good. He wants to
keep it, and slowly the consciousness dawns on him that it is not really
himself as united to Christ who fails. It is sin, dwelling in him, which
is exercising control. So he learns the weakness and unprofitableness of
the flesh. (Ironside,
Constable explains that...
Sold under sin is exactly what
the new convert does not know! Forgiven, justified, he knows himself to
be: and he has the joy of it! But now to find an evil nature (Ed note:
of which he had never become really conscious, and of which he thought
himself fully rid, when he first believed, is a ‘second lesson’ which is
often more bitter than the first—of guilt.!”
Paul’s statement that he was then as
a Christian the slave of sin seems to contradict what he wrote earlier
in chapter 6 about no longer being the slave of sin. However remember
that in chapter 6 Paul did not say that being dead to sin means that sin
has lost its appeal for the Christian. It still has a strong appeal to
the Christian whose human nature is still sinful (Romans 6:15-23). He
said that being dead to sin means that we no longer must follow sin’s
In one sense the Christian is not a
slave of sin (Romans 6:1-14). We have died to it, and it no longer
dominates us. Nevertheless in another sense sin still has a strong
attraction for us since our basic human nature is still sinful and we
retain that nature throughout our lifetime.
For example, a criminal released from
prison no longer has to live within the sphere of existence prescribed
by prison walls. However he still has to live within the confines of his
human limitations. God has liberated Christians from the prison house of
sin (6:1–14). Notwithstanding we still carry with us a sinful nature
that will be a source of temptation for us as long as we live (7:14–25).
Notes on the Bible)
Notes) writes that...
Even though Paul says that he is
carnal (KJV) it doesn’t mean that he is not a Christian. His
awareness of his carnality is evidence that God has done a work in him.
Luther (comments) on but I am carnal, sold under sin:
That is the proof of the spiritual
and wise man. He knows that he is carnal, and he is displeased
with himself; indeed, he hates himself and praises the Law of God, which
he recognizes because he is spiritual. But the proof of a foolish,
carnal man is this, that he regards himself as spiritual and is pleased
So let's reiterate
an important principle irregardless of whether Paul is describing
an saved or lost man -- Law is a main subject in Romans 7 and Paul's
description instructs us that the
Law plays absolutely no role in sanctifying us (either non-believers
which would be their initial sanctification [i.e., their salvation or
regeneration] or believers in their daily sanctification). The point is that just as keeping the Law does not save
anyone, keeping the law does not produce sanctification or
Christlikeness in believers. Both the initial salvation and the
subsequent sanctification are dependent on exercise of faith.
comments on sold into bondage to sin...
To say that a man is sold as a
slave to sin may mean, as in 1Kings 21:20 and 2Kings 17:17, that
he is given up to its service. Sin is that which he has deliberately
chosen for a master and to which he is devoted. In this sense it is
equivalent to what is said of the unrenewed in the preceding chapter,
that they are the slaves to sin. From this kind of slavery
believers are redeemed (Ro 6:22-note).
But there is another kind of slavery.
A man may be subject to a power which, of himself, he cannot effectually
resist, against which he may and does struggle, and from which he
earnestly desires to be free, but which, notwithstanding all his
efforts, still asserts its authority. This is precisely the bondage to
sin of which every believer is conscious. He feels that there is a law
in his body bringing him into subjection to the law of sin, that his
distrust of God, his hardness of heart, his love of the world and of
self, his pride — in short, his indwelling sin — is a real power from
which he longs to be free, against which he struggles, but from which he
cannot emancipate himself. This is the kind of slavery the apostle is
speaking about here, as is clear from the following verses as well as
from the whole context and from the analogy of Scripture. (Hodge, C.
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1835)
Adam Clarke (see
"It is difficult to conceive how the opinion could
have crept into the Church, or prevailed there, that "the apostle speaks
here of his regenerate state; and that what was, in such a state, true
of himself, must be true of all others in the same state." This opinion
has, most pitifully and most shamefully, not only lowered the standard
of Christianity, but destroyed its influence and disgraced its
character. It requires but little knowledge of the spirit of the Gospel,
and of the scope of this epistle, to see that the apostle is, here,
either personating a Jew under the law and without the Gospel, or
showing what his own state was when he was deeply convinced that by the
deeds of the law no man could be justified."
Fleshly, in Latin
and French is the word "carna" which means "sensual." We get our word
carne vale = "farewell flesh." Carnival was something they had before
the season of Lent. During Lent they would practice farewell to the
flesh with certain denials of pleasure to the flesh. But just before
Lent they would gorge and gourmandize the flesh, get drunk, satisfy and
satiate the flesh in every possible way (license, licentiousness). Then
they would be able to do without such things during Lent! (Not really --
externally maybe so but not internally -- see remainder of explanation).
An example of this is the Mardi Gras in New Orleans which literally
means "fat Tuesday", the Tuesday before the 40 day fast of Lent begins.
But believers have died to the elementary principles of the world
dictating "Do not handle, etc" (Col 2:20, 21-note)
and are no longer "under law"
(Ro 6:14-note) and don't (or shouldn't) try to curb or control their strong desires latent in
their flesh by trying to obey a set of "'Do's" and "Don'ts" which have
the effect of actually arousing the flesh (Ro 7:5-note) and are
therefore of no value against fleshly indulgences (Col 2:23-note).
The Power Of
Sin - I was having lunch with a pastor-friend when the discussion
sadly turned to a mutual friend in ministry who had failed morally. As
we grieved together over this fallen comrade, now out of ministry, I
wondered aloud, “I know anyone can be tempted and anyone can stumble,
but he’s a smart guy. How could he think he could get away with it?”
Without blinking, my friend responded, “Sin makes us stupid.” It was an
abrupt statement intended to get my attention, and it worked.
I have often thought of that statement in the ensuing years, and I
continue to affirm the wisdom of those words. How else can you explain
the actions of King David, the man after God’s own heart turned
adulterer and murderer? Or the reckless choices of Samson? Or the public
denials of Christ by Peter, the most public of Jesus’ disciples? We are
flawed people who are vulnerable to temptation and to the foolishness of
mind that can rationalize and justify almost any course of action if we
try hard enough.
If we are to have a measure of victory over the power of sin, it will
come only as we lean on the strength and wisdom of Christ (Ro 7:24, 25).
As His grace strengthens our hearts and minds, we can overcome our own
worst inclination to make foolish choices. — Bill Crowder
The price of sin is
Though now it may seem low;
And if we let it go unchecked,
Its crippling power will grow. —Fitzhugh
God’s Spirit is your power source—
don’t let sin break the connection.
EXCURSUS ON ROMANS 7:
BELIEVER vs UNBELIEVER
Observations favoring a "Believer"
used = suggests a habitual lifestyle of sin -- likes
hates (Ro 7:15-note)
wish (Ro 7:16-note) wishing
(Ro 7:18-note) wish
(Ro 7:19-note) do not wish
wishes to do (Ro 7:21-note
both verbs present) joyfully concur (Ro 7:22-note) waging war
(Ro 7:23-note). In the
preceding section Paul used the past tense (suggesting historical facts)
almost exclusively, while in Romans 7:13-25 the verbs are predominantly
present tense (suggesting present experience).
This person (continually) desires to obey God’s law and
(continually) hates doing what is evil (Ro 7:15, 19, 21 -Ro
The apostle has already established that none of those things
characterize the unsaved. The unbeliever not only hates God’s truth and
righteousness but suppresses them, he willfully rejects the natural
evidence of God, he neither honors nor gives thanks to God, and he is
totally dominated by sin so that he arrogantly disobeys God’s law and
encourages others to do so (Ro 1:32).
S Lewis Johnson comments that...
it is difficult to imagine an unsaved
man diagnosing his case so perfectly, or affirming such things of an
unsaved person. He has a clear view of himself (Ro 7:18, 24). He has a
noble view of the Law (Ro 7:16, 19). In three ways he is a saint. He
hates sin (Ro 7:15, 16; can this agree with Ro 3:7?). He delights in the Law
of God (Ro 7:22). He looks for deliverance to Christ alone (Ro 7:25). John
Stott comments, "Now let me repeat that anyone who acknowledges the
spirituality of God's law and his own natural carnality is a Christian
of some maturity."
The OT supports this idea of an increased awareness of sin in
Isaiah saw the Lord and said he was (LXX
= continually) a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5).
man of God held himself guilty of sinning against God (Da 9:5ff) although
admittedly he is including himself as part of the entire nation which
had sinned against God.
Job sees the Lord and then sees his
condition and cries out...
Therefore I retract, And I repent in
dust and ashes (Job 42:6)
Note that God's Word referred to Job
(Job 1:1, 8).
For WE ALL stumble (fail to keep the Law of God, err, sin = present
tense = continually) in many ways. If anyone does not (continuously)
stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole
body as well. (James 3:2)
2) SIN is still potentially able to be the master even in believers
(Ro 6:12, 13- notes Ro
3) Flesh is still within believers (Ga 5:17-note
1Pe 2:11-note) but flesh has been
crucified (Ga 5:24-note
2:19, Ga 2:20-note
4) He is humble before God realizing that nothing good dwells in his
flesh (Ro 7:18)
Good here it is
agathos (the kind of good that is framed
in a deed that you do for someone else... it is another way of saying a
"righteous work"). So in me there is no GOOD thing...but he qualifies it
-- "in my flesh". So whether he is lost or saved he is saying that
his flesh there is no potential to do righteous deeds. So you can still
come at it from both sides.
5) He sees SIN as in him but not all there is in him (Ro 7;17,
20, 21, 22-notes Ro
6) "The inner man" (identical Greek phrase) elsewhere
refers to a believer (Ep 3:16-note).
Also see 2Cor 4:16
Therefore we do not lose heart, but
though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day
by day. (where "man" is added as implied by the context but there is no
"anthropos" as in Ro 7:22 Eph 3:16)
7) He gives thanks to Jesus Christ as his Lord and serves Him with his
mind (Ro 7:25-note).
8) With my mind used twice -- once clearly serving the law of
God (Ro 7:25-note).
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.
9) If this is indeed Paul note his self description near the end of his
long walk with the Savior in 1Ti 1:15
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am (present
= continually) foremost of all.
10) The general flow of
Romans supports the view for we have we have logically come through the
doctrine of sin and justification into the doctrine of sanctification.
While it is true that not every passage after the completion of the
theme of condemnation refers to the believer (cf. Romans 8:5, 6, 7, 8), the
majority of Romans 6-8 does describe a believer's sanctification.
used = doing (Ro 7:15-note) am doing the very thing I hate
(Ro 7:15-note) I do the very thing I do not wish
(Ro 7:16-note) am I the one doing it
(Ro 7:17-note) doing of the good is not
(Ro 7:18-note) do not do
(Ro 7:19-note) I practice the very
evil that I do not wish (Ro 7:19-note) I am doing
2) I am of flesh (sarkikos) sold (perfect
= sold in past with
present ongoing results) into bondage to sin (Ro 7:14-note) (sold under
sin...similar phrase in Ro 3:9-note)
believer has died to sin (Ro 6:2-note) & is
freed from sin (Ro 6:7, 18, 22- notes Ro
3) Making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members (Romans
4) Nothing good dwells in me BUT HE ADDS (in my flesh) (Flesh is still
around in believers but they are not "in the flesh" - Ga 5:17-note)
5) The argument is used that some people (who may not even be truly
regenerate) use this section to excuse the practice of living in sin and
so we must be very careful ascribing this section to a believer's normal
Undoubtedly this passage is abused by many individuals (? antinomians) but that "abuse" or misuse of this passage is not
justified by the interpretation in the context of chapters on either
side of Romans 7, as Romans 6 describes a new creature in Christ who
cannot live habitually in sin and yet who still has to contend with
indwelling SIN, albeit he has been crucified and it has been rendered
inoperative (Ro 6:6-note
6) Numerous NT passages argue strongly that a believer cannot live
habitually (in the present tense) in sin as is suggested by the use of
the present tense numerous times in this section.