Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment

Introduction

My thesis consists of two major parts and a conclusion. The first part would cover the previous interpretations of Romans 7 by famous analysts found in church history. This will help us to focus on how the traditional interpretation has affected the church’s point of view concerning this section. In this paper, I would also examine Romans chapter 7 about his other chapters and writings. This would assist in bringing out a clear picture of what Paul is saying and what he is not saying as far as Christianity and identity are concerned. I will conclude the paper with some points of the effects of Paul’s teachings in Roman 7 for the entire church.

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Exegetical Evaluation of Romans 7:7-25

Romans chapter 7:7-25 is known to be the most discussed section of all roman sections. Many controversies have been derived from this section in the book of the New Testament. The writings of Paul in this section were to initiate and justify the history of individuals’ struggle with their sins, according to most people who have analyzed this section1. My view concerning this section is a bit different from the views of these analysts. My analysis of this section of roman is to emphasize how in the guidance of the ministry of spirit that Paul continues to illustrate in chapter eight. In the next chapter that is Romans 8, the people’s revival from the condemnation of sins was a mission that was completely accomplished.

To begin with, let us relate the thoughts of Paul in this section with what he stated in Romans 3:19-20. This section helps a great deal to discover the intentions of Paul from the beginning. These verses will act as a guide to understanding Romans 7:7-25 states that:

Now we know that whatever the laws say, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sins2.

Although the analysis is supposed to cover verses 7-25, much emphasis would be put on the information that is contained from verses 14-25. Romans 3 would support my interpretation: 19-20, as it contains previous interpretations of views of Paul. Developing the ideas from the previous roman chapters especially chapter 3, the 7th chapter of Romans is the full and clear description of the law ministry. It has been me believe that everyone can understand how ministry creates a clear path to the people it is addressing about the revelation of the sin contents that exist among them. The availability of sins among the people happens to force them to captivity3. To some extent, everyone is made aware of the need to have a savior among the midst of the congregation as well as in their lives.

Moreover, this section of Roman cannot be understood well without first revealing the identity of “I”, who is the speaker of the verse in the question of Roman 7:7-25. The acceptable view of the identity is derived from Werner Kummels, who has done much work as far as the interpretation of this section is concerned. It is clear that the use of the speaker “I” is applied in this section rhetorically to represent the non-Christian under the law. The verses that bring out this truth are as follows. To begin with, Roman 7:7 that states “Therefore what will we say, the law is sin? May it never be! But, I would not have known sin except through the law4. I also had not known desire, except the law was saying, “You shall not desire. ” My point of view concerning this verse is that the writer was trying to bring out a clear picture of the difference between the law and the sin, and so people should never confuse these two. The relationship between them may help in differentiating them. These two are like the light and the shadows, whereby one comes because of the other, though they are two different things.

On the other hand, these two have also the immature relationship that exists between a child and the guardian, advising a child not to touch a cookie jar, an act that increases the desire of this child to touch the cookie more and more. One may think that this kind of relationship does not exist between the law and sins when one takes a shallow view of the part “I also had not known desire, except the law was saying, “You shall not desire. ” however this statement, implies that people have their natural desires that exist among all human beings because human beings were born with sins5. It may seem very hard for us to define the divine law because of our imperfections that we are created with, and hence we are supposed to be directed on how to act. The major purpose of the law is not to tell us what we should not do; human beings should also have to understand the inner feeling of resisting some things.

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The previous interpretations of this section based the arguments of connecting the law and the sins hence concluding that Paul the writer of the Romans was implying the struggle that human beings encounter with sins. If the relationship between the sins and the law is misinterpreted, some false conclusions may be derived from these sections of Roman. In Roman verses 7, the speaker confessed that he knew sin through first knowing the law, this does not mean that people who do not know the law is not a sinner6. In the beginning, someone may think that Paul is just giving people his personal experience due to the usage of the first-person pronoun. This method of narration may not be as effective as the situations that Paul makes use of “I”. One factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the speaker’s confession of being present even before the application of the law. Romans, 7:9 states, “The notion that Paul, or any other Jew for that matter, would have ever conceived of himself as being alive “apart from the Law” is completely rejected.

According to my views, this indicates that it was hard for any moment for Paul not to be under the law; this brings out the fact that the speaker of this section was not Paul. The “I” speaker is not Paul, and the information given in the verses is not his history and experience as many would think. If Paul was giving his personal story and experience he would have personalized the whole issue, but in the real case, this was general information concerning various people from different regions7. Paul could not personalize this section, and instead, he uses “I” to let anyone who may fall under that condition, to identify him or herself with the contents of the story, such that the story belongs to them all. In this section, the “I”, aspect is applied just as a figure of speech that makes Paul express his thoughts in a lively and interesting manner.

In this 7th chapter of Romans, Paul is writing a letter to his people, as well as giving them a point of reference as the available law. Paul is referring to the law as a base from which he and his beloved people should rely on. For any law to be effective there must be someone to make the policies and implement those policies. The tone in which Paul addresses these people is a humble one, to an extent of placing himself at the same level as his audience8. The main reason for Paul to use “I” had a higher and deeper spiritual meaning, although most people take it as the identity of Paul.

The people, who have fallen trap of believing “I” was Paul, take this scripture narrowly as they consider that any human being may deviate from spiritual ways and order, and they tend not to believe Paul. People assume the story given in this chapter is Paul’s personal experience. By making use of the first person pronoun, Paul wanted to show the weakness of humankind, as well as showing his people that, though he is one person, he represents humanity. Humankind in this context is used to show the weakness of people as they are destined to sins. No one with a fleshly nature can do away with sins according to Paul.

It has been controversial to many Christians about whether Paul was using his pre-Christian or Christian experience. My views according to this issue are that Paul was referring to the non-Christians who could not understand the law and hence could not understand it as well9. Also, the non-Christians that pal is talking about is not a specific person or a certain group of people, but it is his imagination.

Verse 14 states that “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin Romans 7:14 (New international version).” When Paul is talking about flesh he is referring to the way other Christians view him. The controversy found here between the spirit and the flesh is in the same manner as it is found in the next chapter verses 5-11, whereby Paul is explaining the impossibility of one being in flesh and at the same time be in spirit. The status of being sold in the bondage of sins shows the absence of Christianity in most of the doings of the non-Christians as explained by Paul. Verse 15 states that: “For that which I am doing I do not know; for I am not practicing this thing which I wish, but I am doing this thing which I hate Romans 7:15 (New international version).” This statement shows the human weakness of going back to sins due to the failure of obeying the law accordingly. Verse 16 states that: “But if I am doing this thing which I do not wish, I agree with the law that it is good.”

The spiritual person who is in Paul’s mind wants to obey the rules of law even if not in the perfect manner, as he considers failure to obey the law as an evil act he is fighting against. Verse 17 states: “But now no longer am I doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Only a Christian believer who can come up with such a statement nobody through his or her flesh could convince others that they are under the bondage of sins10. Anyone can overcome sins by trying to work by the law. Verse 18: “For I know that good does not dwell in me that is, in my flesh; for to will is at hand in me, but to work the good is not Roman 7: 18 (English standard version).” A shallow interpretation of this verse may lead to misinterpretation of what Paul was intending to mean. The people’s will to do the will of God is limited by the presence of sins to a point whereby people cannot act according to the will of God. Sometimes this happens even without the knowledge of human beings due to temptations of falling into sins.

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Verses 19-20: “For I am not doing the good which I wish, but I am practicing this evil which I do not wish. But if I am doing this thing which I do not wish, I am no longer doing it but sin which dwells in me Roman 7:19-20 (New international version).” These verses are directly related to what Paul said in verses 15 and 17 about the essence of all Christians to have a common understanding of the will of God especially by obeying the law. Verse 21: “I find then the law, in me who wishes to do good, that evil is at hand with me Romans 7:21 (New international version).” This verse according to Paul shows the outcome of acting according to the will of God, despite the that we are enslaved in sins. Verses 22-23: these verses should not be taken to mean that there is a sense of good within the sinful human entity.

The human nature of rejoicing in God’s law is sometimes not according to one’s knowledge but more to the law of sin that puts one into the bondage of sins. Verses 24-25a: these verses still are sensitive words that cannot be said by a non-Christian11. These verses show clearly that it’s only Jesus Christ who can deliver one from the serious bondage of sins, and this can only be realized through the help of the Holy Spirit. Verse 25b: this verse shows how Christians are filled with the love and desire to serve God, although their efforts to do so sometimes fail. One may visualize the importance and the benefits of serving God in his or her mind, but the flesh that is imprisoned in the bondage of sins limits these efforts. Most of the non-Christians sometimes believe that they are serving God, but the fact of the matter is that sins and other evils are the masters of their destiny by guiding them in doing things that are destructive to their flesh without knowing.

However, despite all the interpretations of the section verses, believers can experience life that seems to be very similar to what Paul informs people in Romans 7: 14-25. That is why it is always important to give the interpretations of the bible verses within and depending on its contexts, but not relating it with our own experiences12. The traditional views of this section of Romans bring out the picture of continuing sins in believers as if it is explained depending on personal experience. To some extent, the interpretations of this section traditionally have been disregarded because Romans 7:14-25 has been interpreted and explained to people completely out of its context.

The most contradicting ideas of this section are that in chapters 6 and 8, the Christian experience is well discussed, and an essential part that is missing in Romans 7:14-25. Secondly, this poverty has resulted in increment of well-meant but misdirected attempts to overrule the morose views concerning the Christian struggle that we have been going through. Most of the bible analysts have tried to bring into light that the only way of overcoming sins was to die to self. Through this action, sins would no longer have a place in our lives that are imprisoned in the bondage of sins. The issue of how human beings are supposed to live as non-selves was never brought into the light. The only point that has been emphasized is for human beings to let Jesus live his victorious life within our lives. In the beginning, Christians embraced this fact a great deal, thinking that it was very easy to live such lives, but later people realized that it was next to impossible to live without being selves.

Another issue concerning the die to self is to entice people to the fact of “let go and let God “which was entire to encourage people to let all other things pass by that have been disturbing them and allow God to stand and work within the13. The known truth is that it is hard to do according to the will of God unless apart from the use of God’s grace in our day-to-day lives. To some point, through the practice of letting go and letting God, responsibilities, and challenges turned to be overwhelming until people started getting tired of doing nothing and started preparing their hearts for God to act as they were instructed to do. The verse of letting go and letting God turned in the scripture to telling people to trust in God and get going which meant that the fraternity of humankind has a great role of being the actor in this case leading to dying to self-conception.

The developed meaning of this scripture, states that now that we were conceived from the sins, we needed to be guided by the holy spirit by taking us through the hardships and controlling the dos and don’ts that are contained in our hearts. The dire need of human beings to serve God through their deeds is clear evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit inside these people14. Its truth that nobody made of flesh and blood would have a desire to serve God if he or she does not have a holy spirit taking control of the heart. In our hearts, we have a Holy Spirit ministry whose work is to guide and oppose our fleshly desires of committing sins.

Without the presence of the Holy Spirit, the flesh, whose directions are mostly to the sinful events, controls the life of humanity. When Paul insisted on people to work under the control of the Holy Spirit, he meant people to be set free from the bondage of sins. Being set from the bondage of sins makes one have a need and spiritual intentions of freely serving God15. The recent views of people concerning spirit control are different because the analysts believe that Christians are just as sinful as they were in the past, and hence it’s advisable to take control of the sinful nature among humankind. This implies that unless the Holy Spirit guides Christians, no one can volunteer or have a free will to serve God by acting according to his will. Most of the recent views from several analysts can be said to be the primary source of mistakes that Paul is addressing in Romans 7:14-25. Even if humanity is claimed to have passed from death to life, it is only the work of the Holy Spirit, which can deliver humankind and prevent individuals from dying when still in sinful status.

In Romans 8:9 Paul says that the probability of one living life according to the will of God is very high, broad, and deep just like the heavenly father who has called us. The Christians, who are spiritually guided and have left the fleshly influence, are inspired not to go back to the onslaught of sin, as it was before the deliverance by Christ, their ways of life should be placing and trusting in Christ who have been responsible in freeing Christians from the bondage of sins. Before the good work that was done by Jesus Christ of freeing humanity from the bondage of sins, people lived with the evils despite that, they hated It. When people desired to do good, it was impossible as there was no clear path of leading them to goodness, but now with the presence of Christ, there is a choice of doing good and acting according to the will of God16.

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Conclusion

The clear and true nature of the current Christians is that of Jesus Christ and not a nature of sins, and Christians should now live as people who know Christ, people who have been released from the bondage of sins, and people who are ready to do the will of God. According to Peter, in his letter, it was indicated that Christians should be aware of some of the things said by peter were hard to be understood not unless through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For instance, Paul tells us that we are chosen Christians who are freed from the bondage of sins, but this does not guarantee us to let sins dominate our mortal bodies by obeying the desire of the flesh. Paul urges his people to present themselves to the heavenly father as people revived from death to life, and acting as instruments of doing righteousness according to the will of God, as a way of instilling hope and joy in God almighty.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul. Romans interpretation: A bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2002.

Hodge, Charles. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 2003.

Keck, Leander. Paul and his letters, proclamation commentaries. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2006.

Luther, Martin. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005.

Sanders, E. P. Paul, and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.

Theissen, Gerd. Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2002.

Wesley, John. Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2004.

Footnotes

  1. E. P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.
  2. Paul Achtemeier. Romans interpretation: A bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2002.
  3. Charles Hodge. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 2003.
  4. Leander, Keck, Paul and his letters, proclamation commentaries. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2006.
  5. E. P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.
  6. Martin, Luther. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005.
  7. Gerd, Theissen. Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2002.
  8. john, Wesley. Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2004.
  9. Paul, Achtemeier. Romans interpretation: A bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2002.
  10. IBID 1.
  11. E. P, Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.
  12. E. P, Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.
  13. Leander, Keck. Paul and his letters, proclamation commentaries. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2006.
  14. IBID.
  15. E. P, Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2001.
  16. Leander, Keck. Paul and his letters, proclamation commentaries. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2006.
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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 27). Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/romans-and-church-history-exegetical-assessment/

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"Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment." StudyCorgi, 27 Mar. 2021, studycorgi.com/romans-and-church-history-exegetical-assessment/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment." March 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/romans-and-church-history-exegetical-assessment/.


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StudyCorgi. "Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment." March 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/romans-and-church-history-exegetical-assessment/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment." March 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/romans-and-church-history-exegetical-assessment/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Romans and Church History: Exegetical Assessment'. 27 March.

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