Swindoll on Romans 7 and the Sinful Nature

As with many Bible teachers, Chuck Swindoll says we have positional freedom in Christ. They mean, “We don’t see that reality in our lives, so maybe we’ll have it in heaven.”

Scripture says, “As He is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).” Is John lying? What about when he says, “He, who says he abides in Him, walks like He did.” (1 John 2:6)?  And, Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20).” Does Christ in you live a life of sin within you? No. God intends to walk with you in true freedom, not in some supposed, imagined, but unreal positional freedom. When Christ says you are free indeed (John 8:36), He means it and backs it up by His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. God is not a liar.

Here’s why your freedom is essential.

You say that God will help others, but … not you.

Until He proves Himself in your experience, you will not really believe Him.

When your eyes are opened that He solved your problem with sin, you will believe He can do anything.

 

Let’s get on with Chuck Swindoll’s approach to Romans 7. I’ll refer to him as Swindoll in the following.

These two paragraphs come from Swindoll’s website that accompany his radio series on this topic:

[Now sold as Portrait of a Struggling Christianhttps://store.insight.org/p-880-portrait-of-a-struggling-christian.aspx]

Inserted in bold [i.e. 1), etc.] are responses to Swindoll’s assertions.

Let’s Begin Here

Swindoll: “Let’s face it: every one of us who knows Christ as Savior has been torn within while fighting battles with the flesh. We feel frustrated, and we are occasionally defeated in that struggle. 1)  We realize we have God’s power within us 2) , and we know that His Spirit is at work 3) , prompting us to do what is right — but we do wrong 4). Knowing we should obey, we disobey. Wanting to think, say, and do what is best, we covertly rebel. We’re not short on desire, but when it comes to pulling it off, we blow it! Paul, speaking for all of us, brought truth out of the closet and exposed it for what it is: SIN. 5)  He put it this way: “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (Romans 7:14). 6) When Charles Haddon Spurgeon stood to preach on this awful reality, he appropriately titled his message, “The Monster Dragged to Light.” Now, let’s face that monster head-on.” 7)

1) Failure is actually the consistent experience (not the occasional) in people who, like Swindoll, falsely conclude that Paul was enslaved to sin by a sinful nature (Rom 7:14). What does a sinful nature do? It sins. Therefore (the assumption goes), since Paul could not live the Christian life, then God does not and cannot expect righteous lives from us either. With such a flourish of foolishness, we have justified continually sinning lives. Sorry. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes, you will not inherit the kingdom of God (Matt 5:19-20). Remember, such were some of you, but you have been washed, sanctified and justified (1 Cor 6:11).

2) As is common within the church, Swindoll thinks God gives us things like power, rather than the indwelling Person of Christ Himself, Who Is the power (1 Cor 1:24). God gives you His Best, the Person Who Is all (Col 3:11), not paltry substitutes that are not Him (Col 2:17).

3) As is also common in the church, only the Holy Spirit is recognized as within believers which undermines our identifying with the Godhead, Who is one Spirit with us. The book The Cross Divider – Free in Christ displays the verses of the indwelling God-head in the paradigm of the cross. [https://freeinchristblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/the_cross_divider_free_in_christ.pdf]

4)  We have much more than a prompting—we have the Godhead Who want us to know Their intimate love for us and Their desire to be with us.

5)  In Romans 7, Paul is focusing on law and why we had to die to it, not life in Christ. Law exposed sin which brought our death, therefore to save us from sin’s effects, God made us die to the law through Christ (Rom 7:4).

6) Swindoll’s commonly-held view makes Romans 7 contradict Romans 6 which says that we are dead to sin, freed from sin, and can yield to God in righteousness and not yield to sin. A person sold into sin (Rom 7:14) is neither dead to sin, free from sin, nor able to resist sin (Rom 6).

7) The monster is not Dragged to Light, IT IS DEAD—it cannot survive His crucifying it and circumcising it (Rom 6:6; Gal 5:24; Col 2:11,13). The monster is dead and gone—past tense (Romans 7:5, 8:9).

 

Who Is “I” in Romans 7?

Swindoll: “Romans 7:14-24 has been debated by theologians for centuries. 1) The main issue centers on the identity of Paul’s I. Was Paul speaking of himself as if he were an unsaved, pre-conversion man? 2) Or was he speaking of himself as a redeemed believer, now living in a state of grace and struggling with the lingering old nature? Those who take the former position point to Paul’s descriptions of being “of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (Romans 7:14), a condition they feel is incompatible with a saved person. Had  Paul not already stated that he and all Christians are set free from sin (6:2, 14, 17-18, 22) and were formerly “in the flesh” (7:5)? 3) How, then, could he speak of himself in terms of slavery and flesh? On the other hand, those who argue that Paul was speaking of himself as a struggling saved person cite his joyful concurrence with the goodness of God’s Law (7:22) and the ability to want to do good (7:18-21) as descriptive of someone who has been saved. 4) It seems best to take Paul’s description as applying to himself as a believer. He was, after all, speaking in the present tense. And the struggle he described “desiring to do what is right and hating the wrong” hardly seems likely for a person still lost in his sins and untouched by grace, for it is God’s Spirit who works in believers both to will and to do good (Philippians 2:13).” 5)

1) Romans 7:14-24 need not have been debated for centuries. This is an excuse for confusion and ambiguity in Bible teaching. Paul gives plenty of information to determine what he’s saying. For example, Christ is the focus of Romans chapters 6 and 8. Chapter 7 does not focus on Christ. What is it based on? Law. Law words such as law, commandment, letter, ordinance, and phrases or impersonal pronouns that refer back to law, account for forty (40) law word references. Additionally, Romans 8:2 describes two laws by which man can live. The lower law of sin and death is what is described in Romans 7. Our present reality, for those who will live in it by Christ Himself, is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that overcomes the law of sin and death.

2) Yes. He’s writing as an unsaved Jewish follower of God. Here is how you can know this:

  1. a) In Rom 7:1 Paul writes to those who intimately know the law, i.e. Jews. Aside from Rom 2:14, Paul’s Romans discourse concerning law refers to God’s law as given to the Jews.
  2. b) Rom 7:7—the law says, do not covet. This is the 10th of the 10 Commandments which are critical to Jewish worshipers of God. The laws of marriage and adultery (Rom 7:2-3) are also in the law as given through Moses.
  3. c) The discourse from Rom 7:7-24 focuses entirely on the law, sin and death. Verse 24 says, Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” This is a future reference, i.e. the view in these verses is of an unsaved person needing deliverance. Twenty-three out of twenty-five verses in Romans 7 focus on a person trying to live by law, not Christ. The result of living by law is to live by the flesh.

3) “You were in the flesh (sinful nature)” denotes past tense, i.e. you are no longer in the flesh but in the spirit (Romans 8:9). As to Romans 6, if we are dead to sin (v 2, 7, 11), free(d) from sin (v 7, 18, 22), and no longer have to yield to sin (v 13, 16, 19), then we cannot, without destroying logic itself, say that we are simultaneously in bondage to sin (Rom 7:14). Yet, this is what Swindoll does.

4) God-fearing Jews (but unsaved as to Christ), as Paul once was, also concur with the good law and want to do good. This is not exclusive to Christians.

5) It seems best and hardly seems likely may be Swindoll’s feelings or senses, but they are not scripture. Let’s purpose to use scripture to determine the meaning. Living in and by the spirit is our present-tense reality in Christ.

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4 thoughts on “Swindoll on Romans 7 and the Sinful Nature

  1. There are a lot of Conditional statements in the new testament regarding salvation. Most people who believe in “once saved always saved” do not read the entire scripture to whom those “saved” verses speak. If one reads them they will find the are addressed to the “faithful in Christ”. Now, one must understand what that means…….

    Kent

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    • Thanks, Kent, for your comment.

      As you note, faithfulness in Christ is what God’s looking for. And, the great news is that You, Father, provide everything in Christ by Whom we can be faithful. Since we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), our lives depend on Him, for He is our Life (Col 3:4).

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    • Lord, thank You for and bless Ned and his family and Your work through them. Help them know where You are leading and what You want them to think, feel, say and do. Protect them, we ask.

      Like

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