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Romans 7 – Why Does It Matter?

Bro. Mike Miller

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What we are discussing here is why it is so important to interpret Romans 7 correctly. We are not getting into details in this article and comparing Scriptures. We will do that later.

Ever since the church began there have been unsettled debates over certain issues. People are divided into camps that take one side or the other and there they drop anchor and most refuse to be persuaded, or even consider the other point of view, no matter how graciously or convincingly it is presented. Some of these issues are not really that important, and there is really very little consequence of believing either side of the issue. For example, we are told in Col. 2:16-17:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The next verse continues by talking about “worshipping of angels,” and “intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” There are a lot of people who make much of things that God doesn’t. According to the Scripture we just read it is because they are vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind. It seems that the tendency of people is to “be religious” or at least to appear that way. People tend to substitute knowledge and education, religious dress, customs, or activities for true holiness. The defending of these things becomes their life’s purpose. They are blinded to the really important issues that affect the way sinners and saints perceive and understand the gospel. They are blinded to the things that God really does expect of the redeemed, and to those things that truly please Him. They become arrogant and haughty toward anyone who doesn’t agree with them on some point of religious practice. This is nothing but old-fashioned Pharisee-ism and God hates it!

We are commanded to “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” There are issues that are critically important and define what the gospel message is, what it does for a sinner, and what salvation really is. Romans chapter 7 is one of those issues. How you interpret Romans 7 reveals what you think about the gospel and salvation. Either you believe that there is real deliverance for the sinner, or you believe the Christian life is one of continual bondage in sin and misery. In times past there was much more debate about Romans 7, but in this day of apostasy we have seen the liberal interpretation become almost universally accepted. Easy-believism has filled the churches with unconverted people who are deceived and think they are saved because they have done what the soul-winner or preacher told them to do. This liberal interpretation of Romans chapter 7 explains perfectly why these people can sit on the church pews, tithe, and participate in all the church activities while living in adultery, fornication, drunkenness, hatred, strife and all the other sins of the flesh.

According to the most commonly accepted interpretation of Romans chapter 7 we are all “carnal, sold under sin,” even though we are saved. We want to do right, but simply are not able, and this is the BEST you can expect to obtain in your Christian life. This abomination is preached everywhere and most who sit in the pews woo and coo as they hear a preacher explain how they can sin and get away with it. They identify with all the things that the Bible elsewhere ascribes to a lost person and claim it as their Christian experience. After all, it sure does take the load of guilt off your back if you are dabbling in sin. “I can’t help it” is the best excuse there is.

Some seem to think this is not an important matter and criticize anyone who makes an issue of it. However, this IS a VERY important matter. This liberal interpretation of Romans 7 is the foundation or starting point for all of the modern sinning religion. It is also one of the major building blocks of Calvinistic doctrine. If Romans 7 is a description of the normal Christian experience, then we need to somehow get rid of Romans 6 and 8, as well as a great deal of the rest of the New Testament because it completely contradicts this teaching.

Your interpretation of Romans 7 will determine how you live your life. It will make the difference in whether you strive to live a holy life or just give up to the inevitable and make allowances for sin in your life because you just “can’t help it.”

The way the preachers interpret Romans 7 will determine whether the churches they preach in seek after holiness or just become worldly, carnal, and careless about sin. If a preacher preaches to people that they are carnal, sold under sin, and that the best they can expect as a Christian is simply to desire to do right, but never be able, he need not expect them to hunger and thirst after righteousness. He has very effectively annihilated any incentive or desire to deny their lusts and seek after holiness. What’s the point? No matter how hard I try I will never be able! “O wretched man that I am!” What a pitiful representation of the salvation that Christ provided for us by dying in our place and rising again from the dead!

Since this interpretation is almost universally accepted now, is it any wonder that the churches are filled with sin, worldliness, and carnality? The tragedy is that the churches are filled with people who are as lost as they can be, but who have been deceived into thinking they are saved. There are also multitudes that are outside the church who are laying claim to the same watered-down gospel that doesn’t deliver from sin. When you make the way that broad there is room for anyone, no matter how they live or how black their heart is. We now live in a day when even pornographic movie stars claim to be born-again Christians who pray and read their Bible every night. Because preachers have preached this abominable distortion of the Scriptures they are absolutely powerless to deny such claims. Things like this are the direct result of preaching that makes no difference between the clean and the unclean; between the holy and the unholy.

If we accept this liberal interpretation of Romans 7 as correct, then we really have no message of deliverance to proclaim. There is no deliverance for the sinner here in this world – only an offer of “pie-in-the-sky bye-and-bye.” Jesus is really not the Saviour because what He did really didn’t deliver us from our sins. Death is our saviour because it is the only real hope of freedom from sin that we have. We cannot tell the hopeless sinner that God will deliver him because we don’t believe that He will. All we can tell him is that if he will trust Christ he will always WANT to do good, but he will never be able. He will never have victory over his sin in this world, but he can look forward to death when he will finally be freed from his sin. His testimony as a Christian will be “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

If we are going to believe that Romans 7 describes a normal saved person then we need to rewrite our songbooks. Have you ever noticed that most of the hymns in our songbooks are about victory and deliverance from sin. “O Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away!” “He set me free, yes He set me free, He broke the bonds of prison for me.” “I am so wondrously saved from sin, Jesus so sweetly abides within.” The next verse of that song says, “I am so glad I have entered in; there Jesus saves me and keeps me clean; Glory to His Name!” “Tell to sinners far and wide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!” “Standing on the promises I now can see, perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me.” We could go on with this endlessly because any church hymnal you pick up is going to be full of songs that talk about deliverance from sin and victory in Jesus. The old songwriters didn’t believe this modern, liberal interpretation of Romans 7. They believed the Bible in its entirety and they believed that salvation was more than defeat and misery. There are some of us who still believe that way today. Jesus DOES save sinners from their sin. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”

And it DOES matter what we believe about Romans 7!

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