Romans 7
Pulpit Commentary
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Verses 1-6. - Here comes in the third illustration of the moral obligation of the baptized. It rests on the recognized principle that death cancels the claims of human law on a person (cf. Romans 6:7); and this with especial reference to the law of marriage, as being peculiarly applicable to the subject to be illustrated, since the Church is elsewhere regarded as married to Christ. As has been observed above, it is from the Law that Christians are now said to be emancipated in the death of Christ; not from sin, as in the previous sections. Hence this section might at first sight seem to introduce a new line of thought. But it is really a continuation of the same, though differently viewed; for, in the sense intended by St. Paul, being under the Law is equivalent to being under sin. How this is has already more or less appeared; and it will be shown further in the latter part of this chapter. For elucidating the connection of thought between this and the preceding sections, it may be here briefly stated thus: A fundamental axiom with the apostle is that "where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15; cf. 5:13; 7:9); i.e. without law of some kind (including in the idea both external law and the law of conscience) to reveal to man the difference between right and wrong, he is not held responsible; to be a sinner before God he must know what sin is. Human sin consists in a man doing wrong, knowing it to be wrong; or, at any rate, with an original power and opportunity of knowing it to be so. (This, be it observed, is the idea running through the whole of ch. 1, in which all mankind are convicted of sin; the whole drift of the argument being that they had sinned against knowledge.) Law, then, in making sin known to man, subjects him to its guilt, and consequently to its condemnation. But this is all it does; it is all that, in itself, it can do. It can remove neither the guilt nor the dominion of sin. Its principle is simply to exact entire obedience to its requirements; and there it leaves the sinner. The above view applies to all law, and of course peculiarly to the Mosaic Law (which the writer has all along mainly in view) in proportion to the authority of its source and the strictness of its requirements. Thus it is that St. Paul regards being under the Law as the same thing as being under sin, and dying to the Law as the same thing as dying to sin. Grace, on the other hand, under which we pass in rising again with Christ, does both the things which law cannot do: it both cancels the guilt of sin (repentance and faith presumed), and also imparts power to overcome it. Verse 1. - Are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to persons knowing law), how that the Law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth? i.e. so long as the man liveth; not so long as the Law liveth in the sense of viget, or "remains in force," though Origen, Ambrose, Grotius, Erasmus, and others, for reasons that will appear, understood the latter sense. It is not the natural one.
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Verses 2-4. - For (this is an instance of the application of the general principle, adduced as suiting the subject in band) the woman that hath an husband (ὕπανδρος, implying subjection, meaning properly, that is under an husband) is bound to her living husband; but if the husband die, she is loosed (κατήργηται; cf. ver. 6 and Galatians 5:4. The word expresses the entire abolition of the claim of the husband's law over her) from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the Law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the Law through the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we may bring forth fruit unto God. The general drift of the above verses is plain enough; namely, that, as in all cases death frees a man from the claims of human law, and, in particular, as death frees the wife from the claims of marital law, so that she may marry again, so the death of Christ, into which we were baptized, frees us from the claims of the law which formerly bound us, so that we may be married spiritually to the risen Saviour, apart from the old dominion of law, and consequently of sin. But it is not so easy to explain the intended analogy in precise terms, there being an apparent discrepance between the illustration and the application with regard to the parties supposed to die. Even before the application there is a seeming discrepance of this kind between the general statement of ver. 1 and the instance given in ver. 2. For in ver. 1 it is (according to the view we have taken of it) the death of the person who had been under law that frees him from it, whereas in ver. 2 it is the death of the husband (representing law) that frees the wife from the law she had been under. Hence the interpretation of ver. 1 above referred to, according to which law, and not a man, is the understood nominative to liveth. But, even if this interpretation were considered tenable, we should not thus get rid of the subsequent apparent discrepance between the illustration and the application. For in the former it is the death of the husband that frees the wife; whereas in the latter it seems to be the death of ourselves, who answer to the wife, in the death of Christ, that frees us. For that it is ourselves that are regarded as having died to the Law with Christ appears not only from other passages (e.g. vers. 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, in ch. 6.), but also, in the passage before us, from άθανατώθητε in ver. 4, and ἀποθανόντες in ver. 6. (The reading ἀποθανόντος of the Textus Receptus rests on no authority, being apparently only a conjecture of Beza's.) There are various ways of explaining.

(1) That (notwithstanding the reasons against the supposition that have just been given) it is the Law, and not the man, that is conceived as having died in the death of Christ. Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14 may be referred to as supporting this conception. Thus the illustration and the application are made to hang together, the law of the husband being regarded as having died in the husband's death, as the Law generally to us in Christ's death; and we have already seen how ver. 1 may be forced into correspondence. This view of the Law itself being regarded as having died has the weighty support of Origen, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrose, and other Greek Fathers. Chrysostom accounts for the apostle introducing a different conception in ver. 4: by suggesting that he avoided saying explicitly that the Law had died, for fear of wounding the Jews: Τὸ ἀκόλουθον ῆν αἰπεῖν, Ὤστε ἀδελφοί οὐ κυριεύει ὑμῶν ὁ νόμος ἀπέθανε γάρ Ἀλλ οὐκ εῖπεν οὕτως ἴνα μὴ πλήξη τοὺς Ιουδαίους. This explanation hardly commends itself as satisfactory; and besides, in addition to what has been already said, it may be observed that throughout the whole passage there is no phrase to suggest in itself the idea of the Law's death, but only of some death which emancipates from law (ver. I being taken in its natural sense, and ἀποθάνοντες, in ver. 4, being accepted as the undoubtedly true reading).

(2) That in the illustration the wife is really supposed to die when the husband dies. The death of either party to the marriage-bond cancels it; and when one dies, the other virtually dies to the law that both were under. Thus the statement of principle in ver. 1, the particular illustration in vers. 2, 3, and the application are made to hang together. Meyer takes this view decidedly, and cites Ephesians 5:28, seq., to show that the husband's death may be considered as implying the wife's death also.

(3) That there is a discrepance between the illustration and the application, the husband being regarded as dying in the former, and ourselves, who represent the wife, in the latter; but that this is of no consequence; the idea, common to both, of death abrogating the claims of law being sufficient for the apostle's argument. Death, it may be said, however regarded in the application, is an ideal conception, and not an actual fact with respect to ourselves; and it is immaterial how it is regarded, as long as the idea comes out that through death, i.e. ours in the death of Christ, we are freed from the dominion of law. (So, in effect, De Wette, and also Alford.)

(4) That the former husband is not the law, but the lust of sin (τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, ver. 5); the wife, the soul; the new husband, Christ. Augustine, who is the author of this view, puts it thus: "Cum ergo tria sint, anima, tanquam mulier; passiones peccatorum tanquam vir; et lex tanquam lex viri; non ibi peccatis mortuis, tanquam viro mortuo liberari animam dicit, sed ipsam animam mort peccato, et liberari a lege, ut sit alterius viri, i.e. Christi, cum mortua fuerit peccato, quod fit, cum adhuc manentibus in nobis desideriis et incitamentis quibusdam ad peccandum, non obedi-mus tamen, nec consentimus, mente servientes legi Dei" (Aug., 'Prop.,' 33). Beza, taking up the view of Augustine, puts it somewhat differently, and more clearly, thus: "There are two marriages. In the first, the old man is the wife; predominating sinful desires, the husband; transgressions of every kind, the offspring. In the second, the new man is the wife; Christ, the Husband; and the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) are the children." This explanation being still apparently open to the objection that, in the illustration, the wife continues the same, but not so that which corresponds to her in the application, Olshausen explains thus: "In man the old man is distinguished from the new without prejudice to the unity of his personality, which Paul subsequently (ver. 20) signifies by ἐγώ. This true personality, the proper self of man, is the wife, who in the natural state appears in marriage with the old man, and, in intercourse with him, generates sins, the end of which is death (Romans 6:21, 22). But in the death of the mortal Christ this old man is dead with him; and, as the individual man is grafted by faith into Christ. his old man dies, by whose life he was holden under the Law." The commentator on the Epistle in the 'Speaker's Commentary' adopts this explanation, with the remark that "St. Paul's application of the figure is quite clear, if we follow his own guidance." The view rests mainly on, and certainly derives some support from, vers. 5 and 6, if regarded as carrying out the application of the figure. Others, however, in view of the difficulties of the whole passage, may prefer to content themselves with explanation (3), as conveying as precise an idea as may possibly have been even in the apostle's mind when he wrote. Commentators may sometimes go beyond their office in attributing to their author more exactness of thought than his words in themselves imply. It is to be observed that the con-eluding expression in ver. 4, "that we should bring forth fruit unto God," brings us back to the main purport of this whole section, which begins at Romans 6:1, viz. the obligation of a holy life on Christians. In vers. 5, 6, which follow, the hindrance to our living such a life "when we were in the flesh," and our power of doing so now, are briefly intimated in preparation for what follows. It does not seem necessary to conclude - as is done by those who adopt interpretation (4) of what precedes - that the illustration of the marriage bond is meant to be kept up in these two verses.
So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
Verse 5. - For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were through the Law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. In the flesh, to which might be opposed in the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9), denotes our state when under the power of sin, before we had risen to a new life in Christ; it is virtually the same as what is meant by being under the Law, as is shown by the opposed expression in ver. 6, κατηργήθημεν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου. What is signified by "the passions of sins" being "through the Law" will be considered under vers. 7 and 8.
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Verse 6. - But now (meaning, as things are, not at the present time, as is shown by the aorist following) we have been (properly, we were) delivered (κατηργήθημεν, the same verb as in ver. 2; see note on that verse) from the Law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. In the word "serve" (δουλεύειν) we observe a resumption of the idea of Romans 6:16, seq., where we were regarded under the aspect of being still bond-servants, though to a new master. There the apostle intimated that he was but speaking humanly in describing our new allegiance to righteousness as bond-service, such as we had once been under. Here he intimates the true character of our new service by the addition of the words, ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος καὶ οὐ παλαιότητι γράμματος. These are characteristic and significant expressions. "Spirit" and "letter" are similarly contrasted (Romans 2:29; 2 Corinthians 3:6). "Spiritum literae opponit, quia antequam ad Dei voluntatem voluntas nostra per Spiritum sanctum formats sit, non habemus in Lege nisi externam literam; quae fraenum quidem externis nostris actionibus injicit, concupiscientiae autem nostrae furorem minime cohibet. Novitatem. vero Spiritui attribuit, quia in locum veteris hominis succedit; ut litera vetus dicitur quae interit per Spiritus regenerationem" (Calvin). Otherwise, with regard to newness and oldness, "Vetustatis et novitatis vocabulo Paulus spectat duo testamenta" (Bengel). That the latter idea may have suggested the expressions seems not unlikely from 2 Corinthians 3:6-18 (cf. also Hebrews 8:6-13). For in both these passages the idea of the verse before us enters, and in both the old and new covenants are contrasted with regard to it. It may be enough here to say that the contrast in its essence is between exacted conformity to an external code (which was the characteristic of the old covenant) and inspired allegiance to the Law of God written on the heart (which is the characteristic of the new).
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.
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.
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
Verse 8. - But sin, taking occasion, through the commandment wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (or, of lust): for without (or, apart from) law sin is dead. Here, as in Romans 5:12, seq., sin is personified as a power, antagonistic to the Law of God, that has been introduced into the world of man, causing death. In ch. 5. its first introduction was found in the scriptural account of Adam's transgression. It has ever since been in the world, as is evidenced by the continuance of the reign of death as it comes to all men now (vers. 13, 14). But it is only when men, through law, know it to be sin, that it is imputed (ver. 13), and so slays them spiritually. Apart from law, it is as it were dead with respect to its power over the soul to kill. It is regarded here as an enemy on the watch, seizing its occasion to kill which is offered it when law comes in. It may be observed here that, though it is not easy to define exactly in all cases what St. Paul means by death, it is evident that he means in this place more than the physical death which seemed, at first sight at least, to be exclusively referred to in ch. 5. For all die in the latter sense of the word; but only those who sin with knowledge of law in the sense intended here (see also note on Romans 5:12). It is supposed by most commentators that the expression κατειργάσατο in this verse means, not only that "the commandment" brought out lust as sin, but further that it provoked it, according to the alleged tendency of human nature to long all the more for what is forbidden; Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata. Whether or not we have this tendency to the extent sometimes supposed, the context certainly neither requires nor suggests the conception, either here or in vers. 5 and 7. It is true, however, that the language of vers. 5 and 8 does in itself suggest it. Against it is the reason which follows; "for without law sin is dead," which can hardly mean (as the strong word νεκρά would seem in such case to require) that lust itself is altogether dormant until prohibition excites it. Calvin interprets κατειργάσατο thus: "Detexit in me omnem concupiscentiam; quae, dum lateret, quo-dammodo nulla esse videbatur;" and on ἁμαρτια νεκρά remarks, "Clarissime exprimit quem sensum habeant superiora. Perinde enim est ac si diceret, sepnltam esse sine Legs peccati notitiam."
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Verses 9-11. - For I was alive without (or, apart from) law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived (or, sprang into life), and I died. And the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death, For sin, taking occasion, through the commandment deceived me, and through it slew me. If, in saying, "I was alive once," the writer is at all remembering his own experience, the reference may be to the time of the innocence of childhood, before he had any distinct consciousness of the behests of law. Or it may be that he is only imagining a possible state without any consciousness of law, so as to bring out more forcibly the operation of law. On the general drift of ver. 9, Calvin says tersely, "Mors peccati vita est hominis: rursum vita peccati mors hominis." In ver. 11 the conception of sin's action is the same as in ver. 8; but the verb now used is ἐξηπάτησε, with obvious reference to Eve's temptation, which is regarded as representing ours (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3). The view of the origin of human sin presented to us in Genesis is that man at first lived at peace with God; but that the commandment," Thou shalt not eat of it, lest thou die," was taken advantage of by the "serpent" (answering to personified ἁμαρτία in the passage before us), inspiring sinful lust; and that so the commandment (i.e. law), though in itself holy, became the occasion of sin, and of death as its consequence; and further, that all this came about through delusion (ἐξηπάτησε). The thing desired was not really good for man; but the ἐπιθυμία inspired by the tempter caused it to seem so. One great purpose of regenerating grace is to dispel this delusion; to bring us back to the true view of things as they are, and so to peace with God. Thus, in part, does the apostle teach us to regard the inscrutable mystery of sin, and the remedy for it in Christ.
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Verses 12, 13. - So that the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Has then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, through that which is good working death unto me; that sin might become exceeding sinful through the commandment. The question of ver. 7, "Is the Law sin?" has now been answered so far as this - that, far from being so, the commandment was in itself "unto life" (cf. Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5), only that sin took occasion by it, and so got power to slay. But still it would appear that law was ultimately the cause of death. Was, then, its purpose and effect, after all, deadly? for, though not sin, it seems to have been death to us. No, it is replied; away with the thought! Its effect was only to reveal sin in its true light; it was only an Ithuriel's spear ('Par. Lost,' bk. 4.),bringing out and exposing the deadly thing that before was latent. And (as is elsewhere set forth in pursuance of the line of thought) its effect in the end was really "unto life;" for its awakening of the sense of sin, and of a craving for redemption from it, was the necessary preparation for such redemption (cf. Galatians 3:19, seq.).
Was then that which is good made death unto 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.
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Verse 14. - For we know (we are all already aware of this; we recognize it as a principle; we can surely have no doubt of it; cf Romans 2:2; Romans 3:10) that the Law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. The statement of ver. 12 is here in effect repeated as being one that cannot be gainsaid with respect to the Law, but with use now of the epithet πνευματικός; and this in opposition to myself being σαρκινός. The new word, πνευματικός, is obviously meant to express a further idea with respect to law, suitable to the line of thought now about to be pursued. Without lingering to mention varying suggestions of various commentators as to the sense in which the Law is here called spiritual, we may offer the following considerations in elucidation. Πνεῦμα and σάρξ are, as is well known, constantly contrasted in the New Testament. The former sometimes denotes the "Holy Spirit of God," and sometimes that highest part in ourselves which is in touch with the Divine Spirit. Σάρξ, though it may, in accordance with its original meaning, sometimes denote our mere bodily organization, is usually used to express our whole present human constitution, mental as well as bodily, considered as apart from the πνεῦμα. When St. Paul in one place distinguishes the constituent elements of human nature, he speaks of πνεῦμα ψυχὴ, and σῶμα (1 Thessalonians 5:23). There ψυχὴ seems to denote the animal life or soul animating the σῶμα for the purposes of mere human life, but distinguished from the πνεῦμα, which associates him with the Divine life. Usually, however, πνεῦμα and σάρξ alone are spoken of; so that the term σάρξ seems to include the ψυχὴ, expressing our whole weak human nature now, apart from the πνεῦμα, which connects us with God (see Galatians 5:17, etc.). That in this and other passages σάρξ does not mean our mere bodily organization only, is further evident from sins not due to mere bodily lusts - such as want of affection, hatred, envy, pride - being called "works of the flesh" (cf. Galatians 5:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:3). What, then, is meant by the adjective πνευματικός? Applied to man, it is, in 1 Corinthians 3:2, 3, opposed to σαρκικὸς (or σαρκινὸς), and in 1 Corinthians 2:14, to ψυχικὸς (cf. Jude 1:19); the latter word apparently meaning one in whom the ψυχὴ (as above understood), and not the πνεῦμα, dominates. Further, St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:44) speaks of a σῶμα ψυχικὸν and a πνευματικὸν, meaning by the former a tenement fitted for and adequate to the mere psychic life, and by the latter a new organism adapted for the higher life of the spirit, such as we hope to have hereafter; and in the same passage he uses the neuters, τὸ ψυχικὸν and τὸ πνευματικὸν, with reference to "the first Adam," who was made, or became (ἐγένετο) εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν, and "the last Adam," who was made εἰς πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν. Thus πμεῦμα, generally, denotes the Divine, which man apprehends and aspires to, nay, in which he has himself a part in virtue of the original breathing into him of the breath of life (πνοὴν ζωῆς) directly from God (Genesis 3:7), whereby he became a living soul (ἐγένετο εἰς ψυχὴν) for the purposes of his mundane life (itself above that of the brutes), but retained also a share of the Divine πνεῦμα connecting him with God,and capable of being quickened so as to be the dominant principle of his being through contact with the πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν. It would seem that the Law is here called πνευματικὸς, as belonging to the Divine sphere of things, and expressive of the Divine order. "The Law, both the moral law in the bosom of man, and the expression of that law in the Decalogue, is, as Augustine profoundly expresses it, a revelation of the higher order of things founded in the being of God. It is hence a πνευματικόν (Tholuck). But man (tἐγὼ δὲ), though still able to admire, nay, to delight in and aspire to, this higher order, cannot yet conform himself to it because of the σάρξ, infected with sin, which at present enthrals him: Ἐγὼ δὲ σαρκινὸς πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν. Thus is fitly introduced the analysis of human consciousness with reference to law which follows. The word σαρκινὸς (which, rather than σαρκικὸς, is the best-supported reading) may be used to express merely our present constitution Ñ our being of flesh - so as to account for our inability, rather than our being fleshly, or carnally minded, as σαρκικὸς would imply. In two other passages (1 Corinthians 3:1 and Hebrews 7:16) authority is also in favour of σαρκινὸς instead of σαρκικὸς as in the Textus Receptus. Tholuck, however, doubts whether there was, in common usage, a distinction between the meaning of the two forms. The word πεπραμένος ισ significant. It denotes, not our having been originally slaves (vernae), but our having been sold into slavery (capri). Slavery to sin is not the rightful condition of our nature. We are as the Israelites in Egypt, or as the captives in Babylon who remembered Zion. Hence the possibility of deliverance, if we feel the burden of our slavery and long to be free, when the Deliverer comes.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Verses 15-25. - For that which I do (rather, work, or perform, or accomplish, κατεργάζομαι) I know not (rather than I allow not, as in the English Version, this being the proper meaning of the verb γινώσκω. The idea may be that, when under the delusion of sin I do wrong, I do not know what I am accomplishing): for not what I would, that I do (rather, practise; the verb here is πράσσω); but what I hate, that I do (ποιῶ). But if what I would not that I do, I consent unto the Law that it is good (καλός). Now then (νυνὶ δὲ, not in temporal sense, but meaning, as the case is) it is no more I that work (κατεργάζομαι, as before) it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth not good (ἀγαθόν): for to will is present with me; but to perform (κατεργάζεσθθαι) that which is good (τὸ καλὸν) is not (οὐ, rather than οὐχ αὐρίσκω ασ ιν the Textus Receptus, is the best-supported reading). For the good (ἀγαθόν) that I would I do not (οἰ ποιῶ): but the evil which I would not, that I practise (πράσσω). But if what I (ἐγὼ, emphatic) would not, that I do (ποιῶ), it is no longer I (ἐγὼ, again emphatic) that work (κατεργάζομαι) it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then the law, that to me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man. But I see a different law in my members (on what is meant by "members" (μέλεσι) see note under Romans 6:13) warring against the law of my mind, and brining me into captivity to (or, according to some readings, by) the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (probably in the same sense as "the body of sin" in Romans 6:6; see note thereon. Translate certainly as in the English Version; not this body of death, as if it meant this mortal body) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. In the note introducing this whole section (vers. 7-25)its general drift has been intimated. The following additional comments may further explain the part of it which begins at ver. 15.

(1) The initial γὰρ introduces proof of the ἐγὼ being in the condition spoken of in the preceding clause, viz. "sold under sin." For (the meaning is) am I not a bond-slave, when, as I feel is the case with me, I am not my own master? But, observe, the state that goes on to be described is that of an unwilling bond-slave; not of one who likes his bondage, and has no desire to be free. The conscience is supposed already, through the operation of law, to protest against sin; to hate its thraldom; not willingly to acquiesce in it.

(2) The distinction between the verbs ποιῶ, πράσσω κατεργάζομαι, not observed in the English Version, but to which attention has been drawn in the above translation, has its meaning. Attention to the places where they occur will show their appropriateness in each case, denoting severally single acts, habitual practice, and general working, performance, or accomplishment.

(3) The English Version is wrong in rendering, in ver. 15, "What I would, that I do not," so as to make the idea the same as that in ver. 19. There are really two different statements in the two verses - the first, of our doing what we wish not to do; the second, of our not doing what we wish to do; and after each the same conclusion is drawn in the same words, viz. that sin is the real worker (κατεργάζομαι being here the word appropriately used).

(4) The conflicting principles, or energies, of human nature, between which the individual ἐγὼ, which wills and acts, is here regarded as being distracted, are the σάρξ in which sin dwells (which has been explained above; see note under ver. 14) on the one hand, and the νοῦς (ver. 23) of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος (ver. 22) on the other. The ἐγὼ is identified with the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, rather than regarded as an intermediate personality between the two. For it is spoken of throughout as willing what is good; and,. though in ver. 14 it is said to be σαρκινός, and though, in ver. 18, good dwells not in it, yet the first of these expressions only means that it is in the flesh at present, and therefore in bondage; and the latter is at once qualified by the addition, τουτέστιν ἐν τῆ σαρκί μου; it does not identify the ἐγὼ with the σάρξ. It is, we may remark in passing, this ἐγὼ - ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος - that is regarded as rising to a new life with Christ, so as to become a new man, delivered from bondage; this last expression, of course, involving a different idea from that of the inward man). It is to be observed, further, that throughout this section beginning at ver. 7, there is no distinction drawn (as elsewhere by St. Paul) between πνεῦμα and σάρξ; the idea of πνεῦμα, in fact, does not come in at all, except with regard to the Law, which is called πνευματικός. The reason is that the apostle is confining himself here to an examination of what man, even at his best, is in his mere human nature; of what thoughtful observers, though not theologians, may perceive him to be. It is a philosophical rather than a theological analysis. It is one that might commend itself to heathen philosophers, some of whom have, in fact, expressed themselves much to the same effect. Hence it is not till ch. 8, where man's regeneration by the Divine πνεῦμα is portrayed, that the spiritual principle in himself, through which he is capable of such regeneration, comes into view. And it will be seen that it is this very idea of πνεῦμα that pervades that whole chapter. This essential distinction between the two chapters is sufficient in itself to disprove the theory that the regenerate state is described in ch. 7.

(5) The senses in which the word νόμος is used in this chapter require to be perceived and distinguished, its usual sense (see under Romans 2:13) not being uniformly retained. There is, however, always some appended expression to indicate any new application of the word. We find it

(a) in its usual sense, with the usual significance of the absence or the presence of the article, in vers. 7, 9, 12, 14, 16; and in ver. 22, still in the same sense, we have "the Law of God." We find also,

(b) in ver. 23, "the law of my mind," whereby I delight in the "Law of God." Here "law" assumes a different sense from the other, but one in which the word is often used; as when we speak of the laws of nature, having in view, not so much a fiat external to nature which nature must obey, as the uniform rule according to which nature is found to work. The Latin word norma expresses the idea. Thus "the law of my mind" means the normal constitution of my higher and better self, whereby it cannot but assent to "the Law of God. Then

(c) we have "the law of sin in my members;" i.e., in a similar sense, an antagonistic rule or constitution dominant in my σάρξ. Lastly,

(d) in ver. 21, the general law (in like sense) of my complex human nature, which necessitates this antagonism: "the law, that when I would do good" (in accordance with the law of the mind), "evil is present with me" (in virtue of the other law). Ancient and other commentators have been much puzzled as to the meaning of ver. 21, from taking τὸν νόμον at the beginning to denote the Mosaic Law, as νόμος usually does when preceded by the article. But not so when there is something after it to denote a different meaning; as there is here in the ὅτι at the end of the verse, meaning that, not (as some have understood it) because.

(6) Difficulty has been found in the concluding clause of ver. 25, ἄρα οῦν, etc. It follows the expression of thanksgiving, "Thanks be to God," etc., which certainly introduced the thought of deliverance from the state that had been described; and hence it is supposed by some that this clause must be a continuance of that thought, and so to be taken as an introduction to ch. 8. rather than a summing up of the preceding argument. It is said also, in support of this view, that more entire association of the ἐγὼ with the Law of God than was before intimated is here expressed; αὐτὸς ἐγὼ being written instead of simply ἐγὼ, and δουλεύω being a stronger word than συνήδομαι (ver. 22). Thus the meaning would be, "Though in my flesh I still serve the law of sin (the φρόνημα σάρκος still remains in me, notwithstanding my regeneration), yet now in my very real self I not only approve, but am in subjection to, the Law of God." It is, however, at least a question whether these slight differences of expression come to much; and both the introductory ἄρα οῦν and the form of the clause suggest rather its being the summarized result of ch. 7. The additional emphasis added to ἐγὼ (which had, indeed, already been emphatic), and the substitution of δοελεύω for συνήδομαι, may serve only to bring out all the more strongly in the end what it had been the purpose of the whole passage to lead up to, viz. that man's real self, when conscience is fully aroused, yearns for and is ready for redemption. There is no difficulty in so understanding the clause (as we should surely understand it naturally but for the preceding thanksgiving), if we regard the thanksgiving as a parenthetical exclamation, anticipating for a moment the purport of ch. 8. Such an exclamation is characteristic of St. Paul, and it adds life to the passage.

If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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