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Rom 7:14–25

7:14–25 The sudden change to the present tense in vv. 15–25, by contrast with the statements describing the past in vv. 7–13, raises the question whether Paul is now describing his present experience. A variety of interpretations exists, including the following: (a) Paul is describing the unregenerate person or perhaps the Jew in particular from the standpoint of the gospel; (b) Paul is describing a Christian in an unnatural and unhealthy spiritual condition, one failing to draw on the indwelling Spirit’s resources; (c) Paul is describing the transitional experience, possibly his own, of one who has been awakened to his true spiritual need, but has not yet entered a full experience of justification by faith; (d) Paul is describing himself and Christians generally who, although in Christ and free from the condemnation of the law, do not yet perfectly fulfill the requirements of the law. The last view is the most probable interpretation. It accounts for Paul’s shift to the present tense while his theme in vv. 7–25 (God’s holy law stimulating and exposing sin) continues, and for the presence in Paul’s self-analysis here of elements found only in persons who have been united with the risen Christ to new life in the Spirit (6:4–11; 7:6; 8:4–9). Paul is aware that God’s law is “spiritual” (v. 14). He actually delights in God’s law, desiring to fulfill it perfectly (vv. 15–23), and he is distressed that sin in him opposes that desire. He is grateful at the prospect of future deliverance from this frustration (v. 24; 8:23). He distinguishes between his “mind,” which aims at obedience, and his “flesh,” which continues to sin (v. 25). All of these observations show that Paul is describing his experience as a new man in Christ.

Paul is actually describing a profound conflict that every Christian finds inherent in his life in Christ: Christ dwells in him (Gal. 2:20), yet sin also dwells in him (vv. 17, 20). Perfect conformity to God’s will is at present out of his reach. Salvation has “already” and “not yet” dimensions.

It is important to remember that Paul is still discussing the role of the law. He highlights the frustrations of the present Christian experience simply to show how, for Christians as for Jews, God’s good law provokes, exposes, and condemns sin without either being tainted by it or bringing deliverance from it.