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Romans 7:15

ESV For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
NIV I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
NASB For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.
CSB For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.
NLT I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
KJV For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

What does Romans 7:15 mean?

Is this verse and the verses to follow describing Paul before he was a Christian or after? Bible scholars disagree with each other, and the difference has some significance. In a literal sense, Paul's Greek in this passage shifts into a first-person, singular, present-tense form. This contrasts with other parts of Romans which use more general terms. At least according to his choice of language, Paul seems to be speaking of himself in a direct and literal way.

Paul characterizes himself as a person who continually does the opposite of what he himself wants to do. Instead of doing the things he wants to do, he does what he hates, instead. This is frustrating—why is this happening?

Those who believe Paul is describing his life before becoming a Christian understand Paul to mean that those who are still under the law are confused about why they cannot keep the law. Why do they keep disobeying God's commands even when they don't want to? Bible scholars with this view understand the previous verse to describe someone who is still a slave to sin, not someone who has be freed from sin through faith in Christ (Romans 6:2, 18, 22).

Bible scholars who believe Paul is describing himself as a Christian believe that he is being deeply honest about ongoing struggle with sin. Although Christians have been freed from sin's power, we continue to live under its powerful influence. Sometimes we may feel exactly as Paul describes. We continue to do what we hate—we sin—even when we mean to do what was right. It's not that we are still slaves to sin, but that we are divided by our own competing desires.

Regardless of any disagreement about Paul's perspective here, Bible scholars agree that both non-Christians and Christians may express this feeling. Both may set out to do the right thing and find themselves doing a wrong thing, instead, without fully knowing why. This is part and parcel of being a fallible, mortal human being (2 Corinthians 5:2).
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