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:
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.
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
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 the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 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 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.
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."
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,
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.
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
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".
Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
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;
1 Corinthians 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Galatians 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
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.
I like in particular the approach present in Faithlife Study Bible [FSB].
The focus of this passage is the law and human weakness, which magnified the problem of sin. In vv. 6–12, Paul spoke in the past tense (“I was”). Here, he switches to the present tense (“I am”) to describe life under sin and law—a literary device to get the attention of his audience.
Paul describes either a non-Christian who is under the law or a Christian struggling with sin. If the passage concerns an unbeliever, then it reflects the struggle to do what is good while living under the power of sin and without God’s Spirit (vv. 18–19). If it concerns a believer, then it depicts the Christian who, despite the Spirit’s indwelling presence, struggles to live according to righteousness because of the powers of sin and death (vv. 24–25; 8:10–11). Both interpretations find support from within the text of Romans, and both ultimately agree that believers must contend with the power of sin as they learn to live according to righteousness (8:4–5).
Why? It gives space to both interpretations to be valid addressing whether it speaks of a believer or an unbeliever and goes on to explain the implications of looking at the passage from both of the perspectives. In particular, if the passage is about a…
... believer, then even as redeemed believers in Jesus, we must still fight against the continuing presence of sin in our mortal bodies. Our natural inclination is to return to our old patterns and enslave ourselves to sin again. Although we have accepted God's gift of righteousness by faith and are freed from the penalty of sin (6:1, 15), we must still choose where to devote our lives.
... unbeliever, then there's a clear struggle since there's no Holy Spirit to redeem us, but also to enable us to live free from the bondage of sin.
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.