Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Misuse of Romans 7

Romans 7:13-25 is one of the most debated passages of Scripture in the New Testament. The reasons for this are as various as there are opinions on the verses. Essentially if you could divide the passage in two camps, Arminian and Calvinist, you would not find any congruency on the issue from either sides. Both Arminianism and Calvinisim debate within their own ranks what Romans 7:13-25 is teaching. Within Calvinism there is to be found one common ground, however, and that is that Romans 7 is speaking of Christians whereas Arminians would debate whether Romans 7 is about truly regenerated persons or not.

The misuse of Romans 7 is not the debate but the practical working out of the text. Too often the text is used to justify immoral living. For example, Charles Stanley writes: “After debating the issue of his own sin and personal lack of ability to conquer the temptations that plagued him, the apostle Paul cried out to God, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).” (Stanley, Tape: The Truth About Sin). John MacArthur wrote, “Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh. Note that while Paul acknowledged his own disobedience ….”

One blogger wrote, “Do not deny that Rom. 7:14-25 is the Christian. You will despair if you are honest with your soul. Do not think that you will ever get out of Rom. 7 into Rom. 8. If you do, you will chase a figment of men’s theological imaginations which will destroy your assurance of salvation and blind you to the work of God in your soul or else it will foster a spiritual pride and antinomianism which may end up destroying your soul in hell. Rather, look into Rom. 7:14-25 and see the work of God begun in the Christian soul and rejoice that He has not left you alone to harden your conscience against sin. Rejoice that the dominion of sin is broken and he is leading you into deeper repentance, increased holiness, and greater dependence upon Christ and joy in His free and ever available grace. Then do with your people what Bunyan did: “I preached what I smartingly did feel.””

However, such teaching on Romans 7 to justify sin is misleading. Those who teach that Romans 7:13-25 is a struggling Paul who never could overcome sin and was always living in defeat are simply reading into the text what they want to appear.

Was Paul A Struggling Hypocrite?

In order for us to view Romans 7:13-25 as teaching that Paul was always struggling with besetting sins we must view his following statements as nothing more than hypocritical lies:

  • never used flattery nor put on a mask to cover up greed (1 Thess. 2:5)
  • put no stumbling block in any one’s path (2 Cor. 6:3)
  • was pure, patient, kind, had sincere love, truthful speech, etc. (2 Cor. 6:6,7)
  • had only one goal and that was to please God (2 Cor. 5:9) and he feared God (2 Cor. 5:11)
  • risked his life for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:26)
  • his life meant nothing to him only to finish the race and complete the task that the Lord Jesus gave him (Acts 20:24)
  • fulfilled his duty to God in all good conscience (Acts 23:1)
  • when he was cursed he blessed, when persecuted he endured it, when slandered he answered kindly (1 Cor. 4:12,13)
  • ran his race to win first prize (1 Cor. 9:24)
  • did not seek his own good but the good of others for their salvation’s sake (1 Cor. 10:24,32)
  • conducted himself in simplicity and godly sincerity (2 Cor. 1:12)
  • called others to follow his personal example (1 Cor. 11:1; Philippians 4:9)
  • sent Timothy to the sinful Corinthians to show them his behavior by example (1 Cor. 4:17) but why if he is living in Romans 7 defeat?
  • he ended his life by saying that he had fought the good fight and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7) without any hint of defeat in this last letter to Timothy

In light of these passages it is quite difficult to have a view that Paul living in sinful defeat. Paul’s call to holiness in the New Testament is overwhelming (Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 4:17-5:14; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Paul exhorted the disciples to avoid sin and be slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:1-23). His statement in Romans 8:13 is powerful when he wrote by the Spirit, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (NKJV).

How Should We View Romans 7?

The reality is that Romans 7 can not be used to justify habitual sin. I have personally heard people justify pornography, adultery, lying, greed, etc. all under the banner of Romans 7:13-25. They point out that if Paul struggled with sin then why are we any different? The antinominism of Romans 7 is a dangerous teaching because it allows for sinful living without any desire for true repentance.

The debate rages on over Romans 7 and I by no means believe that my short post will clarify any of the issues. Other websites have devoted more to the subject found here, here, and here. For now, let us keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2), offer our bodies up in worship to our God (Romans 12:1-2) and avoid sin at all cost (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and avoid idols (1 John 5:21). Our goal should be perfection (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 13:9-11) and not to live in defeat. God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to Him (1 John 1:9) and yet His heart is for us to not live in sin (1 John 2:1-2). We are called to use our freedom to be slaves to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Galatians 5:13) and pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). We should not, however, try to justify our sinfulness by using Romans 7 but we should have a heart that hates our sin and longs to be like Jesus (1 John 2:3-6).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/31/2008 at 1:33 PM

3 Responses

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  1. “The reality is that Romans 7 can not be used to justify habitual sin.”Agreed. Many are the ways people will justify ther lack of repentance.

    David H. Willis

    04/01/2008 at 12:45 AM

  2. Perhaps others have dealt with the issue at greater length, but you have stated it in a concise and orderly way, which is refreshing.Putting on fig leaves was the first problem that man had, after entering into sin. If Romans 7 is used as a fig leaf to cover or excuse sin, then it shows we have learned nothing since the fall.


    03/13/2010 at 5:50 AM

  3. […] The busiest day of the year was October 24th with 89 views. The most popular post that day was The Misuse of Romans 7. […]

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