Romans 7


Michael L. Gowens



...In Romans 7, Paul, by opening his own experience, details the conflict saying "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I" (v.15); and again "for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (v.18); and again, "for the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (v.19); and finally, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." (v.21) Someone might say, 'That man had an acute emotional disturbance. His language admits of confusion. He must have had multi–personalities. He did not have a very good 'self–image'." No, Paul was of sound mind when he penned those words. In fact, Romans 7 is the common experience of a regenerate man who has been awakened unto his miserable shortcoming in measuring up to the standard of God's holy law. He always possesses this deep–seated inward conflict, even in his holiest exercises, and if he is ignorant of the cause of this conflict, he will not understand himself. He may even tend to agree with the observers critique above. He is an enigma unto himself. He can rightly be named, like Isaiah's son (Is. 8:2), "Magormissabib", for he is "a terror unto himself". Only the gospel will reveal the true reason for his dilemma and give him any respite from the anxiety which such a conflict brings upon the mind.

Romans 7 is not the experience off an unregenerate man, for the one in Romans 7 has two conflicting principles which produce this warfare, and we have before proven that the unregenerate man has but one governing principle, and the bent of his soul is "only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5), there existing not the slightest inclination toward God or spiritual things (Ps. 10:4, I Cor. 2:14). Beside all of this, the apostle speaks of his own case in Romans 7 in the present tense, "O wretched man that I AM", not the past tense. These words of Romans 7 are as applicable to the writer and the readers present condition as the words of Romans 8.

Neither is Romans 7 Paul's experience in a back-slidden state, but rather at his most spiritual state! Listen to the late A. W. Pink in his treatise on the words, "O wretched man that I am":

"Nor is it only the 'backslidden' Christian, now convicted, who will mourn thus. The one who is truly in communion with Christ, will also emit this groan, and emit it daily and hourly. Yea, the closer he draws to Christ, the more will he discover the corruptions of his old nature, and the more earnestly will he long to be delivered from it. It is not until the sunlight floods a room that the grime and dirt are fully revealed. So, it is only as we really come into the presence of Him who is Light, that we are made aware of the filth and wickedness which indwells us, and which defile every part of our being. And such a discovery will make each of us cry, 'O wretched man that I am!"

Neither is this warfare induced by indwelling sin the experience of just a few Christians, and that restricted to those who are naturally prone to a dejected and depressed state of mind, which the Puritan's termed "melancholy". It is, I say again, a common experience, and the experience of a healthy and normal frame of mind. Romans 7 is the experience of reality for every Christian who is cognizant of his failures and aware of the deep seated corruption within his nature. To admit that Romans 7 is your experience is to come to terms with your case, to look it fairly in the face, and to face reality. Any individual who cannot claim this as their own experience is either severely deluded by an underestimation of the standard of God's law, or an overestimation of their performance in the keeping of that law, or is yet in an unregenerate state...


Christian Sanctification. Michael L. Gowens. Sovereign Grace Publications. Pages 50-52.