Romans 7:15 - 20 has always puzzled me. Why would God condemn sinful humans if man is incapable of helping himself as Paul states in these verses? Even the so-called born again (regenerated) Christians still cannot stop sinning, and yet man is condemned for doing the inevitable. Seems like punishing a child because he cannot behave like an adult. Humans are not Angels that we should be expected not to sin.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

  • That passage is about desire. Paul states that when 'sin revived and I died' he was talking about covetousness, not bodily activity. And in that passage he is saying that it is not himself, but sin within his humanity, that is the problem. This is the 'sin of the world' that God does not condemn but the Lamb of God 'takes it away'. You state that 'God condemns' the sin of the world. But scripture says he does not.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 11, 2020 at 13:35
  • @NigelJ I do agree that Paul is expressing a desire. But he is also stating a fact. That man is incapable of not sinning. Just like Romans 3:10 says, there is not one who does good none righteous. The Isaiah 64:6 affirms that even if you think you can be good, your are still a sinner
    – Dr.Apell
    Apr 11, 2020 at 15:29
  • Not being able to do good, does not excuse one from choosing the good God can do through man. Every man has a choice, no man was predetermined to hell but all men that end in hell choose hell by rejecting God. Apr 12, 2020 at 1:07
  • Could also post the Scriptures you think are relevant to the theme of man's being condemned?
    – user33515
    Apr 12, 2020 at 21:05

4 Answers 4


Since this is a hermeneutic site (not a theological discussion), I will limit the answer to Paul’s intent and theology. Paul does acknowledge people are incapable of not sinning or keeping the Jewish law. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20, ESV); ”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” (Romans 3:23, ESV). If Paul left us with no means of escape from condemnation, you might have a argument, but Paul gives an answer in chapter 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-5, ESV)

Further in chapter 8 Paul gives the purpose of our present life:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

Thus, people have a choice to not be condemned through faith in Jesus Christ, and God’s purpose for those in Christ is to be more and more conformed to Christ’s image. Paul said he was still striving for this goal: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12, ESV) While Christian life is not completely free from sin, it is a life in which sin should be less and less, while conforming to Christ should be more and more.

  • 1
    Righteousness is imputed removing the need for the flesh to do anything to attain it; sanctification of the soul is a progression; and the spirit of man cannot sin. All this ONLY if someone is IN HIM, in Christ. +1 Apr 21, 2020 at 4:16
  • The spirit of man can not sin " by that you mean? @nihil Apr 27, 2020 at 20:02
  • @FaithMendel Exactly that, the spirit born of God cannot sin, that’s the rebirth or being born again of the Spirit. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭and what is born of God is not flesh or soulish as per “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:13‬ and God is spirit. Apr 27, 2020 at 21:45
  • So this means that the spirit of the unregerate sins? Apr 28, 2020 at 13:25

Why is man condemned if he is incapable of doing good?

Through inheritance, all humans have been brought forth "guilty of sin"

Psalm 51:5 (NET Bible)

"Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me."

Paul describes the struggle we have to “fight” within us due to our inherited sin, that is when a person tries to change his personality, to become fully pleasing to God. He says:

Romans 7:15-20 (NASB)

15 "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me."

Since humans are brought forth "guilty of sin" these genetic imperfections are part of his physical and mental character. The fight against the inherited faults is not impossible, for the apostles tell us, that progress can be made, we can "renew our minds", "put on the new personality", "and cultivate the fruit of the spirit."

Romans 12:2 (NASB)

"And do not be conformed to this [a]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Ephesians 4:24 (NASB)

"And put on the new self, which [b]in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)

22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

But we cannot completely wipe out these bad inherited tendencies merely through such effort. The apostle said of his situation:

Romans 7:24-25 (NASB)

24" Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from [a]the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."

The question that naturally follows is: When a person's inherited weaknesses cause him to sin, what can he do to remain in God’s favor?

A person can receive forgiveness for his sins through faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of his life for our errors. And he must follow up on his prayers requesting forgiveness by doing his best to align himself with the right course. He can never let up in the fight against wrong inclinations, and with the help of God’s spirit, it need not be a losing battle. His conscience can be clean.

Hebrews 9:14 (NASB)

14 "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through [a]the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

Romans 8:11-13 (NASB)

11 "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you [b]must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live"

  • I have voted your contribution as the beginning of good answer. For I would argue..why am I obligated to deal with sin and "accept' the Lord if I did not ask to be created? None of us asked to be brought into the world ..so why should I play by the rules!
    – Dr.Apell
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:47
  • Dr. Apell : You do not have to, Adam did not and so most of humanity does not."The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil (Prov. 16:4) To Pharaoh of Egypt God said: " But, indeed, for this reason, I have allowed you to [a]remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." On Judgement Day the sheep on his right the goats on the left: " These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mat 25:46) You can choose. Apr 12, 2020 at 17:33

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has been condemned already.

God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed? For He grew up like a tender plant before Him, and like a root out of dry ground. He has no attracting form nor majesty that we should look upon Him, nor beautiful appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised; and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded because of our transgressions; He was crushed because of our iniquities; the chastening for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we have been healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way, and Jehovah has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed, and it was He who was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and by judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who among them had the thought that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? And they assigned His grave with the wicked, but with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But Jehovah was pleased to crush Him, to afflict Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will see a seed, He will extend His days, and the pleasure of Jehovah will prosper in His hand. He will see the fruit of the travail of His soul, and He will be satisfied; by the knowledge of Him, the righteous One, My Servant, will make the many righteous, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide to Him a portion with the Great, and He will divide the spoil with the Strong; because He poured out His life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet He alone bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors.


And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.John 3:19 It is the love of darkness that incites condemnation. We have all sinned and come short but Jesus will help us. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:24

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