Paul the Apostle, His Life, Letters and Thought—Part Forty Four


p. 644– In Rom. 7 Paul writes as if all humans are under the Jewish Law. Because Paul parallels the law written on Gentile hearts (2.12-15) with the Mosaic Law, Jew and Gentile are equally under law and under sin Rom. 3.19 says that all those who are under law are accountable, and then he says the whole world is accountable to God. Everyone is a sinner condemned by the Jewish law, even though elsewhere he has argued Gentiles are not under the old dispensation.

p. 645— In the illustration the husband dies and the woman escapes from the law of the husband, but in Rom. 6.14 and then in 7.4 the person who dies is themselves the person who escapes

The term flesh is on the way to being a personification like the term sin in 7.5. It’s tricky because Paul can go from saying flesh is a power to saying flesh is our mortal bodies. 7.5 ‘when we were living in the flesh’, cannot mean when we were living in our mortal bodies since Paul and his readers are still alive. People in the flesh are governed by sinful passions. In 6.12 the term was desires, but here in 7.5 the right translation is passions, but desire recurs in 7.7-8 with the connotation covet.

p. 646— the law had aroused the sinful passions. But Christians are released from the law and dead to what held us captive no longer enslaved as under the old written code, but living in the new life of the Spirit (7.6). Paul is saying that the Law is part of the problem, along with sin.

p. 647— Sanders is wrong that the law created the problem, nor does Paul think so. He does not say that the role of the Law in God’s plan was to create the problem that only Christ could solve. He is wrong in his reading of Gal. 3.20, which is not necessarily pejorative. He is right that Paul strongly denies the Law is sin in Rom. 7.1-6 but he does say that the I would not have known sin without the commandment ‘no coveting’. The Law Sanders says encourages people to do what it forbids, just by forbidding it. The only commandment of the 10 that works with this idea is the internal one about coveting, desiring what is forbidden.

p. 648— Sin brought death to the ‘I’ not the law— 7.11-12. Sin personified uses the Law to produce death in the ‘I’

p. 649— Who is the I? The emphatic ‘ego’ appears first in vs. 9, but ‘I’ is already there in the verb in vs. 7. The emphatic ego is repeated in vss.10,14,17,20,24,25. It also appears three times in Rom. 11 and only four times elsewhere in the letter. The heavy use of ego in 7.9-25 makes it standout from the rest of the letter.

p. 650— The I in 1 Cor. 13 surely involves more than just Paul. Sanders accepts the view that the ‘I’ with the past tense verbs in 7.9-13 is Adam speaking.

p. 652— Who is the ‘I’ then in 7.14-26 where the situation seems much worse. Besides the law of God, there is another law or ruling principle in one’s members warring against the law of the mind. This is by far the most pessimistic passage in all of Paul’s letters. While this ‘I’ wanted to do good, he could not because he is ruled by sin, sin totally controls his every move and action.

p. 653— Some have even proposed that this second I describes the internal situation of Paul and all Christians— simul justus et peccator. The “reader should recognize that if Rom. 7.14-25 is Paul’s autobiography, someone else wrote the rest of the material that is attributed to him. If this had been Paul’s state, he would have been too depressed to conduct evangelical missions and to write letters to his churches, since he knew that he could do only harm, not good.”

So what is going on here is powerful rhetoric for effect. Paul is describing neither himself nor Christians in general, he is describing the worst state he could imagine and imputing it to people who have not died with Christ.

p. 654— In short this is part of an argument, painting a picture of the ongoing depravity of lost humans. It does not reflect Paul’s ordinary view of humans and sin. As part of an argument, 7.14-25 is not Paul’s conclusion to the argument. Sanders can’t explain 7.25b after the thanksgiving for deliverance by Christ in 25a— he is unfamiliar with rhetoric, in this case catchword connection linking to the next argument which is introduced in 7.25a.
[N.B. He implies we should not build Paul’s theology out of his arguments but from his conclusions].

p. 656— Paul is dictating on his feet, and so there is a back and forth to his arguments and sometimes he can’t resolve the yin and yang of things. While earlier in the chapter the law was good but used by sin, in 7.14-25 the law is good and is not employed by sin, rather the I holds on to the good law in his mind and intends to do it. [This is not quite correct. Clearly the law in his members is used by sin].

pp. 657-58— The solution to Rom. 7 is given in Rom. 8– Christians have been set free from the law of sin and death by the Spirit, and they are not condemned. The solution to all the plight of sin and bondage and evil is righteousness by faith, Christ’s death, dying with Christ and life in Christ.

p. 660– ‘flesh’ is the sphere of human transgression when used in a moral sense as in 8.3-4, 5-6, 7, and 12-13. The argument has to do with the flesh being opposite of the Spirit, so to translate flesh as sin nature disguises the argument and antithesis.

p. 661- “These passages make human flesh (=body) the arena of the struggle between good and evil, with a bent towards the dark side. He takes ‘deeds of the body’ to refer to the weakness of humans, who tend to follow their own passions and desires. He says ‘flesh’ can also be a semi-personification of a power that is hostile to God. See Rom. 8.8-9.
The term Spirit occurs 146 times in the whole Pauline corpus, and 379 in the whole NT or 38% is in Paul. The other author who uses it a lot is Luke— 36 times in the Gospel but 70 times in Acts. Between Luke and Paul— 60% of the NT total. The term spirit occurs 34 times in Romans and 40 in 1 Cor. And 21 times just in Romans 8, where God occurs 19 times and Christ just 9.