Romans 7:14-25

Is it the Pre or Post Conversion of the Apostle Paul?


By Dr. Ken Matto


There are many who believe that Romans 7:14-25 is speaking about the Apostle Paul, before he was converted and that he had a terrible struggle with sin.  Even in an unsaved state a person might refuse to do something which they deem self-destructive.  This was not the case with Saul of Tarsus as we will see.  The question remains is Romans 7:14-25 speaking about Saul of Tarsus in his unsaved state or is it speaking of the Apostle Paul in his saved state?  The actual grammar in the Greek Textus Receptus will give us a straight answer in that there is no way it is speaking of Paul before his Damascus Road conversion.


It is biblical knowledge that Saul of Tarsus had persecuted the church and he was relentless in his desire to see all the Christians persecuted and ultimately dead.  Based upon the belief that Romans 7:14-25 is speaking about Paul before his salvation I have a question.  Can anyone show me one passage where Paul struggled with persecuting the church?


And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (Acts 22:4)


And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:11)


In Acts 22:4 Paul speaks in the plural in that verse.  The words “prisons, men and women” are in the plural meaning more than one.  His pursuit was relentless and without conscience and he did not stop until he attained his goal of full annihilation of the church.


In Acts 26:11, he speaks about persecuting the true believers in every synagogue now that does not mean every synagogue in the area, just where he went.  The word “mad” may also be understood as “furious” which means he did with a vitriolic mindset.  Then he states he persecuted them unto strange cities which could also be cities where the Gentiles were prevalent such as Damascus even though he never made it there.  The word “cities” is also in the plural which means he went to different cities, the number unknown.  So here we see with a track record like that, he did not have a struggle with sin. 


1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)


In Acts 9:1-2, here we have Saul breathing out threatenings.  It was like he could not breathe unless there was a threat against Christianity coming from him.  The word “slaughter” may also be understood as “murder.”  Is committing murder a sign of a person who is having struggles with sin?  Of course not, anyone bent on murder is not having a struggle with sin.  Then Saul went to the High Priest to get letters so he could go to Damascus and bring the Christians bound back to Jerusalem which would be for the purpose of examination and execution.  Doesn’t sound like he struggled with the agenda of bringing back the Christians to do them harm!


12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (1 Timothy 1:12-13)


Then in 1 Timothy 1:13, the Apostle Paul further describes his actions before salvation. 


Blasphemer - Speak harmfully against or slanderous

Persecutor - To persecute in an active sense

Injurious - Violent person

Ignorantly - Not knowing or not understanding


Paul now gives his pre-salvation résumé and details exactly what he was in comparison to what he is today. He first states that he was a blasphemer which meant when he persecuted the Christians verbally, he did it for the purpose slandering them, and no doubt he did it loud enough so it would stir up others around him. Then he states that he was a persecutor and the word means that he did it actively. He was present when Stephen was stoned and when the Lord stopped him on the road to Damascus, he was going there to kill and persecute more Christians. Then he states that he was a violent person and hatred can stir anyone up to do violence and he did violence to the church. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: (Galatians 1:13 KJV) Then we read one of the great “buts” of Scripture. Paul received mercy and became saved. Then as he got to know the Lord Jesus Christ and Christians, he then realized the truth and then he states he did all of this in ignorance, not knowing the truth because he was in unbelief. Now this passage is important to all Christians since it shows us why unbelievers oppose us because they are in unbelief which means they are spiritually dead, so they would have no way of knowing the truth until they become saved. In 1 Timothy 1:13, does it sound like Paul had a struggle with sin in his life?  In his unsaved state, he was on his way to becoming a member of the Sanhedrin so he had great motivation to keep up his persecution of the church.


In 1 Corinthians 15:9 Paul speaks about he persecuted the church:


For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9)  First Corinthians was written about 54 A.D.  The word “persecuted” is in the Aorist Active Indicative.  The Aorist tense speaks about a past action of a verb in time relative to the time of the speaker.  Active voice means that Saul did the actual persecuting.  Indicative mood is the mood of fact which means Saul was the persecutor.  Romans was written about 57 or 58 A.D. which was about 4 years after 1 Corinthians and about 24 years after his conversion to Christianity.  So in 1 Corinthians Paul is using an Aorist Tense Verb which denotes a past action.


In Romans 7:14-25, there are 35 present tense words in the Greek Textus Receptus.  When Paul described that he persecuted the church in the past tense in 1 Corinthians 15, why then would he use all present tense words to describe the past in Romans 7:14-25?   He doesn’t!  Here are just 5 of the 35 words found in the present tense.  It would be like someone calling me up and asking me “where I am right now” and I say “New York City.”  The problem is that I have not been to New York City in about 16 years.  So how could I use a present tense when my visits to NYC have been in the past.  No translator worth their salt would ever translate a present tense word in the past tense.


7:14 – “I am” – Am is present tense

7:15 – “What I hate” – I hate is present tense

7:19 – “That I do” – I do is present tense

7:21 – “Is present with” is present tense

7:23 – “But I see” – I see is present tense


Paul ends up the section with verse 25.  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:25)  Here is plain as day the reason for the sin war the Christian deals with.  In the mind is the law of God which was implanted in every true believer which guides the life of the believer.  It is called the mind of Christ.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)


Then also dwelling in the body is the flesh which serves the law of sin.  Our bodies still lust after sin and that is why the Spirit must rule the body.  Paul's struggle with sin came after he became a Christian and not before.  It is important to look at the grammar of the Bible because just one word can make a difference in true understanding.  To discount the actual written word in lieu of what we want to believe can create a false teaching.  The actual words of Scripture are as important as what they convey from the mind of God.


After Paul had completed that section, he goes into Romans 8 and begins with a great verse of encouragement for the true believer.


There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)


After Paul completed his treatise on sinning after salvation he then pens a great assurance for believers and that is that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  Let us look at the first part of that verse.  Based upon what Paul had just written concerning his struggle with sin and his occasional sinful acts whatever they were which is not relevant.  The fact is that every true believer struggles with sin and when they yield to it, Paul is assuring that they are not condemned like the unbeliever is.  It is important for every Christian to know that when you became saved, your soul was cleansed and you were given the mind of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 2:16, but your physical body was not redeemed as it is heading for death and decomposition in the grave.  The reason that the true believer is not condemned is because when Christ went to the cross, all our sins were in the future and he paid for and removed every sin we would ever commit.


As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)


I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (Isaiah 43:25)


And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)


13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Colossians 2:13-14)


For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12)


And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)


So we plainly see that in these seven verses that the sins of the believer, because of Calvary, have been removed, blotted out, nailed to the cross, no longer remembered by  God which means that there is not one sin that will ever be held against us.  The unbeliever goes from sin to sin and their sins will be remembered on Judgment Day.  The true believer has been cleansed by Christ thoroughly because if the cleansing was not thorough, then the Holy Spirit could not dwell in us which is in our soul.  The Holy Spirit does not indwell the flesh because it is still loaded with sins and sinful desires.  Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (1 Peter 2:11)  When we were unsaved, we were spiritually dead which meant we had no defense against sinful desires and normally gave in to them.  Now that we are saved, we have that war in us between the clean soul and the dirty flesh.  Surrendering to sinful desires is how we grieve the Spirit of God.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)


Let’s look at the second part Romans 8:1:


There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)


This important section of Scripture is omitted in the modern counterfeit Bibles.  The true Christian will order their walk according to the life of a true Christian according to the Scriptures and because we are still clothed in flesh we are subject to occasional sin but that does not mean we are ordering our life according to sinful principles.  There is no such thing as sinless perfection as the Wesleyans teach.  I personally knew a Christian about 30 years ago who became so distraught that he actually took a gun and killed himself.  Is he in Heaven?  Yes he is because even that sin of self-murder was covered by Calvary.


There are many who walk the aisles in churches and evangelistic crusades who say a few words and then believe they are saved and then the following week they are back in the bars or resuming their sinful lifestyles.  These are the ones who walk according to the flesh, in other words, in lockstep with the world.  The true Christian will oppose the world system and all its trappings, these are the ones walking in the Spirit as they do not accept the ways of the world or its definitions.  The ultra-religious person will follow the teachings of their church and the self-cleaning people will attempt to make their lives better by removing things from it like alcohol or drugs but neither of these crowds show any regeneration by God because they are still in cadence with the world as they attempt to be their own savior.


I hope this short study has brought some encouragement to you that if you sin, then you are not condemned as the unbeliever is.  Every sin you commit today and in the future has already been paid for and removed from your soul.  This does not mean we look for sin, because if we look for that then we are looking for the chastising hand of God on us and wouldn’t you rather have the blessings of the LORD instead of the fierce hand of chastisement.  Remember, God loves his redeemed children and if and whenever we get into problems because if sin we can always go to him for help.  Never run away but run to him.  You may face consequences for your sin like David did when he had sinned with Bathsheba but notice something in the following verse.  And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (2 Samuel 12:13)  Notice it states that the LORD had put away David’s sin.  Why? Because David was a believer and even though there were earthly consequences for David’s sin, it did not keep him out of Heaven because his sin, like the sin of every believer, has been removed or blotted out.