Romans 7:13-25: Fighting Against Sin
March 11, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This passage has received several contrary interpretations. At stake is whether Paul is describing the condition of being a Christian (wrestling with the ongoing implications and struggle with sin that all Christians face), or whether he is describing his pre-Christian stage (wrestling with conviction of sin that should lead us to salvation in Christ). Various particular phrases in these verses seem to suggest one, or other, possible interpretation. For instance, the phrase “in my inner being I delight in God’s law” seems strongly to suggest that Paul is talking about a Christian. Who but someone who is truly regenerate could say that in their inner being they genuinely delight in God’s Word? But then, on the other hand, how is it possible that a real Christian could say that he is a “prisoner of the law of sin”? And so there are these different interpretations that various teachers have adopted at various times. At one level, it matters not a great deal which interpretation you adopt, for all responsible biblical teachers agree that: Christians, even holy Christians, still struggle with sin; and that Christians are all able to grow in holiness, even though it is hard work to do so.
That said, my own interpretation is that Paul is talking about the experience of being a Christian. I think this best fits the evidence of the text (especially the phrase “in my inner being I delight in God’s law”), and I also think it provides an important place in Scripture to articulate the very real struggle that many of us face from time-to-time when we are battling against sinful thoughts and desires. But if you adopt the other interpretation of this passage, then that is ok!
Let us then consider the implications and applications of this passage for our lives today:
First, let us wrestle and fight against sin! It is a struggle. Lean into that struggle. Elsewhere Paul teaches how to fight against sin (see, for instance, Colossians 3 or Romans 8:13). But here we have beautifully described the very real battle. It is important that we acknowledge it is a battle. And we fight against sin in our lives with every ability and with every dependence upon Christ and his power.
Second, let us not conclude from our occasional sins that therefore we are not saved. If anyone who ever sinned was not a Christian, then there would be no Christians in this world. Certainly, we should not be walking in sin (see 1 John 1:6). That is, we should not pretend to be following Jesus while really in practice not doing so. But neither are we to say, even as Christians, that we have no sin (see 1 John 1:8). This passage calls us to the humble acknowledgement that even the most holy among us are all sinners.
Third, let us pray for each other that we would grow in Christlikeness. Support each other. Encourage one another. How well it is said that everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. Every Christian you meet is fighting a great battle against sin. Encourage one another, support one another, love one another, spur one another on to love and good deeds.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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