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Looking Back on Life under the Law
ROMANS 7.13-20

Try reading this passage out loud, quickly. Unless you have a very smooth tongue I can guarantee you’ll trip up at some point. I remember this being given to a choirboy to read out in church, in an Advent carol service in fact. Poor lad. There ought to be child protection laws against that kind of thing.

There is no denying that the passage is extremely convoluted. It goes to and fro in a manner which, at first glance, seems quite bewildering. Some people have hailed it as a profound insight into the human condition; others have dismissed it as muddled ramblings. My own view is that it is neither of these things. It is not intended as an exact description of Paul’s, or anyone else’s, actual experience, though it finds echoes in many places both in human life and in literature ancient and modern. That is not the point. Paul is trying, not for the first time, to do at least two things at once...

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