The text of Romans 7 was not really hard to translate, but I can honestly say putting it into English, in a form that made sense, was difficult, at least for me. And even at that, the text I have here is not as smooth as one would hope, but I fear any further alterations change the meaning and inserts too much of my own thinking into he mix.
Theological Notes: This chapter has been a bone of contention pretty much since it was written. The struggle Paul writes about where he wants to to good, but ends up doing bad, and then feels so guilty about it can be understood in three ways. First, it could be completely at face value, that he is describing the way he feels as a human being trying to follow the Lord. Second, it might describe the condition of people in general without Christ, where people know the right thing to do but they don’t, or can’t because they are not empowered to defeat sin. Third, it might be describing his inner turmoil as a law-observing Jew before he became a Christ-follower.
I’ve come to believe that the first option, the one most people take, can’t be right. Paul is not writing to commiserate with us about our guilty feelings of inadequacies–instead he is writing this to lead up to 8:1. We don’t have to live with that kind of struggle because there is no condemnation for us who follow Christ. There is no place for guilt in a healthy spiritual life. I tend to lean toward the idea he is describing his life when he was a law-observing Jew.
Translation Notes: The psychological aspect of sin in this passage is chilling. The way Paul writes it, sin is anthropomorphic, and it is a serial killer. It has motive, means, and opportunity to kill us, and the shocking part of it is that this sin lives within us, creating a schizophrenic self that is torn between doing good or doing bad.
Later in the passage, Paul talks about what he ‘does’ and what he ‘practices’ (v. 15, for example). This could be rendered as “do” in both cases, but The Apostle chooses to use two different verbs close together, so I chose to maintain that distinction even though it sounds rather clunky.
In my translation v. 18 is far different than most other popular English versions. In fact, I find that so many other words have been added in the others that the meaning is radically altered. I think they chose to do this exactly because that particular verse feels so creepy as it describes the indwelling of sin.
1. I assume in what I say that you know the law, brothers and sisters, so do you not know that the law rules over a person only as long as he or she lives?
2. A married woman has been bound to her husband while he is living, but if he happens to die she is legally released, by law, from the man.
3. So then, if the husband is living, she will be known as an adulterer if she is with another man, but if her husband dies she is free from the law, and therefore is not an adulterer because she is with someone else.
4. It is exactly the same with you, brothers and sisters. You have died to the law through the body of the Messiah, and you are with “someone else” who rose from the dead, so that you might bear fruit to God.
5. For when we were in the flesh sinful passions were at work in our body parts, through the law, so as to bear fruit to death.
6. Now we are annulled from the law, having died to the thing that subjugated us, so as to serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the old written law.
7. What can we say? The law is sin? Absolutely not. Yet, I knew not sin except by the law, for coveting was not known until the law says, “Do not covet.”
8. But sin got an opportunity through the commandment which produced in me all kinds of coveting, for without the law sin is dead.
9. I once lived without the law, but when the commandment came, sin was reborn.
10. So I died, and the commandment for living was actually found to be death for me.
11. For sin received an opportunity by way of the commandment; it deceived, then killed me.
12. Nevertheless the law and commandments are holy, righteous, and good.
13. So good things became death to me? Of course not. Sin was working hard at producing death, and now it could be revealed by the good things in me, that is how sin became abundant because of the commandment.
14. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I belong to the flesh, having been sold-out under sin.
15. I do not know what is going on, for I do not practice the thing I want to, instead I do the things I hate.
16. If I do not do what I want, then I agree with the law, that it is good.
17. Yet now it is no longer me working, but the sin inhabiting me.
18. Certainly I know that it doesn’t inhabit me, this is only my flesh, for the good things for me to want are near, but my flesh does not want to do good things.
19. For I do not do the good things I want to do, but what I practice are the bad things I don’t want to.
20. But if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me working but the sin inhabiting me.
21. I find that there is a law, that whenever I want to do good things, all the while the bad things are nearby me.
22. My inner person delights in the law of God,
23. but I see another law in my body parts plotting against the law of my mind, holding me captive to the law of sin that is in my body parts.
24. What a miserable person I am; who will rescue me from this body of death?
25. But thanks be to God through our Lord Messiah Jesus. Therefore now I serve the law of God in my mind and not the law of sin in my body.