17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do – Romans 7:17-19 (KJV)
The book of Romans does confuse a lot of people because they don’t understand the waving in and out that Paul does. In the book of Romans, Paul displays by the Spirit his exceptional poetic qualities that confuse many, as results of Bible translators who misunderstood his writings and translated it wrongly (I’ll talk about some of them later).
Paul was an Apostle, Teacher, and Prophet; and when Prophets speak they join the past, present and future together and mix them up. Sometimes they start from the future to the past; and if you’re not acquainted with prophetic language and revelation, you’ll get confused! That’s what troubles some people with the book of Romans. But don’t worry Peter himself had problems in understanding some of Paul’s writings, “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 2:15)
Paul’s writing in Romans 7 is one of those. What is Paul trying to say in Romans 7 that makes it so confusing? If you read the whole chapter, it’s as though Paul is struggling from sin in his flesh. Our theme verses, for example, say, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but IN THAT DWELLETH IN ME. For I know that IN ME (that is, in my flesh,) DWELLETH NO GOOD THING: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
But wait, isn’t this the same Paul who tells people to walk in the Spirit, so that they won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh? (Galatians 5:16-17). Isn’t he hypocritical for telling people to do the things he himself doesn’t do and struggle with?
I don’t think that Paul is hypocritical because he also said, “But I KEEP UNDER MY BODY, and BRING IT INTO SUBJECTION: lest that by any means, when I HAVE PREACHED TO OTHERS, I MYSELF SHOULD BE CASTAWAY.” (1Corinthians 9:27)
So why did Paul say what he said in Romans 7:17-19? Is he contradicting himself or just being hypocritical? Because clearly, he sounds confused and his message is contradictory! I’ve study the Bible long and well enough to say that I’m yet to find a contradiction in it.
Paul didn’t contradict himself nor was he being hypocritical at all. To understand what he meant in Romans 7:17-19; we have to understand the context of, (1) whom is he talking to, and (2) what is the subject?
So, let’s analyze the entire Romans 7 to understand Paul because pick and choosing certain verses out of their context will do us no good.
Romans 7:1, the opening sentence of this entire chapter 7, says, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)…”
Notice the underlined words in parentheses! Paul here let us know who his audience is! It says, “…for I (Paul) speak to them that know the law…” So who are these who know the Law? The Jews! And what is the subject? The Law! (Not the Gospel). These are/were those who know/knew and are/were under the law. They converted to Christianity but still wanted to obey the law; which has already been abolished by the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:15).
Something worth noticing in chapter 6:14; before Paul even touches on the subject of the Law, he made it clear beforehand that, “…sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
So why does Paul care about the Law then? Why didn’t he just preach the Gospel to them?
That’s because it’s one of his strategies to get his audience’s attention. He likes to identify himself with them as though he is one of them. In 1 Corinthians 12:19-23, he said, “For THOUGH I BE FREE from all men, YET have I made myself servant unto all, that I MIGHT GAIN the more. And unto the Jews I became AS A JEW, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, AS UNDER THE LAW, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, AS WITHOUT THE LAW, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I AS WEAK, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I MIGHT BY ALL MEANS SAVE SOME. 23 And THIS I DO for the GOSPEL’S SAKE, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
How is this connected to Romans 7, you may want to ask. Because in Romans 7, Paul did exactly what he said he would do to gain those (Jews) who are yet to fully get matured in the things of the Gospel. These Jews didn’t accept the Gospel the way it is. They thought it’s too simple; so they say, we still have to obey the law.
So what we see in Romans 7 is Paul communicating with the Jews with what he himself experienced when he was under the law. He shared to them his past experiences, which these Jews experienced too since they couldn’t obey the Law the way they should have. In other words, v. 17-19 is how Paul struggled with the law. How do I know? Because prior to this, in verse 14, he said, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I AM CARNAL, sold under sin.”
Again, if this is Paul’s experience as a new creation in Christ, then, he, not only contradicts himself but also is hypocritical and we shouldn’t be listening to him. Why do I say that? Because the very Paul, in chapter 8 of the very book of Romans says this, “Because THE CARNAL MIND IS ENMITY AGAINST GOD: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)
Now, if what he said in chapter 7:14 is his experience as a born again Christian; then he is something that he himself said ‘enmity against God’ – being carnal. So why should anyone listen to him at all? Because he certainly has no clue of the things he’s trying to tell us.
But thank be to God. Paul wasn’t hypocrite nor confused because in chapter 7, he wasn’t talking about his experience as a new creation in Christ but his experience under the Law. It’s his strategy of relating with the Jews who still wanted to obey the law using his past experience when under the law. He struggled obeying the law. He tried so hard to please God in obeying the law but failed. This is why, with a sense of relief, before expounding the Gospel to them in chapter 8, he said, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Romans 7:25). And in chapter 8:2, he said, “…the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus HATH MADE ME FREE from the law of sin and death.” In other words, the Law (of mind, sin and death in Chapter 7), that I struggled with, doesn’t exist anymore because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made it possible for me live sin-free.
Paul, in Romans 7, dealt with those Jews who still thought they should obey the Law. He’s showing them what the Law is doing to them because he once was just like them; not that he still experiences the nature of sin in his body as a born again child of God.
Romans 7:23 connects this whole thing together. It says, “But I see ANOTHER LAW IN MY MEMBERS, warring against THE LAW OF MY MIND, and bringing me into captivity to THE LAW OF SIN which is IN MY MEMBERS.”
Notice, “another law in my members”, “law of my mind” and “law of sin which is in my members”! These are not the same laws! “Another law” here is the introduction of a law/principle different from the one that is already in his members (as under the Law of Moses) – a new principle that he has in his members (as a new creation in Christ). He is talking about the law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has rendered the law of sin in his body obsolete. “The law of my mind” is the Law of Moses; same as the law of sin. Romans 7:25 says, “…So then WITH THE MIND I myself serve the law of God (Law of Moses); but WITH THE FLESH the law of sin”. So the Law of mind and sin are the same Law (of Moses – Read Matthew 5:28). Then in chapter 8:2, he said the “another law” (the law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus); has freed him from the law of sin and death (Law of Moses).
Paul concluded the argument between these two laws when he said in Romans 8:3-4, “For what the law (of Moses) COULD NOT DO, in that IT WAS WEAK THROUGH THE FLESH, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled IN US, who WALK NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT.”
Praise God! He further said this in Romans 10:1-4, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God FOR ISRAEL is that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them (the Jews) record that they have zeal of God, but NOT ACCORDING TO THE KNOWLEDGE. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and GOING ABOUT TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For CHRIST IS THE END OF THE LAW for righteousness to everyone that believeth”. In other words, he is saying, they can’t be righteous for obeying the Law because they can’t obey the whole laws (613 of them). And James said, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). So, contextually, he’s been speaking to the Jews.
As born again Christians, we function by the ‘another law’ (the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus), different from the one of Moses; therefore, we should no longer struggle with sin because we are born of the righteous God (Romans 6:14).
1 John 3:9 says, “WHOSOEVER is born of God doth not commit sin; FOR his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, BECAUSE he is born of God.”
Whosoever!? This means carnal or spiritual child of God. Yes, it includes the babes (spiritual babes) in Christ; those who still commit sins in their bodies. After all, it’s them whom John addressed here. Verse 7 says, “Little children, let no man deceive you…” (1 John 3:7)
Ephesians 5:29-30 says, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, EVEN as the Lord the Church (His body): for WE (the Church, His body) are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones”
So, the war of sin in our body is over because the Lord Himself is the one who nourishes and cherishes our body, this is why John said what he said in 1 John 3:9. Galatians 5:24 says, “And THEY THAT ARE CHRIST’S (Christians) HAVE CRUCIFIED THE FLESH WITH THE AFFECTIONS AND LUSTS.” Christians who sin in their flesh are those who haven’t known or acquainted with the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them yet but the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9). This is why Paul instructs them to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).
Now, we can see and understand why Paul said what he said in Romans 7:17-20. He wasn’t referring to the man in Christ, but the man under the Law of Moses who struggled from obeying the law. Though he wanted to obey the law; his body wars against his will because the man under the law was not born again; hence sinful nature still had power over him. This is the reason for the New Testament. If men could obey the law, there wouldn’t be any reason for Jesus to fulfill the law for us (Matthew 5:17-18) and offer Himself as our sacrificial offering to save us (Hebrews 9:22-27).
Mistakes in Translations
I do understand that there are some translations that are really confusing because they didn’t translate what Paul meant the way they suppose to. If you read the final verse of Romans 7 (verse 25) from any of those translations; you’d notice that it completely contradicts and debunks everything they try to say previously.
Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say from The Living Bible:
Romans 7:14 (TLB) – The law is good, and the trouble is not there but with me because I AM SOLD INTO SLAVERY WITH SIN AS MY OWNER.
─ This verse calls sin as owner of his body which is a massive blunder because a born again person belongs to God, not sin (the devil). 1Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Know ye not that YOUR BODY is the temple of the Holy Ghost WHICH IS IN YOU, which ye have of God, and YE ARE NOT YOUR OWN? For YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE: therefore glorify God IN YOUR BODY, and in your spirit, WHICH ARE GOD’S”. That’s proof positive that Paul didn’t refer to the new man in Christ, but the man under the law – the Jews – as seen in parentheses in verse 1 of the same Romans 7.
Romans 7:15 (TLB) – I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to-what I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. 17 But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is strong than I am that makes me do these evil things. 18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as MY OLD SINFUL NATURE is concerned.
─ The King James Version calls, “old sinful nature” as “flesh”. The Living Bible is wrong because the flesh is not the old sinful nature (I’ll explain below). Nature is from the spirit, not the flesh. God didn’t save our flesh; but our spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ, he IS a new creature; old things ARE passed away; behold, ALL things ARE become new”.
How is “ALL things ARE become new” when our body still look the same? That’s proof that nature is not in the flesh!
Romans 7:19 (TLB) – When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.
─ This mistake in translation is what makes some Christians believe that Paul was struggling with sin comparing it to what they’re going through to justify their sinful acts (But I already showed in the article that Paul wasn’t struggling from sin at all, as new man in Christ but as the man under the law).
Romans 7:20 (TLB) – It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong…22 I love to do God’s will so far as MY NEW NATURE is concerned;
The King James Version calls, “my new nature” as “my inward man”. Again The Living Bible is wrong because the original manuscript never mentioned anything about “NEW”; but at least they understood that nature is from the inward man (spirit). They inserted “new” in there to try to make sense of their misunderstanding of what Paul is talking about.
Romans 7:23 (TBL) – but there is something else deep within me, in MY LOWER NATURE, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: MY NEW LIFE tells me to do right, but THE OLD NATURE that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly LOWER NATURE?
“Lower nature”, “My new life” and “the old nature”? This is where many believe in the “two natures” doctrine in Christianity because of the translators’ confusions and misunderstandings. You’ll see it now vividly clear that they are confused and wrongly translated this passage.
Romans 7:25 (TLB) – Thank God! It HAS BEEN DONE BY JESUS CHRIST our Lord. HE HAS SET ME FREE.
─ This verse debunks all of the notion and misinterpretation of the previous passages by The Living Bible and others to think that Paul had problems with his flesh (as a new man in Christ) because he clearly declared that, “He has been”; not “will be set free” from all those problems!
Please try to get to understand the original manuscript because this sort of mistranslation of the Bible will confuse you dearly in your Christian life. As a Christian, you only have one nature – the nature of righteousness. Your sin nature had been supplanted by your new nature in Christ (Romans 6:14). You have to grasp and accept this truth!
What we see here is, the scripture comparing the inward man (spirit and soul) and the outward man (body and its senses) and these are not two natures. When he talks about “sinful nature”; he’s talking about the death of man’s spirit (separation from God); meaning people who are spiritually dead (unsaved) can only function by their physical senses (even though they have spirits); where they can only relate with sin. In other words, their physical senses had become their nature, not that it is in itself “a nature” but their true nature (spiritual) is dead. As Christians, we are passed from death to life (John 5:24). And Romans 8:6 (still in context with our topic) says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”.
Colossians 1:13 says, “[God] Who HATH DELIEVERD US from the power of darkness, and HATH TRANSLATED US into the kingdom of his dear Son”. This is not a promise! If that’s true, and it is true, where is the sin nature? Ask yourself, do sin exist in the Kingdom of God? Your body is the temple of God, are you telling me that God lives side by side with sin in your body? That’s impossible! (Habakkuk 1:13). It’s either you’re saved or you’re still in your sins (unsaved).