The Correct Understanding of Romans 7-8

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by 1jim, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. 1jim

    1jim
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    Hello,


    It’s clear from Romans 7:5 and 8:9 that being “in the flesh” is participating in the Old Covenant (of the law) and being “in the Spirit” is participating in the New Covenant (of the Spirit). So there are no believers who are “in the flesh.”

    Paul is not talking about his present condition in Romans 7:14-25, despite his use of the present indicative verbs. In Romans 7:23, he says that he sees (present indicative) a law in his members (his body parts) capturing (present participle) him in the law of sin, whereas in Romans 8:2, he says that the law of the Spirit liberated (aorist indicative) him from the law of sin. The only way to avoid a contradiction here is to understand that verse 7:23 expresses an action that precedes the action expressed in verse 8:2, the action in verse 8:2 having already occurred in the past.

    Further, Romans 7:14-25, like verses 7:7-13, describes a man who is fooling around with the law, thus being very much alive to the law, whereas Paul states in verses 7:4-6 that believers, that is, New-Covenant (of the Spirit) participants, are dead to the law. The only way to avoid a contradiction here is to understand that Romans 7:7-25 describes an Old-Covenant (of the law) experience that precedes the New-Covenant (of the Spirit) experience.

    So when Paul contrasts in Romans 8:4, “that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” or in Romans 8:5, “they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit,” or in Romans 8:6, “the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace,” or in Romans 8:12-13, “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live,” he is not contrasting carnal believers who are enslaved to sin and spiritual believers who have crossed a magical line into behavior perfection; rather, he is contrasting Old-Covenant (of the law) participants and New-Covenant (of the Spirit) participants. He is contrasting the Old-Covenant (of the law) mentality and way of life and the New-Covenant (of the Spirit) mentality and way of life.

    The Old-Covenant (of the law) mentality and way of life focuses on the Old-Covenant (of the law) participant. It focuses on trying to force the flesh (the physical body) to conform to the law. This focus activates the law of sin and death (Romans 7:23 and 8:2), out of which focus comes death as its fruit (Romans 7:5 and 8:6).

    The New-Covenant (of the Spirit) mentality and way of life focuses on the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the New-Covenant (of the Spirit) participant. It focuses on allowing the indwelling Spirit of Christ to be Himself in the believer. This focus activates the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), out of which focus comes life and peace (Romans 8:6) and the fruit of the Spirit.

    Thus, walking in/by the Spirit simply consists of a believer recognizing that the Spirit of Christ is in him/her and allowing Him to be Himself in him/her. It does not result in behavioral perfection. Rather, it results in behavior that is more and more like Christ. It is a progressive process, like a baby learning to walk: “our sufficiency is from God; who also made us sufficient as ministers of a New Covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. ... Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, [there] is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:5-18, ASV).”

    I think that the interpretation of Romans 7-8 that Romans 7 (7:5 and 7:7-25) describes a carnal Christian who is enslaved by sin and that Romans 8 describes a spiritual Christian who has crossed over a magical line into Christian perfection both misrepresents what Paul is saying and does a disservice to believers by causing believers to shift their focus from the simple recognition of Christ’s indwelling Spirit, which (His indwelling Spirit) does not produce Christian behavioral perfection but instead results in behavior that is more and more like Christ as the believer becomes more and more practiced in this recognition, like a baby learning to walk, to an intensive focus on themselves and on their own behavior, whereby they are constantly evaluating their own behavior and zeroing in on whatever is not like Christ and then trying to work on that, the same way that Old-Covenant (of the law) people go to work on themselves in trying to force themselves into conformity to a standard (the law). This actually ends up producing the kind of Old-Covenant (of the law) frustrating experience described in Romans 7 (7:5 and 7:7-25), which believers then think is normal for a New-Covenant (of the Spirit) participant who hasn’t yet crossed that magical line from enslavement to sin into Christian perfection, because this incorrect interpretation of Romans 7-8 tells them that it is normal. But the experience described in Romans 7:5 and 7:7-25 is not normal for a New-Covenant (of the Spirit) participant.

    In fact, the Romans 7 experience is alien to the New-Covenant (of the Spirit) experience. It is instead an Old-Covenant (of the law) experience. And there is no magical line in the New Covenant that divides carnal Christians who are enslaved to sin from spiritual Christians who have suddenly stepped into Christian behavioral perfection. Rather, there is just the Old-Covenant (of the law) mentality and way and the New-Covenant (of the Spirit) mentality and way. In the Old Covenant (of the law), one focuses on oneself and tries to conform oneself to a standard (the law). In the New Covenant (of the Spirit), one simply recognizes the indwelling Spirit of Christ and focuses on allowing Him to be Himself in him/her. This does not result in sudden absolute Christ-likeness. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is gradually produced more and more as one becomes more and more practiced in this recognition.

    That’s what I think.


    Jim
     

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