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Romans 7:15-25a                                             


The "I" of the Lesson – This passage is one of the most autobiographical pieces in the Pauline corpus. Is this "I" Paul’s account of how he once, as a youth, was alive to the law until he became a "Son of the Commandment" at about age thirteen at which time he assumed responsibility before the law and at that point sin reared its ugly head and the innocent self died? [1]

  • The Quandary – Paul speaks to us about his honest quandary—"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." Sounds like our quandary, too! Something compels us—the Jewish rabbis call it "the evil impulse,"—to break rules, overindulge, hurt our neighbor. [2]
  • Try Harder? – The problem Paul speaks of is behavioral in type and suggests circular reasoning: "I want to do good," "But sin keeps me from accomplishing the good," "so I end up doing the thing that I don’t want to do," "I want to do good," "But sin keeps me . . . "
  • Non-Christian Experience? " . . . what Paul describes in this passage is not what sensitive non-Christians feel about life apart from Christ . . . what it represents is non-Christian life under the law seen from a Christian perspective . . . Paul is probably drawing to some extent at least on his own life as a Pharisee in this discussion. [3]


When you were growing up, what was one of your biggest struggles?

  • What would your autobiographical account look like from a behaviorialist perspective?
  • What makes your New Year’s resolution list every year?
  • From reading this passage, what is your impression about Paul?
  • What can you give thanks to God for despite the struggles you have?


Please see this week’s homily based on this passage, "It Just Don’t Add Up," in this week's resources (year A: 7th Sunday after Pentecost).

[1] Paul Achtemeier, Interpretation Series: Romans (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985), page 119.
[2] Diane Jacobson, New Proclamation 2002 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), page 124.
[3] Achtemeier, p. 122-123.