Flesh Vs. Spirit – Part 2: Paul’s “Wretched Man” in Romans 7

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(RuachHaKodesh, Session 16b)

In Romans 7:7–25, Paul describes an ongoing struggle with sin. This passage has perplexed some readers. Paul seems to consign himself to a losing battle, a tone that seems to clash with the triumphant confidence of chapter 8. In a broad sense, interpretations of Romans 7 can be divided into three main categories:

  • Paul is describing his own present experience as a mature believer
  • Paul is describing the experience of an unbeliever who has not yet been set free from sin
  • Paul is describing the experience of an immature believer who has not yet been filled with the Spirit

At the heart of these different interpretations lies a set of questions and assumptions about our spirituality as believers. Should we expect mature believers to continue to struggle with sin, or is that struggle something we can and should decisively overcome through the power of the Spirit? And what role does the Torah play in in that process?

This episode of the RuachHaKodesh series continues our discussion of the passages of Scripture that pit “flesh” and “spirit” against each other. In the previous episode, we sought to understand how Scripture uses the term “flesh” and whether the Bible envisions human beings as composed of two parts (body and soul) or three (body, soul, and spirit). In the current episode, we dive into the heart of the discussion by looking at Romans 7 and the way various models of spirituality interpret that passage. Along the way we will see how Reform theology, Wesleyan perfectionism, Keswick holiness, and even rabbinic Judaism each offer their competing definitions of spirituality.

For an outline of all the sessions in this series, click on this link. To subscribe to this podcast, click here.

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