Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Experiential Interpretation of Romans 7

"The Apostle Paul says, 'There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,' and he says that on the heels of the remarkable testimony of his battle with sin in Romans chapter 7, where he says he has this inner turmoil not doing what he wants to do and doing what he hates and when he would do good evil would be present with him."
Dr. Rick Horne, "Take Ten Looks" from Timothy Brindle's album The Restoration
Dr. Rick Horne, along with a great number of Christians out there, is sadly mistaken. In fact, he is outright wrong, and, unlike most of our post-modern society, I am not afraid to say it. Romans 7 is not a testimony of Paul's battle with sin. People seriously need to learn what it means to conduct exegesis. There is no room for, and no excuse for, experiential interpretation. Our experiences do not interpret the text. In fact, our day and age, with its individualism and rampant acceptance of sin, offers absolutely nothing into the interpretation of Scripture in the least. Scripture, like many parts of the world still today, functioned on the base of familial units. If you want to understand Scripture correctly, you need to understand familial units. Many places in the world today still operate thus, where the children reside with the parents until they get married, and later in the parents' life are looked after by their children, even contributing to the family while living at home. The familial unit often extended beyond just immediate family and would include extended family. Everyone looked out for everyone else, something our Western society and culture lost following the Renaissance. But that is neither the here nor there of this article.

Paul did not ask if Christians would continue to sin or even struggle with sin. So what was the question he asked? For that answer, we need to examine the preceding verse to the section frequently ripped out of context—verse 13. Verses 14-25 are cited in isolation of the immediate context 99% of the time. The rhetorical question Paul asked in verse 13 was, "Did that which is good [the Law] become a cause of death for me?" He provides a strong denial to his question and then proceeds to give an answer. Paul did not finish answering his question with the remainder of verse 13 only to shift gears into a completely unrelated issue for the rest of the chapter.

In order to understand precisely what Paul is getting at with Romans 7:13-25, we still need to keep it in context with Romans 7:7-12. The entire chapter is dealing with the Law and man's relation therewith. In Romans 7:7-12, Paul, using the historical-present 'I', says, "I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'" Because of the Law, he noticed all sorts of covetousness within. The good he wanted to do (Do not covet), he did not do, but what he did not want to do (covet), he did. In both Romans 7:15 and 7:19, there are two Greek words used, and they are used in the reverse of each other to paint an undeniable picture that those who falsely misinterpret Romans 7 refuse to address. These words are prasso (πρασσω), meaning "to perform repeatedly or habitually," and poieo (ποιεω), meaning "to purpose." So, continuing to speak using the historical-present 'I', these two verses read thus:
15: For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I do not repeatedly or habitually practice [prasso] what I would like to do, but I purpose to do [poieo] the very thing I hate.
19: For the good that I want, I do not purpose to do [poieo], but I repeatedly or habtiually practice [prasso] the very evil that I do not want.
Putting the two verses together, he is saying, "I do not repeatedly or habitually practice what I would like to do, but I repeatedly or habitually practice the very evil that I do not want" and "For the good that I want, I do not purpose to do, but I purpose to do the very thing I hate." Does that sound like a Christian?!? Not in the least! Interestingly enough, 1 John 3:4-10 also uses both of these Greek words, and this passage clearly tells us that a person who purposes to sin and repeatedly or habitually practices sin is not of God. He/she is of the devil!

For you preachers and teachers out there who continue to lie about Romans 7 and deal with it from an experiential interpretive standpoint, rather than an exegetical interpretive standpoint, if you are not going to give the Word of God the due treatment and respect it deserves, then might I suggest you step down from your position. The church needs leaders appointed by God who hold His Word in the highest regard and do their work diligently. There can be no haphazard work. In preaching the Bible verse by verse, we need to do so exegetically and we need to be comparing Scripture with Scripture so as to give the most accurate interpretation of the text—as a whole.

Romans 8 is the normal Christian life. "As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Col. 2:6).