Romans 7:7-25


The book of Romans is one of the most deep [O1] theological books in the Bible and develops any[O2]  areas of theology. The letter starts out [O3] with Paul’s longing to visit Rome and you[O4]  gives the idea that Paul’s thought he may never make it to Rome due to how he sets forth a very deep theological letter. In order to present the full gospel, Paul has to deal with sin in society as a whole as well as in the life of the individual. By the time Paul gets to what is categorized as the 7th chapter, Paul has introduced the dilemma of sin into the life of Christians and therefore, Romans 7:7-25 defines the relationship Christians have between the commands of God, and our inevitable failure to God’s uncompromising standards.


In order to fully understand Romans 7[O5]  it is necessary to see where the chapter fits into the context of the book of Romans as a whole as well as the entire Bible, which ultimately is the story of God’s redemption of mankind.  Therefore the context of Romans must be understood to flow from large to small[O6] . This will also necessitate a look into the historical context of Romans as well as the literary context.

Starting from a point in the context of God’s redemption story, we can see this letter comes near the end of redemptive history with Christ [O7] already having paid the price for our sins. This letter is written when the remaining things God will do for the salvation of this world will be to return to bring his reign [O8] back to the world. At the time Paul writes this letter, the church is waiting for the return of Christ while the good news spreads rapidly throughout the world. To see the full historical context, it is necessary to look at the time and occasion [O9] of the writing of Romans.  Paul has become one of the greatest evangelists in the world and during his travels, finds it necessary to write many letters to the churches he visits. However, unlike all the other epistles that Paul writes, “when Paul wrote to the Church at Rome he was writing to a Church with whose founding he had had no personal contact at all. That explains why in Romans there are so few of the details of practical problems which fill the other letters.”[1] Without the personal contact, Paul ends up writing the most theologically detailed letter contained in the Bible.

In order to grasp the historical context of Romans we must look at the state of the world at the time. We[O10]  know the writing of the letter would have taken place around 57 or 58 AD and since in “AD 49 Emperor Claudius, out of exasperation with squabbles among the Jews about Chrestus (probably a reference to Jesus’ claims to be the “Christ”), issued an edict that required all Jews to leave Rome.”[2] This caused an influx in the population of the churches in Rome to be heavily dominated by gentiles[O11]  and this causes many of the known issues as well as creates an atmosphere in which this doctrinal treatise would be beneficial. Also, Rome was at the heart of the greatest empire the world had ever known, and while Paul had Rome on his heart, he didn’t know if he would ever make it to Rome. But from Rome came conquerors of nations, and ideas which spreading[O12]  to the rest of the world. Paul therefore sets out to give the church in Rome a solid foundation.

Burton called Romans “prophylactic.” A prophylactic is something which guards against infection. Paul had seen to often what harm and trouble could be caused by wrong ideas, twisted notions, misguided conceptions of Christian faith and belief. He therefore wished to send[O13]  to the Church in the city which was the centre of the world a letter which would so build up the structure of their faith, that if infection should ever come to them, they might have in the true word of Christian doctrine a powerful and effective defence[O14] .[3]

This is why the letter to the Romans has more doctrine than any other letter that Paul writes [O15] and can almost be seen as a systematic[O16]  theology. However, the letter leaves out large groups of theology such as eschatology and therefore must be seen as an occasional theology rather than a systematic theology.[4]

This is why, beyond the historical climate and audience, the letter itself and the format of the letter plays a large part in the letter as well as in the seventh chapter of Romans. By writing an occasional theology built on the situations happening in Rome and in the 1st Century church, God helps to fill in and expand on other theological concepts found in other New Testament writers, but also the Old Testament writers. By the time Paul reaches Romans 7 “Mosaic law has been a recurring motif in Romans. Paul has argued that possession of the law did not improve Israel’s situation before the Lord. For it is not possession of the law but obedience that counts, and Israel failed to fulfill the law.”[5] In Romans 7:1-6, Paul sets the stage for the relationship Christians have with the law and sin. Verses 1-3 describe how the law is important only so long as one is alive. This is where Paul applies the substitutionary death of Christ to the life of those who have become followers of Christ. Believers share in the death of Christ on the cross and no longer have to live life in the flesh attempting to obey the law but, [O17] “when a man rules his life by union with Christ he rules it not by obedience to a written code of law which may actually awaken the desire to sin but by an allegiance to Jesus Christ.”[6] In order to understand the rest of the chapter, it is imperative to understand that everything[O18]  takes place against the backdrop of the role the law and Christ have and the freedom one gets through Christ as opposed to the law.

Commands of God

Having already established the Christian as living apart from the law, Paul does specify the role it plays for humanity. In verses 7-12 there is much that can be learned about the law itself. First, the law brings us knowledge of sin (v. 7), second it reveals God’s standard (v. 12), and third it cannot save (v. 10). These are all important principles and need to be fully developed in order come to the full knowledge of how the law is a necessary part of understanding what God has done for mankind through the death of Jesus.

Starting with how the law brings the knowledge of sin, we find that in order to fully understand sin, we have to know the laws we are trespassing against. Due to the past context from verses 1-6, Paul asks the rhetorical question of whether the law is sinful since Christ has freed us from sin and from the law. The answer Paul gives is that without the law, he would not have known what coveting was. Surely, Paul is not meaning he wouldn’t have understood the definition of covet, but rather its nature. The Greek word Paul uses is epithymeō which can be translated as lust or strongly desire.[7] Paul being an educated man would have known what this word meant, but the fact that coveting is a sin would have been hidden without an understanding of what God’s commands are for us. This is how the law reveals to us knowledge of sin.

However, just knowing coveting is to transgress or miss the mark, would do us no good if a human doesn’t know the standard to which we are held. This is why the law tells us not only how humans fail, but also reveal to us the standard of which we are going to be judged. Paul concludes describing the law by saying “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12) This standard of being holy, righteous and good is important for they are all three characteristics of God. Ultimately what we see here is that the law is the standard to which God holds his creation, “the Mosaic law had established God’s standard, but the people fell short of His standard”[8] and ultimately cannot recover from that fallenness themselves.

Therefore, with the law being holy righteous and good, the law also prescribes the punishment for our transgressions. God gave the law and when looking at the nature of what is good and evil, we see the necessary payment for sin is death. Since the Garden of Eden, the payment for sin has always been death. We [O19] see Christ giving life, and sin bringing death. In verses 9 and 10, Paul describes how when there is no law, there is no death because there is nothing to transgress. Don’t be mistaken here thinking Paul is arguing for complete innocence of those who have not heard of the law. Earlier in Romans, Paul tells us “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20) This goes along with the idea that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But when we have the law, we have the standard to which we are held and therefore, once the standard has been broken, we become guilty and sentenced to die.

The last very important thing to realize from the first few verses of this section of scripture is the law cannot save. In fact, “all the law can do is arouse, expose, and condemn the sin that permeates our moral makeup, and so make us aware of its reality, depth, and guilt”[9] With this,  one thing it cannot do is save us from the judgment brought about by the failure to keep the law is to know we cannot keep all aspects of the law so we are all thereby guilty of transgression. Looking outside of Romans, James tell us that “whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) The point being addressed here[O20]  is that everyone is equally guilty before the eyes of God. Each person on earth may not have transgressed with coveting as Paul writes, but each person is nonetheless guilty of some sin, and being guilty of any sin makes one a criminal in the eyes of God having broken the standards god [O21] gave us.

The Role of Sin

Moving on from the nature of the law, Paul next tackles sin. It almost seems like Sin[O22]  has its own personality, and often it can best be describes as such for it definitely has characteristics for how it spreads in our world. Paul describes sin in three ways, first it provides an opportunity for more sin (v. 8, 13), second, it produces death and kills the believer (v. 13) and lastly, sin lives inside the believer (v. 14-20). All three of these areas are important to explore in more depth.

With Adam and Eve in the garden, there was only one way they could violate the commands of God, or, violate the law. As humanity has shown, as a result of eating the fruit forbidden to them, humanity has fallen and now there are more ways than ever w[O23] hich we can violate the commands and character of God. Paul describes this principle using coveting again with “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.” (Romans 7:8) We can sin this [O24] played out in society at large where those who sin repeatedly become calloused and will sin more and in more ways than those in the past. In Romans 1:30, Paul even describes how men even “invent ways of doing evil” which is in line with sin growing and compounding on itself to become more and more sinful.

The inevitable result of sin is death and this chapter drives that home. Paul has already told the Romans “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and this point he belabors more in this section. He describes sin as deceiving him, “and through the commandment put me to death.” (Romans 7:11) and uses the command to bring about death (Romans 7:13).

The last part that Paul talks about sin doing is living inside the believer. This is an incredibly important concept to grasp and Paul devotes eleven verses to how sin lives inside the Christian. He describes how sin deceives, and wages war against Paul’s desires to do good[O25] . It is in his inmost being and wages war against the desire to do that which is good. “Though the original choice of Eve and Adam to disobey God remains a deep mystery, history amply demonstrates that something has gone wildly wrong with humanity and that we remain incapable of freeing ourselves from our own deep propensities toward evil.”[10]

Christ’s Role

In opposition to what sin does, Christ does the opposite and in a much more powerful way. Sin lives in inside each man and produces death. But Christ comes “that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) However, in Romans 7 Paul identifies three specific things Christ does in[O26]  relation to sin and man. First, saves[O27]  from sin (vs. 24-25), second, Christ provides for the redemption of man (v. 25), which in turn allows for the third thing, which is enabling man to serve Christ in mind (v. 22).

In taking a look at how Christ saves from sin, we [O28] must look at the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. We know the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Christ is eternal life. This is the principle of substitutionary sacrifice whereby Christ paid the penalty on our behalf and has therefore provided the means of salvation. We know to “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) However, there has been much debate over those who receive Him and what role God has in that. By saving the believer from sin, Christ also offers a way for man to be redeemed. The redemption of man has often been seen as a tricky subject in church history and there have been many attempts to describe how Christ saved man. The most common are Calvinistic or Armenian.

Calvinism has taken its name from the man who promulgated it originally, John Calvin. Within a Calvinistic theology, God[O29]  is entirely sovereign and “As God sovereignly sustains all his creation, so in his providence he rules over and guides it to the accomplishment of his ultimate purposes that all things might be to the glory of God alone.”[11] When looking at this in relation to the salvation of man, it does necessitate some men to be chosen and elected for salvation and due to the fact that God tells us that not everyone goes to heaven, some therefore must be elected for damnation[O30] . This view essentially relates that everyone is predestined to either heaven or hell and there is nothing humans do that can possibly change anything.

Armenianism on the other hand is essentially in opposition to Calvinism and looks at predestination in a different respect. “it teaches predestination since the scripture writers do, but it understands that this predecision on God’s part is to save the ones who repent and believe.”[12] The Armenian perspective will have it be up to the individual to choose or reject God and that is where ultimately it is up to man to be able to live in Christ and also this enables man to lose salvation if they turn away from God[O31] . Regardless of which of these two most common positions one holds, Christ has redeemed man and that salvation is there for all. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might[O32]  bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18a)

The last incredibly important thing to take note of in this section is how because of the life Christ lives, Christians can live for Christ in their mind through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent. The function of enabling the Christian to live for Christ is done through the Holy Spirit and “today the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian (1 Cor. 6:19) giving him the ability to live for God (Gal. 5:25).”[13] While Jesus died for man and paid the price for our sins, his influence is external. “The Spirit however, is able to affect one more intensely because, dwelling within, he can get to the very center of one’s thinking and emotions, and lead one into all truth, as Jesus promised.”[14] This is where the Jesus and the Holy Spirit enable the Christian to be victorious over sin even though at times the battle may seem overwhelming.

Christian Response to Sin and the Law[O33]

With the conflict wages between Christ and sin, there are several things to gain from the understanding of sin and Christ. First, we must recognize and understand the battle going on inside of each Christian (v. 16-21). Then we must realize that in our flesh we are unable to not sin (v. 18) and the lastly, there is still the desire for us to do good (v. 22)

This whole process can seem very discouraging and with understanding the war that is going on inside of the Christian due to sin and Christ many Christians stumble even more not realizing Christians have not understood the battle going on inside of them. There tends to be a failure to recognize that sin lives inside our flesh despite Christ living in our mind. Without the Holy Spirit, man “is caught in a constant tug of war between that part of him that delights in God’s law and that part of him that is dominated by sin. Only crucifixion with Christ and resurrection with him and resolve this desperate struggle.”[15]

The flesh[O34]  is a key term we need to recognize and study so that we can understand why the sin continually creeps into our lives. Every Christian deals with sin on a continual basis and the only difference is what kind of sin. Every believer will fail to keep the commands of God for Jesus taught only the thought[O35]  was necessary to be guilty of a sin. Therefore, every person who may have physically kept the law will have stumbled when looking at the ultimate standard.

The good news with all of this is there is always a desire for Christians to do good things. Through the Holy Spirit living inside of each believer, there will always be a part of living inside of Christians seeking to desire good. This is where perseverance is a necessary trait for Christians, and through the Holy Spirit, God will give the Christian the perseverance necessary to keep doing good and to get up and try again. The goal for a Christian is always perfection, is always to uphold the standard of God, but due to the ongoing struggle cannot be achieved here on earth, but can when we make it to heaven and Christ deals the final deathblow to sin and casts the devil into the lake of fire[O36] .


While much can be gained from this discussion, the main area the 7th[O37]  chapter of Romans address can be directly applied to the Christian in the current culture as a timeless principle. This principle[O38]  has a direct application dealing with the subject of sin in the life of a Christian and relating it to the ongoing battle for victory over sin in life today. Through this battle raging now, and the spiritual warfare going on inside a Christian there can be many opportunities to fail God and fall into sin. We know the law reveals the standard by which all men are held accountable, and man is unable to save oneself. However, Christ has done all the necessary work to enable a Christian to live free from sin by providing the Holy Spirit to live inside us and guide us. For Christians today, we must take heart for even the Apostles (in this case Paul) struggled with various sins and temptations, but knowing[O39]  that the war is being waged inside of ourselves can dramatically help.










Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press.

1975[O40] .

Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids:Baker Academic


Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Publishers. 2009

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Books 1998

Goodrick, Edward & John Kohlenberger. The Strongest NIV exhaustive Concordance. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1999)

Hall, Christopher. Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. Downers Grove:Inter

Varsity Press. 2002[O41]

Kostenberger, Andreas & L. Scott Kellum & Charles Quarles. The Cradle, The Cross,

And The Grave. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. 2009)

Moo, Douglas. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan


Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton:Tyndale

House Publishers. 1993.

Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today. (Mason: Cengage Learning. 2002)

[1] Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press.

1975) 1.

[2] Moo, Douglas. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan

2000) 18.

[3] Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press. 1975) 2.

[4] Moo, Douglas. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan. 2000) 20.

[5] Moo, Douglas. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids:Zondervan. 2000) 217.

[6] Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press. 1975) 94.

[7] Goodrick, Edward & John Kohlenberger. The Strongest NIV exhaustive Concordance. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1999) 238, 2126.

[8] Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers. 2009) 110.

[9] Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs. (Wheaton:Tyndale House Publishers. 1993) 173.

[10] Hall, Christopher. Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. (Downers Grove:InterVarsity Press. 2002) 140.

[11] Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids:Baker Academic

2001) 202.

[12] Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids:Baker Academic

2001) 96.

[13] Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today. (Mason: Cengage Learning. 2002) 251.

[14] Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 1998) 889.

[15] Kostenberger, Andreas & L. Scott Kellum & Charles Quarles. The Cradle, The Cross,

And The Grave. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. 2009) 537.

 [O1]What do you mean by this phrase?

 [O2]?  many?

 [O3]Begins …

 [O4]What is the 2nd person pronoun doing here?

 [O5]A comma goes here. I will high light the word where a comma ought go with yellow.  If you see that yellow, a comma is to follow.

 [O6]I didn’t follow this jump with you.

 [O7]Wordy sentence.

 [O8]Kyle, read this sentence aloud and see if makes sense to you?  I don’t understand this in the context of the rest of your paragraph. What does the return of Christ have to do with God’s redemption story and Christ paying for our sins.

 [O9]You have already said this for a second time. Tell me about the time and occasion.

 [O10]Avoid the  use of personal pronouns in formal papers like this one.

 [O11]Gentiles … capitalize.

 [O12]Wrote tense.

 [O13]Footnotes need to be indented the same number of spaces as your paragraphs – on the top line of each footnote.  Second and recurring lines reach to the margin. Commas go after the parenthesis before the page number.


 [O15]Paul wrote …

 [O16]Do you really think it is almost a systematic theology?  Does it develop the doctrines around God the Father, Jesus, the Son, The Holy Spirit? Eschatology? Pnemeutology? Etc?  I don’t think so.

 [O17]No comma needed here.

 [O18]You did not include any kind of literary context to show how your passage fits into Romans 7, the book of Romans, Paul’s other letters, the rest of the NT, then the rest of the Bible?

 [O19]Avoid using pronouns like this in formal papers until application areas.

 [O20]Don’t use this word in a paper. I know where you are referring if you have been clear in your work.


 [O22]Why the capital here?

 [O23] which?


 [O25]Well, not good.

 [O26]The footnote below does not have the title italicized.

 [O27]Who?  You must have a subject with your verb.

 [O28]Avoid ….

 [O29]Is this not true of those who follow Armenian theologies?

 [O30]Not every Calvinist would agree with this statement.

 [O31]Not all who embrace a form of Armenianism would agree with your assessment of their position.

 [O32]Who do you stand?

 [O33]It would be helpful if you placed the verses being discussed with the section titles.

 [O34]What does it refer to when used by Paul and in the NT? IT is used three ways…

Human body,

Fallen mankind needing redemption

Man’s fallen nature

 [O35]Where does Jesus teach this?  Just the thought? Did he not have the thought to jump off the temple? To worship Satan? To turn stone to bread?  Is just the thought?

Or is it the thought which is dwelt upon in such a way as to plan on how to accmomplish what what one is thinking?

 [O36]There is no depth with the biblical materials in this section.  Mostly just surface statements.

 [O37]Something is missing.

 [O38]State the principle. I haven’t seen it stated yet!

 [O39]Where is the direct one to one correspondence between Romans  7 and today?  This is missing.

 [O40]This line needs to be indented the same number of spaces as your paragraphs.

 [O41]End these with periods.

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