Romans 7:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Romans 7:23, NIV: but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

Romans 7:23, ESV: but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Romans 7:23, KJV: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Romans 7:23, NASB: but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts.

Romans 7:23, NLT: But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.

Romans 7:23, CSB: but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

What does Romans 7:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul declared in the previous verse his delight in the law of God in his inner being. This fits with what he has written in this section about truly wanting to do good, to obey God. Now he expands on what he has said repeatedly happens when he sets out to do good: he finds sin lurking nearby.

More specifically, he finds three universal principles to be true about all of his attempts to do good in his own power. He calls all three of these principles "laws." First, he sees in his members, his body, a law or principle that is waging war against the law of his mind. In other words, the sinful desires that live in his flesh and blood and body go to war against the law of his mind that wants to do what is right. A great conflict takes place. The result of this war, Paul writes, is that he is taken captive by the law of sin that lives inside of the members of his body. In the end, he does not do the good he sets out to do, but he does the evil he never meant to do.

Bible scholars who believe Paul is describing his experience before becoming a Christian, while he was trying to follow the law of Moses, point to this verse as evidence for their position. After all, Paul wrote in Romans 6:2, 18, and 22 that Christians have died to sin and have been set free from it. How, then, could this description of being captive to the law of sin apply to a Christian?

Then again, other scholars suggest that Paul, describing his experience even as a Christian, is not describing an inescapable captivity. They say he is describing why and how Christians sometimes give in to sinful temptation and end up trapped, in a way, by sin's deception, but still free from sin's authority over us. This idea that Paul is speaking of his present condition also makes more sense of his choice of words. In Greek, this passage represents a shift into a personal, singular, here-and-now type perspective.

In either case, human beings are shown to be deeply vulnerable on our own and apart from God's power when it comes to sin. Good intentions are not enough to keep us from doing what it wrong. Paul has shown that those without Christ are clearly hopeless to avoid sin. Christians, too, must rely on God's power through the Holy Spirit to choose good or evil (Galatians 5:16–24).