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Romans 7: Held Captive by Sin Before or After Salvation?

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

INTRODUCTION In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul describes a time when he was dominated by sin (Rom 7:15-23). Many believe he was describing the time before he was saved. Others believe he was describing the experience that all Christians should expect until they die. The first group tends to think that after Salvation, Christians cannot be dominated by sin in such fashion. The second group tends to believe that Christians will be dominated by sin until we get to Heaven. Neither is correct.


What the Apostle Paul is describing in Romans 7 is the experience of a Christian living as though he is under law, which Paul called "living after the flesh." (Gal 3:2-3, Rom 8:13). Most likely, based on his repeated use of the word "I" in the present tense, he described his own post-Salvation experience living under law. It's also possible that he was merely putting himself in the place of a struggling believer. I strongly believe it's the former because a study of Paul's life will reveal that it was years after his conversion that God revealed the message of the cross to him (which is what enables us to walk in the Spirit and be free from the dominion of sin). Either way, though, the point is that any Christian who lives after the flesh can expect to be dominated by sin.


The simple point being made in Romans 6-8 is that if you live under grace, sin will not have dominion over you (Rom 6:14), but if you live as though you're under law, sin will have dominion over you (Rom 7:9). Living under grace does not mean that you will become perfect, but it does mean that having been made free from the dominion of the sin nature, you can lay aside sinful habits and attitudes and be progressively conformed into the image of Christ.


In this article, I will prove that Paul’s struggle with sin in Romans 7 does not refer to the time before he was saved. I will also prove that it’s not the normal experience a born-again Christian should expect. Rather, it is the result of a Christian having once been set free from sin by grace, attempting to maintain freedom by law.


ROMANS 7 IS POST-SALVATION


ALIVE, DEAD, ALIVE AGAIN


“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Romans 7:9



The word “revived” in Romans 7 is one of the keys to understanding the time period of Paul’s struggle with sin. According to Strong’s Dictionary, the original Greek word translated in the KJV as “revived” is anazao, meaning “to live again, recover life.”


Before I discuss the implications of the use of the word “revived,” as it is used in Romans 7:9, I will first prove that “revived” is, in fact, the correct translation of the word anazao. Most other translations translate anazao as “sprang to life” or some similar variation. As you can see, however, “sprang to life” and “revived” don’t mean the same thing. “Sprang to life” refers to something that is dead and then comes to life. “Revived” refers to something that was once alive, then dead, then alive again. Notice how the same Greek word is translated in every other instance in which it is used in the Bible:


"For this my son was dead, and is alive again (anazao); he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:24)


“It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again (anazao); and was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32)


“For to this end, Christ both died, and rose, and revived (anazao), that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Romans 14:9) (Christ was alive, then dead, then alive again)


“But the rest of the dead lived not again (anazao) until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5)


As you can see, in every instance, the word anazao is used to refer to something that was alive, then died, then came to life again. Notice specifically how it is used in Romans 14:9 to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. Also notice how, in every other instance, it refers not to springing to life initially, but to being alive again.


In the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible (two popular word-for-word translations), anazao, in Romans 14:9, is translated as lived again. I wonder why those translators incorporated that idea into Romans 14:9 but not Romans 7:9? My guess is the idea of sin reviving did not fit the translators’ theology. They probably had a preconceived idea about Romans 7 that wouldn’t have made sense if they were to translate anazao as “revived”, “came alive again”, or something else that retained the idea of the sin being alive, then dead, then alive again.


Whether this was intentional or not, it’s easy to see from studying how the word anazao is used in other places in the Bible that it is correctly translated “revived,” just as it is translated in the King James Version and Young’s Literal Translation. Also, a basic Google search will reveal that zao means “to live” or “life” and ana is a prefix that means “again.” Thus, anazao literally means “to live again.”


So what does this mean for the question of when Paul’s Romans 7 struggle took place? To answer that, we first need to define another word. We need to understand how the word “sin” is used in Romans 7:9. What exactly is it that’s coming to life again? The original Greek word that is translated “sin” in Romans 7:9 is hamartia, which is a noun. The verb form of “sin” is hamartano. So whatever is reviving in Romans 7:9 is a person, place, or thing (i.e. a noun).


When used as a noun, there are a couple different ways the word “sin” could be used. First, “sin” could refer to a single instance of violating God’s law. In this case, it would be preceded by the word “a” (“Lying is a sin.”). It could also be used as a plural noun, meaning it refers to several violations of God’s law. In this case, it would have to be written in its plural form: “sins.” It could also refer to one particular sin, in which case it would be preceded by the word “the.”


Notice how Young’s Literal Translation translates this verse:


“And I was alive apart from law once, and the command having come, the sin revived, and I died;” Romans 7:9 YLT


Notice that the word “the” is placed before the word “sin.” This is how it appears in the Greek as well. In fact, of the 38 times the word “sin” is used in the Book of Romans, the definite article ("the") is placed in front of it 27 times (according to Young’s Literal Translation). So in the sense in which it is used in Romans 7:9, “sin” refers to one specific sin. But what specific sin does it refer to?


“[E]ven as through one man the sin did enter into the world, and through the sin the death; and thus to all men the death did pass through, for that all did sin;” Romans 5:12 YLT


“The sin” (i.e. the one specific sin) entered the world through Adam. “The sin” that is referred to in Romans 7:9 and throughout the Book of Romans is original sin. When Adam sinned in the garden, his sin was imputed to all who would be born after his likeness. That one sin produced death (separation from God) in everyone who has ever been born. Being separated from the True Vine (who is Jesus Christ - John 15:1), human beings begin their lives separated from the source of all true love, joy, peace, and most importantly, from the source of holiness. Jesus said without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). That means that without Christ, the human race cannot produce even one thought, motive, or action that pleases God. Without Christ, we are altogether unrighteous. Though we may appear good by our own unbiblical standards, the Bible says there is "none that doeth good, no, not one." (Rom 3:10-12). Such truth is offensive to the pride and self-righteousness of man. The idea that we are so offensive in the sight of God that we deserve to suffer the cruel death Jesus suffered for us is quite humbling.


In Noah’s generation, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). The fact of the matter is, that describes every thought any son or daughter of Adam has ever had apart from Christ. Apart from Christ producing holiness in us, every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually. If you do not believe that, you are in pride, and God is resisting you. He gives grace only to the humble, but resists the proud (James 4:6). Read John 15:5 again. Jesus said we can do NOTHING without Him. If you think you can have even one righteous motive without Christ, you are denying the Word of God, and you need to repent of your self-righteousness and humble yourself at the cross. At the cross, God poured out His wrath on His Son because of YOUR unrighteousness.


What is my point in all this? That Adam’s sin, being passed to us through the flesh, has given us a nature that is hell-bent on disobeying God and pleasing only self. Jesus said “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6). Adam is our father after the flesh. There is not one person in all of creation who cannot trace their lineage back to him. Thus, “flesh” is the term used to describe everything that has ever proceeded from Adam and his sin against God. Adam was made of flesh, and we were all born of him. Thus, we are all born of the flesh, and therefore we are flesh. Now listen to what the Apostle Paul teaches about the flesh in Romans 7:


“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.” Romans 7:18


Because it has been corrupted by sin, the flesh cannot produce even one good thing. All the willpower in the world cannot force the flesh to live for God. It must rebel. It’s very nature, ruled and dominated by sin, is contrary to God and His Word. But what exactly is the flesh? Is it just our physical bodies? That’s what many teach, but that’s an overly simplistic answer. Remember, Jesus said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6). Before we became born again of the Spirit, flesh is what we were. We were born of Adam, the flesh man, and we were flesh. The flesh, therefore, is all that we were before being born again and all that we remain apart from the Spirit of Christ in us. In our flesh dwells no good thing. All good things proceed only from the Spirit of Christ in us.


I could go much more in depth about the flesh, but I said all that to make this point: the subject of Romans 6-7 is not acts of sin, nor is it sin as a description of an act of sin (i.e. “That’s a sin”). The subject is the sin nature, which is that force in our members that reigns like a king on the throne of our hearts and bends our flesh toward rebellion against God. Adam’s sin is “the sin” that has corrupted the nature of all mankind. It rules over us and forces us to practice evil. If all that isn’t enough for you, notice how the word sin is repeatedly personified in Romans 6 & 7:


Sin once reigned over me:


“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21


Sin is still trying to reign over me, giving me commands to obey:


“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Romans 6:12


Sin has dominion over me under law:


“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14


I was once a servant of sin, but now I am free from sin:


“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but as ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18


“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” Romans 6:20


As a cruel master, sin pays me only with death:


“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23


Sin produces in me all manner of evil desire:


“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.” Romans 7:8


Also notice that, as it is used here, sin is what is producing the evil desire. That’s what the sin nature is: the source of acts of sin.


Sin can die and come back to life:


“For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Romans 7:8b-7:9


Sin deceives me and uses the law to slay me:


“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” Romans 7:11


Sin is what dwells in me that causes me to do the evil I don’t want to do:


“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:19-20


So, sin can reign, have dominion, enslave, pay wages, produce evil desire, die and come back to life, deceive, and cause me to do evil. Those are all things that could not apply to an act of sin. Those things apply to the principle of sin in my members known as the sin nature.


The sin nature is the subject every time the word “sin” is used from Romans 5:21 to Romans 7:23, except in verse 6:15 and possibly 7:7b. If you’ve never learned this, I encourage you to re-read those to chapters right now, with this knowledge in mind. Every time the word sin is used in those verses, you could substitute “sin nature” with no change in meaning.


So, the subject of Romans 7:9 is the sin nature.


Breaking down the meaning of the word “revived” and the word “sin,” as they are used in Romans 7:9, we’ve learned that the sin nature can be alive, then die, then come back to life again. So when do these things happen? Let’s look at Romans 7:8-9 again and break it down.


“But sin (the sin nature), taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law, sin (the sin nature) was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin (the sin nature) revived, and I died.” Romans 7:8-9 (parentheses added)


When are we alive without the law and the sin nature dead? Those who claim Romans 7 is referring to Paul’s pre-salvation experience (primarily those in the false word of faith/grace revolution movement) claim this was when we were children, prior to reaching the age of accountability, not knowing the difference from right and wrong (i.e. the law). They say this is how we start out, and then when the law comes (we learn the difference between right and wrong), it activates our sin nature, and we then become dead in trespasses and sins. The problem with this view is that it doesn’t account for the word “revived.”


According to this view, the sin nature starts out dead, then comes alive, then dies at Salvation. Where in that sequence does the sin nature revive? These false teachers claim that the sin nature is eradicated at Salvation and therefore, cannot revive. Problem is, the Bible, in Romans 7:9, specifically says the sin nature can revive. The word “revived” would have to be taken out or altered for their view to be biblical.


This is a little confusing, so let me say it again. The simple fact that the sin nature can come back to life is proof that the sin nature is not eradicated at Salvation. It simply dies (in a sense in which I will discuss later), but retains the potential to revive.


The difference between “vive” (to live) and “revive” (to live again) is very significant. If you take out or change the word revive, you can make a good case that Romans 7 is pre-salvation. If you stay true to the meaning of the word, however, you’re left with Romans 7 describing a post-salvation revival of the sin nature. Sin can’t revive prior to Salvation, because nothing happens prior to Salvation that causes it to be dead in the first place.


To understand what is actually being said in Romans 7:9, you have to go back to Romans 6. In Romans 6:14, the Bible says this:


“For sin (the sin nature) shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 (parentheses added)


There are only two places a person can be: under law or under grace. Under grace, the sin nature has no dominion. Under law, the sin nature takes occasion by the commandment and produces in me all manner of concupiscence (evil desire) (Romans 7:8, 1 Corinthians 15:56). Thus, under law, sin has dominion over me.


So, prior to Salvation, we are under the law (Gal 3:23), we’re controlled by the sin nature, and we’re dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). When we get saved, we become dead to the law by the body of Christ (our being crucified with Him - Gal 2:19-20, Rom 7:4) and as such, we are no longer under the law (Romans 7:6, Galatians 3:24-25). Having been delivered from the law (Rom 7:6), we are now under grace. Under grace, sin has no dominion, and we serve in newness of life (Rom 6:4, 7:6). Romans 6:11 says we are now “alive unto God.”


So let’s recap:


Under law, the sin nature has dominion (is alive), and I am dead in trespasses and sins.


Under grace, the sin nature has no dominion (is dead), and I am alive unto God.


If you don’t believe or don’t see it, PLEASE, look up the verses I used in the previous paragraph, slow down, and think about it.


Now that we understand the relationship between the law, whether the sin nature has dominion (is alive), and whether we’re alive unto God or not, we can easily understand the meaning of Romans 7:8-9:


“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law (when I was under grace) sin was dead (had no dominion, because I was under grace - Rom 6:14). For I was alive without the law once (I was once under grace, and thus alive unto God - Rom 6:11,14): but when the commandment came (when I put myself back under law), sin revived (the sin nature, which was alive before I was saved, but died when I was delivered from the law and placed under grace, came back to life, meaning it regained the dominion it once had lost), and I died (became dead to God in terms of receiving His help in my daily walk - Gal 5:4).” Romans 7:8-9


At this point, you might be thinking, “A Christian can’t fall from grace, go back under law, and become dead to God.” That is absolutely untrue. Please pay attention to the following verse:


“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4 (parentheses added)


The Book of Galatians was not written to people who were never saved. It was written to people to whom Paul said, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” (Galatians 1:6). Notice, you can’t fall from grace or be removed from Him that called us into grace (the Holy Spirit) unless you were once under grace in the first place.


In Galatians 3:1, Paul tells the Galatians they’ve been bewitched. They had once believed the true Gospel of Grace through faith in Christ and the Cross, but Judaizers had come in behind Paul and convinced them that the cross wasn’t enough. They were led to believe they also needed to keep the law to be saved. They moved their faith from the cross alone to the cross plus circumcision, and Paul told them that such misplaced faith removed them from grace and made Christ of none effect unto them (Gal 5:4). Why? Because “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Gal 5:9). In context, the cross is the lump and the law is the leaven. If your faith isn’t fixed on the cross alone, and instead you mix in the works of the law, the cross is of none effect unto you.


Notice how Galatians 5:4 tracks right along with Romans 7:9. Romans 7:9 says that when I go back under law, I die. Galatians 5:4 says that when I go back under law, Christ is of none effect unto me. Remember that Jesus said, “I am the Life.” (John 14:6). When Christ (Life) is having an effect on us, we’re alive unto God. When Christ (Life) is become of no effect unto us, we are dead to God. In other words, when Life is become of no effect unto us, we are effectively dead.


Also notice, it’s Life that makes us free from the dominion of sin:


“For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of Sin and Death.” Romans 8:2


“But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (give Life to) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:11


“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body (according to Romans 8:10, the Spirit is Life, so it’s Life imparted to my mortal body that mortifies its evil deeds; this is what Romans 8:11 means when it says the Spirit will quicken our mortal bodies), ye shall live.” Romans 8:13


So again, it’s Life that make us free from the dominion of the sin nature. Thus, without Life (the Life of Christ in me becoming of no effect unto me), sin revives. As such, Romans 7:9 and Galatians 5:4 are describing the exact same thing, which is further evidence that Romans 7:9 is a frustration of grace, after being saved, and not a pre-salvation encounter with the law.


So going back to the original point: in Romans 7, Paul says this, “For the good that I would I do not (I don’t do the good things I want to do): but the evil which I would not, that I do (instead, I do the evil things I don’t want to do).” Romans 7:19 (parentheses mine)


Paul is describing someone (probably himself) being dominated by sin (i.e. living under the dominion/rule of the sin nature). For the moment, let’s set aside the question of whether Paul was describing himself. He could have also been describing a hypothetical person being dominated by sin. What’s important for this discussion, is that this person being dominated by sin was being dominated by sin because having been alive apart from the law once, they had put their faith back in the law, fallen from grace, and suffered a revival of the dominion of the sin nature. The sin nature, which was once alive, then dead at Salvation, had come back to life, meaning it had regained the dominion it had lost when the person was under living under grace.


Why is all of this important? Because the prevailing views of how Romans 7 is to be interpreted are wrong, and they lead you away from the purpose for which Paul wrote the chapter. The chapter is meant to be a warning against the dangers of living by the letter, rather than the Spirit, after a person has been saved by grace and thus begun in the Spirit.


Those who teach that this was all pre-salvation claim the sin nature has been eradicated and has no potential of reviving. Sin no longer being the problem according to them, the cross is no longer the solution, and they lead you into other solutions to other supposed problems. When you move on to something other than the cross, instead of taking it up daily (Luke 9:23), you are fallen from grace, Christ is become of no effect unto you, and the sin nature revives and begins to rule your life again! I know because I believed this heresy, and I lived 11 years as a Christian with no idea of how to live free from the sin nature, simply because I believed I no longer had one.


Those who preach that Romans 7 is pre-salvation are preaching a cross that only needs to be taken up once. After that, you move on to their false definition of the renewal of the mind and confessing the Word over and over. The biblical way to live under grace, and thus live free from the dominion of sin, is to take up the cross DAILY, meaning our faith in the cross alone is renewed daily and we do not move our faith to a routine or a formula of saying the right words.


Galatians 5:1 says we are to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again the yoke of bondage. That means we are to stand fast in the grace of God (which we do by faith in the cross alone) and not live as though we're under the law. Grace makes us free (Rom 6:14). The law keeps us bound (Romans 7:9). The cross (being crucified with Christ and thus made free from sin - Gal 2:20, Romans 6:7), is the liberty that makes us free. If we don’t take it up daily, we cannot live in the freedom it provides.


WITH THE MIND I SERVE THE LAW OF GOD


There is another rock solid proof that Romans 7 describes a born again Christian. Notice what Paul keeps saying about his mind:


“for to will is present with me” Romans 7:18


“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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.” Romans 7:22-23


with the mind I myself serve the law of God;” Romans 7:25


Paul says that though the law of sin his members is causes him to do evil, in his mind, or his inward man, he delights in and serves the law of God. This is a direct result of his having received the promise of the New Covenant: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jeremiah 31:33


“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Hebrews 8:10


“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:16-17


“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16 (notice how this tracks right along with Rom 7:25)


“That ye put off the old man (also known as the outward man), which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man (also known as the inward man), which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (parentheses mine)


So, in Romans 7, Paul is describing a time when God’s law had been written onto his mind, but he hadn’t figured out how to walk in the Spirit, which he describes in Romans 8 as the solution for mortifying the deeds of the body (Rom 8:2, 11, 13, Gal 5:16). The fact that he hated evil and served God with His mind is proof that he no longer had an un-regenerated, carnal mind.


“For the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7).


Paul said his mind was subject to the law of God and that he delighted in the law of God after the inward man. That means God's laws had put in his inwards parts (Jer 31:33), meaning his heart and mind (Jer 31:33, Heb 8:10, 10:16). That also means he didn’t have a carnal mind that could not be subject to the law of God (Rom 8:7), which is all proof that the Romans 7 man (whether it's Paul or Paul putting himself into the shoes of a struggling believer) is a born again man being held captive by sin even after being born again. I address this more in other writings, but I want to be very clear in saying that a believer in Christ, so long as he believes in Christ, can never actually be under law or actually be under the dominion of the sin nature. If that were to happen, that believer would once again become dead in trespasses and sins and Christ would have to go to the cross again so they could be born again a second time. When a born again Christian lives as though he is under the law (2:20-21), however, meaning he lives by the oldness of the letter and not the newness of the Spirit (Gal 3:2-3, Rom 7:6), he will live as though he is under the dominion of the sin nature (Rom 7:9), simply because, to experience the freedom we have, we must walk by faith in the finished work of the cross (Rom 6:11), which is our death to sin (Rom 6:2,6-11) and death to the law (Rom 7:4, Gal 2:19-20).


ROMANS 7 IS NOT TO BE THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE


WHO SHALL DELIVER ME?


On the other side of the coin, of those who understand that Romans 7 is describing a post-salvation experience of Paul, many like to use it as an excuse to live in sin. Their rationale is that if Paul couldn’t even keep from being dominated by sin, no one can keep from being dominated by sin. These people understand that no one will ever reach sinless perfection, and they use Romans 7 as an example of that fact. What they fail to see is that Romans 7 isn’t about laying aside the sin which doth so easily beset us (Heb 12:1), putting off concerning the former conversation the old man (Eph 4:22), and pressing towards the mark but never fully reaching it in this life (Phi 3:12-14), which is what the normal Christian experience is really about. Romans 7 is about being continually dominated by sin and never making progress a because Christ has become of no effect unto the person who lives under law. The person living under law is being ruled by sin.


In Romans 6:14, Paul says that under grace, sin will have not dominion over you. You can’t really believe that Romans 7:15-23 is describing sin having no dominion. It’s exactly the opposite. Sin is having dominion. "I can’t do the good things I want to do," it says. "Instead, I do the evil things I don’t want to do. I'm being held captive by this law of sin in my members." Read it again. That’s not grace and that’s not sin having no dominion. That’s sin reigning because I am not living under grace. Under grace, there is power to be free. Under grace, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus makes me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Under grace, Christ, who is Life, quickens my mortal body with His Spirit and mortifies its evil deeds (Romans 8:11, 13).


Those who use Romans 7 as an excuse to live in sin overlook or ignore how Paul began his discussion of grace and the sin nature.


“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin (continue being habitually controlled by the sin nature), that grace may abound? God forbid.” Romans 6;1-2a (parentheses mine)


They also fail to understand the end of Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 8, which promise a way of victory over this condition of being dominated by sin.


After describing his struggle, Paul says this:


“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25a


I used to get so frustrated with this passage because I knew this was the answer to my own failure to live free from sin, but I had no idea what “through Jesus Christ our Lord” really meant. It is so vague that, on its own, it could mean a lot of different things. What I’ve learned is that we are to study the Bible line upon line and precept upon precept. If the Bible leaves multiple possibilities for interpretation of a particular passage, it will answer the question as to the correct interpretation in another passage. Here, Paul is vague because he’s already described, in the previous chapter, how it is that we are delivered from the dominion of the sin nature.


When he said “through Jesus Christ our Lord” in Romans 7:25, he was referring back to what he said in Romans 6:11:


“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:11


Romans 6:11 says the same thing as Romans 7:25: we are dead indeed unto sin (free indeed from the dominion of the sin nature) through Jesus Christ our Lord. So what does that phrase mean? He tells us in Romans 6:3-10. Notice specifically what he says in verses 6 and 7:


“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7


It is the crucifixion of our old man that frees us from sin. This is not something we are waiting for in the future. “The body of this death” referred to in Romans 7:25 is the same “body of sin” that Romans 6:7 says has been destroyed, so that we are free from sin. This happened the moment we were born again. At the moment we believed on Christ and put our faith in the saving power of His shed blood, the Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ and into His death (Rom 6;3, 1 Cor 12:13). He removed us from Adam and placed us into Christ, at which time we were co-crucified, co-buried, and co-raised with Christ. At the moment we were crucified with Christ, we died, and “he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7).


So I ask you, who shall deliver you from the body of this death? I thank God, the answer is Jesus Christ! Through His death on the cross and my union with Him in His death, He has made me free from the old man dominated by sin!


Well what about that last phrase in Romans 7? Isn’t that proof that we are not free from sin?


Here’s what it says:


“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:25b


It’s true that our flesh will always be dominated by the law of sin in our members. However, pay attention to what the Bible says, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16). I've written other detailed explanations of what it means to walk in the Spirit, so I won't re-hash that too much here. For now, the point is that there is a way, through the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body, just as it says in Romans 8:11 and 13. So it’s not okay to read Romans 7 and find an excuse for the deeds of the body not to be mortified. Jesus died to give us victory and freedom, not failure. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). This happened the moment we were born again. That’s why the Bible says we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin (Rom 6:11).


Yes, we will never reach sinless perfection. However, the Bible says that under grace, sin will not have dominion over us (Rom 6:14). That means there is real victory and real change in this life, even in our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11). It is imperative, therefore, that we learn to live under grace, and thereby walk in the Spirit, so that we will not continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2). I’ve written many other things about how to live under grace and walk in the Spirit, but here is the short answer:




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