Who is Paul Talking About in Romans 7?

This past week in my class on Romans and Galatians my students answered the following prompt:

Who do you believe Paul is talking about in the famous passage in Romans 7:7-25? Provide reasons and evidence for your answer (see Kruse commentary, 314-21).

This weekend, Preston Sprinkle (Professor & Vice-President of Eternity Boise) addressed this same issue on his blog. Its an insightful blog post, and I would highly recommend reading it. Here is a short excerpt of his post (see the link to the whole blog below…)

John Piper just gave a presentation at the Desiring God conference, where he argued (in part of his talk) that Romans 7 (specifically vv. 14-25) describes a believer rather than an unbeliever. And as much as I love John Piper and side with him on most theological points, I think his interpretation here is wrong. [See now this blog by Adrian Warnock, who also attended the session.] Let me first address some of his arguments and then lay out why I believe the text makes the “believer” interpretation very difficult.

First, Piper points out that the person in question “delight[s] in the Law of God, in my inner being” (7:22) and he argues that an unbeliever does not delight in the Law of God. But actually, a first-century Jew would most absolutely delight in the “Law of God” (= the Law of Moses). Circumcision, food laws, observing the Sabbath—what first century Jew would not delight in these things? (Remember, Paul is addressing those who “know the Law;” cf. 7:1). The phrase “Law of God” is not talking about just general obedience to God, but specifically the Law of Moses. The problem Paul addresses here is not lack of allegiance to Moses’ Law, but the lack of deliverance provided by the old covenant Law.

Read the rest of Preston’s blog post here.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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