RO 7:14-25



Objectors claim that an individual cannot go to heaven if he still evidences a characteristic of sinning while living out his life on earth. They falsely claim that a heavenbound individual cannot possess a nature which is conducive to sin, i.e., a sin nature. In Romans chapter 7, however, God's Word describes the Apostle Paul with such a sin nature. So in order to circumvent what Scripture teaches it is often falsely stated that Romans chapter 7 was written in the historical present tense, such that this chapter relates to Paul's condition before he was saved.

But Romans chapter 7 teaches that the Apostle Paul was struggling at some time between what his alive and functioning "inner man", i.e., his born-again spirit was urging him to do, and what his sinful nature moved him to do:

II) [Ro 7:14-17 NAS]:

(v. 14) "For we know that the [Mosaic] Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

[Objectors falsely claim that the present historical tense prevails here so that this verse and the following verses describe Paul's condition before he was saved. But a full reading of the entire passage will dispel this inaccuracy]:

(v. 15) For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

[Notice: present tense - 'for at the present time even as a believer I am doing evil things']

(v. 16) But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.

(v. 17) So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin [the sin nature] which indwells me.

["sin" = "hamartia" singular + parallels "flesh" in the next verse = sin nature.


DBSJ 2 (Fall 1997): 81–103]:

'''Paul is using the word body ( sO'ma) metaphorically to refer to the whole person, a figure of speech called synecdoche—"a part for a whole." This clearly seems to be the case in Romans 6:12–13, where Paul tells his readers, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body" and "do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin," but, on the contrary, "present yourselves to God." In these verses "yourselves" is equated with "body" (cf. Also Rom 12:1–2). Thus it is the person who indwells the body who is sinful, not the body itself. Whichever way we may view Paul’s language, it is clear that the Bible does not teach that the body is inherently evil but that sin resides in man’s immaterial being, not his physical; yet the body is where we commonly see the outworkings of sin....


I have sought to demonstrate that it is perfectly valid to speak of the believer as having two natures—old and new—as long as the term nature is understood to refer to a complex of attributes, a set of characteristics, or disposition. These natures are not substantive entities and do not act. But the believer himself can be viewed as acting from the perspective of his old or new nature—his disposition may be toward sin or holiness. While some two-nature advocates have used two-nature terminology to present a view of sanctification which is inherently defective, the fault lies with their deficient theology, not with two-nature terminology itself. Two-nature terminology combined with a proper understanding of regeneration and sanctification accurately represents the believer’s struggle with sin as presented in Scripture.''']

III) [Ro 7:18-22]:

(v. 18 ) for I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

[Paul indicates here that his spirit is indwelt with good as opposed to his flesh - his body and soul - which is inherently contaminated with sin. By "good" in this verse is meant the perfect standard of good which is of God. Recall that Jesus stated that

"no one is good - except God alone." (Lk 18:19b).

Inspite of the fact that Paul was referring to a time when he was a born again believer he also states that nothing good dwells in him]:

(v. 18 cont.) for I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

(v. 19) For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.

(v. 20) But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

(v. 21) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.

(v. 22) For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, [the born alive spirit of a believer],

[Notice that verses 20 & 21 indicate a time in Paul's life when he has evil - the sin nature - as an intrinsic part of himself. And then verse 22 indicates that, at the same time, Paul has a born again spirit, his "inner man", which "joyfully concurs with the law of God." Paul could not be unsaved here because the unsaved do not delight in God's law for they lack what God's Word refers to as the "inner man", the born again spirit. An unbeliever's spirit is dead and so he can do nothing to please God, (Ro 8:8), especially to delight in God's law. He has a dead "inner man" - a dead spirit.

A) [Compare Eph 2:1]:

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.."

This verse in Ephesians obviously refers to physically alive individuals before they became believers, (v. 2:1). So what is dead, this verse is teaching is the "inner man", the spiritual nature of man, the spirit.

B) [Compare Ro 8:7-8]:

(v. 7) "Because the mind set on the flesh [unbelievers or carnal believers] is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so;

(v. 8) and those who are in the flesh [unbelievers and carnal believers] cannot please God."

So here in Romans chapter 8 is a testimony about unbelievers and carnal believers: "The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God". But Paul says that his inner man joyfully concurs with the law of God - not a possibility with an unsaved unbeliever who is not able to concur even in his own mind with the law of God. So Paul MUST be saved here!

IV) [Romans 7:20-23]:

(v. 20) "But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

(v. 21) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.

(v. 22) For I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man,

(v. 23) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members."

If Paul could "joyfully concur with the Law of God", (Ro 7:21), and within his mind was "one who wishes to do good", (Ro 7:22), then he certainly was a believer no matter what time frame one claims this verse to be set in; as opposed to being an unbeliever who "does not subject itself to the law of God," (Ro 8:7), and therefore could not wish to do good or "concur with the Law of God in the inner man." for the unbeliever's "inner man" is dead!

Furthermore, the term, "inner being" is a technical term which in Scripture has a specific meaning which refers to an individual's spirit being alive and functioning:

A) [Compare John 3:3-6]:

(v. 3) "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

(v. 4) Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?'

[Nicodemus is asking, 'How can a man who is physically alive be born again?']

(v. 5) Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water that is to say the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

[The original text as the apostle John wrote it, as Jesus said it, and under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, (2 Tim 3:16), is transliterated in English as follows:

"ean-me tis ........gennthe ex ..hudatos

"unless ...anyone be born out of water"

kai ...[*ex]...................................pneumatos"

and ..[*out of the realm of the] spirit" =

refers to this whole process of God sprinkling "clean water" on Nicodemus and cleansing him of all idols and putting a new [born again] spirit in him and giving him a "heart of flesh" replacing his "heart of stone" and putting His Spirit in him and moving him to follow God's decrees, (Ez 36:24-27). And all of this is done not in the physical realm but out of .the realm of the spiritual:

"kai [*ex] pneumatos" = "and [out of the realm of the] spiritual"

*Notice that the Greek preposition "ex" applies to "pneumatos" = "spirit" as well as "hudatos" = "water".

(v. 6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh [the physical body]; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

So the process of becoming born again is a spiritual one in which an individual's dead spirit - his dead, inner man - is made alive by God the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm.

[Further details on Jn 3:5-6 ]

IV) [Romans 7:20-23 cont.]:

Therefore in the passage in Romans chapter 7, Paul must already be born again, i.e., saved unto eternal life yet he still possesses at the same time a sin nature as it says in verses 20 and 21 of Romans chapter 7:

(v. 20) "But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin [i.e., the sin nature] which dwells in me.

(v. 21) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good."

Finally, Scripture actually defines the term "inner man" as being the spirit of a man. And further, it teaches that an alive and active and growing inner man is a man's born again spirit possessed only by an individual who is born again believer:

D) [Compare 2 Cor 4:16]:

"Therefore we [believers, v. 5] do not lose heart, but though our outer man [the sin nature] is decaying, yet our inner man [the born again spirit] is being renewed day by day."

E) [Compare Eph 3:16]:

"That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man..."

V) [Ro 7:22-25]:

(v. 22 cont.) "For I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man..."

(v. 23) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind."

["body" = Paul is referring here to the sin nature - the flesh. Although the body, in and of itself is not sinful, it is used to sin with by the sin nature which is within man. That is the "different law" to which Paul is referring]:

(v. 23 cont) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind."

["the law of my mind" = Paul is here referring to the new nature of righteousness which enters into the mind of man upon receiving Christ as Savior, (1 Cor 2:16). Believers are motivated to do righteous things in their mentality by God the Holy Spirit; but the lusts of the sin nature which manifest themselves in the members of the body, (including the mind), wage an actual war against this motivation to do God's will]

John A. Witmer comments, B.K.C. op. cit., p.468 on Ro 7:21-23:

'''Paul was a person who tried to learn from his experiences, "so" now he concluded, "I find this law at work." This is not the Mosaic Law, of course, but a principle drawn from experience. Also in 8:2 'law' (nomos) means principle. This law or principle is the reality of ever-present "evil" in an individual whenever he wants "to do good." Paul held fast to the fact that, as he said, "In my inner being I delight in God's Law" (cf. 7:25). "In my inner being" is literally, "according to the inner man." (The "inner man" is used....also in 2 Cor. 4:16 and Eph. 3:16.) Delight in God's Law was the psalmist's response, stated repeatedly in Psalm 119 (e.g., vv. 15, 24, 47; cf. Ps. 1:2). Because of regeneration, a believer has a new nature or capacity for loving spiritual truths. Yet, recognizing the facts of experience, Paul said he saw "another law" or principle "at work" within him. This is the principle of sin. Paul called it "sin living in me" (Rom. 7:17, 20), "evil right there with me" (v.21), and "the sinful nature" (vv. 5, 18, 25).

This principle is continually doing two things: "waging war against the law of" the believer's "mind and making" him "a prisoner of the law of sin at work within" his "members" The indwelling principle of sin is constantly mounting a military campaign against the new nature, trying to gain victory and control....of a believer and his actions. The new nature is called "the law" of the "mind"....because it has the capacity for perceiving and making moral judgments. Further, despite a believer's identification with Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and his efforts to have Christ-honoring attitudes and actions, he cannot in his own power resist his indwelling sin nature. In and of himself he repeatedly experiences defeat and frustration.'''

So even the Apostle Paul from the time he became a believer still possessed a most difficult sin nature, as all believers do. So what can man do in order to have fellowship with God? The question remains to be answered. For this is impossible with man, even believers, all men being so contaminated with sin.

(v. 24) "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"

[Although Paul is indicated here as a born again believer with an "inner man" he, like all believers who are still physically alive, possesses a mortal body which deteriorates daily. And pervading throughout the members of that body is the ever present, adversarial sin nature which obeys the law of sin and opposes the law of God which is within Paul's "inner man" - his born again spirit. But Jesus Christ, Whom Paul has trusted in for eternal life, will eventually set Paul and all believers free from the wretchedness of their sin-contaminated, decaying fleshly bodies - providing them with new, immortal, perfect ones with righteous natures, (I Cor 15:50-54)]:

(v. 24 cont.) "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

["Who will set me free from the body of this death." = Who will provide or how will I be "set free" from this body of mortal death so contaminated with the sin nature? And the answer comes in the next verse]:

(v. 25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."

Notice again, that whenever this took place in Paul's life, we see that Paul had two warring natures: a sin nature and a born again, Holy Spirit indwelled "inner man" - an alive spirit which must be alive because it is serving the law of God.

A) [Compare Gal 5:16-17]:

(v. 16) "But I say [to believers, (v. 5:1)], walk by the Spriit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

(v. 17) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another [speaking specifically of a war going on within the believer] so that you man not do the things that you wish." No unsaved individual can serve the law of God, (Ro 8:8). Compare Ro 8:10 which verifies that a believer still has a sin nature:

B) [Ro 8:10]:

"And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, [sin singular = sin nature] yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness."

Although the body of the believer is dead because of sin, i.e., destined to physically die yet the believer's spirit is alive:

"Yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness" = Yet the spirit is alive because it is born again - because through faith alone in Christ alone one has had their spirit become alive, i.e., born again and has received the righteousness of Jesus Christ, (ref. Ro 3:21-24).