Teaching Series

Series: Sinners
Message: Wretched
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Jason Calvert
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Romans 7:13-25 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: I like how the New Living Translation places its subheading—“Struggling with Sin"—between Verses 13 and 14. It demonstrates immediately what the translators believed this passage was all about. If you were to read this in N.T. Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation, you would see that the subheading starts at Verse 13 and reads “Looking Back on Life Under the Law.”

Which is it?

John Stott, in his commentary on Romans, explains that not long after Paul’s death, the Greek interpreters—from Origen onward—all believed that this passage was about Paul’s own struggle with sin before he became a follower of Jesus. Stott points out that within a few hundred years, the understanding (put forward by Augustine) was that these verses referred to Paul struggling with sin after he had decided to follow Jesus.

Which is it?

Stott suggests, in his commentary The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, that the context of the letter is the key to understanding this:

If then we are looking for a description of the normal Christian life we will find it in Romans 8; Romans 7, with its concentration on the law and its omission of the Spirit, cannot be held to describe Christian normality.

N.T. Wright, along with others, wishes to suggest that while you can see yourself in this text and you can see Paul in this text, there could be more behind it.

Have you ever drawn a conclusion that seemed entirely obvious because of the way all the information seemed to be pointing—at least up until the point at which some new data arrived that pointed to another conclusion? Think about that.

I was sitting in a meeting recently with several faith leaders from different religions and denominations. Each of us had the opportunity to share what had brought us to this point in time. Why we were a rabbi, priest, or pastor—sounds like the setup for a perfect joke. Far from it. The heartfelt, moving, powerful stories told around that table left me in awe. These men and women shared stories about the different career paths they had taken and the manifestation of the call by God on their lives which led to huge shifts in their choices—sometimes leaving one religion or denomination for another. Some had even changed affiliation more than once! Their desire to be aligned with the call that gave meaning and purpose to their lives meant that they would move halfway across the USA—or the world—if necessary. They would leave their faith tradition and family and join another.

What if this text invites a bigger story than simply the struggle of Paul? What if the text is speaking to you about your struggle? Would you have the courage to hear it?

Recalibrate: How well do you handle change? What makes change easier or more difficult for you?

Respond: Pray for the transformation of your heart.

Research: What are the implications of Augustine’s teaching about the way the Christian life looks?

Remember: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15, NIV).

Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and was co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).


One of the “rules” God gave us to live the best life ever is to honor our fathers and mothers. Take some time today with your child to help them make a picture for their other parent or maybe a grandparent or someone who has been a spiritual parent to them. Talk with them about what it means to honor your father and mother. While you are working on this project, write one of your parents or spiritual parents a card of appreciation to model what it looks like to honor your father and mother even when you are all grown up.

Paul says something that sounds kind of funny in Verse 14. Read that aloud with your parents. Paul says the law is spiritual, but he is flesh. He means that he is living in a world and in a body that is used to sin. Do you remember why Jesus came to die for us? He came because we could not fix things for ourselves. Make a picture of Jesus on the cross. Jesus lived a perfect life and didn’t hurt anyone. He kept all the laws the way we are supposed to keep them. He didn’t deserve to die on the cross, but He did it because He loves us. On the top of your picture, write a really big, “THANK YOU JESUS.”

When you think about the word “sin,” what comes to mind? Actions? Emotions? People? Church? School? It’s interesting that in the original language this word is an archery term. It simply means “to take aim at a target and miss the target.” Like a mistake. Sometime we see and hear famous people (actors, artists, politicians, etc.) apologize for their “mistakes.”  Sometimes you and I think of our sins in terms of “mistakes” because, after all, the word “sin” is so judgemental and harsh and religion-y.

But isn’t it true that we correct mistakes? If you make a mistake doing math, you erase it and do it over. If you make a mistake while learning how to drive, you change it. In fact, we have technologies in our lives that automatically correct our mistakes (autocorrect, spellcheck). So yes, you and I make mistakes in life. That’s real. But that’s not what Paul’s getting at.

When we’re really honest, sometimes we make “mistakes” on purpose. Sometimes we plan our “mistakes.” What do you call planned mistakes you make on purpose? Can we really call them mistakes? According to Paul, those things aren’t mistakes, they’re sin.

Yes, we all sin. First observation in our study this week: yes, we make mistakes—but we are not merely mistakers. We’re sinners. This is a much bigger issue. Which means a little self-help book and a Christian cliché can’t handle the problem. What do you think? Why do Christians struggle with sin? Why do humans struggle with sin? How have you tried to overcome sin? Why did your efforts fail? Are there any solutions?

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