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Two Arminians Who Believe Romans 7:13-25 Describes Christians

I originally set out to make this a four (possibly five) part series on the subject of Romans 7:13-25 but I have been finding out so much information from both Calvinists and Arminians sources that I simply can’t leave the passage. Furthermore I have been receiving several e-mails encouraging me to continue in the study of the passage. I do pray that it is helpful to see the various approaches to Romans 7:13-25 and that Christians do disagree over the passage. For many of us, we possibly jump from one approach to the other depending on where we are theologically and experientially (more on this on another post).

Today I wanted to give the opinions of two respected Arminians: Robert Picirilli and Jack Cottrell. Dr. Picirilli serves with the Free Will Baptist and is a professor of theology at Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Jack Cottrell is professor of theology at Cincinnati Christian University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Cottrell comes from the Christian Churches or the Restoration movement although he does consider himself Arminian although he rejects total depravity which some Arminians see as casting him outside of the Arminian approach to Scripture. I personally enjoy both of these men and believe they are great theologians. Dr. Cottrell is a brilliant scholar and a man after God’s own heart. His book Solid: The Authority of God’s Word is worth the price of gold in defending the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

Ironically, both Dr. Picirilli and Dr. Cottrell hold that Paul was not writing in Romans 7:13-25 as an unsaved man but as himself, a Christian. They see Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:13-25 as universal of all true Christians. In this they disagree with Arminius, Wesley, most early Methodist theologians, several Calvinists theologians, and current Arminians such as Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. F. Leroy Forlines, and Dr. George Wood. Arminians such as Daniel Corner likewise hold that Romans 7 is not describing a disciple of Jesus but an unregenerate man.

So let us allow the positions of Dr. Picirilli and Dr. Cottrell to speak for themselves. We shall first look at Dr. Picrilli’s position. Rather than pouring over the exegesis of the passages, I shall simply lay out their positions in numeric sequence.

Dr. Robert Picrilli on the Subject of Romans 7

Dr. Picirilli in his commentary on the book of Romans states the following about his position on the subject of the man of Romans 7:13-25:

1. Paul does use “I,” most naturally interpreted to be himself.

2. Paul uses present tense verbs throughout which stand in contrast to the past tense verbs in Romans 7:7-13.

3. Paul seems to “excuse” himself from the failures spoken of herein by blaming “the sin that dwells within” him instead of the real Paul (v. 17, 20). Can a sinner make such a distinction?

4. Paul similarly distinguishes between the real self and his “flesh,” a distinction that sounds exactly like Galatians 5:17.

5. A sinner cannot truthfully speak the words of Romans 7:22. Compare Psalm 1:1-2.

6. Even after Paul speaks of the secret of “victory” in verses 24-25a, he still describes the same struggle in 25b.

Dr. Picrilli goes on to explain Romans 7:14 and how can we explain the defeat-language of Romans 7:13-25. He points out that when Paul says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14) he is using flesh in terms of our depravity. He says that every true disciple would admit that in our flesh, we cannot please God (Romans 8:8). We admit that in our flesh we groan for God’s righteousness and His perfection (Romans 8:23). We must come to the same conclusion then as Paul in Romans 7:25 that our only hope and our only source of forgiveness, righteousness, grace, mercy, propitiation, and sanctification is found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. We all are under flesh and will be till we leave this earthly temple but praise God for His grace that He washes us clean in Christ, forgives us, and indwells us by His Spirit (Romans 8:9) and that brings victory.

Dr. Jack Cottrell on the Subject of Romans 7

Dr. Cottrell writes the following about Romans 7 in his book The Faith Once For All:

1. This section of Romans, (chapters 6-8), has to do with the Christian life. Why would Paul then turn and write about an unsaved person or a Jew when he has already done so in Romans 1-3?

2. Paul uses the present tense throughout the passages.

3. Paul’s strongly positive statements about the law and about his desire to obey it, plus his sorrowful confession of sin and his hatred of it, are incompatible with a non-Christian’s state of mind.

4. The spiritual struggle pictured here exists only in a Christian’s heart and life.

5. The longing for deliverance (Romans 7:24) suggests the tender heart of a Christian.

6. The assurance of triumph (Romans 7:25) belongs only to a Christian.

7. The order of the sentences in verse 25 is incompatible with a non-Christian’s experience; even, after resting his soul on Christ’s salvation, Paul once again laments his conflict with sin.

Like Picirilli, Dr. Cottrell points out that the conflict within a believer is that our nature is twofold: flesh (outer man, body) and the spirit (inner man, soul). Our redemption likewise comes in two stages. First, at salvation the sinful soul (spirit) is crucified with Christ and raised up into a state of spiritual life (Romans 6:1-6). Then, at the second coming the body will be redeemed through resurrection (Romans 8:23) or transformation (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). In the meantime we live in a status of limbo in that we are redeemed in spirit but our flesh still dwells with us and until the final resurrection, we will struggle with these duals natures living within (Galatians 5:16-25).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/18/2009 at 12:34 AM

14 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the summation on their arguments, Roy. I cannot believe any honest person would ever say they are prefect in thought and deed, yet there are those who claim it. But, they get awfully defensive when you challenge that. Could it be their flesh that protests?What I am happiest about is that these men do not excuse sin. They teach against it and show that a true believer is at war with his flesh. If you aren't fighting it, then it owns you. Or you are dead.

    Prodigal Knot

    07/18/2009 at 1:43 AM

  2. Good stuff. I recently re-read Cottrell's views on this passage in his Romans commentary. Thanks for including his understanding in the discussion. Jack Cottrell is a careful & thorough student of the Book. I've read all that you've written thus far. And thank you very much for the time you put into this. It has been very helpful to me (& I'm sure others). Because the Resoration movement churches are autonomous you can find a wide ranges of views: we have Cottrell's (predominate is my guess), some who are sinless perfection oriented and a bunch of folks who use Romans 7 to excuse their sin (sad!). Grace & peace.

    David H. Willis

    07/18/2009 at 2:58 AM

  3. I know that Dr. Cottrell and Dr. Picirilli would oppose anyone trying to use Romans 7 to justify their practice of sinning since the Bible opposes this as well (see 1 John 3:6-9). Thanks David though for your Restoration movement insights.

    The Seeking Disciple

    07/18/2009 at 1:12 PM

  4. Hi Roy, how do I contact you via email? There is no link on your blog that I can find.


    07/19/2009 at 2:14 AM

  5. For sake of clarity, I think you should change your site name to OSAS Arminian Today because lots of people think Arniums believed a person could lose salvation after being born-again.


    07/20/2009 at 6:50 AM

  6. Thanks Troy for you comments. However, neither myself nor Jack Cottrell nor Robert Picirilli hold to OSAS. I reject the doctrine and do not believe in OSAS, eternal security, or the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance of the saints. I believe that Arminius rejected OSAS as well though some will disagree with that.

    The Seeking Disciple

    07/20/2009 at 6:31 PM

  7. I am OSAS Arminian (preservation of the saints). I have a quote of Arminius saying he admits he never once taught a person could lose eternal life if they were born-again. I don't sense the Holy Spirit in the person who is non-OSAS, as he doesn't know God's uncreated eternal life given to those who are regenerated. In other words he is operating from his head, but his spirit isn't any more regenerated than the day he was born.


    07/21/2009 at 10:08 AM

  8. Thank you Troy for your thoughts. I don't mind if people hold to OSAS so long as they are not using that as an excuse for sinful living. I have some friends who embraced OSAS but in each case it was not because they saw it from exegesis of the Scriptures but from a desire to harbor sin and the practice of sin and yet still gain heaven. I myself, as I stated, reject OSAS, eternal security and do not hold to the unconditional nature of perseverance as the Calvinist does. I believe a genuine believer may indeed fall from grace and lose their salvation.

    The Seeking Disciple

    07/21/2009 at 8:35 PM

  9. There are verses in Scripture that say no person can take us out of God's hands, indicating clearly once-saved-always-saved (which is not perseving works of Calvinists), and no verses to the contrary. Never confuse loss of rewards for loss of life. Those who are God's children will put a cap on their sinning by the Holy Spirit. I believe there are those who worship a false Christ. Their inner man has not be reached so they could lose their alleged salvation tomorrow they claim. As Dave Hunt says, that would be a strange kind of eternal life if tomorrow you could lose it, get it back again next week, then later in the month lose it again. This is a self-salvation, a works based salvation and involves a Satanic conversion experience which shows you are operating from your own strength and talent, priding yourself on that, instead of coming to Christ truly in weakness. God will only save you if you come to the cross as a helpless sinner and receive the Lord Jesus as Savior, truly and authentically. Up to this point I believe all your works have been in vain which I can sense by the Holy Spirit in agreement with Scripture and brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray on this.


    07/22/2009 at 12:11 AM

  10. Thank you Troy once again for your comments. I am just curious if you have read Daniel Corner's book THE CONDITIONAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER? In brief, however, the loss of rewards is found only in Matthew 6:1-18 and here Jesus says that we lose rewards not by sinning but by doing our works before men (see vv.1-2, 5, 16). The Bible does not teach that we lose rewards by sinning but rather that we reap corruption (Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:7-8) and coming judgment (Hebrews 10:26-31). Eternal life is indeed a gift from God given to those who are in Christ by faith (John 3:16; 5:24; Romans 6:23) but this life is based on being in Jesus (John 15:1-8). All people will live forever (John 5:24-25) but only those who are in Christ will live forever with Him (Romans 2:7-8; 2 Cor. 1:24; Hebrews 9:27-28). Eternal life is the by-product of being in Christ which is by faith and is maintained by continued faith (Acts 14:22; Romans 1:5; 1 Cor. 9:24-10:21; 15:1-3; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 3:5; Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-39; James 2:14-26; 5:19-20; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10-11; 2:1-22; 3:17-18; 1 John 1:5-2:6; 3:6-9; 2 John 6, 9; Jude 20-21, 24-25; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 25-29; 3:5, 12, 14-22; 17:14; 21:7-8; 22:10-14).

    The Seeking Disciple

    07/22/2009 at 9:44 PM

  11. Loss of rewards is not just only found in that one verse, but it is in the other verses you provided as well. You have just assumed into the text they mean loss of life. None of the verses you gave indicated eternal life is a by-product of continuing in faith, but that eternal life is eternal, given at new birth, and God keeps those who had come to Him truly and authentically to give eternal life. Remember, eternal life, is God's Own Uncreated life which can never be undone, for it is uncreated. If there is a specific verse you would like to quote and examine in detail (give your best material), I would be happy to help you with it. I want to help lead you to Christ to have a salvation in which is eternal life and therefore, can never be lost. This comes by way of true regeneration, which is not accomplished by works unto initial salvation, but is a free gift from God and freely received instead of the spirit which you convey by works. And to lose rewards is to sin and to not abide in the works God has set for us, for both sinning and not doing those works are both not doing God's will. What a silly rule Daniel Rule has inserted into the text loss of rewards can't happen merely by sinning. I am embarrassed for him. This is why it is vain to read so many books, because if you don't get it by now such simple matters a child can understand, reading your 1000th book is not going to help either. Pray on this. forum discussion is very cumbersome, but if you would like a deeper forum for discussion, you're welcome to meet me here,'ll leave it up to you if you want to continue the discussion where we have more space and room to work with to make a full presentation of and quoting the verses instead of just claiming they say this or that.


    07/23/2009 at 1:41 AM

  12. Troy, the loss of rewards is found only in Matthew 6:1-18. Nowhere else does it state this in any other place but Matthew 6:1-18. Nowhere do I state in this blog nor do I state in these replies that salvation is by works. This is simply unbiblical to do so since Scripture clearly says that salvation is not by works (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). Isaiah 64:6 clearly says that our righteousness is but filthy rags in God's presence. Works are no doubt a genuine fruit of salvation (Romans 1:5; James 2:14-26) but they do not secure salvation. I have always maintained that salvation is by grace through faith (Romans 5:1). However, I do not believe that we are saved by a one time act of faith but rather a continued faith (1 Cor. 15:2; Col. 1:21-23; Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; etc.). 2 Corinthians 1:24 makes it clear that we are secure by faith as does 1 Peter 1:5 and 2 Peter 3:17. Finally, to try to force the analogy of eternal life being because we are sons, we must bear in mind that we were by nature children of Satan before the new birth (John 8:44; Eph. 2:3; 5:6) however aren't you thankful to God that He enables us to move from being children of Satan to being adopted in Christ (Romans 8:15). Therefore, "once a son, always a son" does not work with Satan nor with God since we can return to being children of Satan (2 Peter 2:1-22).

    The Seeking Disciple

    07/23/2009 at 7:02 PM

  13. Such a view of Romans 7 being that of regenerated Christians certainly falls in the camp of Gnostic Calvinism. Modern Evangelical Baptists speak of a Jekyll and Hyde version of Gnostic duality. A “believer” is “spiritually” saved, but the “flesh” is constantly battling the spiritual; a.k.a., Gnostic Dualism.

    They would say that they believe in Eternal Security, but if someone lives in sin, they were never saved in the first place. So, the formula goes: If you flagrently sin in the eyes of some unknown Church authority, you may be deemed “never saved.” Basically… not “Really” Eternally Secure!

    The so-called “Reformed” Arminian is only a subtle difference. Once one crosses some undefined level of sinning in the eyes of some Church Authority, they are deemed “unsaved”… loss of salvation.

    The narrow thread that divides the two camps is that they both say that salvation is lost in their determination of specific individuals. Both try hard to create an existing tension of sin and salvation in the believer- making God a respecter of persons when it comes to Believers.

    The one central theme of agreement between them is their flawed view of sin and salvation. In both cases it is implied that Christians remain flawed and sinful. Sin of the believer cannot separate them (unless they prove to be in some athorities eyes–reprobate). So, the plan of redemption is based upon the theory that God changes sin, not the believer in a significant way. Sin gets converted for the Beliver, and not so much the believer themselves.

    I see in Scripture that the wages of sin is death. That the believer is converted, not the damning power of their sin.
    Deny it if you will, but it comes down to the issue of whether sin is converted so the flawed and sinful “christian” can remain unchanged in the flesh.

    Perhaps I see something more than spiritual legalities in the terms “regeneration” and “conversion.”


    07/11/2010 at 6:08 PM

  14. […] Two Arminians Who Believe Romans 7:13-25 Describes Christians July 2009 13 comments 4 […]

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