Sometimes Catholics can feel that they don’t know Paul well. One reason is that the Reformation pitted the Bible against Catholic traditions, as they were understood before the Council of Trent, based on Paul, and particularly Paul’s letter to the Romans, and particularly chapter 8. Of all the letters of Paul, the letter to the Romans is the one Catholics read least. Let us reverse the flow and read chapter 8 of Romans. N. T. Wright says we need to get the narrative flow of any biblical book, and in the case of the letters this is easy because they are short – although it is true Romans is one of the longest and most dense . If you have time, read Romans up to Chapter 8, and we will extend our study of chapter 8 back to include chapter 7, where certainly the themes of the flow previous chapters flow in and Paul’s argument beginning in ch.8 is set perfectly set up.
In Chapter 7 Paul wants us to comprehend the dilemma one faces without Jesus Christ.
Having been baptized we are supposed to be “dead to sin”, but Paul finds (and many have found since) that this is far from the case as one feels just as sinful and capable of sin after baptism as before (speaking of course about adult baptism). Verses 15 and 16 sum this up. The problem is with our will. If anything, Paul is saying, Baptism makes matters worse. The baptized are more sensitive to what they should and shouldn’t do, therefore how should they understand their will and willfulness after baptism? And more to the point, what should they do about it?
Paul in dramatizing this dilemma of Christian experience illustrates by juxtaposing Adam and Christ, Old Covenant and New. Lest any of his readers think he is implying that the Law was sinful, Paul is quick to dispel that notion. The Law, he says, is "holy and just and good." Only the Law makes us more conscious of the opposites of holiness justice and goodness, and out of that greater consciousness we can...