|New International Version (©2011)|
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
New Living Translation (©2007)
Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, "You must not covet."
English Standard Version (©2001)
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (©2009)
What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.
International Standard Version (©2012)
What should we say, then? Is the Law sinful? Of course not! In fact, I wouldn't have become aware of sin if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn't have known what it means to covet if the Law had not said, "You must not covet."
NET Bible (©2006)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, "Do not covet."
Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
What therefore shall we say? Is The Written Law sin? God forbid! But I would not have learned sin except by The Written Law, for I would not have known lust, if The Written Law had not said, “Do not lust.”
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
What should we say, then? Are Moses' laws sinful? That's unthinkable! In fact, I wouldn't have recognized sin if those laws hadn't shown it to me. For example, I wouldn't have known that some desires are sinful if Moses' Teachings hadn't said, "Never have wrong desires."
King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, you shall not covet.
American King James Version
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet.
American Standard Version
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. But I do not know sin, but by the law; for I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet.
Darby Bible Translation
What shall we say then? is the law sin? Far be the thought. But I had not known sin, unless by law: for I had not had conscience also of lust unless the law had said, Thou shalt not lust;
English Revised Version
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:
Webster's Bible Translation
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? By no means. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Weymouth New Testament
What follows? Is the Law itself a sinful thing? No, indeed; on the contrary, unless I had been taught by the Law, I should have known nothing of sin as sin. For instance, I should not have known what covetousness is, if the Law had not repeatedly said, "Thou shalt not covet."
World English Bible
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn't have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."
Young's Literal Translation
What, then, shall we say? the law is sin? let it not be! but the sin I did not know except through law, for also the covetousness I had not known if the law had not said:
|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verses 7-25. - (b) The relation of law to sin, and how law prepares the soul for emancipation in Christ from the dominion of sin. In the section of the argument which begins at Romans 7:1 we have seen that the idea of being under sin has passed into that of being under law, in such apparent connection of thought as to identify the positions. The apostle, seeing that readers might be perplexed by such identification, now, in the first place, explains what he has meant by it. Is the Law, then, sin? No, replies the apostle; the Law itself (with especial reference to the Mosaic Law as the great and authentic expression of Divine law) is holy; and its connection with sin is only this - that, in virtue of its very holiness, it convinces of sin, and makes it sinful. And then, to the end of ch. 7, he goes on to show how this is by an analysis of the operation of law on human consciousness. He presents to us a vivid picture of a man supposed at first to be without law, and therefore unconscious of sin; but then, through law coming in, acquiring a sense of it, and yet unable to avoid it. The man assents in his conscience to the good, but is dragged down by the infection of his nature to the evil. He seems to have, as it were, two contrary laws within himself, distracting him. And so the external Law, appealing to the higher law within himself, good and holy though it be, is, in a sense, killing him; for it reveals sin to him, and makes it deadly, but does not deliver him from it, till the crisis comes in the desperate cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (ver. 24). But this crisis is the precursor of deliverance; it is the last throe preceding the new birth; the Law has now done its work, having fully convinced of sin, and excited the yearning for deliverance, and in "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" the deliverance comes. How it comes is set forth in ch. 8, where the state of peace and hope, consequent on deliverance through faith in Christ, is portrayed in glowing terms, so as thus to complete the subject which we announced as being that of the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters, viz. "the moral results to believers of the revealed righteousness of God." Two questions have been raised and discussed with regard to vers. 7-25.
(1) Whether St. Paul, who writes throughout the passage in the first person singular, is describing his own personal experience, or only so writing in order to give vividness and reality to his picture of the experience of any human soul.
(2) Whether he is describing the mental experience of an unregenerate or of a regenerate man. As to (1), his purpose undoubtedly is not (like that of Augustine in his 'Confessions ') to tell us about himself, but to depict generally the throes of the human soul when convinced of sin. But, in doing this, he as undoubtedly draws on his own past experience; recollections of the struggle he had himself gone through gleam evidently throughout the picture; he paints so vividly because he has felt so keenly. This makes the passage so peculiarly interesting, as being not only a striking analysis of human consciousness, but also an opening out to us of the great apostle's inner self; of the inward pangs and dissatisfaction with himself which had, we may well believe, distracted him through the many years when he had been a zealot for the Law and apparently satisfied with it, and when - perhaps partly to stifle disturbing thoughts - he had thrown himself into the work of persecution. Then, further, the sudden change of tone observable in the eighth chapter, which is like calm and sunshine after storm, reveals to us the change that had come over him (to which he often elsewhere refers), when "the light from heaven" had shown him an escape from his mental chaos. He was then "a new creature: old things had passed away; behold, all things had become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). As to question (2), an answer has been already virtually given; viz. that the condition described is that of the unregenerate; in this sense - that it is of one still under the bondage of sin and law, before the revelation to the soul of the righteousness of God, and the consequent rising to a new life in Christ. This seems obvious from its being the thought of law subjecting to sin that introduces the whole passage, and runs through it - the γὰρ which connects ver. 14 with what precedes denoting a continuance throughout of the same line of thought - and also from the marked change of tone in ch. 8, where the state of the regenerate is undoubtedly described. Further, we find, in vers. 5 and 6 of ch. 7, the obvious theses of the two sections that follow, in the remainder of ch. 7. and in ch. 8. respectively. Their wording exactly corresponds to the subject-matter of these sections; and ver. 5 distinctly expresses the state of being under law, ver. 6 the state of deliverance from it. Further, particular expressions in the two sections seem to be in intended contrast with each other, so as to denote contrasted states. In Romans 7:9, 11, 13, sin, through the Law, kills; in Romans 8:2 we have "the law of the Spirit of life." In Romans 7:23 the man is brought into captivity; in Romans 8:2 he is made free. In Romans 7:14, 18 there is invincible strife between the holy Law and the carnal mind; in Romans 8:4 the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled. In Romans 7:5 we were in the flesh; in Romans 8:9 not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. And, further, could St. Paul possibly have spoken of the regenerate Christian as "sold under sin" (ver. 14)? His state is one of redemption from it. We do not mean that the state which begins to be described at ver. 14 is one devoid of grace. A condition of progress towards regeneration is described; and the final utter dissatisfaction with self, and the keen yearning after good, imply a reused and enlightened conscience: it is the state of one who is being prepared for deliverance, and is not far from the kingdom of God. All, in fact, we say is that it is not till ch. 8. that the picture of a soul emancipated by a living faith in Christ begins. We may observe, further, that the mere use of the present tense in ver. 14 and afterwards by no means necessitates our supposing the apostle to be speaking of his own state at the time of writing, and therefore of the state of a regenerate Christian. He uses the present to add vividness and reality to the picture; he throws himself back into, and realizes to himself again, his own former feebleness; and he thus also more clearly distinguishes between the state described and the imagined previous one before law had begun to operate. The view which we thus confidently advocate is that of the Greek Fathers generally, the application of the passage to the regenerate Christian being apparently due to Augustine in his opposition to Pelagianism; i.e. according to his later view; for in his earlier days (Prop. 45 in 'Ep. ad Romans;' 'Ad Simplic.,' 1:91, 'Conf.,' 7:21) he had held with the Greek Fathers. Jerome also seems to have similarly changed his mind about it; and the later view of both these Fathers has been adopted by Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Corn. a Lapide, and by Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, and others among the Protestants. What weighed with Augustine was that in vers. 17, 20, 22, more propension to good is implied than his doctrinal theory allowed to the natural man. Under a similar impression, Calvin says, commenting on ver. 17, "Porto hic locus palam evincit non nisi de pits qui jam regeniti sunt Paulum disputare. Quamdiu enim manet homo sui similis, quantus quantus est, merito censetur vitiosus." If, however, St. Paul's intention, obvious from his own writing, does not fit in with Augustinian or Calvinistic theology, so much the worse for the latter. The verses in question do not, in fact, express more than the apostle elsewhere allows man to be capable of, and what observation of fact shows him to be capable of, though not having yet attained to Christian faith; viz. approval of, longing for, and even striving for, what is good. It is not more than the sincere and earnest, even in the Gentile world, have been already credited with in ch. 2. of this Epistle (vers. 7, 10, 14, 15, 26, 29). It does not follow that such moral earnestness is independent of Divine grace; but there is a true and effective operation of Divine grace, suitable to men's needs and capacities, before the fulness of Pentecostal grace. And further, however "far gone from original righteousness" man in his natural state may be, still that utter depravity attributed to him by some theologians is neither consonant with observed fact nor declared in Holy Writ. The image of God in which he was made is represented as defaced, but not obliterated. Be it observed, lastly, with regard to the whole question of the intention of this chapter, that its reference to the unregenerate precludes the wresting of some parts of it to support antinomianism. Calvin, though applying it, as said above, to the regenerate, thus alludes to and guards against any such abuse of ver. 17: "Non est deprecatio so excusantis, ac si culpa vacaret; quomodo multi nugatores justam defensionem habere se putant, qua tegant sua fiagitia dum in carnem ea rejiciunt." It was observed in the note at the head of ch. 2. that, though the thesis to be then proved was the sinfulness of all men without exception before God, this did not seem to be in that chapter rigorously proved with regard to those - and such it was allowed there were - who sincerely sought after righteousness, and refrained from judging others; and it was said that this apparent deficiency in the proof would be supplied in ch. 7. And so it is in this analysis of the inward consciousness of even the best in their natural state; recognizable by all as a true one in proportion to their own moral enlightenment and moral earnestness. This consideration is an additional reason for regarding ch. 7. as referring to the unregenerate; since otherwise a link in the argument on which the whole treatise rests would seem to be wanting. We may remark also, before proceeding with our exposition, that, though we hold ch. 7. to refer to the unregenerate, and ch. 8. to the regenerate state, between which a sharp line is here drawn, yet it need not follow that either the sense of having passed at a definite time from one to the other as represented in this ideal picture, or the consciousness of entire blessedness as portrayed in ch. 8, will be realized by all, who may still be regenerate and have undergone a true conversion. Owing to the weakness of the human will, which has to work with grace, and to the infection of nature that remains in the regenerate, the triumph of the grace of the new birth is seldom, in fact, complete; and so even saints may often be still painfully conscious of the conflict described in ch. 7. They will, indeed, have the peace and assurance of ch. 8. in proportion as "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" is potent and paramount in them; but still they may not attain all at once to the ideal of their regenerate condition. Similarly, in St. John's Epistles the kingdoms of darkness and of light are set forth as totally distinct, and the regenerate are regarded as having passed entirely from the one into the other, so as to have the perfect love which casteth out fear; and it is of importance that the essential distinction between the two kingdoms should be kept in view. But still in actual life, as we cannot but feel, the majority of believing Christians have not so passed entirely; clouds from the old kingdom of darkness still partially overshadow most of those who, in the main, have passed into the light, and it may be difficult for us to determine to which kingdom some belong. Such would be the case even with those whom the apostle addressed - persons who had consciously, in adult life, risen to a new life in baptism; and still more will it be so with us, who were baptized in infancy, and may have grown up more or less, but few entirely, under the influence of the regenerating Spirit. Further, it is to be observed that, though the peace and confidence of ch. 8. be the growing result and reward of a true conversion, yet the practical tests of one are ever said by both St. Paul and St. John not to be feelings only, but the fruits of the Spirit in character and life. Verse 7. - What shall we say then? (St. Paul's usual phrase, with μὴ γένοιτο following, for meeting and rejecting a possible misunderstanding of his meaning; cf. Romans 6:1.) Is the Law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known Bin, but through law. Αλλὰ, translated "nay," being thus taken, as in the Authorized Version, adversatively to the supposition of the Law being sin, and so a continuation of what is expressed by μὴ γένοιτο. So far from the Law being sin, it exposes sin. Or it may be in the sense of "howbeit," as in the Revised Version, meaning - still, law has to do with sin so far as this, that it brings it out. For I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet; or rather, thou shalt not lust, so as to retain the correspondence of the verb with the preceding substantive. Observe, here as elsewhere, the significance of νόμος with and without the article. In the preceding section it was the Mosaic Law that wad specially in view, and it is the idea of being sin that is so indignantly repudiated at the beginning of this verse. So also, at the end, the Law of Moses is referred to as forbidding lust. Hence the article in both cases. But in the intervening phrase, εἰ μὰ διὰ νόμον, it is the principle of law generally that is regarding as making sin known. The adducing of ἐπιθυμία as being made known by the Law seems to have a significance beyond that of its being one particular instance of sin being so made known. It may imply that the very propension to evil, which is the root of sin, is thus only made known as sinful. The reference is, of course, to the tenth commandment. Without it men might not have been aware of the sinfulness of desires as well as of deeds, and thus, after all, been unacquainted with the essence of sin. Further, we may suppose it to be not without a purpose that the apostle varies his verbs expressive of knowing, τὴν ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔγνων, and ἀπιθυμίαν οὐκ ἤδειν Ἔγνων. majus est, ἤδειν minus. Hinc posterius, cure etiam minor gradus negatur, est in increments" (Bengel). Ἔγνων may express personal acquaintance with the working and power of sin; ἤδειν, no more than knowing lust as being sin at all. If so, it does not in itself imply (whatever may seem to be the case in ver. 8, of which below) that the Law excites lust, in the sense that I should not have lusted as I do had not the Law forbidden me to lust.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
What shall we say then? is the law sin?.... The apostle having said, that "the motions of sins were by the law", Romans 7:5, meets with an objection, or rather an ill natured cavil, "is the law sin?" if the motions sins are by it, then it instigates and prompts men to sin; it cherishes it in them; it leads them and impels them to the commission of it, and therefore must be the cause of sin; and if the cause of sin, then it must be sin, or sinful itself: "what shall we say then?" how shall we remove this difficulty, answer this objection, and silence this cavil? To this it is replied by way of detestation and abhorrence,
God forbid! a way of speaking often made use of by the apostle, when any dreadful consequence was drawn from, or any shocking objection was made to his doctrine, and which was so monstrous as scarcely to deserve any other manner of refutation; see Romans 3:3; and next by observing the use of the law to discover sin; which it does by forbidding it, and threatening it with death; by accusing for it, convincing of it, and representing it in its proper colours, it being as a glass in which it may be beheld just as it is, neither greater nor less; which must be understood as attended with a divine power and light, otherwise as a glass is of no use to a blind man, so neither is the law in this sense, to a man in a state of darkness, until the Spirit of God opens his eyes to behold in this glass what manner of man he is: now since the law is so useful to discover, and so to discountenance sin, that itself cannot be sin, or sinful. The apostle exemplifies this in his own case, and says,
nay, I had not known sin, but by the law; which he says not in the person of another, there is no room nor reason for such a fancy; but in his own person, and of himself: not of himself at that present time, as is evident from his way of speaking; nor of himself in his childhood, before he came to years of discretion to discern between good and evil; but as, and when he was a grown person, and whilst a Pharisee, Philippians 3:5; he did not know sin during his being in that state till the law came, and entered into his conscience, and then, and by it, he knew sin, Romans 7:7, the exceeding sinfulness of it, Romans 7:13, and that he himself was the chief of sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15. Nay he goes on to observe, that by the law he came to know, not only the sinfulness of outward actions, but also of inward lusts; says he,
for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shall not covet: as it does in Exodus 20:17. This is a way of speaking used by the Jews, when they produce any passage out of the law, thus (e), , "the law says", if anyone comes to kill thee; referring either to 1 Samuel 24:11 or Exodus 22:1; and a little after, "the law says", namely, in Exodus 3:5, "put off thy shoes from off thy feet", &c. By "lust" is meant the inward motions of sin in the heart, any and every desire of the mind after it; not only studied and concerted schemes, how to bring about and compass an evil action; but every loose vagrant thought of sin, and inclination to it; yea, every imagination of the thought of the heart, before the imagination is well formed into a thought; and not only a dallying with sin in the mind, dwelling upon it with pleasure in thought, but even such sudden motions and starts of the mind to sin, to which we give no assent; such as are involuntary, yea, contrary to the will, being "the evil we would not", Romans 7:19, and are displeasing and hateful to us; these are meant by lust, and which by the law of God are known to be sinful, and only by that. These were not known to be so by the Gentiles, who only had the law and light of nature; nor are they condemned, nor any provision made against them, nor can there be any made, by the laws of men: and though these inward lusts are condemned by the law of God, yet inasmuch as they were not punishable by men, and could be covered with the guise of an external righteousness, multitudes who were born under, and brought up in that law, were secure and indolent about them, did not look upon them as sins, or as at all affecting their righteousness; but imagined that, "touching the righteousness of the law", they were "blameless", Philippians 3:6; which was the case of all the Pharisees, and of the apostle whilst such: but when the law came and entered his conscience with power and light attending it, then he saw, such innumerable swarms of lusts in his heart, and these to be sinful, which he never saw and knew before: just as in a sunbeam we behold those numerous little bits of dust, which otherwise are indiscernible by us. Now since the law is of such use, not only to discover the sinfulness of outward actions, but also of inward lusts and desires, that itself cannot be sinful.
(e) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 62. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7, 8. What … then? Is the law sin? God forbid!—"I have said that when we were in the flesh the law stirred our inward corruption, and was thus the occasion of deadly fruit: Is then the law to blame for this? Far from us be such a thought."
Nay—"On the contrary" (as in Ro 8:37; 1Co 12:22; Greek).
I had not known sin but by the law—It is important to fix what is meant by "sin" here. It certainly is not "the general nature of sin" [Alford, &c.], though it be true that this is learned from the law; for such a sense will not suit what is said of it in the following verses, where the meaning is the same as here. The only meaning which suits all that is said of it in this place is "the principle of sin in the heart of fallen man." The sense, then, is this: "It was by means of the law that I came to know what a virulence and strength of sinful propensity I had within me." The existence of this it did not need the law to reveal to him; for even the heathens recognized and wrote of it. But the dreadful nature and desperate power of it the law alone discovered—in the way now to be described.
for I had not known lust, except, &c.—Here the same Greek word is unfortunately rendered by three different English ones—"lust"; "covet"; "concupiscence" (Ro 7:8)—which obscures the meaning. By using the word "lust" only, in the wide sense of all "irregular desire," or every outgoing of the heart towards anything forbidden, the sense will best be brought out; thus, "For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust; But sin, taking ('having taken') occasion by the commandment (that one which forbids it), wrought in me all manner of lusting." This gives a deeper view of the tenth commandment than the mere words suggest. The apostle saw in it the prohibition not only of desire after certain things there specified, \ but of "desire after everything divinely forbidden"; in other words, all "lusting" or "irregular desire." It was this which "he had not known but by the law." The law forbidding all such desire so stirred his corruption that it wrought in him "all manner of lusting"—desire of every sort after what was forbidden.
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