Delivered from this Body of Death: Romans 7:14–25

delivered body death

For a printable copy of this chapter (10) click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

Click here for a pdf of Genesis 13 in Redemptive History: 8.5×11″; A4 paper



4) Rom 7:14–25: An enormous debate rages in modern New Testament scholarship over the identity of the speaker (“I”) in these verses.[1]

The bulk of the evidence supports that “I” refers to an unbeliever who is still “in the flesh,”[2] participating in the sinful orientation of Adam (Gen 3:6, 17; Rom 5:12–21; Rom 7:5–6).[3]

Paul’s contention in Phil 3 indicates that he did not speak about his own life here.[4]

Therefore, the experience of the person in this passage does not apply to believers, as the passages book-ending this one attest (Rom 6:1–18; Rom 8:1–13).[5]

Instead, the apostle adopted the argument of an observant Jew without the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 2:17–29; Gal 5:16–24).[6]



This rhetorical device—in which one employs the claim of an imaginary opponent—appears frequently in Greco-Roman literature. The great orator Quintilian (35–100 AD) wrote about this type of rhetoric, which he called “impersonation”:[7]

By this means we display the inner thoughts of our adversaries as though they were talking with themselves (but we shall only carry conviction if we represent them as uttering what they may reasonably be supposed to have had in their minds); or without sacrifice of credibility we may introduce conversations between ourselves and others, or of others among themselves, and put words of advice, reproach, complaint, praise or pity into the mouths of appropriate persons.[8]



Significant parallels occur between this passage and the Greek translation of  Isa 49:24–50:2.[9]

Israel’s behavior brought shame upon God even while the nation remained in exile (Isa 52:5). That dishonor continued in Paul’s day.[10]

As the apostle noted in Rom 7:6, those without the Spirit can grasp only the letter of the law, yet the letter without the Spirit kills (2 Cor 3:4–6).[11]

The rhetorical and theological importance of the phrase “sold under sin” intensifies the desperation of the speaker. It depicts his plight as not only an internal torment but also as a marker of his status before God.[12]

Christians continue to be influenced by sin, and we will never completely overcome its influence in this life (2 Tim 2:19–22).[13]

However, “sold” (pipraskō) refers to being taken into slavery (Matt 18:25). Furthermore, Paul earlier used the phrase “under sin” to describe the condition of all those without Christ (Rom 3:9).[14]

Although many non-Christians genuinely strive to do right (Rom 2:14–15), the unbroken power of sin prevents them from succeeding.[15]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Rom 7:14–25. What evidence do we have that Paul was not referring to a struggle he experienced as a believer? How does this understanding undercut any attempts to excuse our sin? Why can’t those who do not have the power of the Holy Spirit within them keep the law? When will our struggle against sin reach its end?





Go to Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14)

[Related posts include Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); Minds on Earthly Things (Phil 3:17–19); and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 10: The Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22–24)]


[1]John K. Goodrich, “Sold Under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7:14–25,” NTS 59, no. 4 (October 2013): 476–95, 476,

[2]Douglas Moo J., The Epistle to the Romans, 237.

[3]Stephen Westerholm, Understanding Paul: The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 115.

[4]John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters (Nashville: B & H, 1999), 55.

[5] Goodrich, “Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7:14–25,” 490,

[6] Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God, 124.

[7]Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 179–80.

[8]Quintilian, Institutes, 9.2.29–30,

[9] Goodrich, “Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7:14–25,” 477,

[10] Mark A. Seifrid, “Romans,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 607–94,613.

[11] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:356.

[12] Goodrich, “Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7:14–25,” 477,

[13] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 454.

[14] Moo, Romans, 236.

[15] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 459.