Here are Paul’s central theses in 7:14-20: (1) the Torah is spiritual, but (2) the “I” is fleshly. When the “I” tries to do what it wants and can’t, that proves that the “I” is under the control of “sin” and the “flesh.” Is this what Luther called the bondage of the will or is this Israel’s dilemma under the Torah?
Spirit/flesh is about the same as Christ/Adam of Rom 5–6. And “flesh” is Israel according to the flesh, according to Wright (9:5; 11:14; 1 Cor 10:18). Wright contends that Paul is not talking about each individual Jew, but of Israel as a whole. This is about the plight of Israel under the Torah. Israel had a vocation to do Torah but did not do it.
Could this be Paul’s own experience? I suppose so, but what he says here is not what he says in Phil 3, where he makes it quite clear that he boasted in his fulfillment of Torah. This is one reason why many today understand the “I” of Rom 7 to be Israel’s history.
Vv. 17-2o shift responsibility from the Law to the “I” and then past the “I” to sin. That’s the point of 7:17: It is not longer I that do it but the sin that dwells in me. Israel, Wright argues, qua Israel is not responsible for breaking the Torah. The “I” cannot do what is right until that which is within is good, and that comes only with the Spirit. Prior to the Spirit there is “flesh” and “sin.”
What is wrong then with Israel? Not being Israel. What is wrong is not being indwellt by the Spirit. To use an old line: The problem with Judaism is that it not Christianity. The problem is that it belongs to an era that is now past.
Some of you disagree with the New Perspective. If you want to chime in, show how this text does not get its meaning as Wright proposes.