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Romans 7:14

ESV For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
NIV We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
NASB For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin.
CSB For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin.
NLT So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.
KJV For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

What does Romans 7:14 mean?

Bible scholars and teachers disagree about Paul's intended voice in this passage. Some feel Paul is describing himself, now, presently, as a Christian. Others believe he is describing his life before he accepted Christ. How one interprets these verses is especially important when it comes to these next few verses. Most likely, Paul is speaking from a here-and-now standpoint, about his own experience. In the original Greek, Paul has shifted, in this very section, to using first-person, single-person, present-tense words. Earlier passages spoke from a plural voice, or a future tense. In a literal, grammatical sense, Paul has made a noticeable shift in his language, which suggests this is a very personal and literal discussion.

Here Paul writes that we know that the law is spiritual. It is commonly understood among Christians that the law was about a human being's spiritual condition. Perhaps, if we were simply spiritual beings, we might be able to keep the law. The problem, Paul writes, is that he is—and by extension, we all are—"fleshly" beings, or "of the flesh." Paul exists in a body and that body is driven by sinful desires. In addition, Paul describes himself as living in a body, flesh, which has been "sold under sin."

Those who believe Paul is describing his life before being a Christian understand him to be talking about being a slave to sin, under its power and authority. In the previous chapter, Paul described slavery to sin as a condition of non-Christians (Romans 6:20). Those who see Paul as describing his life as a Christian hear him saying that his body, his flesh, was previously sold as a slave to sin and still desires sinful things, though he has been freed from sin through faith in Christ.

His broader point is that it is the flesh, our unspiritual minds and bodies, which contains those sinful desires and impulses that keep us from obeying God's spiritual law.
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