One of the Most Misinterpreted and Misused Passages in all the Bible



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One of the Most Misinterpreted and Misused Passages in all the Bible

[Romans 7:14-25]

When I was studying the Greek language at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Glaze, our Greek Professor, asked this question:
“Romans 7:14-25: Pre-conversion or Post-conversion?”

When Paul said: ‘For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want’ (Romans 7:19), was this before Paul’s conversion, or after Paul’s conversion? Was this Paul’s life before Christ, when he was Saul, a lost Pharisee? Or was this Paul’s life after he became a Christian?”


We all raised our hands to say this was Paul’s Christian struggle against sin after he got saved, because that’s what we had always heard! We were wrong! Dr. Glaze said, “Pre-conversion!” My subsequent personal studies revealed the following details, proving that the proper interpretation is “pre-conversion!”
2 Peter 1:20-21 - NASB

“…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”


We cannot use verses out of the Bible any way we want to use them. We cannot interpret them to mean anything we want them to mean.
The interpretation of any particular passage is what God had in mind, not whatever I would like to think about it. When we follow our own thoughts, we can make the Bible say just about anything we want it to say. But each passage has a particular truth that God intended. Now, we may apply that truth to many different life circumstances, but not in a way that alters the God-inspired truth.
So, how should we interpret the following passage?
Romans 7:19 - NASB

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”


Well, let’s look at the context. Oh, first of all, let me share with you my motive in doing this. I am not interested in going through all of this just to prove my interpretation right and someone else’s wrong. My motive is to point you to the victorious life in Christ that Jesus died to give us, for which He rose again to empower us, and in which His Spirit leads His true children.
The Book of Romans is a Theological Masterpiece. It is Paul’s dissertation of a sort, addressing: The Law, The Gospel, and The Faith!
After introducing the Gospel and the faith by which it is received and by which righteousness is reckoned, Paul begins to discuss in detail the Law, that topic that was always the center of attention among Pharisees, among whom he had once held high honor.
[i.e.: “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?”]
But when he began to say things like Romans 3:20-23 and Romans 3:27-30 and Romans 4:9-11, he lost the admiration of his former peers, and was challenged with the task of giving the true concept of what God had in mind for the purpose of the Law (3:19; 5:20-21; etc.), having expressed that Jesus Christ was the true source of justification and righteousness which comes through faith, not through the works of the Law.
Then, after clearly explaining in Romans 6 that through faith in Christ, sin NO LONGER REIGNS over us, because we have been raised from the dead spiritually in Christ, Paul returns to his discussion about the Law and says:
Romans 7:1 - NASB

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?”


Paul used this to launch into the discussion about man’s condition under the law (7:5, 9-11). Even though he mentions our new life (under new “jurisdiction”) in 7:4, 6, when we get to verses 14, we are still in the discussion of man’s DEAD condition (7:9-11) under the jurisdiction of the Law. At no point in here does Paul all of a sudden begin talking about the Christian’s struggle with sin. That switch in focus would be foreign to the context of the book to this point! For the point he has been trying to make was stated in the first chapter, that the power the Law never had, the Gospel did (1:16), and in it the righteousness of God is revealed (1:17). The Pharisees thought they were righteous because they talked about the law in their chambers and taught it in the synagogues, but Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). So, Paul is still dealing with the very heart of salvation by grace through faith, and the resulting condition of that salvation (freed from the law of sin).
Paul does not address living out the Christian life until Chapter 12, and when he does, he doesn’t share anything like Romans 7:14-25 as being a part of the Christian experience. In other books, when he and others talk about the Christian’s daily life and struggle, we have 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 4:7-8, and similar passages. As a matter of fact, Romans 9-11 which is also heavily misinterpreted, shows the continuance of Paul’s purpose in dealing with the very people who had received the Law, who thought as God’s “chosen” people they were secure for eternity, simply because they were the chosen keepers of the Law (9:4-5). That’s why Paul again deals with FAITH and salvation in chapter 10, very verses we use to share the gospel. Chapter 11 then shows God’s inclusion of all who believe (have “faith”) in Him, and His exclusion of all who do not exercise faith, whether they are Gentiles or Israelites (“Jews”)!
Paul is doing all this to evangelize those who had been trying to get to God and attain righteousness by the Law (exactly where Paul had been as Saul, the Pharisee). That’s why in Romans 7:1 he very particularly singles out “those who know the law.” He voices again his heart’s “great sorrow and unceasing grief” in Romans 9:2 when he addresses the spiritually lost condition of the Jews. Paul knew their inward thoughts, because he had been there, trying to hold to the law while being alarmed by the reality of his own sin condition.
Romans 7:14 - NASB

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”


Here, Paul simply makes a comparison between the Law and himself (as a man without Christ, a Pharisee… a religious man, yes, but lost!). And Paul makes this comparison to show the very purpose of the law, a purpose he has already been referring to, at least since: Romans 3:19-21 and 5:20-21.
Paul shows in this passage (Romans 7:1-8:4) the very good thing the Law did. The Law showed man his desperate need for something more powerful to save him (“what the Law could not do” – 8:3), and man’s need to be released from the bondage of sin (7:24-8:1-2).
Some people are thrown off by the fact that Paul uses the present tense in this comparison of his life as a Pharisee over against the truth and purpose of the Law. But in no way does Paul leap from his present discussion about the Law to the Christian’s struggle with sin. It’s like Paul is putting out both hands and saying, “Here (on one hand) is the spiritual Law, and here (on the other hand) am I, lost in sin.” And he proceeds with that comparison down through the passage.
Therefore, 7:14-25 is the description of a LOST person (religious, yes, but lost)!
So, let me be clear, this passage is never the description of a Christian’s struggle with sin. We do struggle with sin at times, but for different reasons than this passage addresses. For it addresses the futile struggle of a lost person trying to find salvation on their own effort, while in bondage to sin.
A simple reading and digesting of Romans 6 & 8 should eliminate the misuse of Romans 7. One problem is we often follow our own thoughts in interpreting the Bible, rather than letting the Holy Spirit guide us as we examine the context of each passage. In so doing, it is easy to hear:
Romans 7:19 - NASB

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”


…and think, “That’s me. I know I am a Christian, but sometimes I do things that I know I should not do.”
And then, it is easy to hear:

Romans 7:20 - NASB

“But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”


…and think: “That’s it! That’s what my problem is. I’m only human! Sin just gets the best of me! What should I expect?”
And we go right on in life, thinking we’ll always be that way, and nothing can change it. We think, “If the apostle Paul had problems with it, I surely cannot expect to overcome it!”
But the truth is, the conditions of the state of the person described here in Romans 7 are completely different, and must not be confused with the Christian’s struggle with sin.
Let’s look at Romans 7:13 and pick up with the flow of the context, and go through verse 17, seeing how Paul simply continues his discussion of the Law and man’s condition when under that “jurisdiction.”
Romans 7:13 - NASB

Therefore did that which is good (the Law) become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”


This passage (7:7-13) reveals the Law’s purpose: to reveal what sin really is and to bring that sin to light in the life of man. Also, then, there is no change of topic in Paul’s discussion when he moves to the next verse (7:14).
Romans 7:14 - NASB

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”


The Law fulfilled its God-given purpose, and therefore, is “spiritual.” But in accomplishing that purpose, man realizes that he is not of the Spirit, but is “of flesh” and in bondage to sin (even Pharisees). Therefore, it is not enough just to go to church, or do some good deeds, or even hold a position of religious leadership. These things do not have the power to save!
Romans 7:15-16 - NASB

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.”


For those who think all of a sudden Paul went from talking about the Law, sin, and death, to the Christian life and struggle, this passage helps us see the connection with the context, since it is answering the question brought up in Romans 7:7, “Is the Law sin?” No! The Law has done exactly what God intended it to do. It reveals the driving force, the power that is in control of any man without Christ, even a religious leader – SIN!
Romans 7:17 - NASB

“So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”


So, again, Paul is comparing his pre-converted self and the Law, so that “those who know the Law” (7:1) will see that he relates to where they are. Paul is hoping that they will recognize their need for Jesus Christ.
But seemingly the majority of Bible teachers and commentators have misinterpreted Romans 7:14-25, ending up with an entire mass of Christians using this passage to describe their own personal struggle with sin. But this passage very specifically describes a lost person without Christ, someone who has sin reigning on the throne of their heart.
Why Romans 7:14-25 CANNOT describe a Christian’s struggle with sin:
As we walk together down each verse of Romans 7:14-25, you will notice the general format we will use:
1. The verse from Romans 7 (or an excerpt of it).

2. The misinterpretation we make when we try to apply it to our lives as

Christians, indicated by a “False” statement.

3. The “Truth” as given in other references of the Bible, most of which come

from the immediate context, Romans chapters 6, 7, and 8.
Whereas I will make comments along the way, we will mostly let the Scripture speak for itself. You will notice the conflicts our misinterpretations have with the Bible when we use this passage to describe a Christian’s struggle with sin. We will be using the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Romans 7:14 - NASB [New American Standard Bible]

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”


Misinterpretation (False): A Christian is “sold into bondage to sin.”
The Truth: Every Christian has been “freed from sin and enslaved to God” (Romans 6:22).
To claim this passage as our experience, we have to say, “I am sold into bondage to sin.”

I cannot be (1) freed from sin and (2) in bondage to sin at the same time!

Born again believers have been “freed from sin!” (Romans 6:7, 18, 22).


Look at Romans 7:14 again: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”
Misinterpretation (False): A Christian is “of flesh.”
The Truth: Christians are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6, 8). Christians “do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
“For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of

God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).
So, in the spiritual sense, you are not both in the spirit and in the flesh at the same time!

You are one or the other: “saved or lost!” … “alive in Christ or dead in sin!”


Romans 7:14 (again) “…I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”
Misinterpretation (False): We are in bondage to the master of sin over us.
The Truth: “Sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14).
“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
Notice: You are one or the other! - [“either… or”]

You do NOT have 2 Masters: Jesus and sin! - [See Matthew 6:24]


“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”

(Romans 6:17-18).


You were in bondage to sin, but you have been freed from that, and you are now slaves of righteousness. Be careful not to think, “Well, I am a slave of sin one day, and a slave of righteousness the next.” That is not at all the intention of this passage!
Romans 7:15 - NASB

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”


Misinterpretation (False): A Christian “does the very thing he hates.”
The Truth: Christians “bear fruit for God” and “serve in newness of the Spirit” (Romans 7:4, 6).
Now, let’s look at excerpts from both of these verses:
Romans 7:14-15 “…I am of flesh… doing the very thing I hate.”
Misinterpretation (False): Believers are “of flesh” doing the evil they hate.
“While we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death”

(Romans 7:5). This is who we were before we became Christians!


Romans 7:16 - NASB

“But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.”


The very fact that verse 16 is here, indicates the purpose of the passage:

to remind them (us) why the Law came:


“The Law came in that the transgression might increase” (Romans 5:20).

“…Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to

know sin except through the Law” (Romans 7:7).
Paul is making all this clear so that the lost Pharisees would realize that the Law, though insufficient to save them, had fulfilled its God-given purpose. But, then, what could save them? Remember: “What the Law could not do… God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us…” (Romans 8:3-4).
How many people have we ever heard quote Romans 7:16? I mean we have heard many quote verses 15 and 19 to give an excuse for their sin, but we have never heard anyone quote this verse. Why? Because they have simply pulled the other verses out of context, and have no concept of why this verse is even here. But the context of these verses, not only in this chapter, but also since the beginning of the book of Romans, is a discussion about the Law and salvation through faith in Jesus, and not about a Christian’s struggles with sin. So, when we interpret the passage to describe a believer’s inner battles with sin, we abandon the very direction and purpose of the text and context.
Romans 7:17 - NASB

“So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”


When we misinterpret this by applying it to the Christian life, we completely remove any responsibility of our own to live a godly life, and blame it on indwelling sin (how convenient!).
Now, a lost person can claim that sin is reigning within him.
Misinterpretation (False): A Christian is forced by indwelling sin to do evil.
The Truth: Whereas “sin reigned in death” (past tense), now “grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus” (Romans 5:21).
The Truth: Sin is no longer “alive” in the Christian, who “died to sin”

(Romans 6:2, 11). We died to that by which we were bound (Romans 7:6).


Therefore, Romans 7:17 CANNOT be the description of a Christian, given the truths found in these and other passages!
Romans 7:18 - NASB

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”


Now, in his “mind” (the “willing” – also see v. 7:25), the Pharisee desired “good.”
Misinterpretation (False): A Christian is someone who has “nothing good dwelling in them.”
The Truth: “The Spirit of God dwells in” believers (Romans 8:9, 11).

Christ’s word is to “richly dwell within us” (Colossians 3:16).


See Romans 7:18 again: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”


Misinterpretation (False): The believer has nothing good dwelling in him, nor does he have “the doing of good” present in his life.
The Truth: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Holy Spirit of the Living God dwells within us (That is good!), and the result of that is His fruit is expressed in our lives!
The doing of good was present in the lives of the believers in Thessalonica:
“…you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk)… excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
We are to “not lose heart in doing good” to all people, especially to believers (Galatians 6:9-10). We are not to be like the sinful world, but we are to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Therefore, Romans 7:18 CANNOT be descriptive of a Christian’s life.
Romans 7:19 - NASB

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”


Here again is the verse many Christians quote, feeling this is their experience in struggling with sin.
Misinterpretation (False):

A Christian “practices evil.”


The Truth: “the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

“No one who is born of God practices sin” (1 John 3:9).


Some will say, “How is that possible? Don’t we sin?” Well, if you are born of God (born again – John 1:12-13; 3:3, 6), then God is your Heavenly Father. And being a perfect Parent, He will discipline you! If you are without discipline, you are not a true child of God (Hebrews 12:8). For God will not allow His children to continue practicing sin without disciplining them. Living in continual sin is the biblical description of a lost person.

See Romans 7:19 again: “For the good that I want, I do not do…”


Misinterpretation (False): A Christian does not do the good they want to do.
The Truth: “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God”

(1 John 3:10).


Exactly! The unrighteous are of the flesh, and “not of God.” They are lost. Just as Romans 7:14 said, “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God”

(1 Corinthians 6:9-11).


Romans 7:20 - NASB

“But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”


Now, this repeats the truth we heard in verse 17. Why did Paul repeat this? Because he wanted to help the LOST Pharisees (like he once was, who in their minds wanted to please God), to realize they were in bondage to something they had no power to control, so that they would realize they needed the resurrection power of Jesus Christ and the cleansing power of His blood to set them free, give them life, and enable them to live a life that honored God!
Misinterpretation (False): Sin indwells the believer’s life, reigning with power to do evil.
The Truth: “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” and “gives life to your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11), that you “might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).
So instead of sin reigning in your life, and evil behavior being expressed, the Spirit of God reigns on the throne of your heart, and you bear fruit for God!
See Romans 7:20 again: “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Misinterpretation (False): I am forced to do evil things by my old sinful self.
The Truth: “our old self was crucified with Christ, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 - KJV).
Misinterpretation (False): Because of sin dwelling in me, I have to sin!
Now this would be true for the lost person, the person without Christ.
The Truth: We, the true children of God, are NOT under obligation to the flesh, to live by the flesh (Romans 8:12).
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). God “is able to keep you from stumbling.”

(Jude 1:24).


See Romans 7:20 again: “…I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Misinterpretation (False): The sin dwelling in me leads me to do evil.
The Truth: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
If sin is leading you to do things you do not want to do (evil things), then it is NOT the Spirit of Jesus that dwells in you! Who is leading you?
But, now, we do commit acts of sin, but we do not sin because sin is dwelling on the throne of our hearts, or because we are in bondage to sin, or because the old self made us do it (for it was crucified – died!).

We don’t sin because the devil made us do it (James 4:7). We simply fail to trust the Lord’s strength and take His way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

We fail to be obedient, and God, our Father, disciplines us! We must quit blaming our sin on something other than our own willful choices! We must admit, “I messed up!”
Romans 7:21 - NASB

“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.”


Again, the Pharisee desired to be pleasing to God, to be right with God, as did Paul when he was Saul! “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Galatians 1:13-14).
“circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6).
This illustrates the “want to” Saul had even as a spiritually lost Pharisee.
Romans 7:22 - NASB

“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,”


Paul already addressed this in part back in Romans 2 when he said, “When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, …they show the work of the Law written in their hearts…” (Romans 2:14-15 - excerpts). The law of God is in the inner man. Even the Gentiles knew right from wrong. The law of God may indeed be in any person’s mind, but there is another law that is very active in the lives of those without Christ:
Romans 7:23 - NASB

“but 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.”


In the Pharisee (the lost, religious man without Jesus), the body and the mind were at war, for as much as he could want (in his mind) to please God, he could not, even if he engaged in religious activities! For “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). And “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Romans 3:20).
This reminds us of Paul’s elation in Romans 1:17 about the Gospel’s leading him “finally” to the righteousness of God, through Christ’s offering for sin, that fulfills the requirement of the Law in us (8:3-4).
Looking at verse 23, you see it says he was a “prisoner of the law of sin.”

Now, Saul as a Pharisee was indeed in bondage. But we misinterpret it as:


Misinterpretation (False): A Christian is “a prisoner of the law of sin” in his body.
The Truth: Christians have “been freed from sin,” and have become “slaves of

righteousness!” We are “enslaved to God,” and are “sanctified”

(Romans 6:7, 18, 22).
The Greek language here for “sanctified” says that we “have the fruit of holiness.” In other words, as transformed believers, we are not doing evil while wanting to do good, but we are obedient to righteousness bearing the very fruit of holiness.
Look at Romans 7:23 again: “but 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.”
The inner self of the lost man (indicated in this verse by “my mind” and “me”) is a prisoner of the law of sin in the members of his body. Even though the “inner man” contained “law of God” (v. 22), he was held captive by the “law of sin,” the controlling force in his life. Had Jesus been his controlling force, the rule and reign of sin would have been overpowered (Romans 8:2). Notice he does not say, “We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Look at the victory in Christ found in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. This is one of Paul’s descriptions of the Christian’s “waging war,” and the result is victory, not imprisonment. Romans 7:23 refers to a lost person’s inner war. It cannot be used to describe the life and condition of a person in Christ!
Misinterpretation (False): I am a “prisoner of the law of sin” in my body.
The Truth: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2).
You cannot be FREE from the “law of sin” and a PRISONER of the “law of sin” at the same time! Therefore, if indeed you are free: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).
If Romans 7:23 applied to Christians, it would lead us to say, “I have no choice but to continue sinning” (as many say, “I’m only human! I’m just a sinner!”).

But the entirety of Romans 6 was a parenthetical detour to answer the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” And the answer is, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”


Now, Christians are “at war” with Satan and his demons. We wrestle against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 - KJV).
But as far as the war and our fight against sin, a greater power has taken control of our lives, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2).

If it is confusing to you to comprehend the working of these two laws, consider the law of gravity. We all have accidently knocked a set of keys, a book, or something off the edge of a table. What happens? Well, unless we catch it, it immediately falls to the floor! Why? Because of the “law of gravity.” Gravity takes control and pulls it to the floor! 1000 times out of 1000 times, the object will fall to the floor, because of the law of gravity. The only way the object does not fall to the floor is if you catch it. If you catch it, the reason it does not hit the floor is because a power greater than that of the law of gravity has taken control of the object.

The same is true of the Christian. Romans 8:2 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. You see, the law of sin and death is like the law of gravity. When we are without Christ, we fall constantly into sin because the law of sin has control of our lives. But when we are born again and have new life in Christ, our lives are in the hands of Jesus. Even though the law of sin and death still exists around us and pulls at us from the outside, a greater power has taken control of our lives. We are in the power of Jesus Christ! We do not have to go on in defeat saying that sin has more power within us than Jesus. When we live with an excuse for our sin, we dishonor the presence and power of our Lord and Savior. Living in the victory He provides shows the truth of His power and brings glory to Christ.
Romans 7:24 - NASB

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?


Misinterpretation (False): Christians are in bondage to a body of death.
The Truth: When the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He will “give life to your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11).
Romans 7:24 is the cry of despair that is expressed when a lost man who wants to be right with God realizes his helpless condition in sin. But when the Spirit of God saves us spiritually, He also gives life to our mortal bodies. Paul had already addressed this in Romans 6 when he proclaimed our freedom from sin, and the subsequent presenting of our lives to God as those alive from the dead, where the members of our bodies are used for righteousness, not for sin and death (Romans 6:13).
So, who will set the lost man free from his body of death? The same Person who set us free!
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a - NASB)
This momentary exclamation answers the cry in v. 24.
Romans 7:25b - NASB

So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”


Here, Paul concludes the thought he has been developing in Romans 7, that whereas his physical mind agreed with the law of God, his body was serving the law of sin. And remember, verse 7:23 showed which overpowered the other, which again clues us in that this “serving of the law of God” did not include the presence and power of Christ. Therefore, again, Romans 7:14-25 cannot be descriptive of a Christ indwelt believer.
Misinterpretation (False): A Christian can be in the flesh one moment and in the spirit the next.
The Truth: We “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”

(Romans 8:4).


We “walk” in one or the other, not both! So it is not an “every other day” thing, neither is it a “back and forth” thing through each day!
See the last part of Romans 7:25 again: “…I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh (I am serving) the law of sin.”
Misinterpretation (False): A Christian’s mind serves the law of God and at the same time his flesh serves the law of sin.
The Truth: “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord…” “…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…” “For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20 - excerpts).
The Truth: A Christian is a slave of obedience resulting in righteousness, where the members of his body are instruments of righteousness

(Romans 6:16, 13).


Biblical descriptions of believers in Christ include descriptions of the Christian’s body being used for God’s glory, serving in obedience as instruments of righteousness, not as servants of sin.
Look at the verse one more time, noticing the use of the word flesh:

Romans 7:25 “…I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh (I am serving ) the law of sin.”
The Truth: We are NOT under obligation to the flesh! If we are living by the flesh, we must die. We should be putting to death the deeds of the body

(Romans 8:12-13).


What does it mean to live by the flesh? What are the deeds of the flesh?
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”

Galatians 5:19-21).


So, in the same way Galatians 5:19-21 describes the lives and “practices” of lost people (they “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”), and cannot be descriptive of born again believers in Christ, neither can Romans 7:14-25.
The focus changes when we move into Romans 8, for we find the victory of Christ spelled out in the conquering of sin by God who sent us His only begotten Son.
Romans 8:1-4 - NASB

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”


As we read down through Romans 7:14-21, it is so difficult not to say, “That’s exactly how I feel. That is what I experience as a Christian.” Then, all of a sudden, we begin to use this text in a way in which it was never intended. It leads to “an excuse” for our ways, rather than a deep soul searching to test ourselves to see if we are even in Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). For surely if Christ dwells within us, we would want to live in the victory He provides as overwhelmingly and clearly seen in Romans chapters 6 and 8.
But many are content to say, “I have the same struggle that Paul did in Romans 7. Sin gets the best of me. So, if Paul had trouble, I can’t expect much different in my own life.” Can you imagine Paul’s dismay (certainly the Holy Spirit’s) that we would take all of the victorious passages of Romans chapters 6 and 8 and reduce them to a defeated Christian life where sin overpowers Jesus Christ’s reign in our hearts? Do we not know that we have just taken a passage that describes a lost person’s condition and equated it with the condition of a born again Christian?
Our reasoning is reduced to “blame it on the sin reigning in me” when according to the scriptures, Jesus, the King of kings, reigns in our hearts. We have been “freed from sin,” delivered from sin’s cruel reign. Does that mean we never sin? Of course, not! We know we still commit acts of sin. But according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, when we sin we have not been overpowered by some force, for we are not tempted “beyond what we are able.” When we give in to temptation, we have not taken God’s “way of escape.” Therefore, we have chosen to sin, for we had the power to “not let sin reign,” for sin is no longer our master (Romans 6:12, 14). James 4:7 tells us if we resist the devil, he will flee from us! So, there is no excuse for not living in victory over sin.
How tragic it is then that many Christians are living by a misinterpretation of Romans 7, rather than living in the victory and power that Christ actually gives to His children, a life that the entire New Testament proclaims. The truth is Jesus Christ has set true believers free from the reign of sin, and He has empowered us to live in victory!
Now, again, we do struggle as Christians, but not “in bondage to sin.” We are simply in the maturing process, and we still disobey God at times. But in His love, He disciplines us, and continues to help us learn things about Him and things about our new life in Him. But we are not to see ourselves in a futile effort against sin, thinking that sin or Satan can always get the best of us at any given time. We have resources in the presence and power of Jesus Christ to conquer temptation and sin. In Christ, you have the ability and power to make right choices! Otherwise you are saying that the Lord, your Shepherd, cannot actually lead you in paths of righteousness, even as a saved, Christian believer. You would be saying that Christ does not have the power to conquer the law of sin and death in our lives, when Romans 8:2 says that He already has! The work that Christ does in the heart of the believer is actually wonderful! HE INDEED GIVES VICTORY!
Our hearts should be broken when we dishonor our Lord by the way we live. Surely we would not want to have a “don’t hold me accountable” excuse for our sin, when the power of the risen Christ has transformed the essence of our lives. Some would again ask, “Why do I then have so much trouble living right?” One reason is because we neglect our vital spiritual nourishment.
Matthew 4:4 reminds us that just as we need physical food to sustain a healthy physical life, we even more need the Word of God, our spiritual food, to keep us spiritually nourished and healthy. When we neglect our time and walk with God, it should not surprise us that we are weak in times of temptation. We would like to blame the “old self” for our weaknesses, but the truth is, as Romans 6:6 tells us, the old self is now a corpse (“was crucified”). We have been blessed beyond all measure to experience the resurrection power of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12), but when we neglect His indwelling presence, we fail to draw from the power available to us. There is more than enough power available in Christ to conquer any temptation and to accomplish the will of God.
Therefore, again, Romans 7:14-25 does not describe the believer’s struggle with sin. It describes the plight of a lost person (specifically like that of the Pharisees who knew the Law (7:1), and “wished” to do right in God’s eyes (7:18, 21). This person is trying to get to God through the works of the Law (church attendance, good deeds, personal effort, etc.) but is still in bondage to sin (7:14), crying out to be “set free” (7:24). Freedom is available through Jesus Christ! Romans chapters 6 and 8 make that overwhelmingly clear!

Trust Jesus Christ! He will set you free! THEN, LIVE IN THAT FREEDOM!


The following addendum will illustrate how other passages in the Bible can be used to defend the same truths. When in doubt about statements we as Christians make, always use scripture to specify and highlight the details of God’s Word that lead us to the truth!
Have you ever heard (or said yourself) any of the following statements:
1. “The Temptation was too strong for me to resist!”

2. “No one knows how hard it is for me! It’s different in my case!”

3. “The Devil made me do it!”

4. “The Devil kept me from doing the right thing!”

5. “What do you expect? I am only human!”
None of the above statements are valid for the true Christian!
1 Corinthians 10:13 - NASB

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”


This verse negates statements #1 and #2 above since all temptations are “common” and since you are never tempted “beyond what you are able.”
James 4:7 - NASB

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”


This verse negates statements #3 and #4 above. Christians do not have to submit to Satan. We have power in Christ to resist the devil, at which point he flees from us according to this passage.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - NASB

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”


This verse negates statement #5. You are human, and you are not perfect! But you are not “only” human. You are a new creature in Christ. You are not in bondage to a sinful way of life any more. You are now “in Christ,” who is able to give you victory.
Now, if a person is lost, yes, all 5 of the above statements very well apply.
But “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus” actually “walk in newness of life… in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5)!


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