Romans 7:1
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?
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(1-6) The Apostle takes up an idea to which he had alluded in Romans 7:14-15 of the preceding chapter, “Ye are not under the Law, but under grace;” and as he had worked out the conclusion of the death of the Christian to sin, so now he works out that of his death to the Law. This he does by an illustration borrowed from the marriage-bond. That bond is dissolved by the death of one of the parties to it. And in like manner the death of the Christian with Christ releases him from his obligation to the Law, and opens out to him a new and spiritual service in place of his old subjection to a written code.

(1) Know ye not.—Here again insert “or”: Or know ye not, &c., carrying on the thought from the end of the last chapter. Is not, argues the Apostle, what I say true? Or do I hear the old objection raised again, that the system under which the Christian is living is not one of grace in which eternal life is given freely by God, but the Mosaic law? That would show an ignorance—which in you I cannot believe—of the fact that the dominion of the Law ceases with death, of which fact it is easy to take a simple illustration.

To them that know the law.—The Roman Church, as we have seen, was composed in about equal proportions of Jewish and of Gentile Christians. The Jews would naturally know the provisions of their own law, while the Gentile Christians would know them sufficiently to be aware of the fact, from their intercourse with Jewish members of their own community, and from hearing the Old Testament read in the synagogues, where their public worship was still conducted. The practice of reading from the Old Testament did not cease on the transition from Jewish to Christian modes of worship; it survives still in the “First Lesson.”

Romans 7:1-3. Know ye not, brethren — The apostle, having shown that justified and regenerated persons are free from the dominion of sin, shows here that they are also free from the yoke of the Mosaic law, it being dead to them, Romans 7:6; and they to it, Romans 7:4 : for I speak to them that know the law — To the Jews or proselytes chiefly here; that the law — The Mosaic dispensation in general, to which you were espoused by Moses; hath dominion over a man — Over a Jew married to it, and engaged to observe it; as long as he — Rather, as long as it liveth; that is, abideth in force, and no longer. For it would be contrary to the apostle’s design, to suppose the sense of this to be as our translation renders it, as long as he, that is, the man in question, liveth; for he professedly endeavours to prove that they had outlived their obligations to the law. But the rendering here proposed is natural, and suits the connection with the following verses, in which the law is represented as their first husband, whose decease left them free to be married to Christ. The law is here spoken of, by a common figure, as a person to which, as to a husband, life and death are ascribed. It is as if he had said, The dominion of the law over particular persons can, at the utmost, last no longer than till it is itself abrogated; for that is, as it were, its death; since the divine authority going along with it was the very life and soul of it. Suppose that to cease, and the letter of the precept becomes but a dead thing, and with respect to its obligations, as if it had never been. But he speaks indifferently of the law being dead to us, or us to it, the sense being the same. For the woman, &c. — Just as it is, according to the law itself, with respect to the power of a husband over his wife, who is bound by the law to be subject to her husband so long as he liveth —

The law here referred to is not merely that particular branch of the law of Moses which respected marriage, but also and especially the law of marriage promulgated in paradise, Genesis 2:24; whereby our Lord declared marriages were appointed to continue for life, except in the case of adultery, Matthew 19:6. This argument was peculiarly adapted to the Jews, whose connection with God, as their king, was represented by God himself under the idea of a marriage, solemnized with them at Sinai. But if the husband — To whom she was bound, be dead, she is loosed

From that law, which gave him a peculiar property in her. So then, if while her husband liveth, γενηται ανδρι ετερω, she become the property of another man, &c. — The apostle, says Theodoret, “does not consider here the permission given by the law of Moses to the woman divorced to be married to another, as being taught by Christ not to approve of such divorces; but he seems only to intimate that she had no power to dissolve this bond by putting away her husband, or that this divorce rendered her husband dead in law to her, she being not to return to him again. Deuteronomy 24:4.” Perhaps we ought rather to say, he speaks in the general, not entering exactly into every excepted case that might be imagined. To infer, therefore, hence, as some have done, that adultery is not a sufficient foundation for divorce, is very unreasonable. But if her husband be dead, she is free from that law — Which bound her to be in subjection, and yield conjugal affection to her husband only; so that she is no more an adulteress — Subject to the shame and punishment of one; though she be married, γενομενην ανδοι ετερω, becoming the property of another man; for death, having interposed between them, hath dissolved the former relation. He is dead to her, and she to him.

7:1-6 So long as a man continues under the law as a covenant, and seeks justification by his own obedience, he continues the slave of sin in some form. Nothing but the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, can make any sinner free from the law of sin and death. Believers are delivered from that power of the law, which condemns for the sins committed by them. And they are delivered from that power of the law which stirs up and provokes the sin that dwells in them. Understand this not of the law as a rule, but as a covenant of works. In profession and privilege, we are under a covenant of grace, and not under a covenant of works; under the gospel of Christ, not under the law of Moses. The difference is spoken of under the similitude or figure of being married to a new husband. The second marriage is to Christ. By death we are freed from obligation to the law as a covenant, as the wife is from her vows to her husband. In our believing powerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, and have no more to do with it than the dead servant, who is freed from his master, has to do with his master's yoke. The day of our believing, is the day of being united to the Lord Jesus. We enter upon a life of dependence on him, and duty to him. Good works are from union with Christ; as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of its being united to its roots; there is no fruit to God, till we are united to Christ. The law, and the greatest efforts of one under the law, still in the flesh, under the power of corrupt principles, cannot set the heart right with regard to the love of God, overcome worldly lusts, or give truth and sincerity in the inward parts, or any thing that comes by the special sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Nothing more than a formal obedience to the outward letter of any precept, can be performed by us, without the renewing, new-creating grace of the new covenant.Know ye not - This is an appeal to their own observation respecting the relation between husband and wife. The illustration Romans 7:2-3 is designed simply to show that as when a man dies, and the connection between him and his wife is dissolved, his Law ceases to be binding on her, so also a separation has taken place between Christians and the Law, in which they have become dead to it, and they are not now to attempt to draw their life and peace from it, but from that new source with which they are connected by the gospel, Romans 7:4.

For I speak to them ... - Probably the apostle refers here more particularly to the Jewish members of the Roman church, who were qualified particularly to understand the nature of the Law, and to appreciate the argument. That there were many Jews in the church at Rome has been shown (see Introduction); but the illustration has no exclusive reference to them. The Law to which he appeals is sufficiently general to make the illustration intelligible to all people.

That the law - The immediate reference here is probably to the Mosaic Law. But what is here affirmed is equally true of all laws.

Hath dominion - Greek, Rules; exercises lordship. The Law is here personified, and represented as setting up a lordship over a man, and exacting obedience.

Over a man - Over the man who is under it.

As long as he liveth - The Greek here may mean either "as he liveth," or" as it liveth," that is, the law. But our translation has evidently expressed the sense. The sense is, that death releases a man from the laws by which he was bound in life. It is a general principle, relating to the laws of the land, the law of a parent, the law of a contract, etc. This general principle the apostle proceeds to apply in regard to the Law of God.


Ro 7:1-25. Same Subject Continued.

Relation of Believers to the Law and to Christ (Ro 7:1-6).

Recurring to the statement of Ro 6:14, that believers are "not under the law but under grace," the apostle here shows how this change is brought about, and what holy consequences follow from it.

1. I speak to them that know the law—of Moses to whom, though not themselves Jews (see on [2209]Ro 1:13), the Old Testament was familiar.Romans 7:1-3 No law having power over a person longer than he lives,

Romans 7:4 we therefore, being become dead to the law by the body

of Christ, are left free to place ourselves under a

happier dispensation.

Romans 7:5-13 For the law, through the prevalency of corrupt passions,

could only serve as an instrument of sin unto death;

although it be in itself holy, and just, and good.

Romans 7:14-23 As is manifest by our reason approving the precepts of

it, whilst our depraved nature is unable to put them

in practice.

Romans 7:24,25 The wretchedness of man in such a situation, and God’s

mercy in his deliverance from it through Christ.

The apostle, having showed in a former chapter how believers are freed from the dominion of sin, proceeds in this chapter to declare, that they are free also from the yoke of the Mosaical law, because that was dead to them, and they to it. This he illustrates, and proceeds by the familiar allegory of a husband and his wife: Look, as a wife is free from her husband when he is dead, and may then marry another, and be no adulteress; so believers are dead to the law, and are free to be married to another, even to Christ, that is raised from the dead, that upon their marriage they may bring forth fruit unto God.

By the law here he means the law of wedlock, or the law of Moses about that matter, as appears by the instance given in the next verse.

The word man here is common to both sexes, and may be applied to either, for both are subject to the aforementioned law.

Know ye not, brethren,.... The apostle having asserted, Romans 6:14, that the believing Romans were "not under the law"; which he knew would be displeasing to many, and excepted to by them, especially the Jews that were among them, who though they believed in Christ, yet were zealous of the law, takes it up again, and explains and defends it. That they were the Jewish converts at Rome he here particularly addresses, appears partly from his calling them "brethren", for they were so according to the flesh, as well as in a spiritual relation, and this he rather mentions to soften their resentments, and conciliate their minds to him; and partly from the words included in a parenthesis,

for I speak to them that know the law; not the law of nature, but the law of Moses, as the Jews did, being trained up in the knowledge of it; to these he appeals, saying, "know ye not", for the truth of a principle or maxim he afterwards improves, which they could not be ignorant of,

how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he, or "it",

liveth; for the word "liveth" may refer either to man or to the law. The law may be said to live, when it is in full force, and to be dead, when it is abrogated and disannulled; now whilst it lives, or is in force, it has dominion over a man; it can require and command obedience of him, and in case of disobedience can condemn him, and inflict punishment on him: and this power it has also as long as the man lives who is under it, but when he is dead it has no more dominion over him; then "the servant is free from his master", Job 3:19; that is, from the law of his master; and children are free from the law of their parents, the wife from the law of her husband, and subjects from the law of their prince. This is so clear a point that none can doubt of it. The Jews have a saying (d), that

"when a man is dead, he becomes , free from the law, and from the commands.''

(d) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 30. 1. Niddah, fol. 61. 2. & T. Hieros. Kilaim, fol. 32. 1.

Know {1} 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?

(1) By expounding the similitude of marriage, he compares together the state of man both before and after regeneration. The law of matrimony, he says, is this, that as long as the husband lives, the marriage remains binding, but if he is dead, the woman may marry again.

Romans 7:1.[1513] Ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε] Paul certainly begins now the detailed illustration, still left over, of οὐ γάρ ἐστε, Romans 6:14; but he connects his transition to it with what immediately precedes, as is clear from the nature of (comp Romans 6:3). Nevertheless the logical reference of ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε is not to be sought possibly in the previous τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, with which the following κυριεύει is here correlative (Reiche), since that κυρίῳ has in fact no essential importance at all and is for the progress of the thought immaterial; but rather in the leading idea last expressed (Romans 7:22), and established (Romans 7:23), namely, that the Christian, freed from the service of sin and become the servant of God, has his fruit to holiness, and, as the final result, eternal life. This proposition could not be truth, if the Christian were not free from the law and did not belong to the Risen Christ instead, etc., Romans 7:1-6.

ἀδελφοί] address to the readers collectively (comp Romans 1:13), not merely to the Jewish Christians (Toletus, Grotius, Estius, Ch. Schmidt, and others, including Tholuck and Philippi), because in that case an addition must have been made excluding Gentile Christians, which however is so far from being contained in γινώσκουσι, especially when it is without the article, that in the case of Christians generally the knowledge of the O. T. was of necessity to be presupposed; see below. This applies also against Hofmann’s view, that Paul, although avoiding a specific express designation, has in view that portion of his readers, which had not been capable of the misconception indicated in Romans 7:15. This limitation also—and how easily could the adroit author of the Epistle have indicated it in a delicate way!—cannot be deduced either from ἀδελφοί or from γινώσκουσι κ.τ.λ[1516]

γινώσκ. γὰρ νόμ. λ.] justifies the appeal to the readers’ own insight: for I speak to such as know the law. “We may not infer from these parenthetical words, or from Romans 7:4-6, that the majority of the Roman congregation was composed of Jewish-Christians;[1517] for, looking to the close connection subsisting between the Jewish and Gentile-Christian portions of the Church, to the custom borrowed from the synagogue of reading from the Old Testament in public, and to the necessary and essential relations which evangelical instruction and preaching sustained to the Old Testament so that the latter was the basis from which they started, the Apostle might designate his readers generally as γινώσκοντες τὸν νόμον, and predicate of them an acquaintance with the law. Comp on Galatians 4:21. The less need is there for the assumption of a previous proselytism (de Wette, Beyschlag, and many others), with which moreover the ἀδελφός addressing the readers in common is at variance; comp Romans 1:13, Romans 8:12, Romans 10:1, Romans 11:23, Romans 12:1, Romans 15:14; Romans 15:30, Romans 16:17.

ὁ νόμος] not every law (Koppe, van Hengel); nor the moral law (Glöckler); but the Mosaic, and that in the usual sense comprehending the whole; not merely of the law of marriage (Beza, Toletus, Bengel, Carpzov, Chr. Schmidt; comp Olshausen). This is required by the theme of the discussion generally, and by the foregoing γινώσκ. γ. νόμ. λαλῶ in particular.

τοῦ ἀνθρώπου] is not to be connected with ὁ νόμος (Hammond, Clericus, Elsner, and Mosheim), but belongs, as the order of the words demands, to κυριεύει.

ἐφʼ ὅσον χρ. ζῇ] For so long time as he liveth (ἐπί as in Galatians 4:1 in the sense of stretching over a period of time, see Bernhardy, p. 252; comp Nägelsbach, z. Ilias, ii. 299, ed. 3, Ast. Lex. Plat. I. p. 768), the (personified) law is lord over the man who is subjected to it (τοῦ ἀνθρ.). That ὁ ἄνθρωπος is the subject to ζῇ, is decided by Romans 7:2-4. By the assumption of ὁ νόμος as subject (Origen, Ambrosiaster, Erasmus, Vatablus, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Koppe, and Flatt), in which case ζῇ is supposed to signify viget or valet (in spite of Romans 7:2-3), the discourse is quite disarranged; for Paul is not discussing the abrogation of the law, but the fact that the Christian as such is no longer under it. Nor do Romans 7:2-3 require ὁ νόμος as subject, because the point there illustrated is, that the death of the man (not of the law) dissolves the binding power of the law over him. Comp Schabb. f. 151, 2 : “postquam mortuus est homo, liber est a praeceptis;” Targ. Psalm 88:6 in Wetstein on Romans 7:3. The proposition in Romans 6:7 is similar, and presupposes this thought. To take ζῆν as equivalent to ζῆν ἐν σαρκί (“so long as the man continues to lead his old natural life, he is a servant of the law,” Philippi, also Umbreit), is quite opposed to the context: see ζῶντι and ζῶντος in Romans 7:2-3, with their antitheses. The emphasis, moreover, is not on ζῇ (Hofmann), but, as is shown by the very expression ὅσον, on ἐφʼ ὅσον χρόνον, for the entire time, that he lives; it does not lose its power over him sooner than when he dies; so long as he is in life, he remains subject to it. If this is attended to and there is not introduced a wholly irrelevant “only so long as he liveth,” the thought appears neither trivial nor disproportionate to the appeal to the legal knowledge of his readers. For there is a peculiarity of the νόμος in the fact, that it cannot have, like human laws, merely temporary force, that it cannot be altered or suspended, nor can one for a time be exempted from its control, etc. No, so long as man’s life endures, the dominion of the νόμος over him continues.[1523] Nor is the proposition incorrect (because that dominion ceases in the case of the believer, Philipppi); for it simply contains a general rule of law, which, it is self-evident, refers to the ἄνθρωπος ἔννομος as such. If the Jew becomes a Christian, he dies as a Jew (Romans 7:4), and the rule in question is not invalidated.

[1513] On the entire chapter, see Achelis in the Stud. u. Krit. 1863, p. 670 ff.

[1516] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1517] On the contrary, the inference would be: If the Church had been a Jewish-Christian one, the γινώσκειν νόμον would in its case hare been so entirely self-evident, that we should not be able at all to see why Paul should have specially noticed it. But as converted Gentiles the readers had become acquainted with the law. This also applies against Holtzmann, Judenth. u. Christenth, p. 783.

[1523] Comp. Th Schott, p. 267; Hofmann formerly held the right view (Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 352).

Romans 7:1-6. The Christian is not under the Mosaic law; but through his fellowship in the death of Christ he has died to the law, in order to belong to the Risen One and in this new union to lead a life consecrated to God.

Romans 7:1-6. For ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε, cf. Romans 6:3. Chap. 6 contains the argument which is illustrated in these verses, and the question alludes to it: not to accept the argument that the Christian is free from all legal obligations leaves no alternative but to suppose the persons to whom it is addressed ignorant of the principle by which the duration of all legal obligations is determined. This they cannot be, for Paul speaks γινώσκουσι νόμον = to people who know what law is. Neither Roman nor Mosaic law is specially referred to: the argument rests on the nature of law in general. Even in ὁ νόμος, though in applying the principle Paul would think first of the Mosaic law, it is not exclusively referred to.

Ch. Romans 7:1-6. The same subject. Illustration from matrimony

1. Know ye not, &c.] The passage from hence to end of Romans 7:7 is closely connected with the last chapter. By a perfectly new simile (marriage), it illustrates further what has been just illustrated by the metaphor of slavery, and (in the first part of ch. 6) by the union of the justified with Christ;—namely the Christian’s entire disconnexion from the claims, and so from the ruling influence, of sin, in virtue of the new and sacred union.

to them that know the law] Lit. law; without article. But the immediate context shews that the Mosaic Law, (and probably especially its sanctions regarding marriage), is meant. The whole Roman Church, whether Jewish or Gentile, would be familiar with it; many of them having been disciples of the synagogue, and all being directed constantly to the use of the Old Testament by apostolic precept and example. See on Romans 4:18.—This brief parenthesis is quite in keeping with the courtesy of St Paul’s writings.

hath dominion] i.e. has a claim on him; same word as Romans 6:9, where see note.

a man] Lit. the man; the individual, as the second party in any given case—the Law being the first party.

as long as he liveth] Not “only as long as he liveth,” as this is sometimes explained. The emphasis is on the abiding claim of the Law up to death, which alone can cancel it. This general and certain principle is now at once applied to the special case at which St Paul aims in illustration—the case of marriage.

Romans 7:1. ) The disjunctive interrogation. There is a close connection here with ch. 6, the words of which, at Romans 7:6; Romans 7:14; Romans 7:21, καταργεῖσθαι, κυριεύειν, καρπὸς, θάνατος κ.τ.λ. again occur prominently in this chapter. The comparison of the Old and New state is continued.—γινώσκουσι, to them that know) the Jews; although it is the duty of all Christians to know the law.—ὁ νόμος, the law) for example, of marriage. The whole law, in consonance with the opening of this portion, is put by synecdoche,[67] for the law of marriage.—τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, over a man) i.e., over a woman, Romans 7:2, comp. 1 Peter 3:4, where the inner [“the hidden man”] presupposes the outer man, and the parallelism consists in this, that man is predicated also separately of the woman, not merely of Adam, the husband [‘viro,’ the man, in the restricted sense of the term.] Man here is used generically; but in the second verse, Paul applies it in a special and subordinate sense to the woman, as falling under the generic term.—ἐφʼ ὅσον, as long as) neither any longer nor any shorter.—ζῇ, lives) the Law [lives. But Engl. Vers. “As long as he—the husband—liveth.”] A personification. In the apodosis, life and death are ascribed, not to the law, but to us; whereas, here we have the protasis, in which, according to the meaning of the apostle, life or death is ascribed to the [marriage] law itself, and to the husband. What is here said, depends on the nature of the things related, which are the law and man. When either party dies, the other is considered to be dead. Thus the protasis and apodosis cohere.

[67] See Appendix.

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. Romans 7:1Brethren

All Christians, not only Jews but Gentiles who are assumed to be acquainted with the Old Testament.

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