Romans 7:12
Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Wherefore.—This word introduces a conclusion, not from the verse immediately preceding, but from the whole of the last five verses. The Apostle glances back for a moment over the course of his argument.

Romans 7:12-13. Wherefore — Since then, by what has been said, it appears that the law is not the cause of sin or death, except indirectly and by accident, it must be acquitted from this charge, and acknowledged to be holy; and the commandment — The preceptive part of the moral law, and every particular precept of it; is holy, just, and good — It springs from and partakes of the holy nature of God; tends only to promote holiness and a conformity to God, and prescribes our duty to God in his worship and service. It is every way just and right in itself, and commands nothing but what is agreeable to those common apprehensions of right and equity which are imprinted in our natures: it is designed wholly for the good of man, 1 Timothy 1:8, and is really profitable and conducive to our good, both temporal and eternal, and subservient to the common interest of mankind. Was then that which is good made the cause of evil to me? — Yea, of death, which is the greatest of evils? Was it made the proper and direct cause of death? Not so: But it was sin, which was made death to me, inasmuch as it wrought death in me, even by that which is good. Here the apostle clearly distinguishes between a proper cause and an occasion, or cause by accident. The law is the occasion of death to sinners; but sin is the proper or efficient cause of that evil. That it might appear sin — Might appear superlatively vile; working death in me by that which is good — By the good law: that sin by the commandment — Manifesting and forbidding it, and thereby awakening and irritating it; might become exceeding sinful — That, being quickened and excited by so innocent and holy a thing as the commandment, it might thereby show its horrid and vile nature; the guilt of it being hereby greatly aggravated. “Our translators suppose that αμαρτωλος [rendered sinful] is put here for the adjective. But, as Beza observes, it is used as a substantive, and signifies a sinner. For the apostle carries on the personification of sin, begun chap. Romans 6:6, by showing its exceeding sinfulness in this respect, that it makes the law, which was intended for life, the occasion of men’s death.” — Macknight.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.Wherefore - So that. The conclusion to which we come is, that the Law is not to be blamed, though these are its effects under existing circumstances. The source of all this is not the Law, but the corrupt nature of man. The Law is good; and yet the position of the apostle is true, that it is not adapted to purify the heart of fallen man. Its tendency is to excite increased guilt, conflict, alarm, and despair. This verse contains an answer to the question in Romans 7:7, "Is the law sin?"

Is holy - Is not sin; compare Romans 7:7. It is pure in its nature.

And the commandment - The word "commandment" is here synonymous with the Law. It properly means what is enjoined.

Holy - Pure.

Just - Righteous in its claims and penalties. It is not unequal in its exactions.

Good - In itself good; and in its own nature tending to produce happiness. The sin and condemnation of the guilty is not the fault of the Law. If obeyed, it would produce happiness everywhere. See a most beautiful description of the law of God in Psalm 19:7-11.

12, 13. Wherefore—"So that."

the law is—"is indeed"

good, and the commandment—that one so often referred to, which forbids all lusting.

holy, and just, and good.

Wherefore the law is holy; and so the objection, Romans 7:7, was a groundless objection: for though the law were the occasion of sin, or were made advantage of by sin, as Romans 7:8, yet it was not the cause of it; that, on all hands, is acknowledged to be holy, &c.

The law; the law in all the branches of it.

The commandment; particularly the preceptire part of the law, and every particular precept.

Holy, and just, and good: the three epithets here given the law of God may be thus distinguished; it is holy in respect of the ceremonial part, it is just in respect of the judicial part, and good in respect of the moral part of it. Or else the law is holy, as it teacheth us our duty unto God; just, as it showeth us our duty to our neighbour; good, in regard of the effect and end, as it works goodness in the observer thereof, and is conducive to his temporal and eternal good. Therefore the law is holy,.... This is a conclusion or inference drawn from the preceding discourse, in commendation of the law; that standing clear of any charge or imputation of sin, as being the cause of it. This epithet the apostle gives to the law is what the Jews frequently give it; worthy are the Israelites, say they (h),

"to whom is given "the holy law"; in which they study day and night.''

By "the law" is meant the whole body of the precepts of it in general; and by

the commandment, either the same, or everyone of the commandments in particular, and especially that which is cited, "thou shall not covet". Some have thought that the three properties of it design the threefold division of the law; and suppose that by that which is "holy" is meant the ceremonial law, which sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; by that which is "just", the judicial law, which pointed out to the Jewish commonwealth what was right and wrong; and by that which is "good", the moral law in all its precepts: but nothing is more certain, than that the moral law is only spoken of in this context, which may be said to be

holy, because of its author, the holy God, from whom nothing can come but what is holy; and because of the matter of it, it is a transcript of the holy nature of God, a declaration of his holy will; it requires holiness both of heart and life; it forbids whatever is unholy, and commands nothing but what is holy; it teaches men to live holy, sober, righteous, and godly lives. It may be truly called

just, or righteous, as it demands perfect obedience to all its precepts, or it will not admit of it as a righteousness; as it pronounces guilty, curses and condemns for every disobedience of it; as it deals impartially with persons the transgressors of it; and as it acquits believers upon the foot of the righteousness of Christ, the fulfilling end of it. It is rightly called

good, from the author of it, God, from whom every good thing comes, and nothing else; from the matter of it, and from the use of it both to saints and sinners.

(h) Zohar in Gen. fol. 48. 4.

{6} Wherefore the law is holy, and the {t} commandment holy, and just, and good.

(6) The conclusion: that the law is holy in itself, and that all the fault is in us, the ones who abuse the law.

(t) Concerning the commandment, not to covet.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 7:12. Ὥστε] The result of Romans 7:7-11.

ὁ μὲν νόμος] The contrast for which μέν prepares the way was intended to be: “but sin has to me redounded unto death through the law, which in itself is good.” This follows in Romans 7:13 as regards substance, but not as regards form. See on Romans 7:13.

The predicates

ἅγιος (holy, as God’s revelation of Himself, Romans 7:14; 2Ma 6:23; 2Ma 6:28), which is assigned to the Mosaic law generally, and ἁγία, δικαία (just, in respect to its requirements, which are only such as accord with the holiness), and ἀγαθή (excellent, on account of its salutary object), which are justly (comp. Acts 7:38) attributed to the ἐντολή—exhaust the contents of the opposite of ἁμαρτία in Romans 7:7. They are accumulated on ἡ ἐντολή, because the latter had just been specially described in Romans 7:7 ff. as that which occasioned the activity of the sin-principle.Romans 7:12. The conclusion is that the law is holy (this is the answer to the question with which the discussion started in Romans 7:7 : ὁ νόμος ἁμαρτία;), and the commandment, which is the law in operation, holy and just and good. ἁγία means that it belongs to God and has a character corresponding; δικαία that its requirements are those which answer to the relations in which man stands to God and his fellow-creatures; ἀγαθή that in its nature and aim it is, beneficent; man’s weal, not his woe, is its natural end. There is no formal contrast to ὁ μὲν νόμος, such as was perhaps in the Apostle’s mind when he began the sentence, and might have been introduced by ἡ δὲ ἁμαρτία; but a real contrast is given in Romans 7:13.12. Wherefore, &c.] This is not a direct inference from the preceding passage. The holiness of the Law is rather assumed as an axiom than proved. But the fault of Sin has been so brought out as to leave the faultlessness of the Law vividly in view.

the law—the commandment] The general and the particular. Here “Thou shalt not lust” is the specimen-commandment. Observe the emphasis on the goodness of the commandment; it is not merely “holy” but “holy, and just, and good:” q. d., “not only is the Law in the abstract a sacred thing, but its most definite and restraining precepts are so also, in the fullest sense.” See Matthew 5:19; (also ch. Romans 12:2.)

This verse is sometimes arranged as the close of a sub-paragraph. It seems better to take it as equally connected with the past and coming contexts; introducing now the fuller and deeper statement of the case.Romans 7:12. Ἅγιος, holy) supply from what follows, and just and good; although it was necessary to accumulate these synonymous terms chiefly in defence of the commandment, with its stinging power [rather than of the law]: holy, just, good, in relation respectively to its efficient cause, its form, and its end; (as we find in the MS. notes of Dorscheus) or holy in respect of my duties to God; just, in respect of my neighbour; good in respect of my own nature;[71] with which whatever is commanded is in harmony, for life is promised, Romans 7:10. The third of these three epithets is taken up with very great propriety in the following verse.

[71] Δίκαιος Th. δίκη, is that which is precisely what it should be, without regard to the question whether good or evil flow from it, just, right. But ἀγαθός, what is profitable and of benefit to men. The commandment is δίκαια, for it teaches nothing but what is just; ἀγαθή, for it regards the happiness of those, to whom it is given. It is also ἅγια, not because it makes holy, but because it is holy in itself, sacred to God, and therefore to be held inviolate.—See Tittmann Syn. Gr. Text.—ED.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.). Holy, just, good

Holy as God's revelation of Himself; just (Rev., righteous) in its requirements, which correspond to God's holiness; good, salutary, because of its end.

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