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Did Paul’s Romans 7 struggle happen before or after salvation?

Quick Answer: Did Paul’s Romans 7 struggle happen before or after salvation? Some teach that Romans 7 is a description of Paul’s struggle as a believer. From there, they conclude that any true and consistent victory over sin on this side of heaven is unlikely. However, context makes it clear that Paul was referring to his attempts at keeping the Law before his conversion. In Romans 7, Paul is describing the normal Law-centered life, but not the normal Christ-centered life.

Diving Deeper: Romans 7 is one of the most hotly debated passages in the New Testament. Is the passage describing Paul’s experience as a Christian struggling with sin and therefore our inevitable experience as believers? Or is it his pre-conversion experience living life under the Law? A few simple observations show us it is a description of Paul’s life before his conversion.

First, Paul describes himself as being in bondage to sin (Romans 7:14). This is an odd statement to make considering he just told us in Romans 6:7 that “he who has died is freed from sin.” Furthermore, he told us that believers are “slaves of righteousness”, not sin (Romans 6:18).

Second, Paul says this bondage to sin occurred “when the commandment came” (Romans 7:9). When did the commandment come into Paul’s life? When he was a devout Pharisee, not when he became a Christian.

In Romans 7:7-8, Paul states that the Law revealed the nature of sin and exacerbated the sin problem producing coveting “of every kind” in his life. Paul says this type of struggle occurs when a person is “still in the flesh” (Romans 7:5). However, believers are not “in the flesh” but “in the Spirit” – a truth Paul reveals in the next chapter (Romans 8:9).

In conclusion, Romans 7 about Paul’s encounter with the Law as a devout Pharisee. He was sold in bondage to sin at that time, and the Law aroused sinful desires in him. Notice the stark contrast between that former experience and Paul’s proclamation that sin has no mastery over believers, as we’re not under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:14).

We’ve been set free from the Law to live a life of freedom from sin’s power (Galatians 5:1). There’s real hope here and now, because God’s grace teaches us to say “no” to sin and to live upright, godly lives right here and now (Titus 2:11-12).

Let’s Make it a Conversation!
1. React to this statement: Labeling Paul’s Romans 7 struggle as post-salvation breeds hopelessness.
2. How does recognizing the role of the Law in Paul’s struggle help us today?
3. How does real victory over sin’s power happen here and now?
4. React to this statement: Romans 7 is the normal Law-centered life but not the normal Christ-centered life.

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