It keeps cropping up. Romans 7 is talking about slavery to sin under law. It is not talking about the Christian experience. Romans 7 is slavery to sin, Romans 8 is release from that slavery. If you get this wrong, then you are ascribing to the Christian, the condition that is actually one of slavery to sin, the very condition from which a Christian is released.
It is all a question of will power. In 7 the person’s will is overpowered by the will of the flesh, of sin. The person knows what is right to do because of the law’s enlightenment in this regard, but because there is no element other than law (sin and death) present, his will becomes just wishful thinking under the onslaught of the condemning flesh.
He knows what is right and wrong because the law tells him so. And this is the whole point of it. Because he is under the law, he is under wrath, because law brings wrath. No Christian can be described as being under wrath. The whole point of the chapter is to explain what the forces at work within a man actually are, and primarily as under law. Then he explains how freedom from this sin slavery occurs in 8.
Because sin has been rendered of no account through the body of Christ, its power to condemn has been defeated. Christ’s victory is the defeat of sin’s power. This breaks the cycle that previously held sway, it releases the man’s will from all power except that of grace, of the gospel. A new Spirit is in control and the flesh has been defeated. It’s accusations of condemnation now fall on deaf ears, ears that have been unstopped and have heard and responded to the gospel.
If you do not believe that the power of sin was totally broken in the body of Jesus – If you believe that the person in 7 was a Christian, still meeting the power of the flesh and struggling and trying to deal with it through whatever means, even if that supposedly be the Spirit or that supposedly be grace, then you will be a very confused “Christian”. Yes some understanding of grace and the destruction of the power of sin by the cross may very well ’empower’ you. But to try and reconcile that with the description of the one in 7 being a Christian is not possible. There will always be confusion somewhere if this teaching holds sway.
There is a difference between teaching that the poor performance of the man in 7 is overcome by “grace”, (ie that even though this position of failure still exists, he is forgiven) and the teaching that the reason for this very poor performance (under law) has been absolutely completely and utterly removed by the cross. The former puts the law in a position to retain power, failing to see that the whole chapter is about how the law gives power to sin, and It was by the release from this sin condition through Jesus dealing with it, that is the very foundation of the atonement and is forgiveness itself.
Romans chapter 7 is all about man under law, and therefore man under the power of sin. Christians have been released from both the power of sin and from the law. Though the flesh accuse, it has no power (authority) to do so. Temptation can no longer be based upon past failure, but only on future failure to apprehend the grace of God that has been placed before us to so apprehend, that makes the result of this grace so valuable as to provide strength to overcome it. Anyone who deliberately looks within their flesh for evidence of sin power will find it, they will again find the law of sin and death, but this is not ‘normal’ Christian behaviour because Jesus took away this power from the flesh, and to return credence to it is to return to the realm of disbelief.
It is the misunderstanding of this chapter that gives law keepers some leverage in their attempts to maintain that the law still remains dominant over Christians. How could this man be a Christian if he was in relationship with and in subjection to, the law? Has he not heard of the Spirit?