Romans 7:25

“This therefore then I serve, on the one hand the law of God with the mind but on the other hand with my flesh sin.”

In the 2017 Sabbath School Quarterly on Romans page 70 is this citation from Luther:

“In 7:25 the Apostle writes: ‘With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.’ This is the clearest passage of all, and from it we learn that one and the same (believ­ing) person serves at the same time the Law of God and the Law of sin. He is at the same time justified and yet a sinner (simul iustus est et peccat); for he does not say: ‘My mind serves the Law of God’; nor does he say: ‘My flesh serves the Law of sin’; but he says: ‘I myself.’ That is, the whole man, one and the same person, is in this twofold servitude. For this reason he thanks God that he serves the Law of God and he pleads for mercy for serving the Law of sin. But no one can say of a carnal (unconverted) person that he serves the Law of God. The Apostle means to say: You see, it is just so as I said before: The saints (believers) are at the same time sinners while they are righteous. They are righteous, because they believe in Christ, whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them. But they are sinners, inasmuch as they do not fulfill the Law, and still have sinful lusts. They are like sick people who are being treated by a physician. They are really sick, but hope and are beginning to get, or be made, well. They are about to regain their health. Such patients would suffer the greatest harm by arro­gantly claiming to be well, for they would suffer a relapse that is worse (than their first illness).”—Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, pp. 114, 115.

Ellen White is also cited on the same page:

“There is no safety nor repose nor justification in transgression of the law. Man cannot hope to stand innocent before God, and at peace with Him through the merits of Christ, while he continues in sin.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 213. Ellen White did not agree with Luther in this statement.

Luther’s conclusion is based on a wrong analysis of this verse. The semantics of “law of sin” is wrapped-up with the last part of the previous verse 24: “body of death”. It is the mortality agony that Paul is referring to, not peccatum originale or original sin or sinful nature or sins in the faithful believer.

A better analysis is: simul iustus et mortalis. Or simul iustus et transformatio. The same time sinner and saint is for Paul unthinkable.

The “law of sin” is for Nicolas de Lyra in the 13th century: “sequedo carnis inclinationem” = “following carnal inclinations” (column 100).

“’It is Augustine who gave us the Reformation.’ So wrote B. B. Warfield in his assessment of the influence of Augustine on church history. It is not only that Luther was an Augustinian monk, or that Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian that provoked Warfield's remark. Rather, it was that the Reformation witnessed the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over the legacy of the Pelagian view of man.” (R. C. Sproul, “Augustine and Pelagius” Online accessed on 25th of November 2017 at

One of the most insightful paragraphs of LaRondelle is in his book Perfection at page 320 at footnote 430 citing from R. Prenter, Spiritus Creator, ET, 1953, page 39: “The Augustinian and scholastic teaching of justification which Luther opposes in the writing against Latomus permits grace to be a new nature in man, so that man is gradually changed to a new man or lifted up from the natural level to the supernatural. Righteousness in this manner becomes a ‘formal justice’. Perhaps it can be stated crudely that in the scholastic teaching grace results in a gradual improvement of the old man until the insensibly has become a new man ….Man thus gradually becomes more and more righteous. Grace gradually substitutes the new nature more and more for the old sinful self.” Then LaRondelle commented by himself saying: “Luther fundamentally rejected this ontological-anthropological concept of Scholastic justification by his religious-theological statement of simul iustus et peccator which over against the traditional partly righteous-partly sinful idea placed the concept of the Christian as being simultaneously fully righteous and fully sinful. This implied the radical idea of semper iustificandus: the Christian needs to be justified daily anew. This means a continual total justification. Sinful nature itself, to Luther, never enters on a process of healing or improvement. The old man remains sinful. Luther’s teaching is characterized by a deepening sin-consciousness and a radical self-condemnation which destroys all thoughts about a gradual transition to holiness or a slow process of becoming perfect. To Luther, as well as Calvin, man does not gradually become more and more righteous inherently. Progress in sanctification rather meant progress in true repentance and deeper trust in Christ’s righteousness. In this light Heick’s evaluation becomes understandable: ‘Wesleyanism may be called a Protestant version of Franciscan-Jesuit theology.”

Luther would be correct if he interpreted Romans 7:25 correctly but he did not since it is not talking about sins or sinful nature but mortality as the last part of verse 24 indicates. Thus, although man do need daily a consecration to God to keep the relationship continual, it is not correct to lament about sins if there is no knowledge of any known behavior, acts or habits contrary to the Ten Commandments. When people say “but your personality may hurt other people” what about the role of the Holy Spirit to make straight what is skew for the onlooker or listener? Leave these matters in the hands of the Guide into the full truth. The originator of a good Christian life is only one element in the Holy Spirit involvement but He is also involved with the receptors taking note of this life. Any imperfection the Holy Spirit can perfected. That is what the Holy Spirit is doing with our prayers as Paul is explaining in Romans 8.

It is also perhaps not correct for Luther to hold the doctrine of semper iustificandus or the Christian need to daily be justified. What is needed daily is consecration. “Consecrate yourself daily to the Lord” said Ellen White in one of her writings. Thus, what is needed daily is rather semper consecrandus