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In Romans 7:15 Paul said "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." and in Romans 7:11 Paul said "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." So it may seem that Paul was talking about having a sin problem BEFORE he was saved. Is Romans 7:17-34 talking about before Paul was saved or after Paul was saved? This is important because some believe we sin after we are saved and some believe we don't sin after we are saved and this is a key passage in discussions on this topic.

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Of course we sin after conversion. The question is do we live in sin or only sin occasionally. –  david brainerd Apr 22 '14 at 22:33
I have talked to enough Pelegian/Semi-Pelagian/Pentecostal-Holiness to know that not everyone believes they sin after conversion. I could probably link several sites as proof if you wish. –  user144668 Apr 23 '14 at 2:34
Yes, good question for sure. People should vote this one way, way up..up..up. Sadly, several commentaries (though a minority) take all these verses to be past tense to the effective loss of all the faith building comfort that the Apostle intends to provide. I have never been able to comprehend whatever possessed them to do that. welcome to this site! –  Mike Apr 24 '14 at 15:18
Related question on BH.SE: Does Paul refer to his past or present evil/sin in Romans 7? –  Dan Apr 26 '14 at 14:18

9 Answers 9

The passage was written after his conversion, and there is no indication whatsoever that Paul was speaking in the past tense. Therefore, following the basic rules of interpretation, (particularly #3, 5, and 8) he is speaking about after he was saved.

Those eight rules are copied from the Apologetics Research page below:

1 The rule of DEFINITION: What does the word mean? Any study of Scripture must begin with a study of words. Define your terms and then keep to the terms defined. The interpreter should conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. This quite often may require using a Hebrew/English or Greek/English lexicon in order to make sure that the sense of the English translation is understood. A couple of good examples of this are the Greek words "allos" and "heteros". Both are usually translated as "another" in English - yet "allos" literally means "another of the same type" and "heteros" means "another of a different type."

2 The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and for Jews. The words and idioms must have been intelligible to them - just as the words of Christ when talking to them must have been. The majority of the New Testament likewise was written in a milieu of Greco-Roman (and to a lesser extent Jewish) culture and it is important to not impose our modern usage into our interpretation. It is not worth much to interpret a great many phrases and histories if one's interpretations are shaded by pre-conceived notions and cultural biases, thereby rendering an inaccurate and ineffectual lesson.

3 The rule of CONTEXT: The meaning must be gathered from the context. Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. Many passages will not be understood at all, or understood incorrectly, without the help afforded by the context. A good example of this is the Mormon practice of using 1 Cor. 8:5b: "...for there be gods many and lords many..." as a "proof text" of their doctrine of polytheism. However, a simple reading of the whole verse in the context of the whole chapter (e.g. where Paul calls these gods "so-called"), plainly demonstrates that Paul is not teaching polytheism.

4 The rule of HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: The interpreter must have some awareness of the life and society of the times in which the Scripture was written. The spiritual principle will be timeless but often can't be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the background. If the interpreter can have in his mind what the writer had in his mind when he wrote - without adding any excess baggage from the interpreter's own culture or society - then the true thought of the Scripture can be captured resulting in an accurate interpretation. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present."

5 The rule of LOGIC: Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. When interpreting Scripture, the use of reason is everywhere to be assumed. Does the interpretation make sense? The Bible was given to us in the form of human language and therefore appeals to human reason - it invites investigation. It is to be interpreted as we would any other volume: applying the laws of language and grammatical analysis. As Bernard Ramm said:

"What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence... interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic...may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence." (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956)

6 The rule of PRECEDENT: We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. Just as a judge's chief occupation is the study of previous cases, so must the interpreter use precedents in order to determine whether they really support an alleged doctrine. Consider the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 who were called "noble" because they searched the Scriptures to determine if what Paul taught them was true.

7 The rule of UNITY: The parts of Scripture being interpreted must be construed with reference to the significance of the whole. An interpretation must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. An excellent example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity. No single passage teaches it, but it is consistent with the teaching of the whole of Scripture (e.g. the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are referred to individually as God; yet the Scriptures elsewhere teach there is only one God).

8 The rule of INFERENCE: An inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. Such inferential facts or propositions are sufficiently binding when their truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. Competent evidence means such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. Satisfactory evidence means that amount of proof which would ordinarily satisfy an unprejudiced mind beyond a reasonable doubt. Jesus used this rule when he proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees in Matt. 22:23-33.

Learning these eight rules and properly applying them will help keep any interpreter from making errors and will hopefully alleviate many of the disagreements unfortunately present in Christianity today. However, these eight principles are no substitute for the Holy Spirit which will, if you let Him, guide you in the truth [John 14:26]. If you receive Christ into your heart, God will give you the Holy Spirit freely as a gift [Acts 2:38]. I urge you, if you have not already done so, to examine the claims and the work of Jesus Christ and to receive Him as your Savior.

To come to the conclusion that he is speaking of only before he was saved, you'd have to ignore verb tense and other basic rules of interpretation.

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I agree with your conclusions. I would like to see the answer improved in two ways: 1) Demonstrate applying the rules to this passage. Note that this part of the answer seems more suitable for Hermeneutics. 2) Give examples of which groups tend to believe which way. I think many who do not hold any version of the Holiness doctrine still think it was before Paul fell off his horse. I know some conservative Mennonites who do -- they don't post much on the Internet though. –  disciple Apr 24 '14 at 16:57

Besides David Stratton's comment, in Philippians 3, Paul plainly confesses he is not yet perfect: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect..." (v12).

And, what it the "this" that he has not obtained? It seems to be "the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (v9). Paul admits he still has progress to make. Thus, he continues verse 12 with "... but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." He strives toward holiness. If sin weren't still a problem for him, this wouldn't make any sense. He continues on to again affirm his lack of righteousness and to also say that he won't let what lies behind be a hindrance to him: "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

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This question is to me is one of the top 10 all time questions that needs to be settled in order to have a correct view of the gospel and its application to pur life. Although possibly a minority there have been several commentators who have assumed that Paul is taking about a sinner throughout this chapter and not a believer. In fact, when reviewing a commentary on Romans I turn to Romans 7:14 and if i find that the interpretation is not treating the passage as Paul's description of his converted state, I actually judge the commentary as a whole a not worth reading and especially not worth purchasing. So much for hiding my own view!

Grammatically it should be clear reading any translation that until verse 14 the Apostle is speaking in past tense, after verse 14 he uses a personal current tense. This alone should make the answer already strong.

Paste Tense Romans 7:7-14

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me etc..........

Current Tense Romans 7:14-25

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. etc...........

Then there is the actual description to argue from. To borrow a summary from Baker New Testament Commentary we have a good theological argument on top of the grammatical:

The person described in Rom. 7:14–25 hates sin (7:15), wishes to do what is good (verses 19, 21), in his inner being delights in God’s law (verse 22), deeply regrets his sins (verses 15, 18–24), and thanks God for his deliverance (verse 25). Is it at all probable that such a person has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God? Contrast all this with the description of the unregenerate (7:5, 9a; 8:5a). Clearly, in Rom. 7:14–25 the apostle, in the words of John Calvin, “in his own person describes the weakness of believers and how great it is” (Romans, p. 264).

Furthermore this humble loathing of one's own self is consistent with Paul's attitude whenever he speaks about his own life:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15, NIV)

Finally what really first settled it for me many years ago is that in my own experience before I became a Christian, I never once 'delighted in God's law' in my inner man.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25, NIV)

I cannot except that a sinner who is dead in sin, delights in God's law. It is simply not a possibility to me. It must be a description of a regenerate believer. As Paul is using 'I' it must be a description of a mature spiritual believer. In fact, I think the closer a person get's to God the more their life is described by Romans 7:14-25. Nothing better describes a genuine, sincere and holy child of God living in the world and in the body then these verses.

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Hmm, if people cannot sin after they are saved, then it follows that anyone who does sin is not saved. And according to Jesus, just being angry at your neighbor without justification or looking at a woman with lust are sins. So we'd have to conclude that no one or almost no one in the world is saved. I'm a firm advocate of an exclusivist view of salvation, but I'm not THAT exclusive.

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"Saved" process doesn't come to end once we have faith in Lord Jesus; It is a progress process, at any moment we may do sin, but this process will come to end once we really put on spiritual body when Lord Jesus returns. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54. However our "new creation" in Christ doesn't do single sin or won't do sin at all. 1 John 3.9, We do sin because still we are in sinful nature carnal mind.

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Romans 6,7,8 is a very interesting progression. I believe in order to understand Romans 7 you need to know that these three chapters are connected.

Romans 6; Sin is referenced only 1 time as a verb, "Shall we continue sinning", and every other time as a noun. Namely in Romans 6 Paul first outlines that sin is a power, not simply something that we do against the will of God. He states that it is through baptism, a public denial of the fleshly past and a proclamation of living for God, that we are now "dead to sin". Namely the power of sin that was once at work in us when we were under the sinful nature no longer has a hold over us. (This is a very brief outline, but I hope that makes sense.)

Romans 7; Verse 1-6 are a summary of chapter 6. It is the declaration that because Jesus died you have been freed from the worldly ways of sin, that is the word of the law, through the Spirit of God.

The rest of Romans 7 is the self life. You do not see 'Spirit' mentioned once. Instead, I think its, 42 times says things like, 'I, me, myself' are referenced. Paul is outlying the struggle that we have in the Christian life now that we know our eyes have been opened to the sinful nature we once had. We can see that he gets to the end of self when he asks:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

So often we as Christians read this section and make allowance for our struggle because, "Paul struggled", but that is a cop out. We ask the same question Paul did just above, but fail to read the answer.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus is the answer, living out of our own strength is the issue addressed in Romans 7. We know that, "Love never fails." So we can never fail if we are living out of His strength, and by His spirit.

This is where Romans 8 comes in.

We all desire to live in Romans 8, but we don't know how to transition. Romans 8 is the place of living by the Spirit, in surrender and submission to God, and have crucified our self life with Jesus on the cross. Someone else mentioned Philippians 3 where Paul says, "Not that I have obtained all this", Paul lived out of the hope that he had been called to, and he knew that "The one who called him is faithful."

The Christian life is about faith in Jesus. That He can do and complete all that He says He can. I know saying that may sound fundamental, but just go with me. We need to come to the end that we in our own selves cannot bring about that which God has called us to. No power, nothing in us can do it. We simply end up creating rules that have the appearance of wisdom (Col 2) in order to live the holy life. Romans 8 is proclamation of God for our lives that He wants us to "become conformed to the image of His Son". But first God convicts us of our sinful lives in order that we would cry out that blessed, "Who will save me from this body of death?"

I hope all this makes sense, it's a progression from a declaration that the sinful nature that held us was nailed to the cross with Jesus and through baptism we have died to it, and we have been raised to life with Christ. It then states that we are free because of the Spirit living in us. An outline of the self life follows and that we must come to the end where we realise we cannot do it in ourselves. Romans 8 is the outworking of that surrender.

Be like Paul and hold onto the hope that we have in the completed transformation, He knew there was always more that could come. "From glory to glory."

Please ask questions if something doesn't make sense, or you would like expansion on it.

God bless you,


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Afer being saved we, like St. Paul writes, naturally continue to sin. But sin has no power over us, we are dead to sin. That is God does not see our sins (before or after) we are saved.Thus sin has no real power any more. None. Paul sees this as a a division between the spiritual and the flesh part of our lives. We have no ability to save ourselves, it is a gift of faith in the power of Jesus' blood. Sanctification is also in God's hands, we have little to do but get out of the way.

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It only stands to reason that, the unconverted man who believes he is converted, will see Saul's struggle and bondage to sin in Romans 7 and liken it to himself. Yet the converted man identifies himself with the victory that Paul describes in Romans 8.
Paul is faithful to deliver a clear illustration of marriage has "jurisdiction" over a person as long as he lives, the same "jurisdiction" sin has over a person who has not died to sin and been united with Christ. Those who are united with Christ relish and celebrate the promise of 1John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and TO CLEANSE US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS" Those who are still united with their sin and death relish and celebrate 1John 1:8.

This world is filled to capacity with deceived unconverted professors who have not the slightest desire for the Lord or His ways.

Discern the distinction: EVERYONE loves the golden calf of Salvation, FEW love the Lord and His ways.

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What group of Christians believes this? Can you give references? If not, this looks like just your opinion, not an answer of the sort Stack Exchange sites are expecting. –  Matt Gutting Aug 21 '14 at 19:46

This is important because some believe we sin after we are saved and some believe we don't sin after we are saved and this is a key passage in discussions on this topic.

What matters is not what people believe, but what God revealed through Scripture.

1 John 3 : 4 - 10 NIV (with capitalization modifications)

⁴Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. ⁵But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. ⁶No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.

⁷Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. ⁸The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. ¹⁰This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

The answers can be found in Scripture itself, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My opinion or interpretation of what is written will not change what is written. The Scripture posted, responds to the conclusion of why this question is important; as stated in the question and above. This "answer" represents the Christian Group that holds Scripture as true, and the written Word of God, whatever group they belong to.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” - John 8: 11b NLT

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1 John 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. " –  Mike Apr 24 '14 at 23:45
Simply quoting a passage of scripture does not suffice as an answer. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 25 '14 at 0:19
Please note that just quoting, whether it be verses or somebody's article, does not make an answer. Please edit to summarize in your own words what the answer is and explain why these verses are relevant and what sector of Christianity you are representing. When you are done you can flag for re-evaluation and we can undelete. Thanks for understanding. –  Caleb Apr 25 '14 at 12:01
Re flag for review: You haven't done what I suggested. Whatever your beliefs about the perspicuity of scripture may be we require some answer content from you. What do these verses say relative to the question? And what Christian groups does this view represent? –  Caleb Apr 25 '14 at 19:23
Please see my edit comment, but you have not added anythnig of substance for the answer itself. @ replying to individuals is not what answers are for. We're looking for answers to the original question. –  Caleb Apr 26 '14 at 18:56

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