Original Research

The fundamental idea of Paul’s ‘I’ in Romans 7:14–25 and Christian spirituality as a lived experience

Janke L. du Plessis
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 57, No 1 | a3001 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v57i1.3001 | © 2023 Janke L. du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 July 2023 | Published: 20 December 2023

About the author(s)

Janke L. du Plessis, Christian Ministry and Leadership, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


The idea of ‘I’ in Romans 7:14–25, used rhetorically, is written to have an impact on its reader and to reach into something readers have experienced: a spiritual reality. When Paul wrote the pericope, it was written in a specific context to and a specific group of people. They would have recognised what Paul’s fundamental idea was concerning ‘I’ and the law. That is, the struggling image of ‘I’ under the law, wanting to do what is right, but is unable to. However, the way the original audience would have received and understood the law and the tension would differ exponentially to the way the pericope is read today. But does that make Paul’s fundamental argument invalid for readers today? An initial reading of the text does evoke some kind of inner experience, relating or convicted by Paul’s ‘I’. This falls in the realm of spirituality as a lived experience. What makes it spiritual is the fact that the pericope is part of the Christian sacred text, and there is a certain initial stance or attitude taken when the text is read. The author is painting a mental picture using ‘I’ as a rhetoric device to lead the reader in participating in Paul’s argument. Thus, the text is experienced. There is no spirituality without experience. This participation leaves a lasting impact on the reader, and pointing the reader by the Spirit in a direction that moves from hopelessness to hopefulness found in Jesus Christ.

Contribution: Firstly, the article adds to the body of work done on Romans 7:14–25, particularly the discussion referring to ‘I’. Secondly, there has been a large volume of work done on this specific pericope, especially on the interpretation of the text. However, a contribution can be made in respect of spirituality and the lived experience of the reader in relation to the text, because not much on the topic was found. The focus on the fundamental idea as a lived experience constitutes a specific angle to the text that may contribute to scholarly body of knowledge.


I; experience; fundamental; law; evoke; spirituality; reading; Paul; Romans 7:14–25

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