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A special thanks to Jay Street for all the hard study that led to this video!

This video was adapted from his 6-part podcast series on Romans 7:7 - 8:4.

Check out this series on Bible Crux as well as all his other good content!

If you would like to study this issue from a more technical point of view, you can read Jay Street's article for the Master's Seminary Journal.

A special thanks to Sam Yang for making the intro music!

Check out his YouTube channel, Jungi Geetah!

 

Music

"Getting Ready" by Sam Yang

"Happy & Inspirational Acoustic" by BestBackgroundMusic

"Dramatic Acoustic Inspirations" by BestBackgroundMusic

"Uplifting Optimistic Inspirational Acoustic" by BestBackgroundMusic

"Dramatic, Determined & Inspirational" by BestBackgroundMusic

"Dramatic Inspirational Accomplishment" by BestBackgroundMusic

Markers

WallDeca: Dry-Erase Thick Fine Line Markers

 

IS THERE ANY SPIRITUAL PROGRESS IN ROMANS 7?

 

The seventh question we need to answer is this: Is there any spiritual progress in Romans 7?

The Holy Spirit may not be active in Romans 7, but I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t talking about a Christian. That being the case, I would say this: Even if there’s no Spirit, there should at least be progress in his walk with the Lord. What do I mean by progress? Progress, defined biblically, is the fruit of obedience. Romans itself records this definition just a few verses before chapter 7:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:20–22)

Progress is fruit, because fruit leads to sanctification, which is the process by which God makes Christians more holy through obedience. In order to see progress, we need to see fruit. There must be concrete evidence in a believer’s life that he is turning away from sin and obeying the Lord. The fruit of obedience is that evidence. 

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So, do we find any fruit of obedience in Romans 7? No, there is none. That may not sound right, if you’ve always believed Romans 7 is talking about a Christian struggling with sin. But I want to encourage you to scan the chapter again and try to identify any fruit or obedience. You won’t find any. All you will find is what the most famous verses tell us: 

For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15b, 18b–19)

Notice, Paul never claims to do what’s right. In fact, he claims the opposite. He only claims to do what’s wrong. It may seem like he’s making progress, but what we often identify as progress is actually just a desire to make progress. That’s the best thing he has going for him—the only thing he has going for him—and it’s still not enough to stop him from sinning. As good as his desires may be, they do not represent the biblical definition of spiritual progress.

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Let me pause for a moment to get something straight: Progress, biblically defined, is never desire by itself. Many Christians today want to use godly desires as a replacement for evidence of their salvation or evidence that they’re growing. But the Bible does not talk about godly desires either way. The fruit of obedience, not godly desire, is always put forward as the only true indicator of spiritual progress. The New Testament is abundantly clear about this:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. (Mark 4:16–17)

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit . . . By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:2, 8)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)

Don’t get trapped into thinking that just because Romans 7 shows you a person who wants to do what’s right that that makes him a Christian, or that he’s manifesting clear evidence of saving faith. Granted, every Christian will want to do what’s right; but every Christian will also “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8; Luke 3:8). You can’t have one without the other in our post-Christ world. But since we do find desire without fruit in Romans 7, then we can no longer be talking about a New Covenant Christian; we can only be talking about an Old Covenant Jew under the law. The only time in history God’s people could long to do what’s right and not be able to do it was during the days of the Old Testament before the transforming power of the New Covenant. That’s what we find here.

As a result, there is no spiritual progress to be found in Romans 7. Paul represents a Jew, weighed down by the burden of being unable to obey God’s law. He wants to do what’s right, but he can’t. He needs something else to spring him loose. He needs the Holy Spirit promised in the New Covenant. 

If this evaluation is true, then we are forced to wrestle with a troubling question: Is Paul enslaved to his sin in Romans 7? And that’s the subject of the next question . . .