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.
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:
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.
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."
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 our lives. 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 as 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
Current Tense Romans 7:14-25
Then there is the actual description to argue from. To borrow a summary from the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, we have a good theological argument on top of the grammatical:
Furthermore this humble loathing of one's own self is consistent with Paul's attitude whenever he speaks about his own life:
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.
I cannot accept 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 gets 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 than these verses.
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.
"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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
In Romans 7 is Paul talking about before or after he was saved?
This question often arises as many Christians identify with the frustration and sense of defeat given in chapter seven. However, in context Paul is describing a contrast between trying to do good in the flesh (chapter seven) and by the Spirit (chapter eight).
The mixing of past and present tense in chapter sever is indicative of the problem of the flesh for both saved and unsaved people.
The solution for both unsaved people and Christians living in the flesh is the same and is found in verse 24.
Paul does not describe a seven step solution, secret skills that need to be mastered, or a complicated discipline that can save us from the frustration of the flesh. The solution is not a "How" or "What", but a "Who".
The last verse of chapter seven is the transition to being able to live by the Spirit.
We know that Christians can become diverted into a flesh based practice of religion;
While walking by the Spirit can only be done by those who have new life in Christ Jesus and have the indwelling Holy Spirit, both Christians and the unsaved can experience the frustrations and failures of walking by the flesh described in chapter seven.