What does Romans 7:17 mean?
ESV: So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
NIV: As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
NASB: But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
CSB: So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.
NLT: So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
KJV: Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Verse Commentary:
Some might attempt to read this verse as Paul saying he is not responsible for his own sinful actions. Clearly, though, the context of this passage makes it clear that is not what Paul means. He has written that even though he wants to do good, he ends up doing what he hates instead: he sins. His personal desire is to do the right thing, to obey God's law. Even in Paul's case, growing up as a devout Jewish person (Philippians 3:4–7), was not enough to keep him from disobeying God. The lure of sin won out over Paul's sincere interest in doing right.

In this way, Paul says the problem is not with his intentions. Rather, it is the sin in him that overcomes his intentions and leads him to do what is wrong anyway.

Bible scholars disagree about whether Paul is describing himself in this section of verses as he was before becoming a Christian or after. Examining the Greek language used here makes it all but certain that Paul is speaking in a here-and-now, first-person sense. Compared to other parts of Romans, Paul's choice of words and tenses makes this appear to be a very literal and personal account.

Those who believe Paul has constructed a framework to describe himself without Christ see this section as the definition of what it means to be a slave to sin, even as a Jewish person who lives under the law. They may sincerely want to obey God, but their slavery to sin overwhelms their good intentions. They just can't resist sin's power.

However, Bible scholars who believe Paul is describing the experience of one who is in Christ understand him to be talking about sin's powerful influence over even those who have been freed from sin's ultimate power and authority. The sin that remains in us is not our master, but it remains powerful and persuasive.
Verse Context:
Romans 7:7–25 explores the relationship between the law of Moses and human sin. Paul insists that the law is how he came to know and understand sin, in general, and his own sin specifically. He also explains how knowing the law does not make a person holier; it can actually tempt us to sin even more! Paul changes his perspective in this passage, speaking in a first-person-here-and-now manner, as a Christian, wanting to do what is right and finding himself doing what is sinful instead. Paul recognized his natural inability to do right and realized his need to be delivered from sin by God through Jesus.
Chapter Summary:
In Romans 7, Paul describes the relationship between Christians and law of Moses and between the law and human sinfulness. Because we died spiritually when we came to faith in Christ, Christians have been freed from our obligation to follow the law. Paul insists, though, that the law is holy and good in the sense that it reveals to all who try to follow it just how very sinful we are. The law shows us that no matter how good our intentions, we still end up in sin and in need of the deliverance available only through faith in Jesus.
Chapter Context:
Romans 6 revealed that those in Christ have died to sin and are no longer slaves to it. Romans 7 begins by showing that, in Christ, we have also died to our obligation to follow the law of Moses. Paul makes clear, though, that the law is holy and good because it reveals to us just how sinful we are. Paul describes how his failed attempts to follow the law convinced him more fully of his need to be delivered from his sinfulness by God through faith in Christ. Romans 8 will explore many of the benefits of being in Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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