Romans 7:15, 19, misunderstood and misused

Romans 7:15, 19, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate,” and, “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.”

These are two of the most misunderstood and misused verses of Scripture in the entire Bible. Here is a summary of their truth as it was revealed to me.

Philippians 1:27–30,

27 “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

28 in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake,

30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’ It appears Paul really expected the Philippians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. But this is the man who said, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate,” Romans 7:15. And, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish,” Romans 7:18–19.

Why would Paul tell the Philippians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ if he himself can’t even do the good he wants to do? Is he two-faced, wanting something of them that he himself is incapable of doing?

Absolutely not! Look back at verses 18 & 19 again, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.”

Notice after he says nothing good dwells in him, Paul adds, “…that is, in my flesh…” During the discourse in chapter seven, Paul refers to the flesh under the Law. Read verses 1 to 6; he refers to a wife bound to a husband as long as he is alive, but she is not bound once he dies. He compares this with our being bound by the Law as long as we live and set free from the Law when we die. He explains that we died to the Law through the body of Christ [crucified with Him], that we might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:5–6, “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

Our sinful flesh was done away with in the death of Jesus and we were raised up together with Him, a new creation, into newness of life in the Spirit. “Old things have passed away, and all things have become new,” 2 corinthians 5:17. We are now to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus, Romans 6:11.

In chapter 8 Paul begins with “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” [the keywords being IN CHRIST JESUS]. “For the law of the Spirit of life IN CHRIST JESUS has set us free from the law of sin and of death.”

In verses 5–9 he says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

In verses 12–14 he adds, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; BUT IF BY THE SPIRIT YOU ARE PUTTING TO DEATH THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, you will live.”

We now can see that Paul turned the topic from dealing with the sin that dwells in us, to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from the law of the sin that dwells in us. He spoke first about the hazards of living under the law with the sin that dwells in us, then he spoke about the Savior of mankind who came to take away sins by releasing us from the law, and breathing new life into us so that we might walk daily in that new life if we so choose.

Those who walk by the flesh are of the devil, those who walk by the Spirit are of God; for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.

So did Paul really expect the Philippians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ? The answer is yes, Paul expected the Philippians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, for that is how he walked.

Dear ones, we can do nothing in and of ourselves to please God or walk worthy of Him. However, He has prepared works that we are to do. The only way to do these works is to abide in Jesus and follow Him. If we don’t do this, we are illegitimate children, for only those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. Even when doing these works, we are acutely aware it is not us doing them, but God who is working in us.

Philippians 2:12, 13,

12 “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

We merely submit to His authority.

And even during our times of temptations and striving against sin, we escape temptation, not because we’re strong, but because God has made a way of escape for us, and He guides us through our trials, all the while fashioning us into obedient children, that when we mature we will be without stain or blemish [directly opposite of the first creation, Adam]. We are truly HIS workmanship.

Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant

Please weigh everything I say on the scales of the word of God.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org

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Jon David Banks

Separated at birth for the gospel (Jesus was seen in the delivery room by the attending nurse).