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Romans Gets Tricky

February 18, 2011

If you’re in the northwest Chicagoland ‘burbs, and you like theology, you should come by on Wednesday nights for Romans. If you’re not in the area, my notes are here.

Last Wednesday was probably the least conclusive I’ve ever seen Dennis. Where Dennis isn’t 100% sure, we’re in uncharted waters.

Verses eight and nine are where it happened:

But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

Two things that bear pointing out, but probably don’t necessitate explaining:

  • Paul’s talking about being spiritually alive and dead.
  • “When the commandment came,” references when it came to him personally.

We discussed the idea that before Moses received the Law, God was not “imputing” people’s sins. That’s here. Dennis explained that this is a similar idea.

At some point in Paul’s life, before he understood the Law and what sin is, he was spiritually “alive.” The same way Adam was alive in the garden before his sin. However, when the commandment came to Paul, and he understood that his sin was sin, he died spiritually at his next act of willful disobedience.

This, of course, raises all kinds of questions. Two that I want to throw out there for discussion:

  1. How does that relate to Romans 1:18-23, wherein Paul argues that the attributes of God are clearly seen in creation, and that no one has an excuse for idolatry? It could be said that Paul is referencing himself at a very young age – that elusive “age of accountability” – but then what do we make of his claim to have been “blameless” in the law (Philippians 3:6, Acts 26:5)?
  2. Secondly, and maybe in answer to the first, is this really what Paul meant when he wrote, “I was alive …”?

Barnes Notes gives a different explanation:

It must mean, therefore, that he had a certain kind of peace; he deemed himself secure; he was free from the convictions of conscience and the agitations of alarm. The state to which he refers here must be doubtless that to which he himself alludes elsewhere, when he deemed himself to be righteous, depending on his own works, and esteeming himself to be blameless …

The commentator would say that Paul was not actually spiritually alive, but only thought he was. Other commentators agree – see Gill’s Exposition and Scofield Reference Notes.


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