Romans 7:14-25 does not teach that Paul was a sinning apostle. Nor should it be used to excuse any one’s practice thereof.
Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Romans 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Romans 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
One should read Romans chapters 6-8 to fully grasp the following teaching.
Comments from Charles Finney:
Romans 7:14-25 has by many been supposed to be an epitome of Paul’s experience at the time he wrote the epistle. Upon this I remark:
1. The connection and drift of Paul’s reasoning show, that the case of which he was speaking, was adduced by him to illustrate the influence of the law upon the carnal mind. This is a case in which sin had the entire dominion, and overcame all his resolutions of obedience.
2. That his use of the singular pronoun, and in the first person, proves nothing in regard to the point, whether or not he was speaking of himself, for this is common with him, and with other writers, when using illustrations. He keeps up the personal pronoun, and passes into the eighth chapter; at the beginning of which he represents himself, or the person of whom he is speaking, of being not only in a different, but in an exact opposite state of mind. Now, if the seventh chapter contains Paul’s experience, whose experience is this in the eighth chapter? Are we to understand them both as the experience of Paul? If so, we must understand him as first speaking of his experience before, and then after he was sanctified. He begins the eighth chapter by saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Romans 8:1), and assigns as a reason, that “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The law of sin and death was that law in his members, or the influence of the flesh, of which he had so bitterly complained in the seventh chapter. But now, it appears, that he has passed into a state in which he is made free from this influence of the flesh, is emancipated and dead to the world and to the flesh, and in a state in which “there is no condemnation”. Now, if there was no condemnation in the state in which he then was, it must have been, either because he did not sin, or, if he did sin, because the law did not condemn him; or because the law of God was repealed or abrogated. Now, if the penalty of the law was so set aside in this case, that he could sin without condemnation, this is a real abrogation of the law. But as the law was not, and could not be set aside, it’s penalty was not and could not be be so abrogated, as not to condemn every sin. If Paul lived without condemnation, it must be because he lived without sin.
To me it does not appear that Paul speaks of his own experience in the seventh chapter of Romans, but that he merely supposes a case by way of illustration, and speaks in the first person, and in the present tense, simply because it was convenient and suitable to his purpose. His object manifestly was, in this and in the beginning of the eighth chapter, to contrast the influence of the law and the gospel – to describe in the seventh chapter the state of a man who was living in sin, and every day condemned by the law, convicted and constantly struggling with his own corruptions, but continually overcome, – and in the eighth chapter to exhibit a person in the enjoyment of gospel liberty, where the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in the heart by the grace of Christ. The seventh chapter may well apply either to a person in a backslidden state, or to a convicted person who had never been converted. The eighth chapter can clearly be applicable to none but to those who are in a state of entire sanctification.
I have already said, that the seventh chapter contains the history of one over whom sin has dominion. Now, to suppose that this was the experience of Paul when he wrote the epistle, or of any one who was in the liberty of the gospel, is absurd and contrary to the experience of every person who ever enjoyed gospel liberty. And further, this is as expressly contradicted in the sixth chapter as it can be. As I said, the seventh chapter exhibits one over whom sin has dominion: but God says, “for sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). I remark finally upon this passage, that if Paul was speaking of himself in the seventh chapter of Romans, and really giving a history of his own experience, it proves nothing at all in regard to his subsequent sanctification; for the eighth chapter shows conclusively, that it was not his experience at the time he wrote the epistle. The fact that the seventh and eighth chapters have been separated since the translation was made, as I have before said, has led to much error in the understanding of this passage. Nothing is more certain, than that the two chapters were designed to describe not only different experiences, but experiences opposite to each other. And that both these experiences should belong to the same person at the same time, is manifestly impossible. If therefore Paul is speaking in this connection of his own experience, we are bound to understand the eighth chapter as describing his experience at the time he wrote the epistle; and the seventh chapter as descriptive of a former experience.
Now, therefore, if any one understands the seventh chapter as describing a Christian experience, he must understand it as giving the exercises of one in a very imperfect state; and the eighth chapter as descriptive of a soul in a state of entire sanctification. So that this epistle, instead of militating against the idea of Paul’s entire sanctification, upon the supposition that he was speaking of himself, fully establishes the fact that he was in that state. What do those brethren mean who take the latter part of the seventh chapter as entirely disconnected from that which precedes and follows it, and make it tell a sad story on the subject of the legal and sinful bondage of an inspired apostle? What cannot be proved from the bible in this way? Is it not a sound and indispensable rule of biblical interptretation, that a passage is to be taken in it’s connection, and that the scope and leading intention of the writer is to be continually born in mind, in deciding upon the meaning of any passage?
Taken from “Charles Finney – The Complete & Newly Expanded 1878 Edition – Finney’s Systematic Theology”. Copyright 1994 Bethany House Publishers. Pages 401 – 402.
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