Romans 7:14-25: Pauline Tension in the Christian Life -- By: David S. Dockery

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 02:2 (Fall 1981)
Article: Romans 7:14-25: Pauline Tension in the Christian Life
Author: David S. Dockery

Romans 7:14-25: Pauline Tension
in the Christian Life

David S. Dockery

The interpretation of Rom 7:14–25 has been problematic historically. Does the passage reflect Pauls pre-conversion experience under the law? This was a major interpretation of the church fathers. Or does this passage describe Pauls tension in the Christian life? The latter position is defended here by an interpretation of the exegetical considerations and an examination of the theological implications.

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Rom 7:14–25 has without exaggeration been described as “the most discussed and fought over part”1 of the epistle. In this grand epistle there are several perplexing problems for the interpreter. Without a doubt, Rom 5:12–21 and 9:1–11:36 guarantee a difficult task for the interpreter.2 Yet, as MacGorman says, “My nomination for the most difficult passage in this letter to interpret is Romans 7:1–25.”3 Nygren says:

It presents us with one of the greatest problems in the New Testament. It was already recognized in the first century; and since that time it has never come to rest.4

The predominant question in the interpretation of these verses is one on which there have been deep-seated differences of judgment in

the history of the church.5 This essay will seek to answer the important exegetical questions and attempt to relate it to Paul’s theology. Romans 7 is thus seen as one of the pivotal passages in Paul’s theology.

Since the passage is located at the heart of Paul’s explanation of the outworking of one’s salvation, the view which is adopted will have a tremendous impact upon one’s theology of the Christian life. “One side sees too much bondage to sin for a Christian, and the other sees too much desire for the good for a sinner.”6 A proper understanding of the nature of indwelling sin will have a significant effect upon the first of these views, if indeed it can be demonstrated that this passage refers to the Christian experience.

In this section and the pre...

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