Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

July 12, 2006

Take a few minutes to read this very well known pa…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 4:17 am

Take a few minutes to read
this very well known passage from Romans. Several years ago I preached a “sermon” in the San Diego county jail on this passage. In my crass way, I made the statement that this passage demonstrated that the apostle Paul was basically admitting that he had problems no different from a drug addict. (You gotta’ remember that most of my audience was comprised of drug addicts who always did what they didn’t want to do and I wanted to get them to identify with the Bible and see that their way out was Jesus Christ.) I remember one guy in the back was basically mortified that I would point out this flaw in an apostle. Overlooking the likelihood that I at least exaggerated the case, consider that I may have been flat out wrong. That is the position held by a great many exegetes of scripture today. They say that Paul was possibly speaking of himself prior to his conversion, or he was speaking of unbelievers in general and using himself as a foil to make a point.

The following is what Charles Finney [you might want to follow that link when you get a chance] had to say about this passage:
“Those who find their own experience written in the seventh chapter of Romans are not converted persons. If that is their habitual character, they are not regenerated, they are under conviction, but not Christians . . . . You see, from this subject, the true position of a vast number of church members. They are all the time struggling under the law. They approve of the law, both in its precept and its penalty, they feel condemned, and desire relief. But still they are unhappy. They have no Spirit of prayer, no communion with God, no evidence of adoption. They only refer to the 7th chapter of Romans as their evidence. Such a one will say, `There is my experience.’ Let me tell you, that if this is your experience, you are yet in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. . . . You are yet carnal, sold under sin, and unless you embrace the gospel you will be damned.”

My purpose for bringing this up is not to hash out the correct answer. It is to ask you how you would go about getting the correct answer.

a) Logic: I know I am saved, yet I feel that Paul’s writing here describes my experience/feelings therefore I am going to go with Paul literally describing himself as a regenerate believer. [I’m OK, Paul’s OK.]

b) I am going to exegete the text to the best of my ability including looking at the surrounding couple of chapters in Romans and hope to figure it out.

c) I am going to do b) above and also see how my conclusions fit into my systematic theology especially as it is informed by Paul’s views on sanctification and other passages in the Bible by other writers as well.

d) Doctrine isn’t that important. As long as my relationship with God is okay [and as long as church gets out well before the football game comes on TV] I don’t plan on getting worked up over this passage.

HT to Riddleblog where this topic and Finney’s quote came up. Go there for the kind of quality exegesis you won’t find here.

BTW, this topic I believe underscores yet another place where a correct doctrine of sanctification shows its great importance.



  1. Wow. Finney was not a Christian — who knew! Don’t I remember Finney’s Systematic Theology sitting on your bookshelf all the time I was growing up? Did you ever read it? Back then, could you tell what a crackpot he was?

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — July 12, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  2. Yes, I had his ST and several other books of his as well. Yes I read some of his ST but I was trying to read it not because it was good but because of the sense of piety and climbing the spiritual ladder that I felt I got by reading him. In actuality, the book was lousy. And, no I couldn’t tell what a crackpot he was. Finney was all the rage in our circles back then. But the reformation was eschewed entirely and doctrine wasn’t a big deal either. I had no way of judging Finney and consequently no alarms went off when I read his stuff.

    Comment by Bruce S — July 12, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

  3. I would choose “C” with an addition of “Analogy of Faith Hermeneutic” if you consider that not to be included in ST.

    Good thought provoking quesion. I’ve over the years gone back and forth between being convinced he was talking pre-conversion and post. I think now that it is post, and chapter 8 is the answer: Walking in the Spirit. If we don’t strive for that then we fall back to failure.

    Comment by Kazooless — July 12, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

  4. Hi Kazooless,

    Oddly, some think that it is a pre-conversion statement precisely because of chapter 8.

    My “Paul’s views on sanctification and other passages of the Bible” were my poor man’s way of bringing the analogy of faith into the picture.

    I am holding off on my own view having not nearly practiced c) yet – which is obviously my own choice.

    Comment by Bruce S — July 12, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

  5. I too agree C is the closest to being the right answer. I have always assumed Paul was talking post conversion so I never got to worked up over this passage.

    There’s always Saturday night church to ease the conflict with the football game. Is’nt that why so many churches are adding Sat services.

    Im ok, You’re ok.

    Comment by thin air — July 12, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

  6. Did you read the current issue of Modern Reformation or something?

    “The poor, struggling sinner who is erroneously told that the struggle with sin he or she is currently experiencing is a sign of defeat and that the person is not yet a Christia, or else has chosen not to take advantage of the victory offered to all those in Christ, should instead see the struggle with sin as proof that sanctification is actually taking place.” “Romans 7 and the Normal Christian Life” by Kim Riddlebarger, Modern Reformation July/August 2006

    I pick A. Although, I can’t really disagree with C either. Can I choose A and C?

    Comment by Mike S — July 13, 2006 @ 4:36 am

  7. I would be leery of option A. Only because I don’t believe that approach is strong enough to destroy Finney’s extreme interpretation.

    The passage touches on assurance. Finney apparently based his assurance on his own works righteousness (having rejected substitutionary atonement as foolishly impossible and not necessary in his own case).

    How do you refute Finney and what do you base your assurance on?

    Comment by Bruce S — July 13, 2006 @ 5:24 am

  8. We will struggle with sin until the day we depart this “Flesh.” Sounds like Finney received a double dose of Christianity that he no longer has a struggle with sin even in his mind.The logical answer is “A”.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

  9. Finney is wrong because he bases his assurance on something he does. When this is the case you fall into a never ending cycle of works-salvation. It’s never good enough.

    My assurance is based upon the righteousness of another and the satisifaction He made on my behalf. I used to think that I was saved in 1994 when I became a Christian, but I was wrong. I was saved 2000 years ago when my Savior fulfilled the law on my behalf and endured the wrath of God that I deserve.

    Comment by Mike S — July 14, 2006 @ 3:46 am

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