Piper responds to Patheos authors’ disagreement over Romans 7

John Piper has responded to what he calls our “gracious demurring” on the man of Romans 7 during the conference here and here, and my previous post on the subject.

I love that he took the time to explain his position further, and that we are all able to discuss these matters as brothers and friends.  He is totally right when he says:

I doubt that when it comes to a positive description of what the Christian life should be, and what it normally is, the three of us would differ significantly. In other words, our difference in exegesis on this passage probably does not signal a significant difference [in] what to call for, hope for, and expect from genuine Christians.

via Clarifying Romans 7:14–25 As “Christian Experience” | Desiring God.

I thought in this post I would just list some areas where I am fairly sure we all agree on this matter, and importantly its implications:

  • There is a very real difference between the experience of the non-Christian and mature Christian on the subject of their relationship with sin.
  • Christians are meant to experience increasing freedom and triumph, nevertheless they still do have an ongoing battle with sin where they sometimes feel close to defeat.
  • There is a “now but not yet” aspect to all this which is seen in our relationship with sin, just as there is in relation to our bodies, which do experience something of the power of God now, but are also still buffeted by sickness and weakness as we await Jesus’ return.
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  • http://www.ChristCrucified.info/ Peter Newman

    I disagree. A difference in exegesis on this passage most definitely signals a significant difference in what to expect from genuine Christians. The identity of the “wretched man” in Roman 7 is critical to understanding and teaching the message of the cross and the gospel of Christ. Why is this? If you believe that a born again believer is that “wretched man,” do you also believe a born again believer still has a sinful nature? If you believe that a born again believer still has a sinful nature, then Christ died on the cross needlessly (Galatians 2:20-21). If we think the “wretched man” is a born again believer, then our interpretation of Romans 6, 7 and 8 is almost certainly wrong. And if our understanding of Romans 6, 7 and 8 is wrong, then we cannot possibly walk in sanctification by faith. And without sanctification, we cannot see the Lord. In other words, if we get the identity of the “wretched man” wrong, then our gospel is likely wrong. This is not simply an academic disagreement. It gets to the heart of the gospel and what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross. http://christcrucified.info/myths.html#myth4

    • Rob

      Peter, while it’s important to realize our love for God and fellow man (in other words – sanctification) are active and real so we are persuading our hearts before him (this is where we get real confidence in God’s presence), there is no salvation apart from Christ’s blood meant for sinners (us). Putting ourselves in any other point of reference is separation from the blood that keeps cleaning us from all sin. We need his love every instant.

      Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are like Jesus the instant you trust God or even the more common mistake of thinking we are supposed to never sin again. That is not taught by anyone – Jesus, apostles or the OT prophets. Quite the contrary. Most of the Bible is filled with examples of devoted followers of God failing, even if some only failed rarely or from time to time.

      “Everyone who is having this hope based in him [Jesus] is purifying themselves even as he is pure.”

      “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”

      • http://www.ChristCrucified.info/ Peter Newman

        Rob, I definitely agree with you that sanctification is progressive. We were sanctified (made holy) when we were born again and we are now being sanctified as we present ourselves daily to the Lord for His will and work. Understanding both aspects of sanctification is critical to overcoming sin and serving God with a pure heart. There is a great difference between victoriously struggling against sin and being continually defeated by entangling sin (the state of the “wretched man”). Here is my take on this: http://christcrucified.info/qanda.html#q34

        • Rob

          To remain in a state of unbelief (lack of trust) is never settling, abandons us to insecurity, is double-minded and leaves us in a state of fear. This unsettled state has no place in a person who is truly trusting Christ.

  • Rob

    Paul told the Galatians that the Spirit struggles against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. Not sure Romans 7 is all that abnormal, though its realization can happen to both saint and sinner. How do I know? Because every letter from the apostles outside of the four first books in the NT address some level of struggle.

    John said it clearly that anyone saying they have no sin (noun) or have stopped sinning (verb) have a problem. It’s a progress starting in knowing the Father, becoming strong as we learn for our Lord’s word to stay in us and finally when we grow to full maturity to walk as Jesus walked (see 1 John 2).

    • http://www.ChristCrucified.info/ Peter Newman

      Rob, I certainly do not believe that we never sin. However, I do believe that we should never practice sin if we claim to be a Christian. There is a big difference between practicing righteousness by faith and practicing sin because of unbelief. John said, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or knows Him.

      • http://www.ChristCrucified.info/ Peter Newman

        Rob, as far as the struggle referenced in Galatians 5:17, here is my take on this verse: http://christcrucified.info/qanda.html#q43 There is a chasm of a difference between the sinful nature of an unsaved unbeliever and the unrenewed mind of a born again believer: see http://christcrucified.info/qanda.html#q40

        • Rob

          John in his first letter clearly says we have sin (verse 8) and we cannot say we no longer sin (verse 10). That means we are still changing; otherwise we’re either deceiving ourselves or we calling God a liar. And this was written to those who already believe.

      • Rob

        I agree. We cannot keep practicing sin, because God’s seed remains in us. The definition of sin (according to Jesus) is not trusting him.