Romans 7:13
Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
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(13) Was then that which is good . . .?—Was it possible that the Law, holy and good as it was, could simply lead miserable men to death and ruin? No, it was not possible. It was not the Law that did this but Sin—acting, it is true, through the instrumentality of the Law. All this, however, only had for its end to show up Sin for the monster that it really is.

Sin, that it might appear sin.—We must supply with this “was made death.” Sin, no longer remaining covert and unrecognised, but coming out in its true colours, brought me under the penalty of death.

By the commandment.—If the Commandment served to expose the guilt of man, still more did it serve to expose and enhance the guilt of that evil principle by which man was led astray. Such is the deeper philosophy of the whole matter. This short-lived dominion was no triumph for Sin after all. The very law that it took for its stay turned round upon it and condemned it.

7:7-13 There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin, which is necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon, but by trying our hearts and lives by the law. In his own case the apostle would not have known the sinfulness of his thoughts, motives, and actions, but by the law. That perfect standard showed how wrong his heart and life were, proving his sins to be more numerous than he had before thought, but it did not contain any provision of mercy or grace for his relief. He is ignorant of human nature and the perverseness of his own heart, who does not perceive in himself a readiness to fancy there is something desirable in what is out of reach. We may perceive this in our children, though self-love makes us blind to it in ourselves. The more humble and spiritual any Christian is, the more clearly will he perceive that the apostle describes the true believer, from his first convictions of sin to his greatest progress in grace, during this present imperfect state. St. Paul was once a Pharisee, ignorant of the spirituality of the law, having some correctness of character, without knowing his inward depravity. When the commandment came to his conscience by the convictions of the Holy Spirit, and he saw what it demanded, he found his sinful mind rise against it. He felt at the same time the evil of sin, his own sinful state, that he was unable to fulfil the law, and was like a criminal when condemned. But though the evil principle in the human heart produces sinful motions, and the more by taking occasion of the commandment; yet the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. It is not favourable to sin, which it pursues into the heart, and discovers and reproves in the inward motions thereof. Nothing is so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert it. The same heat that softens wax, hardens clay. Food or medicine when taken wrong, may cause death, though its nature is to nourish or to heal. The law may cause death through man's depravity, but sin is the poison that brings death. Not the law, but sin discovered by the law, was made death to the apostle. The ruinous nature of sin, and the sinfulness of the human heart, are here clearly shown.Was then that which is good ... - This is another objection which the apostle proceeds to answer. The objection is this, "Can it be possible that what is admitted to be good and pure, should be changed into evil? Can what tends to life, be made death to a man?" In answer to this, the apostle repeats that the fault was not in the Law, but was in himself, and in his sinful propensities.

Made death - Romans 7:8, Romans 7:10.

God forbid - Note, Romans 3:4.

But sin - This is a personification of sin as in Romans 7:8.

That it might appear sin - That it might develope its true nature, and no longer be dormant in the mind. The Law of God is often applied to a man's conscience, that he may see how deep and desperate is his depravity. No man knows his own heart until the Law thus crosses his path, and shows him what he is.

By the commandment - Note, Romans 7:8.

Might become exceeding sinful - In the original this is a very strong expression, and is one of those used by Paul to express strong emphasis, or intensity καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν kath huperbolēn by hyperboles. In an excessive degree; to the utmost possible extent, 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:13. The phrase occurs in each of these places. The sense here is, that by the giving of the command, and its application to the mind, sin was completely developed; it was excited, inflamed, aggravated, and showed to be excessively malignant and deadly. It was not a dormant, slumbering principle; but it was awfully opposed to God and His Law. Calvin has well expressed the sense: "It was proper that the enormity of sin should be revealed by the Law; because unless sin should break forth by some dreadful and enormous excess (as they say,) it would not be known to be sin. This excess exhibits itself the more violently, while it turns life into death." The sentiment of the whole is, that the tendency of the Law is to excite the dormant sin of the bosom into active existence, and to reveal its true nature. It is desirable that that should be done, and as that is all that the Law accomplishes, it is not adapted to sanctify the soul. To show that this was the design of the apostle, it is desirable that sin should be thus seen in its true nature, because,

(1) Man should be acquainted with his true character. He should not deceive himself.

(2) because it is one part of God's plan to develope the secret feelings of the heart, and to show to all creatures what they are.

(3) because only by knowing this, will the sinner be induced to take a remedy, and strive to be saved. So God often allows people to plunge into sin; to act out their nature, so that they may see themselves, and be alarmed at the consequences of their own crimes.

13. Was then that which is good made—"Hath then that which is good become"

death unto me? God forbid—that is, "Does the blame of my death lie with the good law? Away with such a thought."

But sin—became death unto me, to the end.

that it might appear sin—that it might be seen in its true light.

working death in—rather, "to"

me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful—"that its enormous turpitude might stand out to view, through its turning God's holy, just, and good law into a provocative to the very things which is forbids." So much for the law in relation to the unregenerate, of whom the apostle takes himself as the example; first, in his ignorant, self-satisfied condition; next, under humbling discoveries of his inability to keep the law, through inward contrariety to it; finally, as self-condemned, and already, in law, a dead man. Some inquire to what period of his recorded history these circumstances relate. But there is no reason to think they were wrought into such conscious and explicit discovery at any period of his history before he "met the Lord in the way"; and though, "amidst the multitude of his thoughts within him" during his memorable three day's blindness immediately after that, such views of the law and of himself would doubtless be tossed up and down till they took shape much as they are here described (see on [2215]Ac 9:9) we regard this whole description of his inward struggles and progress rather as the finished result of all his past recollections and subsequent reflections on his unregenerate state, which he throws into historical form only for greater vividness. But now the apostle proceeds to repel false inferences regarding the law, secondly: Ro 7:14-25, in the case of the REGENERATE; taking himself here also as the example.

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid: another anticipation. The apostle denies that the holy law was in its own nature deadly, or the cause of death to him; the fault was not in the law, but in his own depraved nature: but the plain case is this that follows.

But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin, that so it might appear every way like itself, wrought death in him, by occasion of that law, which yet itself is holy, just, and good.

That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful; so as hereupon sin, which in the time of his ignorance and unregeneracy seemed not worthy of any notice, appeared to be exceeding foul and sinful. Sin is so evil, that he cannot call it by a worse name than its own. Jerome thinks, that the apostle here commits a solecism, by joining an adjective of the masculine gender with a substantive of the feminine; but Beza and Erasmus have observed, that this is usual in the Attic dialect. See the like, Romans 1:20. Some read sinner for sinful, and make the apostle to speak of sin as of a certain person; and therefore all along the context sin is said to work, to be dead, to revive, to deceive, to kill, &c., which is properly attributed to persons, and not to things. Was then that which is good, made death unto me?.... An objection is started upon the last epithet in commendation of the law; and it is as if the objector should say, if the law is good, as you say, how comes it to pass that it is made death, or is the cause of death to you? can that be good, which is deadly, or the cause of death? or can that be the cause of death which is good? This objection taken out of the mouth of another person proceeds upon a mistake of the apostle's meaning; for though he had said that he died when the commandment came, and found by experience that it was unto death, yet does not give the least intimation that the law was the cause of his death; at most, that it was only an occasion, and that was not given by the law, but taken by sin, which, and not the law, deceived him and slew him. Nor is it any objection to the goodness of the law, that it is a ministration of condemnation and death to sinners; for "lex non damnans, non est lex", a law without a sanction or penalty, which has no power to condemn and punish, is no law, or at least a law of no use and service; nor is the judge, or the sentence which he according to law pronounces upon a malefactor, the cause of his death, but the crime which he is guilty of; and the case is the same here, wherefore the apostle answers to this objection with abhorrence and detestation of fixing any such charge upon the law, as being the cause of death to him, saying,

God forbid; a way of speaking used by him, as has been observed, when anything is greatly disliked by him, and is far from his thoughts. Moreover, he goes on to open the true end and reason of sin, by the law working death in his conscience;

but sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that is, the vitiosity and corruption of nature, which is designed by sin, took an occasion, "by that which is good", that is, the law, through its prohibition of lust, to work in me all maimer of concupiscence, which brought forth fruit unto death; wherefore, upon the law's entrance into my heart and conscience, I received the sentence of death in myself, that so sin by it, "working death in me, might appear sin" to me, which I never knew before. This end was to be, and is answered by it, yea,

that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful; that the corruption of nature might not only be seen and known to be sin, but exceeding sinful; as being not only contrary to the pure and holy nature of God, but as taking occasion by the pure and holy law of God to exert itself the more, and so appear to be as the words , may be rendered, "exceedingly a sinner", or "an exceeding great sinner"; that being the source and parent of all actual sins and transgressions; wherefore not the law, but sin, was the cause of death, which by the law is discovered to be so very sinful.

{7} Was then that which is good {u} made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might {x} appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might {y} become exceeding sinful.

(7) The proposition: that the law is not the cause of death, but our corrupt nature being with the law not only discouraged, but also stirred up: and it took occasion by this to rebel, and the more that things are forbidden it, the more it desires them, and the result of this is guiltiness, and occasion of death.

(u) Does it bear the blame for my death?

(x) That sin might show itself to be sin, and betray itself to be that which it is indeed.

(y) As evil as it could be, showing all the venom it could.

Romans 7:13. Paul has hardly begun, in Romans 7:12, his exposition of the result of Romans 7:7-11, when his train of thought is again crossed by an inference that might possibly be drawn from what had just been said, and used against him (comp. Romans 7:7). He puts this inference as a question, and now gives in the form of a refutation of it what he had intended to give, according to the plan begun in Romans 7:12, not in polemical form, but in a sentence with δέ that should correspond to the sentence with μέν.

ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁμαρτία] sc. ἐμοὶ ἐγένετο θάνατος. Altogether involved is the construction adopted by Luther, Heumann, Carpzov, Ch. Schmidt, Böhme, and Flatt: ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁμαρτία διὰ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ μοι κατεργαζομένη (ἦν) θάνατον, ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία.

ἵνα φανῇ κ.τ.λ.] in order that it might appear as sin thereby, that it wrought death for me by means of the good. ἵνα introduces the aim, which was ordained by God for the ἡ ἁμ. ἐμοὶ ἐγένετο θάνατος. This purposed manifestation (φανῇ has the emphasis) of the principle of sin in its sinful character served as a necessary preparation for redemption,—a view, which represents the psychological history of salvation as a development of the divine μοῖρα.

ἁμαρτία is certainly shown to be the predicate by its want of the article and the parallel ἁμαρτωλός in the second clause. The predicate attributed to the law in Romans 7:7 is appropriated to that power to which it belongs, namely, sin. Ewald: that it might be manifest, how sin, etc. But ἁμαρτία, because it would thus be the sin-principle, must have had the article, and the “how” is gratuitously imported.

ἵνα γένηται κ.τ.λ.] Climactic parallel (comp. on 2 Corinthians 9:3; Galatians 3:14) to ἵνα φανῇ κ.τ.λ., in which γένηται is to be taken of the actual result; see on Romans 3:4. The repetition of the subject of γένηται (ἡ ἁμαρτία), and of the means employed by it (διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς), may indeed be superfluous, because both are self-evident from what goes before; but it conveys, especially when placed at the close, all the weightier emphasis of a solemnly painful, tragic effect. The less, therefore, is ἡ ἁμαρτία διὰ τ. ἐντολ. to be separated from γένηται, and regarded as the resumption and completion of ἡ ἁμαρτία (sc. ἐμοὶ ἐγ. θάνατος); in which view there is assigned to the two clauses of purpose a co-ordinate intervening position (Hofmann), that renders the discourse—running on so simply and emphatically—quite unnecessarily involved. καθʼ ὑπερβ., in over-measure, beyond measure. Comp. 1 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Galatians 1:13; and see Wetstein.

διὰ τῆς ἐντολ.] by means of the commandment, which ἀγαθὸν it applied so perniciously; a pregnant contrast.

Observe the pithy, climactic, sharply and vividly compressed delineation of the gloomy picture.Romans 7:13. The description of the commandment as “good” raises the problem of Romans 7:7 in a new form. Can the good issue in evil? Did that which is good turn out to be death to me? This also is denied, or rather repelled. It was not the good law, but sin, which became death to the Apostle. And in this there was a Divine intention, viz., that sin might appear sin, might come out in its true colours, by working death for man through that which is good. Sin turns God’s intended blessing into a curse; nothing could more clearly show what it is, or excite a stronger desire for deliverance from it. The second clause with ἵνα (ἵνα γένηται καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἁμαρτωλὸς ἡ ἁμαρτία) seems co-ordinate with the first, yet intensifies it: personified sin not only appears, but actually turns out to be, beyond measure sinful through its perversion of the commandment.13. that which is good] These words are emphatic in the Gr.—He has said (Romans 7:10) that the commandment was found to be, in respect of him, “unto death.” Here he rejects the thought that it was death; a principle, or true cause, of death.

made] The Gr. verb is simply did it become?

But sin] Supply, became death to me.

that it might] Q. d., “it was permitted to do its work, that it might expose its true nature.”

appear] i.e. come out to light, “shew in its real character.”

death] i.e. practically, “condemnation.”

by that which is good] Namely, the Law. The sacredness of the instrument enhances the evil of the agent which so uses it.

might become] Not merely “might appear.” Sin, as it were, surpasses itself when it takes occasion from the pure Law to awake the soul’s resistance to the Blessed Lawgiver. Thus it “becomes exceeding sinful through the commandment;” and thus its developement is overruled to its effectual detection, which is the leading thought here.Romans 7:13. Τὸ) therefore what is good.—The power of the article is to be noticed.—θάνατος, death) the greatest evil, and the cause of death, the grestest evil: κατεργαζομένη, working [death in me].—ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁμαρτία, but sin) namely, was made death to me; for the participle κατεργαζομένη, working, without the substantive verb, does not constitute the predicate.—ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία, that it might appear sin) Ploce[72]: sin, [which, as opposed to the law, which is good, is] by no means good. This agrees with what goes before.—διὰ τοῦ ἀγαθῦΘΆΝΑΤΟΝ, by that which is good—death) A paradox; and the adjective good is used with great force for the substantive [of which it is the epithet] the law.—κατεργαζομένη, working) A participle, which must be explained thus: sin was made death to me, inasmuch as being that which accomplished my death even by that which is good. It is no tautology; for that expression, by that which is good, superadds strength to the second part of this sentence.—ἵνα γένηται, that it might become) This phrase is dependent on working. So ἵνα, that, repeated twice, forms a gradation. If any one should rather choose to make it an anaphora,[73] the second part of the sentence will thus also explain the first.—ΚΑΘʼ ὙΠΕΡΒΟΛῊΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΩΛῸς) Castellio translates it, as sinful as possible: because, namely, [sin,] by that which was [is] good, i.e. by the commandment, works in me that which is evil, i.e. death.—διὰ, by) It is construed with might become [that sin might by the commandment become exceeding sinful].

[72] See Appendix. The same term twice used, once expressing the idea of the word itself, and once again expressing an attribute of it.

[73] See Appendix. The frequent repetition of the same word in the beginnings of sections or sentences.Exceeding (καθ' ὑπερβολὴν)

An adverbial phrase. Lit., according to excess. The noun ὑπερβολή means a casting beyond. The English hyperbole is a transcription.

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