Some Comments on the Wretched Man in Romans 7

Some Comments on the Wretched Man in Romans 7

Romans 7:13-25 is a difficult passage, but many concerns vanish when chapters 6 and 7 are analyzed together. Four questions are answered that arise in the Jewish mind related to grace and Law (Rom 5:20-21). This is in a section principally addressed to Jew-born believers, but not without benefits for the Gentile believer. Each of the questions are answered by “absolutely not!”. Here they are:

1. Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? Absolutely not!….Paul uses the “united with Christ argument”. (6:1-14)

2. Shall we sin because we are not under the Law? Absolutely not!….Paul uses the new master and the new husband arguments. (6:15-7:6)

3. Is the Law sin? Absolutely not!…..Paul uses personal (or a representative Jew) testimony argument (7:7-12).

4. Did that which is good [the Law] become death for me? Absolutely not! ….Paul uses the “wretched man” argument. 7:13-25.

Paul then moves to a fuller explanation of the power of the gospel and the Spirit within the believer in chapter 8. Because sin is condemned in the death of Christ (put to death as a tyrant over us) and because the Spirit is indwelling, the Jewish believer (and really, every believer) fulfills the righteous requirement of the Law, which, to Paul, is love (8:4). His mind is no longer set on the flesh performing the Law, but on the Spirit. He is “led” by the Spirit, meaning that he is dominated by the Spirit and not the flesh any longer.

Remember that “flesh” here is mainly about how a person seeks to fulfill God’s requirements. The flesh way doesn’t work because flesh seeking to fulfill Law always is unable and unholy, which is characteristic of the wretched man. Even when a religious Jew seeks to use the flesh to accomplish the Law, he is actually hostile toward God and is really not able to do it. If he is “in the flesh” even when religious, he “cannot please God.” (7:6-9)

Here are a few posts I’ve made earlier which further explain what the wretched man is like as I see it:

In Rom 7, the wretched man is a slave to sin and a prisoner, practices sin and is unable to do good, and only has hope in the gospel (8:1-4).

The wretched man in Rom 7 wishes to do good & keep the Law…just what a conscientious Jew feels when under conviction.

The wretched man is about Law conviction for Jews (7:13), showing how holy Law makes the man who loves it feel his wretchedness.

The bondage the wretched Jew feels (Rom 7) is that turmoil of conviction between a mind serving the Law and the flesh serving sin. (v24,25)

The wretched man is freed from his bondage through the gospel (7:24-8:4). He does not continue to be a wretched man as ch 8 affirms.

The Jew-born Christian who was formerly a “wretched man” is free due to Christ’s death and now fulfill the “requirement” of the Law thru the Spirit (8:4). This requirement is, to Paul, “love.”