An Undivided Soul
Freed from the Knowledge of Good and Evil
by Steve Santini
The most damaging sentence to Christian growth in today’s versions of the Pauline letters reads: “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:25b
First, this study will examine this statement in relation to major themes in Galatians and Romans. Then, the study will search the Greek language for a rendering of another verse that on the surface seems to corroborate this sentence yet actually contradicts it. And then the study will review the context of this sentence and conclude with the resolution.
Why is this sentence so damaging? It places one who is attempting to believe in a state of self-judgment as a divided self. The incessant questions, as to whether this thought or act is emanating from the law of God or whether it is from the law of sin supposedly inherent within, defeats faith in the promise of God. This sentence provokes the question, “Is this thought or act a good thing or a bad thing?” In contrast, wholeness by faith or singularity has been God’s promise from the beginning. Jesus spoke of individual wholeness when he said, “Let thine eye be single.”
In Galatians, written to those still captured by the duality of law rather than freed by the singular eye of faith, Paul writes:
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Galatians 5:5
He also writes:
And the law is not of faith: Galatians 3:12a
And he writes:
I do not frustrate (disannul) the grace of God: for if righteousness is by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21
How then does the law erode faith by which the promise of righteousness is attained? Early in Romans Paul writes:
For by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20b
Sin, as defined early in Genesis, is the knowledge of good and evil. The nature of the sin of Adam was passed on to all men. Before Christ, men by nature were in bondage to sin. God, by Moses, gave a law, that at that time was, as Paul writes holy, just and good, to accommodate man’s, then, nature of sin. The law in essence says that if one lives according to it one will be rewarded and if you do not you will be punished. In other words, if one is good by its standard you will be accepted and if one is evil by its standard one will be shamefully punished. In this way, the law reinforced the knowledge of good and evil and its divisive nature. It was good, holy and just in that it offered a standard of containment for the knowledge of good and evil to preserve Israel unto the coming of the Messiah. Yet, as the scriptures express, the law was done away with in Christ. It was so done that the promise of God could be attained by faith as originally intended.
As this study returns to the sentence, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin,” and some consideration is given, it may be observed that this statement also reinforces the knowledge of good and evil for which the law was given. The understanding of Christ, individually and in collective application, can never be realized by retaining law. As Paul said to the Galatians who had started in the Spirit yet had not moved to the deeper things of Christ because of law, “Christ is become of no effect unto you.”
In Hebrews there is a section that appears to reinforce judging one’s self and others by good and evil or sin.
Of whom (Melchisedec) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again the first oracles of God; and are become such as having the need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
When this section is considered and the final clause is examined from the Greek language and its rules of grammar within the scope of the Pauline message, it means just the opposite of what it first appears to say. Early in this section Paul refers to the first oracles of God. These oracles of God were first published by Moses as the book of Genesis. One of the very first oracles is the record of the sin of Adam. The sin resulted in the alteration of his character so that he began to then have the senses as his focal means of gathering information rather than the Spirit. It is the senses that record on linear scales and it is the knowledge of good and evil that judges those things on a linear scale from best, better, good, bad, worse, to worst or good to evil or visa versa.
In the final clause, “even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” the word exercised is in the passive voice in the Greek, which means something is acting upon the subject of the sentence. The word to is the Greek preposition pros and means with a view towards. It is used with the accusative case noun discern as its object. Discern in the Greek language means to withdraw or to separate, according to Strong’s Analytical Concordance. The words good and evil are in the genitive case. As such the words identify that from which separation is made. The usage of the Greek conjunctives both and and in the phrase both good and evil reveal an interrelationship between the two things connected. In the Greek this phrase reads: kalou te kai kakou. The enclitic te before the conjunction kai denotes an internal relationship between good and evil. In other words, kai connects by annexation and te further connects by internal relation between the two words, good and evil. This verse is the only place in scripture where te is translated as both. It is in other places translated as and. The unique usage of this strong connection by way of interrelationship enforces a more proper translation. It would not be to the effect that one is to have the senses exercised to discern between good and evil, but it would be that one is to be exercised to have the senses withdrawn from the internal relationship between good and evil. As such a more proper rendering would be:
But for the mature, who by continuation having had their senses exercised for the purpose of withdrawal from the internal relationship between good and evil, is solid food. Hebrews 5:14
In Romans, chapter seven Paul recounts how it had been for him to live by the knowledge of good and evil placed upon him by law. In verse twenty-four he cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” His own answer begins in the next verse. He writes, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then the following sentence in this verse, and the one in question, places Paul in a state of incomplete deliverance from the body of that death. That dead body still hangs around in the flesh serving the law of sin and opposing the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. To this author, this condition is even worse than Paul’s previous condition brought on by law alone. It is a formula for confusion, not for becoming whole with the single eye of which Jesus spoke. What then is the answer?
In the introduction to his book, The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition upon the Corpus Paulinum, published in 1953, G. Zuntz, a noted textual critic, on page sixteen, under the subtitle, Editorial methods: insertions, states, “The following disquisitions will throw some light upon the methods employed by the editor of the corpus. We may, however, already here note one characteristic feature. He allowed the context of the epistles to be interrupted by some intrusive matter. To quote some well-known instances: Rom. Vii 25b may be an addition by Paul himself or a summing up by some earlier reader; in any case its present position is unsuitable and suggests that a marginal gloss has been inserted into the text”
In other words, G. Zuntz and other textual critics believe that at one time Romans 7:25b was a marginal note by an editor outside the text that was inserted into the text and does not belong in the text. If one takes this to be true then the reading of this transition from chapter seven into chapter eight becomes smooth and the scope of the subject gains clarity. In verse twenty-four Paul declared himself a wretched man by the work that the law has upon his soul. Then he cries out for deliverance. Verse twenty-five begins with the sentence “I thank my God through Christ Jesus our Lord” and goes then directly to: “There is therefore now no condemnation (downward judgment) to them which are in Christ Jesus.” This non judgment for those in Christ Jesus is that for which he thanks God; not that he has two opposing masters that in suffering resignation he must accept as part of living the Christian life as stated in Romans 7:25b. For the Christian there are no two masters of the soul; there is only the Lord Jesus Christ who shed his blood to expunge the divisive knowledge of good and evil or sin.
Where does that place one? It places one in a position to pursue, with focus, the hope of righteousness by the single eye of faith. As the Christian accepts that he is spiritually freed from the knowledge of good and evil and its container of the law, then he can begin to grow in faith having his reasoning process removed from sin. As the Christian allows the redemptive truth to live, sins, which are all fruits of sin, will lose their power. Reasoning by sin produces fear of separation from which all the works of the flesh emanate. This judgmental reasoning process of sin is also the foundation for the forces which degrade man’s thoughts of himself in the face of God and, by projection, degrades God in the mind of man. As one is withdrawn from reasoning by good and evil, all the works of the flesh listed in Galatians: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness revellings and such like, will dissipate in the light of maturing singular faith. In this unity of self, one so exercised projects wholeness beyond himself, rather than division. As such, love, faith, and hope will deepen individually and corporately and another place of maturity at the table of strong meat will be set.
With an undivided soul all things become new and one is enabled to view the body of Christ and to function, as called, within it, as it is – ONE!
Copyright, 2004, Steve Santini