Legalism or Cheap Grace? An Exegetical Examination of Romans 7:7-25

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Introduction

Profusely permeating the Christian church in America, biblical illiteracy and poor hermeneutical techniques actively subvert sound Scriptural doctrines.1 Accordingly, Christians must become proficient in proper exegetical methodologies, diligently examining the Scriptures and actively seeking to apply the tenets faithfully. Serving as a case study, this paper will 1) determine the context, 2) identify the significance, and 3) derive practical application principles from Romans 7:7-25, demonstrating that as Paul delineates the relationship between the Law and sin, he dispels a false dichotomy between embracing legalism and dismissing the Law as irrelevant to the born-again believer, while simultaneously underscoring the gospel message.2

 

Understanding the Context

Penning his letter to the Romans in approximately AD 57, the Apostle Paul is nearing the end of his third missionary journey and is preparing to address significant theological issues concerning the integration of Gentiles into the Christian community with the council in Jerusalem.3 Appropriately, Paul’s letter addresses some of these doctrinal concerns, reading like a theological discourse, framed with an epistolary introduction and conclusion.4 Since Paul does not explicitly state the epistle’s occasion—although he expresses a desire to visit Rome (cf., Romans 1:11-15; 15:22-29)—it is perhaps best to attribute the letter’s origin to a combination of Paul’s circumstances and those of the Christian community in Rome.5 Due to cultural diversity among Christians in Rome, the need for reconciliation and cross-cultural sensitivity appears to be of paramount concern in the epistle.6 Cursory examination reveals God’s righteousness and redemptive work (i.e., the gospel message) as a central theme of the writing,7 and because Paul is writing to a diverse audience, he employs numerous allusions to scrupulously denote the applicability of Old Testament principles for both Jews and Gentiles.8

Following this format, Paul begins by explaining that both groups are culpable for sin, and Christ’s atonement is vindicating for both (chapters one through three), before contending that Abraham is the spiritual father of both believing Jews and committed Gentiles in chapter four. Chapters five through eight expound upon God’s gift of righteousness through Christ, demonstrating that while Christians receive freedom from the power and penalty of sin (chapter six), and the eventual freedom from death (chapter eight), they will continually “struggle experientially with [the] reality of sin and the power of the law” (chapter seven).9 Next, Paul outlines God’s faithfulness (chapters nine through eleven), before discussing righteous Christian living and service (chapters twelve to fifteen) and concluding the letter.

Accordingly, consideration of the passage in question (Romans 7:7-25) requires the reader to recognize its circumstance as a fragment of a more extensive expositional argument. While explaining the Law is no longer obligatory to the Christian (Romans 7:1-6),10 Paul makes the staggering comment, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death” (Romans 7:5). Appreciating the potential for misunderstanding, Paul clarifies his erstwhile comments by carefully detailing the relationship between the Mosaic Law and sin in Romans 7:7-25 (the passage under examination).

 

Analyzing the Passage

Understanding the historical, cultural, and literary context of Romans 7:7-25, we now transition to passage analysis, continually remembering the progression of thought advancing from the previous sections. Beginning his discourse on the relationship between the Law and sin (Romans 7:7-12)Paul writes,

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Capturing the audience’s attention, Paul employs a diatribe to dispel any negative perception of the Law. Explaining the Law is no longer applicable to the Christian in the preceding section, Paul’s audience is likely questioning the validity or nature of the Mosaic Law, requiring Paul to respond accordingly. Underscoring this point, New Testament scholar Colin Kruse comments, “To respond to criticisms that his gospel involves a denigration of the law, Paul is at pains to show that he rejects any suggestion that he implies that the law is evil—a conclusion that his audience might reach from comments the apostle made earlier (cf. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 6:14)”11

Squelching any critical misinterpretation of his position, Paul explains the purpose of the Law is revelatory rather than salvific (i.e., it exposes sin, it does not alleviate sin). Pervading the human condition at the fall (cf. Genesis 3), human sinfulness exists long before the introduction of the Mosaic Law; however, decadent thoughts and behaviors did not previously receive explicit classification as transgressions. Consequently, the Law demonstrates human sinfulness by defining debased actions accordingly, causing us to realize our covetousness (using Paul’s example) when we were previously unaware.12 Explicating this point, New Testament Professor Craig Keener remarks, “‘You must not covet’ is the tenth of the Ten Commandments, the only one that goes directly beyond one’s actions to the state of one’s heart. The point is that one might not regard coveting as transgressing God’s law if one were not so informed by the law.”13

Regrettably, some might deem the Law evil based upon this explanation, attributing the Law as the cause of sin, especially if the statements, “For apart from the law, sin lies dead” (v. 8b) or “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (v. 10) were taken out of context.14 However, Paul is explicit in identifying the cause of his covetousness as sin. Masterfully expounding upon Paul’s point, theologian C. E. B. Cranfield writes,

Why was the divine commandment an opportunity for sin? We shall not do justice to Paul’s thought here, if we settle for a merely psychological explanation along the lines of. . . proverbial wisdom that speaks of forbidden fruits as sweetest. It is rather that the merciful limitation imposed on man by the commandment and intended to preserve his true freedom and dignity can be misinterpreted and misrepresented as a taking away of his freedom and an attack on his dignity, and so can be made an occasion of resentment and rebellion against the divine Creator, man’s true Lord. In this way, sin can make use of the commandment not to covet as a means of arousing all manner of covetousness.15

Considering Paul’s comments in context, his point becomes clear—the Law, deriving from a holy and righteous God, is good; yet it was never intended to bring about salvation, but rather to expose the depths of human depravity.

Continuing the discourse (Romans 7:13-19)Paul writes,

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Beginning this passage in like manner, Paul opens with a rhetorical question, setting the stage for further discussion concerning the relationship between the Law and death. Again, Paul’s audience might misconstrue his previous comments, wrongly attributing death to the Law, thus prompting him to clarify his argument. In fact, viewing the Law as the cause of sin and death may have gained traction in early Christianity as an unintended consequence of emphasizing grace in proclaiming the gospel message.

Elucidating the need to address such views, Professors Robert Jewett and Roy David Kotansky remark,

If the fault lies in the law itself, then it must be revised or abandoned. This simplistic answer has always been available, and apparently had some foothold in the Roman congregations in which the “strong” were criticizing the “weak” for their adherence to the law. But if the problem lies elsewhere, the human dilemma must be probed more deeply, and the resolution is not so simple. It cannot be framed in a liberal/conservative polarity that lends superiority to one side or the other. The problem is much more basic; indeed, it is universal in its scope.16

Categorically denouncing any correspondence between death and the Mosaic Law, Paul maintains the holiness and righteousness of God’s commandments, reiterating human sinfulness as the cause of rebellion and death. Summarizing Paul’s central contention, New Testament scholar Leon Morris writes, “His [Paul’s] clause of purpose, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, sums up much of the relationship between sin and the law. The law was given in order that sin might be seen for what it is. Without the law we would not recognize sin in its deepest evil; we would not see it as rebellion against the command of God.”17

Transitioning from historical tense to present tense, Paul humbly employs a first-person narrative (vv.14-25) in which he explains the personal, experiential struggle between the devout Jew and sin.18 Before interacting with the passage further, it is necessary to recognize Paul’s use of the word fleshly (σάρκινος)—the term he employs to contrast himself (representing all humanity) with the spiritual Law—is not referring to the physical characteristics of human nature, nor devaluing the human body (as gnostic philosophies suggest).19  Expressing this point, Jewett and Kotansky observe, “For Paul, to be ‘fleshly’ refers not primarily to the material nature of humans but to opposition against God, for it was precisely in his own zealous advocacy of the law that Paul found himself in such opposition. In his striving to demonstrate his righteousness under the law, he found himself caught in the throes of sin.”20

Additionally, as Paul expounds upon the tension between orthodoxy (i.e., correct belief) and orthopraxy (i.e., correct behavior) one must recognize the hyperbolic language of the passage (vv. 18-24). Accentuating the detriment of interpreting the passage literally, Keener observes, “[The] complete inability to do right and involuntarily compulsion to do wrong (7:15–20) sounds like possession rather than mere moral frustration!”21 Therefore, when considering Paul’s hyperbolic verbiage in context, the principle that orthodoxy does not necessitate orthopraxy becomes evident. Illuminating Paul’s message further, Professor Keener writes,

The mind and inner person recognizes what is right, knowing God’s law (7:16, 22–23). But whereas many ancient thinkers (especially Stoics) felt that proper knowledge would produce transformation, Paul denies that knowledge apart from God’s Spirit can produce righteousness (cf. 8:2–4). Righteousness must be God’s gift alone (4:11; 5:17; 10:3), and humans cannot boast in their own righteousness before God (3:27; 4:2).22

After providing clarification concerning the relationship between the Law and sin, and Paul’s experiential relationship under the Law, we near the end of the passage, as Paul continues expressing his struggle against natural inclinations toward sinful behavior—something common to both the pious Jew and the practicing Christian. Concluding his thought from verse 19, Paul writes (in Romans 7:20-25),

Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.

Immediately, our attention is drawn to verse 20, as Paul restates the phrase, “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me,” from verse 17. Seemingly, this restatement serves to emphasize a central point, while successfully capturing the reader’s attention before Paul offers a recapitulation of this deplorable condition. Relating Paul’s struggle to the Christian experience, theologian John A. Witmer comments, “Paul recognized that even as a believer he had an indwelling principle of sin that once owned him as a slave and that still expressed itself through him to do things he did not want to do and not to do things he desired to do. This is a problem common to all believers.”23 Similarly, New Testament scholar Douglas Moo remarks, “The ‘already-not yet’ tension is how scholars often describe the implications of this framework for the outlook of the believer. We are ‘already’ justified and reconciled, indwelt by the Spirit, but we are ‘not yet’ glorified and resurrected, still subject to sin’s lure.”24

Remarkably, the tone of the passage transforms from one of despondency, as Paul summarizes his inability to conform to God’s holy directives (vv. 20-24), to one of exuberance, as he reintroduces the remedy—Jesus Christ (v. 25).25 Analyzing this passage, New Testament scholar Richard C. H. Lenski comments, “Paul deplores most deeply the continuance of the flesh in himself because it still affords lodgement for ‘the sin,’ yet it surely meant much for him to be able to write: ‘no longer I myself,’ no longer my own real person as was the case before my regeneration.”26

Considering the passage in its entirety, Paul efficaciously conveys the relationship between the Mosaic Law and sin—depicting the Law as revelatory rather than salvific. Transitioning, Paul considers the relationship between the Law and humanity, noting our inability to conform to God’s moral directives due to our sinful nature, before reintroducing the gospel message by identifying Jesus as the only alleviation of our detrimental condition.27

 

Practical Application

Practically applying the principles of a given passage is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the hermeneutic process, as one must 1) identify the author’s intended results for the original audience, 2) identify the cultural and situational difference between the original audience and contemporary Christians, 3) reiterate the theological principles present in the passage and 4) comparing them with the entirety of the Scriptures, before 5) deriving contemporary application(s).28

 

Identifying the Intended Results for the Original Audience

Apparently, the emergence of theological quandaries arose due to the cultural diversity of Rome and the assimilation of Gentiles within Jewish communities. Addressing some of these issues in Romans 7:7-25, Paul provides a theological discourse concerning the relationship between the Mosaic Law and sin, and the Christian’s relationship to the Law. Paul carefully portrays the Law as holy and righteous, demonstrating its revelatory power to expose human sinfulness. Nevertheless, Paul underscores our inherent need for a savior, noting our inability to conform to God’s holy standard of morality, while distinguishing Christ’s fulfillment of the Law and His sacrificial atonement at Calvary. Harmoniously, Paul intends for his readers to view the Mosaic Law as revelatory, not salvific, while simultaneously avoiding the extreme views of legalism (on the one hand) and utter disregard and contempt of Old Testament mandates (on the other).

 

Navigating Cultural and Situational Differences

Although twenty-first century America is socially, culturally, geographically, and temporally dissociated with first-century Rome, much of the cultural climate within the church is comparable. First, America is culturally diverse, and people from radically different (ethnic and religious) backgrounds must integrate into a single Christian community. Moreover, conservative-liberal polarization continues to divide the catholic church, with various denominations vehemently contesting issues of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, while emphasizing one over the other. Appropriately, Paul’s discourse remains relevant, as Christians attempt to ascertain a correct view of the Old Testament directives in relation to their justification through Christ.

 

Theological Principles and the Entirety of Scripture

Clarifying orthodox principles, Paul’s discourse does not introduce fundamentally new tenets, nor does it advance precepts that are at odds with any other biblical doctrine.29  Exemplifying this point, Galatians 3:19-22 appears to parallel this passage in Romans, identifying the introduction of the Law as a result of human depravity, rather than its cause. In other words, the Law does not cause people to sin, it merely demonstrates their sinfulness, while denoting their fundamental need for a savior. Moreover, God declares the Old Testament Patriarch (Abraham) righteous on the basis of his faith—rather than his steadfast obedience—indicating the Mosaic Law was never intended to be salvific. Additionally, the Scriptures continually testify to the righteousness of God’s commands (cf. Psalm 19:8-9; 119:137; 2 Peter 2:21) while Jesus makes it clear that He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it (cf. Matthew 5:17).30 Collectively, it appears these passages align with Paul’s contention that the Law is righteous. Therefore, the Law remains valuable for exposing human sinfulness and demonstrating our need for penal substitutionary atonement, while concurrently providing a basis for deriving Christian ethics.

 

Contemporary Application

As previously mentioned, conservative-liberal polarization often blurs the lines between faith and works; between grace and unwavering obedience. Thus, many Christians find themselves torn between adhering to a punctilious religious framework or completely discounting the value of orthopraxy under the guise of Christian freedom; between practicing legalism or embracing cheap grace.31 Paul dispels this false dichotomy, accentuating the purpose and value of God’s commandments, while simultaneously maintaining the Christian’s liberty from obligatory adherence to the Mosaic Law. Remaining faithful to the underlying principle, the Christian is neither justified in dismissing the Law as entirely irrelevant, nor in embracing a religious framework which demands Pharisaical compliance. Expounding upon these principles, Dr. Bill Miller recognizes the detriment of legalism to an individual’s spiritual development, writing,

[There is a] flawed type of thinking that still lives with Christians today. It assumes that avoiding sin is the primary objective of the Christian life. However, consider what Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40 about the two greatest commandments. The emphasis is upon a movement from self to God and others, not a self-purification project. . . . Placing too much emphasis on avoiding sin can be a major distraction from the higher aim of the Christian life of learning to love others well. It becomes a distraction that blinds us from seeing and serving those whom God brings across our path.32

Even so, after considering Romans 7:7-25, Dr. Moo underscores a number of positive aspects resulting from studying the Mosaic Law, commenting,

This present passage [in Romans] reminds us. . . that the law comes from God and bears his own character of goodness, holiness, and righteousness. Because of the particular place he found himself in salvation history and the specific problems he had to deal with, Paul tends to focus on the negative side of the law. But he would never doubt the value of the law as a revelation of God’s holiness and character. Nor would he ever suggest that the law cannot still be read with profit. We may not be “under” its direct authority anymore, but we must continue to meditate on his law both as a means of better appreciating just who our God is and what he values and as a means of understanding our own place in the plan that God unfolds in Scripture.33

Consequently, although we look to pattern our lives after Jesus—striving to practice righteousness while forsaking sin—we understand salvation is available only by grace (through faith in the atoning work of Christ) and properly recognize the Law is revelatory, not salvific. Although studying the Mosaic Law proves profitable for understanding the character and nature of God, for recognizing the depths of human depravity, and for deriving Christian ethics, it must not receive recognition as a means of salvation or an obligatory legislation for the pious.

Additionally, the passage typifies the ongoing experiential struggle between the Christian and their sinful inclinations, providing encouragement for personal endurance in the wake of our moral failings. Unpretentiously, Paul depicts his futile struggle with sin and adherence to God’s upright legislation, which results in frustration and lamentation. Nevertheless, Paul’s first-person narrative ends with an exclamation of victorious praise, shouting, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Similarly, this remains the victory cry of all Christians and serves as a vital reminder that while we will inevitably continue to struggle against the desires of our sinful nature, we have redemption through Christ, and will eventually receive freedom from the presence of sin.

 

Conclusion

Analyzing Romans 7:7-25 within the historical, cultural, and literary context of the passage, it becomes evident that Paul seeks to outline the relationship between the Mosaic Law and sin, in which he dispels a false dichotomy between embracing legalism and dismissing the Law as irrelevant to the born-again believer, while contemporaneously underscoring the gospel message. Thus, Paul’s discourse maintains a tension between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, highlighting the importance of the Law as a revelatory apparatus, capable of defining sinful inclinations and behavior, while simultaneously illuminating the extent of human depravity and underscoring their inherent need for a savior. Nevertheless, Paul emphases Christ’s fulfillment of the Law and His sacrificial atonement at Calvary, thereby freeing the Christian from obligatory adherence of the Mosaic Law, while offering reconciliation and restoration to humanity.

 

Footnotes

  1. Research studies underscore the theological confusion among Americans; see “When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?” The Pew Research Center, April 25, 2018, http://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/; “Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians,” Barna Group, May 09, 2017, https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/; “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years,” The Barna Group, March 09, 2009, https://www.barna.com/research/barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years/.
  2. All Scriptural references are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise annotated.
  3. Douglas J. Moo, “Romans,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon, Volume Three, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 3-6; D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 393-398; Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 85-87.
  4. Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 391; William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Third Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 1; David S. Dockery, Trent C. Butler, et al., Holman Bible Handbook(Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 673.
  5. Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 403-404.
  6. Craig S. Keener, “Romans,” in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
  7. Much debate arises concerning the theme of Romans; however, one must not discount the possibility that the epistle does not have a solitary theme. Therefore, it is crucial to identify recurring motifs within several distinct topics. See Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 408-411.
  8. Although the population of Rome is very diverse, there remained a large Jewish population, estimated between 40,000 and 50,000. It appears Christianity emerged among this Jewish population, which explains Paul’s emphasis on Old Testament doctrines and the recurring “to Jew, but also to Gentile” motif (cf. Romans 1:16; 2:9-10; 3:9, 29; 9:24; 10:12). Additionally, since the Jewish community lacked a central authority, it is likely that the Christian community was devoid of organizational homogeneity, with much diversity existing between individual congregations, resulting in substantial questions concerning Christian adherence to, and relationship with, the Law—especially as it applies to Gentile believers. See James D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to The,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 838-839; 843-844.
  9. Dockery, et al., Holman Bible Handbook, 673.
  10. The applicability of the Mosaic Law to the Christian, receives further exploration in “Freedom from the Law: Examining the Applicability of the Old Testament Law for Contemporary Christians;” and Brian S. Rosner, Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God, ed. D. A. Carson, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013).
  11. Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 299.
  12. Additionally, the Law identifies the repercussions of sinful behavior (death) while underscoring the need for penal substitutionary atonement —only available through Jesus.
  13. Craig S. Keener, “Romans 7:7-8,” in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
  14. Verse 10 incorporates an allusion to Leviticus 18:5.
  15. C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary (New York, NY: T&T Clark International, 2004), 350.
  16. Robert Jewett and Roy David Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary, ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), 459.
  17. Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1988), 289.
  18. Scholars continually debate the temporal period in which Paul refers, with some insisting he is referencing his former unregenerate state, while others maintain he is speaking of his experience after his regeneration or “conversion.” Regrettably, brevity precludes further examination of this debate; however, the textual evidence appears to support the former hypothesis. Nevertheless, one can derive practical application principles which apply to everyone—unbelievers, legalistic religious adherents, and Christians alike. Additionally, it is essential to approach the passage with humility, exercising sound exegetical methodologies in addressing this concern. Moreover, it is vital we do not get caught up in needless controversy, thereby missing the fundamental point of Paul’s message. For additional information on this topic, see Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 297-321; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1936), 473-478; Jewett and Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary, 454-473; Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom: Romans 6:1–7:25 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1961), 238-239; C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, Revised Edition, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1991), 131-144.

    Additionally, The Gospel Coalition recently published a more accessible, popular level treatment, framing the debate nicely. See Thomas Schreiner, “Romans 7 Does Not Describe Your Christian Experience,” The Gospel Coalition, January 13, 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/romans-7-does-not-describe-your-christian-experience/; John Piper, “Romans 7 Does Describe Your Christian Experience,” The Gospel Coalition, January 19, 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/romans-7-does-describe-your-christian-experience/; and Ben Bailie, “Lloyd-Jones: Believer or Unbeliever Is Not the Point of Romans 7,” The Gospel Coalition, January 27, 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/lloyd-jones-believer-or-unbeliever-is-not-point-of-romans-7/.

  19. Accordingly, while the ESV translates σάρκινοςas fleshly, the NIV renders the word unspiritual, while the NKJV uses the word carnal.
  20. Jewett and Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary, 461.
  21. Craig S. Keener, Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009), 93.
  22. Ibid., 94.
  23. John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, Volume Two (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 468.
  24. Douglas J. Moo, Romans, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 240.
  25. Interestingly, Psalm 119 describes King David experiencing a similar struggle with sin, recording his lament, “I wish I were more loyal in obeying your demands” (v. 5). However, unlike King David, Paul is cognizant of the saving work of Christ, and is able to victoriously exclaim, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
  26. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 483.
  27. This statement concerning the sinfulness of human nature and our inability to adhere to God’s perfect moral law, does not negate the existence of human freedom. See “Battle of the Will: Waging War Against Determinism.”
  28. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 42-46.
  29. Although brevity excludes the possibility of an exhaustive articulation of this contention, some meaningful examples follow.
  30. Tomas D. Lea and David Alan Black provide a great synopsis of the Mosaic covenant, explaining, “God had earlier promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed in him (Gen. 12:3). Giving the law 430 years after this covenant did not nullify the promise to Abraham (Gal. 3:17). God added this covenant because of human transgressions and not to negotiate anew the promise he had earlier given (Gal. 3:18-19). The coming of the Messiah terminated the function of the Mosaic covenant (Gal. 3:19). The covenant itself prepared individuals to exercise faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:24) and clarified the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Rom. 7:13).” See Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 355.
  31. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer coins the term “cheap grace,” in his book The Cost of Discipleship, referring to such a dismissal of orthopraxy. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: 1959; repr., Touchstone, 1995), 43-56.
  32. Bill Miller, “Love and Spiritual Formation,” in Foundations of Spiritual Formation, ed. Paul Pettit (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2008), 166.
  33. Douglas J. Moo, Romans, 231-232.

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