Who was the “I” who experiences this ethical frustration of willing but not doing?  Was Paul referring to his own pre-Christian experiences of wrestling with the Torah?  Not likely.  The pre-Christian Paul seems to have viewed himself as “faultless” with respect to doing the law (cp. Philippians 3.6).  Of course, the Christian Paul, looking back on his former life, may have seen it all quite differently.  Was Paul perhaps referring to Jews in general and to the failure of their law-centered life?  There is little evidence in the Jewish literature that Paul’s contemporaries experienced such frustration between willing and doing the law.  Paul may have been referring to Christians; Christians alone would be fully aware of the pull in their lives between God’s standards and their continuing failure to measure up.  Verse 25 seems to point in this direction: in this life, short of the resurrection we are not yet perfected and are still a slave to sin’s law but, in our inmost selves, we belong not to sin but to God.  We are “in Christ,” no longer “in Adam.”

From: Paul and His Letters by John B. Polhill (Nashville: B&H Academic, 1999), pp. 291-292.


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