The second perspective suggests that Paul is illustrating in the first person present tense the struggle of someone who WANTS TO FOLLOW GOD but DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD LIVING IN THEM. Which was exactly Apostle Paul’s predicament before he met Jesus. Someone who is very religious and yet is not born again. Someone who has the understanding of God in their minds but they continue to live a powerless life and an unchanged life. A person who has the desire to do what is good, but he simply cannot carry it out. The evil he does not want to do, he keeps on doing it! He is still a slave to sin.
I think there are some clues that Paul is talking about his past experience as a Pharisee.
I already pointed out his interesting choice of words: “sold as a slave to sin” and a “prisoner of the law of sin.” That doesn’t sound like someone who has been set free from their sins.
Next, we have to look at the surrounding context. This passage is sandwiched between 2 other passages.
First, in Rom 7:1-6, Paul gives an analogy of marriage. When your husband dies, the widowed wife is no longer under the law of marriage. In the same way, Paul is making the argument that to a Christian, sin is like a dead husband. You are no longer under the law of sin in the same way that the wife is released from the law of marriage when her husband dies. You see the logic?
It’s rather black and white. Your husband is either dead or alive. There is no in-between stage unless you are a zombie, but that’s another message. It’s either the realm of the law/flesh/death OR the realm of salvation/Spirit/fruit/life.
This is the section that precedes Paul’s confession in Romans 7. What passage immediately follows this confession?
In Rom 8, it’s all about the realm of the flesh vs. the realm of the Spirit. Again, it’s rather black or white. One or the other.
There is no straddling the fence or putting one foot in one realm and the other foot in the other realm.
You are either a Mac lover or a Windows PC lover. People kind of tolerate Windows because it’s so prevalent and that’s all people know. But if you crossover to the world of Apple, I hear there is no turning back. It’s one or the other. If you are really confused, then you might be a linux user like perhaps some of the Caltech students. But for most of the world, there are only 2 choices.
In the same way, there are only 2 realms in spiritual life. The realm of the flesh or the realm of the Spirit. There is no in-between.
And what is the means by which we move from one realm to another? Jesus’ death and resurrection. Therefore, Paul can exclaim in Rom 7:25,
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Rom 7:25
And this deliverance is not just in a future sense but starting from the moment we are saved.
That is why Paul is so thankful. And it is not just being thankful that God forgives a believer of his or her sins and accepts them as they are. He is thankful because Christ delivered him from spiritual death to life. He saved him from his life of religion and he entered into a relationship with Jesus. Paul had tried so hard to please God as a Pharisee. He delighted in God’s law, he memorized God’s law, he taught it at the local Rabbinic school and practiced God’s law at the temple, but he was a slave to sin so his efforts fell short. So he breaks out into praise — thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ, freeing me from the slavery and bondage of sin.
That’s his testimony regarding his salvation moment. That’s justification. That’s when he crossed over from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Then, it flows better into Rom 8:1 — Therefore, since Paul is a born-again Christian, THEREFORE, there is NOW NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.