Romans - Lesson 33

Romans 7:13-25

In this lesson on Romans 7:13-25, you will learn it is a passage rich in debate among scholars. The lesson reviews whether Paul describes his pre-conversion or post-conversion experience. The Pre-Conversion interpretation suggests Paul reflects on his frustration under the Law before finding deliverance in Christ. Conversely, the mature Christian interpretation argues that Paul speaks of his current struggle as a believer. Dr. Moo emphasizes the personal aspect of Paul's struggle with the Law, suggesting it extends beyond Israel to encompass all humanity's struggles with law. The discussion touches on the psychological comfort believers find in acknowledging the inherent struggle with sin, while cautioning against using Paul's words as an excuse for ongoing defeat by sin. 

Lesson 33
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Romans 7:13-25

III. The Assurance Provided by the Gospel: The Hope of Salvation (5:1–8:39)

A. The Hope of Glory (5:1-21)

1. From Justification to Salvation (5:1-11)

2. The Reign of Grace and Life (5:12-21)

B. Freedom from Bondage to Sin (6:1-23)

1. "Dead to Sin" through Union with Christ (6:1-14)

2. Freed from Sin's Power to Serve Righteousness (6:15-23)

C. Freedom from Bondage to the Law (7:1-25)

1. Released from the Law, Joined to Christ (7:1-6)

2. The History and Experience of Jews under the Law (7:7-25)

a. The Coming of the Law (7:7-12)

b. Life under the Law (7:13-25)

D. Assurance of Eternal Life in the Spirit (8:1-30)

1. The Spirit of Life (8:1-13)

2. The Spirit of Adoption (8:14-17)

3. The Spirit of Glory (8:18-30)

E. The Believer's Security Celebrated (8:31-39)


  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.
  • In Romans 14:1-15:13, you learn about the division in the Roman Christian community, the concept of adiaphora, the balance between liberty and love, and Paul's emphasis on mutual acceptance and avoiding spiritual harm through personal conviction and respect for others' practices.
  • In Romans 15:14-16:27, you explore Paul's extended conclusion, his ministry to the Gentiles, his request for prayers regarding his journey to Jerusalem, the roles of Phoebe and Junias in ministry, and the diversity of the early Christian community.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 7:13-25  
Lesson Transcript

Romans 7:13-25


A. Deliverance in Christ is the Only Solution: Let’s go on to the second part of Romans 7:13-25 where we have the famous debate about what level, what time, what kind of experience Paul is talking about here. I take the Pre-Conversion interpretation as the most likely reading of the passage. It is a place where good interpreters have differed through history. This continues today and the differences are not going to go away. It is one of these classic texts where the evidence points in different directions. 

I do think myself what Paul is doing here is describing in much more personal terms I think, Paul’s own experience is much more to the fore here. Here is something Paul is much more personally identified with. Here is a situation of being a Jew under the Law; knowing the Law of God, loving the Law of God, delighting in the Law of God, and yet ultimately finding that sin keeps me from doing the Law. Therefore, I find that the Law hasn’t rescued me, rather I find myself frustrated as a Jew under that Law recognizing that deliverance in Christ is the only solution.

I don’t see the big deal about this because Paul throughout the New Testament when he was writing, used this kind of language. When he wrote to Timothy, when he said he was the chief of sinners. Paul used this as part of his communication, part of his forte. I don’t see how they could say Paul was an immature Christian here, when from the get-go he matured in the faith to write most of the New Testament.  I think he is writing from a mature Christian standpoint because he is using illustrations of his own life experience, just like he did when he wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim 1:15 when he described himself as the chief of sinners. I don’t see the big debate.


B. The Mature Christian Interpretation: 

Dr. Moo:  
I’m trying to understand the view you’re arguing – you think that Paul is writing as a mature Christian and looking back at his experience before he was a Christian? 

Or do you think he was using the “Everyman” type; I’m putting myself in the framework of the “Everyman” to say this is what the struggle is. 

I think there is truth to that. To go back to what we said earlier about the broader significance of the Torah. If, as I think, Paul is describing his struggle as a Jew under that Law outside of Christ, I am happy on the basis of some of the scriptural points we made earlier, to apply that in general to the struggle of humans, people in general, with whatever law they are struggling with. I think that is true. 

But I don’t think that this text is one we should use to talk about the nature of the Christian life. Those who take what I’m calling the Mature Christian interpretation, that is to say that Paul is writing about his current experience as a, by definition, mature believer, so that the struggle we have in this passage is the struggle of the Christian confronted with the Law and the demand of God. That is what I would think to be not the correct application of the passage. In my view, the passage is talking about Paul’s experience before he came to Christ rather than his experience as a Christian.

Help me with it being Israel rather than Paul here – are we saying that this is pre-conversion Israel, or are we saying this is a pre-conversion Paul? 


C. The Focus is More on the Law: 

Dr. Moo:  
Clearly the focus is on Paul here. The way I see the progression in the text in verses 7-12 Paul is certainly describing himself, not just Israel. It is himself in solidarity with Israel. As I look at my past, here is who I am in terms of the history of my people. Here is then where I found myself as a Jew, as an Israelite under the Law where there is much more of a personal connection Paul is making now with the experience of verses 14-25.  He wasn’t personally there when Israel was given the Law, but in his solidarity with Israel, he has experienced the effects of that. However, he has personally lived as a Jew under the Law. So, there is much more of an identification that he is making personally with what he has described in the last part of the chapter. 

In a sense, Paul is using himself as an illustration saying, here is what the coming of the Law meant and here is what life under the Law is. It is the sequence of what happened when the Law came and now the effects of that coming of the Law on Israel, and by extension I would say, all people with respect to any law we might want to talk about. 

The ways we think about these views: the Pre-Christian view says that here is where the Christian used to be; the Mature Christian view says here is where Christians in general are now located in the struggle; the Immature Christian view basically says to get out of this situation, don’t be an immature Christian; learn again to use the Spirit to move you out of the struggle that Paul is depicting here.  

I wonder if Paul is saying, here is the way it is as an unbeliever, here is our experience under the Law. By implication he is arguing if this principle is what I found as an unbeliever, so also as a believer. If this principle is what I found as an unbeliever and what all right-thinking Torah loyalists have found, why would I want to return to that?  I think he is making a case; you don’t want to live under the Law. Here is the circumstance. He is not necessarily saying this is what I am now experiencing as a believer. He is saying if this is true when you were in unbelief, why would you want to return to that?

Dr. Moo:  
I think there is some truth in that. Although, we don’t have much evidence that there were Christians in Rome who were saying like the Galatian Judaizers were – let’s go back under the Law again. Even when Paul addresses the two groups in Romans 14 and 15, he doesn’t really critique either of the groups. He says both had beliefs that were within bounds, that are Christian beliefs, don’t criticize each other. He doesn’t say that you Jewish Christians are wrong, you need to change; instead, he gives tolerance to them. So, I don’t think that rhetorically in terms of what Paul is doing here, he is directly saying to people don’t go back under the Law. What he is doing is saying here is the problem of the Law. He is trying to tell them the issue of the Law and to understand why salvation history has moved on why you are now in Christ and the Spirit, and what that means.

Going back to Romans 6:14 and that thesis statement, “under the Law,” and it indicates “sin shall not be your master” but if you go back under the Law, it will be your master.


D. Sin Isn’t Our Master Under the Spirit: In terms of the argument of the letter, Paul really never puts it that way. It is always indicative; you are not under the Law, you have died to the Law. It is not “make sure you die to the Law,” or “don’t go back under the Law.” You never have him saying that. I think what you are saying is true, and in Galatians Paul says that very clearly again and again. But in writing to the Romans, Paul is looking more dispassionately at the situation and how the history of salvation has unfolded.  He is not in a polemical mode.

From a psychological point of view this passage has always given me as a believer such comfort to recognize in a sense that sin lives within me.  I stopped smoking years ago, but there is data that says the brain releases chemicals that tell you to light up, and people light up before thinking about the fact that they are lighting up.  I’ve always seen that to be kind of what Paul is talking about the history and reality of our sin has a place within us, that calls us back to it. When I read your interpretation, I thought to myself, are you excluding that possibility in your interpretation? 

Dr. Moo:  
While I don’t think this passage describes the Christian struggle with sin, there are certainly other texts that do. I am not denying the fact that Christians struggle with sin; my point in this text is that while we struggle with sin, we are not people who are sold as slaves under sin or imprisoned by the law of sin. Those are the statements that Paul makes here. Balance is so important here again because I hear a lot of Christians who take what I’m calling the Mature Christian view of the passage who use this text as an excuse for their sin. They say yeah, I’m really struggling with this sin; I get defeated by it all the time; but that’s okay, Paul had the same experience. I think this is a misuse of the passage. My friends that argue for the Mature Christian view would agree that it’s a misuse of the passage too. Again, it’s where the balance is needed; clearly Christians do continue to struggle with sin.

But Paul makes it clear that Christians are not people who should be consistently defeated by sin. We talked about that upward movement; the trajectory is moving toward conformity to Christ and holiness before God. Paul says this needs to be the state that we find ourselves in as Christians.

Is this where Paul singles out coveting as a challenge for himself? Is there any indication why he indicates this for himself?

Dr. Moo:  
He does that in 7:7 where he is talking about the history, the background. Why Paul singles out that commandment is not clear. Those who think Paul is writing more autobiographically think that is the one Paul struggled with. You could even interpret that as you shall not desire in a sexual sense. Some interpret it that way. Robert Gundry has argued that this is what Paul is reflecting upon here; his coming of age as an adolescent Jew, when the sexual urge awakened in him. That experience of sin springing to life. All of a sudden, we’re full of all these devils, and that is what Paul is reflecting on here.

That would happen irrespective of the Law. You don’t have to be a legalist to have a problem with that. 

Dr. Moo:  
That is exactly right. This could be, as Gundry argues, the point where Paul realized that he really was a sinner and that he wasn’t doing the Law. I’m in trouble in a way I didn’t realize.