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Interpretations of Romans 7.

Discussion in 'Bible Verses' started by bmjackson, May 13, 2019.

  1. bmjackson

    bmjackson Newbie

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    There have been two interpretations of Romans 7 which have dominated church history and which are sometimes known as the Primitive and the Post-Primitive. Augustine held to the Primitive in his early years, as did nearly all of the Church Fathers and writers before Augustine, but changed his stance later. The reason that he changed was due to his heated discourses with Pelagius. There have been two interpretations widely held since Augustine, the original and the one from Augustine called the Post Primitive which did not exist before he adopted and popularised it. The third, was held by Pelagius and claims that sinlessness is possible in this life.


    We must conclude that the man depicted in Romans 7 is a) a man who has only just come to Christ for forgiveness and has attempted previously to be righteous through obeying the law, (or as commonly known as an unbeliever) and the Primitive view, b) the normal state of a Christian which is held by Calvinists in the main and brought in by Augustine and c) the believer who has come to the crisis in his faith and inability to keep God’s law in the manner that he knows he must, whereby he will be delivered from the body of sin to the state where there is no more condemnation, the view which became widespread during the ‘Celtic period’, and Holiness Movement of the 19th C. There is no other viable interpretation of these texts.

    The Primitive view and the one which is widely held today for example by many Arminians, is that Romans 7 describes the salvation experience and Paul is writing as an unregenerate soul. Augustine said: “It is understood that man here described who was never under grace” (Homilies). This is the view that Augustine held until Pelagius challenged him over his view that man is totally depraved.


    “In his argument, Pelagius referred to the passage under consideration, saying that this was a palpable case in which, by the universal assent of the church, the state and character of the unregenerate man is described. He then asked, if approving the right, and hating the wrong, and 'delighting in the law of God' did not imply that there was something good even in such a man? Augustine could not deny the fact, the case being so palable, of the universal agreement of the church in the deduction that it was the unregenerate man referred to in the passage; nor did he perceive how, admitting the correctness of the universally received exposition, he could meet the argument of his opponent. Under such perplexity, Augustine denied the validity of his own and the universal, and adopted the few and before, unheard of, exposition, a most needless resort and a most calamitous one for the spiritual good of the church” (J Schmidz Romans 7)

    Augustine did not accept Pelagius’ argument and agree with his interpretation. Pelagius was trying to show Augustine that Romans 7 was not to be understood as the so called Primitive view but the Apostolic view. Augustine realised his first view was untenable that Paul described the unregenerate but the second view was untenable for Augustine because it says that man can stop sinning.

    Pelagius taught the Apostolic view which is that Paul is speaking about the Christian in Romans 7 but not in what should be his normal condition. Those who do not accept the view that it is a Christian speaking point to the fact that there is no mention of grace or of the work of the Holy Spirit in the chapter. But this is not because there is no Holy Spirit or grace. Far from it. The opposite is true actually. However, the person describing it is not aware of it. It seems as though God has deserted actually, as the person comes to an extreme point because God has convicted the man of his sinfulness. Paul is discussing experience here not doctrine. He came to a point of time when he saw himself as God saw him as he sought acceptance through the works of the law. And all Christians seek to do this unless they adopt Augustine’s position and excuse their sin. and until they come to the point whereby they admit their powerlessness.

    The misunderstanding of the early writers teachings in saying that Romans 7 is the unregenerate person could be that some meant an unregenerate person as a believer who has not arrived at the sanctification experience, which was what Wesley meant by the 'Almost Christian' In the Bible, salvation sanctification and justification are all one event but describing the differing aspects of it. This could means that one is not really saved until they are entirely sanctified. Jesus came to save us from our sins and until this is done, then we are still in them and not saved even though we have been given 'The power to become the son's of God' as a possibility but not yet an actuality until the provision of sanctification through the cross, is appropriated by man and he is delivered from not just the penalty from sin but also the power and the presence.

    This Apostolic view has been rejected by most of the church through the ages and the reason why Pelagius has had such bad press. By his dispute with Augustine and his understanding of Romans 7, he did not teach that the Christian could stop sinning on his own accord. Far from it. It needed the divine interaction of God to bring about the change or deliverance needed to get Paul from Romans7 to Romans 8.
     
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  2. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I hold that Romans 7 describes the unregenerate Jew under the Ten Commandments. Paul taught we could walk in the Spirit and overcome the flesh warring against us. So This would reinforce he was speaking about unregenerate Jews.
     
  3. bmjackson

    bmjackson Newbie

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    So why does he say '22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" when the Jew thought that it was all about outward obedience? That was something that Jesus had to emphasise in sermon on the mount.
     
  4. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Being saved, we all delight in the law (two great commandments specifically).
     
  5. bmjackson

    bmjackson Newbie

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    No he was speaking as an unregenerate as you say.
     
  6. mark kennedy

    mark kennedy Natura non facit saltum Supporter

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    While the historical debate over this passage is quite interesting, I don't think any of it changes what I'm reading here. Paul is talking in vividly personal terms in his most detailed exposition of justification by faith. He is telling us internally what his reaction, the natural man's reaction to the Law was and is. Whether before conversion are after you are a sanctified saint you have unredeemed flesh opposed to the things of God. Granted, after being in Christ you have a choice of being a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6). Paul contrasts the law of sin and death with walking after the Law of the Spirit, the believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit of promise with a new nature. That's what breaks the grip sin has, not just in spite of the Law, but in many ways, because of the Law.

    Before the gospel something has to happen, you have to be convicted of sin and the Law provided that, by exposing it to the righteous requirements of the Law. The Law could not provide that righteousness, it only demonstrated the need for it. I don't think Paul is being that ambiquise here, I think he strongly contrasts the Law of Moses with the Law of the Spirit.

    Grace and peace,
    Mark
     
  7. mark kennedy

    mark kennedy Natura non facit saltum Supporter

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    Yet Paul says, 'wretched man that I am', not wretched man that I was. That's what is puzzling me because I had always thought this was the natural man, the old nature's response to the Law regardless. Of course the new nature delights in the Law, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit actually embodies it. But this old nature still exists, does it not? Even after conversion, other wise why would Paul warn so strenuously not to be lead astray by it?

    Indeed a thought provoking OP, but there is a lot to unpack here.

    Grace and peace,
    Mark
     
  8. bmjackson

    bmjackson Newbie

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    Paul is using a common method of speaking in the present tense for affect. He is describing a man who is struggling against the old nature. An unsaved man does not do this. Nor is he a man with a new nature who is in victory of it. The only time we struggle against the old nature is before baptism of the Spirit post conversion, when God convicts the man that he is not living up to the position he has legally in Christ but is not yet living as a reality.

    So there are three positions for a man: an unsaved man, a man who is walking in the Spirit in victory against sin, and the man in between in a crisis. The carnal man.
     
  9. Mathetes66

    Mathetes66 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Rom 1:13-17 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that often times I purposed to come to you, (but was prevented hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

    I am debtor both to the Greeks & to the Barbarians; both to the wise & to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I AM READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL to you that are at Rome ALSO.

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first & also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God REVEALED from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    Heb 7:19 (For the Law made nothing perfect) & a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

    I Cor 14:26 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN, brothers?

    To understand Romans 7, one must understand it in light of Paul's purpose for writing this epistle & the argument from the immediate context of Romans 5 THROUGH 8--as well as the overall context of the book of Romans itself. Paul is addressing believers in Christ assembling at Rome concerning what the gospel is & contrasting the unrighteousness of men vs the righteousness of God.

    If one wants to follow Paul's teaching & arguments, just follow the statements he makes throughout Romans:


    Rom 3:1 WHAT THEN, is the advantage of being a Jew?

    Rom 3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, WHAT SHALL WE SAY? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)

    Rom 3:9 WHAT THEN? Are we better than they? NOT AT ALLl; for we have already charged that both Jews & Greeks are all under sin.

    Rom 3:31 DO WE, THEN, nullify the law by this faith? MAY IT NEVER BE! Rather, we uphold the law.

    Rom 4:1 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN about Abraham, our forefather, that he has found?

    Rom 6:1,2 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? MAY IT NEVER BE! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

    Rom 6:16 WHAT THEN? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? MAY IT NEVER BE!

    Rom 7:7 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN? Is the Law sin? MAY IT NEVER BE!

    Rom 8:31 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN, in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

    Rom 9:14 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN? Is God unjust? NOT AT ALL!

    Rom 9:30,31 WHAT SHALL WE SAY THEN? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it?

    Rom 10:15 BUT WHAT DOES IT SAY? (the righteousness of God by faith)

    Rom 11:1 I ASK THEN, did God reject His people? MAY IT NEVER BE!

    Rom 11:7 WHAT THEN?

    Rom 11:11 I SAY THEN, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? MAY IT NEVER BE! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

    Rom 14:10 WHY, THEN, do you judge your brother?


    Rom 11:33-36 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom & knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments & his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him & it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him & through him & to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

    As to who Paul is talking about, one simply must see if he is saying YOU specifically to a definite group or individual, or WE or I.

    In Romans 5 it is WE. In Romans 6 it is WE again & YOU. In Romans 7 it starts out with the WE & YOU. However, starting in vs 7, it is I & ME to the end of the chapter. Paul is not talking about those in Rome. Paul is not talking about the unregenerate or generate man in general. Paul is not talking about the Jews or the Gentiles in this passage: HE IS TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF & HIS OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.

    Then in Romans 8, Paul INCLUDES believers in Christ & those in Rome with himself, in the experiences of Christians in their battle of the flesh & walking in the Spirit. He then goes back toward the end of the chapter to YOU & WE again as brethren.
     
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