In two recent threads the matter of both the age of accountablity and whether or not all babies/children go to heaven has been hotly disputed. Much of the theology involved includes what Paul was talking about in Romans chapter 7. I personally have been accused of badly misinterpreting this chapter. To set the record straight, here is how I read it. I am using the NIV for the sake of clarity, but any translation should work here. * * * Romans 7 In verses 1-3, Paul brings up the illustration of the binding of marriage until death and refers to this as a picture of living under the law. If we go back to Romans 6:3, we find that Paul reminds his readers that when they were baptized, they were baptized into Jesus’ death. Following up on this, he states in Romans 7:4,“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised form the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” Here Paul is talking about himself along with his readers, using the pronoun “we.” He continues in the same vein: “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” Again, he is talking in the first person plural and including himself with the ‘we.’ Verse 6 reads: “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” He is also including himself in this ‘we.’ In verse 7, he starts with a question: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” Here he starts with the first person plural in the first question. There is nothing to lead us to think this is any different from the first person plural which preceded it, where he is including himself with the readers. Immediately, however, he switches to the first person singular. There is no possible grammatical interpretation at this point which would lead anyone without prior motive into thinking that Paul is not referring to himself here. He continues: “For I would not have known what coveting really was if he law had not said, “Do not covet.” Again, there is no possible way, given the context, that he is not speaking of himself personally and using himself as an example for the readers. He continues: ”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.” Paul is thus putting himself back into the condition he used to be in at this point in the narrative. The verb “produced” is in the past tense and thus the action is something that occurred some time before. Paul then states unequivocally that sin has no power without the law. To be dead is to be powerless. It may be there, but it is powerless. Then Paul speaks of something else which is highly disputed on this forum. Here are his words: “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” There is absolutely no indication he is speaking of anyone other than himself personally, and using himself as an example. We also know that there is no such thing as reincarnation, so he is not talking about physical death. He is talking about spiritual death. He is saying that he was spiritually alive, or with God, at some point and then, when he understood what the commandment meant, his sin nature rebelled against it and in this way sin ‘sprang to life’ in him and he died. At this point in his narrative, he is portraying himself as spiritually dead. It is in the past, as the verbs indicate, and not his present state, but this is the point in his narrative where he is separated from God due to his sin. He continues: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” This is personal knowledge he is talking about here. This is something he, himself, found out. He was a trained Pharisee and part of their training and belief system was that the law gave life and that obeying the law perfectly was therefore pleasing to God and would guarantee one’s place in the afterlife. This is salvation by works, which he believed in before being confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. This sentence is a clear reference to the training he had received as a Pharisee. Verse 11 reiterates his point: “For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.” He is, at this point in his narrative, dead spiritually. He has mentioned this twice now. Verse 12 reads “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” This is his summation regarding the law and the answer to the question asked in verse 7, “Is the law sin?” But Paul does not stop his narrative. He asks another question: “Did that which is good, then, become death to me?” Again, he is talking in the first person, using himself as an example, and is still in the condition, at this point in the narrative, of spiritual death. He then answers his own question: “By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” He is still talking in the first person, and he has repeated again that he is at the condition of spiritual death in his narrative. THIS is why, he says in the next verse (v. 14) “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” This is not Paul at his point of salvation, but before. He then describes the plight of the unsaved person: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” This is not the condition of a saved person! Through our wonderful Savior, we are given not just the desire to do good, but the opportunity and power as well, as He works His perfect will through us by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. How different is that from the forlorn “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”! Paul continues to describe his condition before salvation: “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” If Paul were speaking as a saved person here, he would not be speaking of sin living in him, for just a bit before, in this very letter to the Romans, he wrote “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6) This again emphasizes that his narrative in Romans 7 is describing himself in an unsaved state, for he has described himself as “sold as a slave to sin.” And he continues, in verse 18: “for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” This is what it means to be sold as a slave to sin. It does not mean that the unregenerate sinner does not know what is good and does not desire what is good! It means that the good that he wants is totally unattainable by or to him and that he is not in control of his own sin nature, which is ruling even his desire for good. This is, indeed, a seemingly helpless and hopeless situation. It is wanting to fly and having no wings, or wanting to speak and having no tongue. Paul describes this plight in verses 21-23: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” Again, this is not a saved person speaking. Paul has put himself back into the condition he was in before salvation in order to use himself as an example in this narrative and to make a point about the difference between law, which is holy and good, and grace, which alone saves. It is at this point in his narrative, however, that he culminates the condition of the unsaved person with the famous “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And then there is his moment of narrative salvation: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” At this point he recaps his condition before salvation: “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” That is the unregenerate state – a slave to the law and a slave to sin simultaneously. No wonder he speaks of it as a war being waged within him! Chapter 8, which, remember, is man’s division and should not be there at all, picks up the narrative at the point of salvation: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” This is his last use of the first person singular, as the narrative has ended with his full salvation and freedom in Christ. He then goes on to explain the theology of what he had just used himself as an example for and chapter 8 ends with that wonderful, ringing affirmation: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen. Paul used himself as an example in making a series of theological points. He was spiritually alive before he understood the commandment/Law. Understanding caused his rebellious sin nature to respond to sin which sprang to life in him with his understanding of the law, and he followed his sin nature, dying spiritually. He remains, in the narrative, in that state of spiritual death, which he reiterates a number of times, a slave to sin, until his verse of thanks to God for Jesus Christ and the affirmation at the beginning of Chapter 8 that there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. This is being a slave to righteousness, which means we are quite capable of doing the good we want to do, for it is the Holy Spirit in us who is doing both the desiring and the action and we are SLAVES to that righteousness. It is a joyful slavery, but a slavery nevertheless. Nor can we serve two masters, for now our sin nature is dead. This alone guarantees that Paul must have been talking about the unregenerate state in the majority of chapter 7 of Romans, and using himself as an example. This, then, leads to the inescapable conclusion that we are all born spiritually alive in Christ. Born with a sin nature which guarantees our spiritual death in the future should we live to an age at which the law is comprehended, but born not yet dead spiritually. This is why ALL babies and children are His and go to heaven. He is their Savior as much as ours, for He has saved them from their sin natures just as much as He has saved us from ours. For us who have known the law and therefore have died because of our sin natures, we have had the choice regarding Christ – accept Him or reject Him. And on that choice our eternal destiny hangs.