WHO IS THE ROMANS 7 MAN? - part 3
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
This is the third and final post on the Romans 7 man...
Paul's gospel didn't focus on sin; instead, it focused on identity. It focused on who we are in Christ. But our westernized gospel that we preach is a sin conscious gospel, focusing on a distorted identity—teaching that all of humankind are sinners rather than sons. And because of an inherent sin nature, we are separated from God, who is too holy to look on sin. And therefore, unless we repent and ask for forgiveness, we are subject to His wrath and judgment. But this concept of separation from God is NOT what Paul taught, and it's not what Jesus revealed to us about the nature of our Father.
And without a correct understanding of God's nature, we will have a misunderstanding of what Paul preached.
This misunderstanding of Paul's message will cause us to ask questions like, "But what about the Romans 7 man? Didn't Paul continue to struggle with sin his entire life? Didn't he say, the good I want to do I don't and the good I don't want to do I do?" Early church fathers taught that Paul was describing a man under the law before Christ in chapter 7.
We've been taught to read Romans 7 as Paul describing his personal struggle with sin and, therefore, the struggle that all of us must face. We read those verses and think, "Hey, that's my story; that's my experience. I struggle with wanting to do good but always blowing it!" And then we rationalize that if the Apostle Paul had to struggle, it only makes sense that I will have to struggle too. But we aren't to interpret Scripture based on our experiences!
Paul was NOT a wretched man struggling in sin!
And NEITHER are you!
We were supposed to read Romans chapter 7 and realize Paul couldn't possibly be talking to us. Why? Because ALL humanity born after the cross (both Jew and Gentile) were NEVER under the law. But the problem is that a large portion of the body of Christ thinks they are still under the law. Oh, not 613 commandments like the Old Testament Jews were. Most believe we are under the 10 Commandments and the moral laws in the Mosaic law.
Paul calls the 10 Commandments a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:7).
But Jesus nailed ALL the law to the cross (10 Commandments included) and ended 1500 years of slavery to the law for the Jews! And we, born after the cross, however, were NEVER under law… not even the 10 Commandments.
In Romans 6, the Jews asked, “How will we stay sinless without the law?" Paul tells them the key is understanding their identity in Christ. What is their association with the law? IT IS FINISHED! And what is our association with the "moral part" of the law and the 10 Commandments? Paul's response was IT IS FINISHED! We don't need the "moral part" of the law or the 10 Commandments to regulate our behavior. The law is not our moral guidelines. We're not the future bride of Christ who is spot cleaning her wedding dress until He comes. We're bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh – ONE with Him NOW, in this life. We are absolutely 100% sin-free, spotless, and glorious NOW. So if the law isn't our moral compass, what is?
Like the Jews that Paul was talking to, sometimes we in the body of Christ don't know what it looks like not to have the law as our moral compass, keeping us free from sin. BUT we are not under law but under grace. And grace is our moral compass!
Titus 2:11-12 (ESV) says, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age."
There is no such thing as a grace-based law. It's one or the other: grace OR law. You can't have both. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said he lived his new life in Christ, here on earth, by the faith OF the Son of God… not by using the law as a moral compass.
Remember, there are no chapters and verses in the original letters. You have to read the letters in context.
Romans 7:13-25 (the present tense verses) all hinge on verses 5 and 6 in chapter 7! Romans 7:5 is describing the experience of life under the law for the Jews before the cross. Those bound to the Mosaic law. And Paul continues to describe this type of life in detail in verses 7 through 25. He used such things as present historical verb tense and the personal pronoun "I" to draw his readers into seeing the futility of this life under the law. And then Romans 7:6 describes life after the cross lived in the newness of spirit. He describes this new life in Romans 8:1-39. Romans 8 is not a separate "chapter.” It is a continuation, flowing out of what he is saying in "chapter" 7.
Romans 7 is not any different from anything else Paul taught in the New Testament. We've just misunderstood it. To understand what he taught, we're going to look at a lot of Scripture. That will help us see that Paul was consistent in his teaching regarding sin and our identity in Christ. And to read Romans 7 according to some of our Bible subheadings is to misunderstand Paul's teachings. These subheadings tell us that we have a dual nature and an internal conflict or a war with sin and flesh. But is that what Paul taught? Let's look at 3 Scriptures.
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." (1 Corinthians 1:23, KJV)
"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV)
"But I make my life neither near nor of any account to myself, so as to finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify FULLY the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24, Berean Literal Bible – emphasis mine)
Paul consistently preached the FINISHED work of Christ and freedom from sin. He NEVER teaches that we have a battle with sin and live a defeated life warring between the flesh and the spirit. There is no battle between flesh and spirit! But what about Galatians 5:17, where Paul says the flesh is in contrast to the spirit and they are at war? He is talking about the law (flesh) and grace (spirit). Again, don't forget, he is NOT talking to us! He's talking to these Galatians who have been bewitched into the bondage of the law! They started in the spirit. And now they are trying to be made perfect in the flesh, or by the law (Gal. 3:3). In other words, they had fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4 – them NOT us).
We have misunderstood Scripture because of our false assumption that we have a battle between the flesh and the spirit.
But Paul never preached that. He only taught the FINISHED work of Jesus and freedom from sin and death. In fact, in Romans 6:11, he told these same Jews that he is talking to in chapter 7, “Reckon yourselves dead to (the) sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." But a misinterpretation of Romans 7:13-25 leaves us thinking we still have an inward battle with sin, just like Paul did. And that is, of course, wrong! It's a false doctrine.
So, what did Paul teach about sin?
In Romans 6:2 (NLT), he says, "Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?"
And in Romans 6:6 (NKJV), he says, "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
And in verse 14 of the same chapter, he tells us that sin shall NOT have dominion over us because we are under grace, NOT law.
And he didn't stop there! You can look at Romans 6:17-18, Romans 6:22, Romans 8:2, 1 Corinthians 15:56, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and Hebrews 9:26 and see that he repeats himself regarding being free from sin. And in 1 Corinthians 15:34, he said, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not." That has been misinterpreted and taught as "don't sin!" We've made it a verse about our behavior! But the Greek says awake to righteousness, NOT sin. In other words, have a righteousness consciousness, not a sin consciousness. Paul didn't preach about behavior per se; he taught about consciousness! About awakening to who we are in Christ and that we have NO association with SIN and death any longer! I love an acronym I read once for SIN.... See It Nailed!
Any time Paul preached about behavior, it is always AFTER having established to them who they now are IN Christ.
Notice most of these verses above are in Romans BEFORE chapter seven, where he says he is a wretched man enslaved to sin! Was he confused? Is he contradicting EVERYTHING he said in chapters five and six? I don't believe so! I think we've been taught the wrong information.
But what about you? What do you think?
You have to know that you know that you know what Paul taught about sin and identity. And you have to understand Romans 7 in the context of chapters five and six. I don't want to present a great argument and win for the sake of winning! I don't want to convert you to believe what I believe! I want you fully persuaded by truth! We have lived too long under the wrong teaching of Romans 7, and it has affected our experiences in this life. Because we've thought we had to struggle with sin and the flesh "like Paul did!!"
We've been stuck there and unable to move forward in ALL that Paul teaches about our identity… about our wholeness in every area of life!
Unable to move forward in our freedom from sin and death and its consequences (dying, sickness, disease, poverty, lack, fear, etc.)
IT IS FINISHED!!