Romans 7:14
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14-25) Further and detailed proof why it was that though the Law appealed to all that was best in man, still he could not obey it.

(14) For we know.—There is no need to argue the question. We Christians all know that the Law is spiritual. It is divinely given and inspired. On the other hand, man, though capable of communion with God, is dominated by that part of his nature which is the direct opposite of divine, and is entirely earthly and sensual. This sensual part of his nature is the slave—and just as much the slave as if he had been sold in the auction mart—of Sin. (Comp. 1Kings 21:20; 1Kings 21:25.)

Romans 7:14. For we know that the law is spiritual — Extending to the spirit of man; forbidding even the sins of the spirit; sins internal, committed merely in men’s minds, such as vain thoughts, foolish imaginations, carnal inclinations, pride, self-will, discontent, impatience, anger, malice, envy, revenge, and all other spiritual evils, in the commission of which the body has no concern: enjoining, at the same time, all spiritual graces and virtues, such as humility, resignation, patience, contentment, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, benevolence; with all holy intentions, affections, and dispositions, included in loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, which the law especially enjoins: being intended, at the same time, to purify and exalt the spirit, and assert its superiority over the meaner part of our nature. But I am carnal — That is, man, considered in himself, as in a state of nature, and destitute of the regenerating grace of God, is carnal. See note on Romans 7:5, where to be in the flesh is evidently of the same import with the word carnal here, as are also similar expressions, Romans 8:5; Romans 8:8-9, &c., expressions which, all are agreed, solely respect the unregenerate; and in which the person that is in the flesh, or carnally minded, is represented as being in a state of death, and enmity against God. Very different, surely, from the spiritual man, whom this same apostle represents as living in a state of favour and friendship with God; minding chiefly the things of the Spirit; yea, having the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and giving him dominion over all fleshly lusts, which, through that Spirit, he is enabled to mortify; whose passions submit to the government of reason, and whose reason is itself under the influence of grace; whose enjoyments are chiefly of a spiritual nature, and his great employment to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. The Scriptures, therefore, place these two characters in direct opposition the one to the other; and the apostle begins this paragraph by informing us that it is his carnal state which he is about to describe, in opposition to the spirituality of God’s holy law, saying, But I am carnal; and adding, as a still more decisive proof that his meaning is as is here stated, sold under sin — That is, sold as a slave, to remain under the dominion of sin, and to be compelled to do those evil actions to which sinful inclinations prompt men. “In peccati potestatem, libidinis et concupiscentiæ predio redactus,” says Origen; brought under the power of sin by the enticement of lust and concupiscence. “So enslaved to it,” says Theophylact, ωστε μη αναβλεψαι δυνασθαι, as not to be able to look up: “a willing slave, who had sold himself to it,” says Theodoret. The meaning is, totally enslaved: slaves bought with money being absolutely at their master’s disposal. In this sense, the phrase is continually used in the Old Testament, as the reader may see by consulting the texts referred to in the margin. By the addition of this clause, therefore, the apostle evidently shows that he does not here use the word carnal in the sense in which it is taken 1 Corinthians 3:1, namely, to denote only such a state of imperfection in knowledge and holiness, as persons may be in who are newly converted; but that he uses it in the worst sense, namely, in the same sense in which the expression, to be in the flesh, and carnally minded, is used; that is, to signify a state of death and enmity against God. Those commentators, therefore, who suppose that in this and what follows, to the end of the chapter, the apostle describes his own state, at the time he wrote this epistle, and consequently the state of every regenerated person, must be under a great mistake. Universally, indeed, in the Scriptures, man is said to be in this state of bondage to sin until the Son of God make him free; but in no part of the sacred writings is it ever said of the children of God, that they are sold under sin, or enslaved to it. The very reverse is the Holy Spirit’s description of Christians, for the Son of God makes them free, and therefore they are free indeed; free especially from the power of sin, which has no longer dominion over them. See notes on Romans 6:13-22; Romans 8:2. The truth is, through this whole paragraph the apostle, to wean the Jews from their attachment to the Mosaic law, is showing how little that dispensation, even the moral part of it, considered as a covenant of justice, independent of the covenant of grace, could do for them, or for any of the fallen offspring of Adam. It could convince them of sin, but not constitute them righteous. It could show them their guilt, depravity, and weakness, but could neither justify their persons, nor renew their nature, nor furnish them with power to do the will of God. As he expresses himself, Romans 8:3, It was weak through the flesh, or through the corruption and infirmity of human nature. In pursuance of his design, having compared together the past and present state of believers, that in the flesh, Romans 7:5, and that in the spirit, Romans 7:6. in answering two objections, (Is then the law sin? Romans 7:7, and, Is the law death? Romans 7:13,) he interweaves the whole process of a man reasoning, groaning, striving, and escaping from the legal to the evangelical state. This he does, from Romans 7:7 to the end of the chapter. 7:14-17 Compared with the holy rule of conduct in the law of God, the apostle found himself so very far short of perfection, that he seemed to be carnal; like a man who is sold against his will to a hated master, from whom he cannot set himself at liberty. A real Christian unwillingly serves this hated master, yet cannot shake off the galling chain, till his powerful and gracious Friend above, rescues him. The remaining evil of his heart is a real and humbling hinderance to his serving God as angels do and the spirits of just made perfect. This strong language was the result of St. Paul's great advance in holiness, and the depth of his self-abasement and hatred of sin. If we do not understand this language, it is because we are so far beneath him in holiness, knowledge of the spirituality of God's law, and the evil of our own hearts, and hatred of moral evil. And many believers have adopted the apostle's language, showing that it is suitable to their deep feelings of abhorrence of sin, and self-abasement. The apostle enlarges on the conflict he daily maintained with the remainder of his original depravity. He was frequently led into tempers, words, or actions, which he did not approve or allow in his renewed judgement and affections. By distinguishing his real self, his spiritual part, from the self, or flesh, in which sin dwelt, and by observing that the evil actions were done, not by him, but by sin dwelling in him, the apostle did not mean that men are not accountable for their sins, but he teaches the evil of their sins, by showing that they are all done against reason and conscience. Sin dwelling in a man, does not prove its ruling, or having dominion over him. If a man dwells in a city, or in a country, still he may not rule there.The remainder of this chapter has been the subject of no small degree of controversy. The question has been whether it describes the state of Paul before his conversion, or afterward. It is not the purpose of these notes to enter into controversy, or into extended discussion. But after all the attention which I have been able to give to this passage, I regard it as describing the state of a man under the gospel, as descriptive of the operations of the mind of Paul subsequent to his conversion. This interpretation is adopted for the following reasons:

(1) Because it seems to me to be the most obvious. It is what will strike plain people as being the natural meaning; people who do not have a theory to support, and who understand language in its usual sense.

(2) because it agrees with the design of the apostle, which is to show that the Law is not adapted to produce sanctification and peace. This he had done in regard to a man before he was converted. If this relates to the same period, then it is a useless discussion of a point already discussed, If it relates to that period also, then there is a large field of action, including the whole period after a man's conversion to Christianity, in which the question might still be unsettled, whether the Law there might not be adapted to sanctify. The apostle therefore makes thorough work with the argument, and shows that the operation of the Law is everywhere the same.

(3) because the expressions which occur are such as cannot be understood of an impenitent sinner; see the notes at Romans 7:15, Romans 7:21.

(4) because it accords with parallel expressions in regard to the state of the conflict in a Christian's mind.

(5) because there is a change made here from the past tense to the present. In Romans 7:7, etc. he had used the past tense, evidently describing some former state. In Romans 7:14 there is a change to the present, a change inexplicable, except on the supposition that he meant to describe some state different from that before described. That could be no other than to carry his illustration forward in showing the inefficacy of the Law on a man in his renewed state; or to show that such was the remaining depravity of the man, that it produced substantially the same effects as in the former condition.

(6) because it accords with the experience of Christians, and not with sinners. It is just such language as plain Christians, who are acquainted with their own hearts, use to express their feelings. I admit that this last consideration is not by itself conclusive; but if the language did not accord with the experience of the Christian world, it would be a strong circumstance against any proposed interpretation. The view which is here expressed of this chapter, as supposing that the previous part Romans 7:7-13 refers to a man in his unregenerate state, and that the remainder describes the effect of the Law on the mind of a renewed man, was adopted by studying the chapter itself, without aid from any writer. I am happy, however, to find that the views thus expressed are in accordance with those of the late Dr. John P. Wilson, than whom, perhaps, no man was ever better quailfled to interpret the Scriptures. He says, "In the fourth verse, he (Paul) changes to the first person plural, because he intended to speak of the former experience of Christians, who had been Jews. In the seventh verse, he uses the first person singular, but speaks in the past tense, because he describes his own experience when he was an uncoverted Pharisee. In the fourteenth verse, and unto the end of the chapter, he uses the first person singular, and the present tense, because he exhibits his own experience since he became a Christian and an apostle."

We know - We admit. It is a conceded, well understood point.

That the law is spiritual - This does not mean that the Law is designed to control the spirit, in contradistinction from the body, but it is a declaration showing that the evils of which he was speaking were not the fault of the Law. That was not, in its nature, sensual, corrupt, earthly, carnal; but was pure and spiritual. The effect described was not the fault of the Law, but of the man, who was sold under sin. The word "spiritual" is often thus used to denote what is pure and hoy, in opposition to that which is fleshly or carnal; Romans 8:5-6; Galatians 5:16-23. The flesh is described as the source of evil passions and desires; The spirit as the source of purity; or as what is agreeable to the proper influences of the Holy Spirit.

But I am - The present tense shows that he is describing himself as he was at the time of writing. This is the natural and obvious construction, and if this be not the meaning, it is impossible to account for his having changed the past tense Romans 7:7 to the present.

Carnal - Fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual. This word is used because in the Scriptures the flesh is spoken of as the source of sensual passions and propensities, Galatians 5:19-21. The sense is, that these corrupt passions still retained a strong and withering and distressing influence over the mind. The renewed man is exposed to temptations from his strong native appetites; and the power of these passions, strengthened by long habit before he was converted, has traveled over into religion, and they continue still to influence and distress him. It does not mean that he is wholly under their influence; but that the tendency of his natural inclinations is to indulgence.

Sold under sin - This expression is often adduced to show that it cannot be of a renewed man that the apostle is speaking. The argument is, that it cannot be affirmed of a Christian that he is sold under sin. A sufficient answer to this might be, that in fact, this is the very language which Christians often now adopt to express the strength of that native depravity against which they struggle, and that no language would better express it. It does not, mean that they choose or prefer sins. It strongly implies that the prevailing bent of their mind is against it, but that such is its strength that it brings them into slavery to it. The expression used here, "sold under sin," is "borrowed from the practice of selling captives taken in war, as slaves." (Stuart.) It hence, means to deliver into the power of anyone, so that he shall be dependent on his will and control. (Schleusner.) The emphasis is not on the word "sold," as if any act of selling had taken place, but the effect was as if he had been sold; that is, he was subject to it, and under its control, and it means that sin, contrary to the prevailing inclination of his mind Romans 7:15-17, had such an influence over him as to lead him to commit it, and thus to produce a state of conflict and grief; Romans 7:19-24. The verses which follow this are an explanation of the sense, and of the manner in which he was "sold under sin."

14. For we know that the law is spiritual—in its demands.

but I am carnal—fleshly (see on [2216]Ro 7:5), and as such, incapable of yielding spiritual obedience.

sold under sin—enslaved to it. The "I" here, though of course not the regenerate, is neither the unregenerate, but the sinful principle of the renewed man, as is expressly stated in Ro 7:18.

He goes on to clear the law, and excuse it, giving it another commendation, that it is spiritual; i.e. it requires such obedience as is not only outward, but inward and spiritual; it forbids spiritual as well as fleshly sins. Read Christ’s exposition of it, in Matthew 5:1-48.

I am carnal; i.e. in part, because of the remainders of sin and of the flesh that are still in me; in respect of which, those who are regenerated are said to be carnal. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:2, with 1 Corinthians 3:1.

Sold under sin: he did not actively sell himself to sin, or to commit sin, which is said of Ahab, 1 Kings 21:20,25, and of the idolatrous Israelites, 2 Kings 17:17. He was not sin’s servant or slave; but many times he was sin’s captive against his will; see Romans 7:23. Against his will and consent, he was still subject to the violent lusts and assaults of sin, and not able wholly to free himself: though he always made stout resistance, yet many times he was overcome. Hitherto the apostle hath spoken of the power of the law and sin in unregenerate persons, even as he himself had experienced whilst he was yet in such a state; but now he cometh to speak of himself as he then was, and to declare what power the remainders of sinful flesh had still in him, though regenerated, and in part renewed. That the following part of this chapter is to be applied to a regenerate person, is evident, because the apostle (speaking of himself in the former verses) uses the preter-perfect tense, or speaks of that which was past; but here he changeth the tense, and speaks of the present time. From Romans 7:7-14, he tells us how it had been with him formerly; and then from Romans 7:14-25, he relates how it was with him now; I was so and so, I am thus and thus. The changing of the tense and time doth plainly argue a change in the person. They that list to be further satisfied in this point, may find it fully discussed in our own language, by Mr. Anthony Burgess, in his excellent discourse of Original Sin, part iv. c. 3, and by Dr. Willet, in his Hexalta in locum; and they that understand the Latin tongue, may find it argued pro and con, in Synops. Critic. &c., and by Aug. Retractat. lib. i. c. 23; Contra Julian. lib. v. c. 11. For we know that the law is spiritual,.... We who have a spiritual understanding of the law, who have been led into the true nature of it by the Spirit of God, know by experience that that itself is "spiritual"; and therefore can never be the cause of sin or death: the law may be said to be "spiritual", because it comes from the Spirit of God; and reaches to the spirit of man; it requires truth in the inward parts; spiritual service and obedience; a serving of it with our minds; a worshipping of God in spirit and truth; a loving of him with all our hearts and souls, as well as a performance of all the outward acts of religion and duty; and because it cannot be truly obeyed and conformed to without the assistance of the Spirit of God. To this spirituality of the law the apostle opposes himself,

but I am carnal, sold under sin: from hence to the end of the chapter many are of opinion, that the apostle speaks in the person of an unregenerate man, or of himself as unregenerate; but nothing is more clear, than that he speaks all along of himself in the first person, "I am carnal":, &c. , "I myself", as in Romans 7:25, and in the present tense of what he then was and found; whereas, when he speaks of his unregenerate state, and how it was with him under the first convictions of sin, he speaks of them as things past, Romans 7:5; besides, several things which are said by the apostle can neither agree with him, nor any other, but as regenerate; such as to "hate evil", "delight in the law of God", and "serve it with the mind", Romans 7:15. Moreover, the distinctions between flesh and spirit, the inward and the outward man, and the struggle there is between them, are to be found in none but regenerate persons; and to say no more, the thanksgiving for deliverance from sin by Christ can only come from such; nor are any of the things said inapplicable to men that are born again, as will appear by the consideration of them as they follow: for when the apostle says, "I am carnal"; his meaning is, either that he was so by nature, and as he saw himself when sin through the law became exceeding sinful to him; or as he might be denominated from the flesh or corruption of nature which was still in him, and from the infirmities of the flesh he was attended with; just as the Corinthians, though sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, are said to be "carnal" on account of their envying, strife, and divisions, 1 Corinthians 3:1, or in comparison of the "spiritual" law of God, which was now before him, and in which he was beholding his face as in a glass, and with which when compared, the holiest man in the world must be reckoned carnal. He adds, "sold under sin"; he did not "sell himself" to work wickedness, as Ahab, 1 Kings 21:25, and others; he was passive and not active in it; and when at any time he with his flesh served the law of sin, he was not a voluntary, but an involuntary servant; besides, this may be understood of his other I, his carnal I, his unrenewed self, the old man which is always under sin, when the spiritual I, the new man, is never under the law of sin, but under the governing influence of the grace of God.

{8} For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

(8) The law is the cause of this matter because the it requires a heavenly purity, but when men are born, they are bondslaves of corruption, which they willingly serve.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 7:14. Οἴδαμεν] Ὡσανεὶ ἔλεγεν ὡμολογημένον τοῦτο κ. δῆλόν ἐστι, Chrysostom. Comp. Romans 2:2, Romans 3:19. It is not to be written οἶδα μέν (Jerome, Estius, Semler, Koppe, Flatt, Reiche, Hofmann, Th. Schott), since the following δὲ would only correspond logically with the μέν, if Paul, with a view to contrast the character of the law with his own character (so Hofmann), had said: οἶδα γὰρ, ὅτι ὁ μὲν νόμος κ.τ.λ.; or, in case he had desired to contrast his character with his knowledge (so Schott): οἶδα μὲν γὰρ κ.τ.λ., σάρκινος δὲ εἰμὶ, or εἰμὶ δὲ σάρκινος, omitting the ἐγώ, which is the antithesis of the νόμος.

πνευματικός] obtains its definition through the contrasted σάρκινος. Now σάρξ is the material phenomenal nature of man opposed to the divine πνεῦμα, animated and determined by the ψυχή (comp. on Romans 4:1, Romans 6:19), and consequently σάρκινος (of flesh) affirms of the ἐγώ, that it is of such a non-pneumatic nature and quality. So πνευματικός must affirm regarding the law, that its essence (not the form in which it is given, according to which it appears as γράμμα) is divine = spiritual: its essential and characteristic quality is homogeneous with that of the Holy Spirit, who has made Himself known in the law. For believers no proof of this was needed (οἴδαμεν), because the νόμος, as νόμος Θεοῦ, must be a holy self-revelation of the Divine Spirit; comp. Romans 7:12; Acts 7:38. In consequence of this pneumatic nature the law is certainly διδάσκαλος ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας πολέμιος (Chrysostom), and its tenor, rooting in the Divine Spirit, is only fulfilled by those who have the πνεῦμα (Tholuck, with Calovius, joining together different references), as indeed the necessary presupposition is that it θείῳ ἐγράφη πνεύματι (Theodoret), and the consequence necessarily bound up with its spiritual nature is that there subsists no affinity between the law and death (Hofmann); but all this is not conveyed by the word itself, any more than is the impossibility of fulfilling the law’s demands, based on its pneumatic nature (Calvin: “Lex coelestem quandam et angelicam justitiam requirit”). Following Oecumenius 2, and Beza, others (including Reiche, Köllner, and de Wette) have taken πνεῦμα of the higher spiritual nature of man (Romans 1:9; Matthew 26:41), and hence have, according to this reference, explained πνευματικός very variously. E.g. Reiche: “in so far as it does not hinder, but promotes, the development and expression of the πνεῦμα;” de Wette: “of spiritual tenor and character, in virtue of which it puts forward demands which can only be understood and fulfilled by the spiritual nature of man.” So too, substantially, Rückert. But Romans 7:22; Romans 7:25 show that πνευματικός characterizes the law as νόμος Θεοῦ; consequently the πνεῦμα is just the divine, which the natural man, who knows and has nothing of the Spirit of God, resists in virtue of the heterogeneous tendency of his σάρξ.

ἐγὼ δέ] but I, i.e. according to the ἰδίωσις pervading the entire section: the man, not yet regenerate by the Holy Spirit, in his relation to the Mosaic law given to him,—the still unredeemed ἐγέ, who, in the deep distress that oppresses him in the presence of the law, Romans 7:24, sighs after redemption. For the subject is in Romans 7:14-25 necessarily the same—and that, indeed, in its unredeemed condition—as previously gave its psychological history prior to and under the law (hence the preterites in Romans 7:7-13), and now depicts its position confronting (δέ) the pneumatic nature of the law (hence the presents in Romans 7:14 ff.), in order to convey the information (γάρ), that not the law, but the principle of sin mighty in man himself, has prepared death for him. It is true the situation, which the apostle thus exhibits in his own representative Ego, was for himself as an individual one long since past; but he realizes it as present and places it before the eyes like a picture, in which the standpoint of the happier present in which he now finds himself renders possible the perspective that lends to every feature of his portrait the light of clearness and truth.

σάρκινος, made of flesh, consisting of flesh, 2 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 3:1; comp. Plat. Leg. x. p. 906 C; Theocrit. xxi. 66; LXX. 2 Chronicles 32:8; Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Addit. Esther 4:8 : βασιλέα σάρκινον. The signification fleshy, corpulentus, Polyb. xxxix. 2. 7, is here out of place. It is not equivalent to the qualitative σαρκικός, fleshly, (see Tittmann’s Synon. p. 23), that is, affected with the quality that is determined by the σάρξ. The σάρκινος, as the expression of the substance, is far stronger; and while not including the negation of the moral will in man (see Romans 7:15 ff., Romans 7:15; Romans 7:22; Romans 7:25), indicates the σάρξ—that unspiritual, material, phenomenal nature of man, serving by way of vehicle for sin—as the element of his being which so preponderates and renders the moral will fruitless, that the apostle, transporting himself into his pre-Christian state, cannot—in the mirror of this deeply earnest, and just as real as it was painful, self-contemplation—set forth the moral nature of the natural man otherwise than by the collective judgment, I am of flesh; the σάρξ, my substantial element of being, prevails on me to such an extent that the predicate made of flesh cleaves to me as if to a nature consisting of mere σάρξ. This is the Pauline τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς σάρξ ἐστιν (John 3:6). The Pauline τὸ γεγενν. ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος πνεῦμά ἐστιν follows in chap. 8. Since the σάρξ is the seat of the sin-principle (see Romans 7:18, comp. Romans 7:23), there is connected with the σάρκινος also the πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτ., sold, as a slave, under the (dominion of) sin, i.e. as completely dependent on the power of the sin-principle as is a serf on the master to whom he is sold: ἡ πρᾶσις δοῦλον πάντως ποιεῖ τὸν πεπραμένον ὑπὸ τὴν τῆς ὑπηρεσίας καθιστάμενον ἀνάγκην, Theodore of Mopsuestia. Comp. 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 21:25; 2 Kings 17:17; 1Ma 1:15. The passive sense of πεπραμ. finds its elucidation in Romans 7:23. πιπράσκεσθαι, in Greek authors (Soph. Tr. 251; Dem. 1304. 8; Lucian, Asin. 32) with τινί (comp. also Leviticus 25:39; Deuteronomy 28:68; Isaiah 50:1; Bar 4:6), is here coupled with ὑπὸ (comp. Galatians 4:3) for the more forcible indication of the relation. Compare πιπράσκειν εἰς τὰς χεῖρας 1 Samuel 23:7; Jdt 7:25; and on the matter itself, Seneca, de brev. vit. 3.

Romans 7:14-25. Proof not merely of the foregoing telic sentence (Th. Schott), but of the weighty main thought μὴ γένοιτο· ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁμαρτία. “For the law is spiritual, but man (in his natural situation under the law, out of Christ) is of flesh and placed under the power of sin; against the moral will of his better self, he is carried away to evil by the power of the sinful principle dwelling in him.”Romans 7:14-25. The last section of the chapter confirms the argument in which Paul has vindicated the law, by exhibiting the power of sin in the flesh. It is this which makes the law Weak, and defeats its good intention. “Hitherto he had contrasted himself, in respect of his whole being, with the Divine law; now, however, he begins to describe a discord which exists within himself” (Tholuck).14. For we know] The “for” points to the fact just cleared up that sin, not the law, is the true cause of the soul’s misery; which results from the collision of sin with the law.—“We know;”—as an admitted foundation-truth among Christians; a truth not only implied by the whole drift and often by the words (e.g. Psalm 19:7-8, and Psalms 119 passim,) of the Old Testament, but explicitly taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

spiritual] Coming from Him who is a Spirit, and addressed to man’s spirit. The practical force of the word here, is to shew the law as claiming internal as well as external obedience; that of thoughts as well as acts.

I am carnal] The pronoun is emphatic, and the form (in the best reading) of the Gr. word rendered “carnal” is emphatic too, as meaning that the very material (as it were) of the Ego was “flesh.” It is remarkable how on the other hand, in e.g. Romans 7:25, he distinguishes the Ego from the flesh. But the contradiction is in form only. In the present verse he contrasts Paul with the Law. In Romans 7:25 he contrasts the “mind” of Paul with his “flesh;” and views the “mind” as influenced by Divine grace. Paul, as in contrast with the absolutely spiritual Law, is in his own view emphatically carnal; falling as he does (because of the element of the “flesh” still clinging to him) far indeed below its holy ideal. But Paul’s will, in the regenerate state, (and the will is the essence of the person,) is, in contrast with the same element of the “flesh” still encumbering it, not carnal. In view of the Law, he speaks of the whole state of self as, by contrast, fleshly. In view of the “flesh” he speaks of his self, his rectified will, as not fleshly.

We here remark on the general question whether he means the veritable Paul, and Paul in the regenerate state, in this passage. (See on Romans 7:7 for some previous remarks to the point.)

It is held (a) by some expositors, that the “I” is purely general; a human soul relating a conceivable experience. But such a reference is so extremely artificial as to be not only unlike St Paul’s manner, but à priori unlikely in any informal composition.

It has been held again (b) that he speaks as Paul, but as Paul quite unregenerate: or again (c) as Paul in the first stage of spiritual change, struggling through a crisis to spiritual peace; having seen the holiness of the Law, but not yet the bliss of redemption. As regards (b), this surely contradicts St Paul’s doctrine of grace; for he views the soul, before special grace, as (not without the witness of conscience, which is another matter, but) “alienated and hostile as to the mind” towards the true God. (See Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:7-8, &c.) But the “I” of this passage “hates” sin, (Romans 7:15,) and “delights in the Law of God” (Romans 7:22; see note below). As regards (c), the same remarks in great measure apply. In St Paul’s view elsewhere hostility and reconcilement are the only alternatives in the relations of the soul and God. But the “I” of this passage is not hostile to God.

The primâ facie view of the passage, certainly, is that by the first person and the present tense St Paul points to (one aspect of) his own then present experience. And is not this view confirmed by what we know of his experience elsewhere? See 1 Corinthians 9:27 : “I buffet my body and drive it as a slave;” words which, on reflection, imply a conflict of self with self, just such as depicted here. See too Galatians 5:17; where the conflict of regenerate souls is evidently treated of. The language of 1 Corinthians 15:10, ad fin., must also be compared.

The records of Christian experience, and particularly of the experience of those saints who, like St Augustine, have been specially schooled in spiritual conflict, surely confirm this natural view of the passage. It is recorded of one aged and holy disciple that he quoted Romans 7 as the passage which had rescued him from repeated personal despondency. It would be a very shallow criticism here to object that the Paul of ch. 8 could not be, in the same part of his history, the Paul of ch. 7.

The language of the present passage is indeed strong; but it is the strength of profound spiritual insight. The man who here “does what he hates” is one who has so felt the absolute sanctity of God and of His law as to see sin in the slightest deviations of will and affection from its standard. Such penitence, for such sin, is not only possible in a life of Christian rectitude, but may be said to be a natural element in it[37].

[37] See further remarks on this whole passage in Appendix E.

sold under sin] i.e. so as to be under its influence. The metaphor is from the slave-market; a recurrence to the topics of ch. 6. But the difference here is that the redeemed and regenerate man is now in question, and the slavery is therefore a far more limited metaphor. He is now only so far under the mastership of sin as that he is still in the body, which is, by reason of sin, still mortal and still a stronghold of temptation. As regards a claim on the soul to condemnation, he is free from sin; as regards its influence, its temptations, he is liable. And such is now his view of holiness that the presence of these, and the least yielding to them, is to him a heavy servitude.—To the question, When was he thus sold? we answer, At the Fall and in Adam.

E. THE STATE DESCRIBED IN Ch. Romans 7:14-24The controversy over this profound passage is far too wide to allow of full treatment here. It is scarcely needful to say that conclusions very different from those in the notes have been drawn by many most able and most devout expositors, ancient and modern. Very earnest convictions, mainly based on St Paul’s general teaching, and that of Scripture, alone could justify us in the positive statement of another view.

Here we offer only a few further general remarks.

(1) On the question what St Paul here meant very little certain light is thrown by quotations from pagan writers describing an inner conflict. For in the great majority of such passages the language manifestly describes the conflict of conscience and will; and the confusion of the voice of conscience with the far different voice of personal will is so easy,—and no wonder, if Scripture truly describes the state of the human mind (cp. Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:17-18) as to spiritual truth,—that we believe that even the grandest utterances of pagan thought on this subject must yet be explained of a conflict not so much of will with will, as of will with conscience.

A careful collection of such passages (from Thucydides, Xenophon, Euripides, Epictetus, Plautus, both the Senecas, and Ovid) is given by Tholuck[56], on Romans 7:15. And our conviction on the whole, from these and similar passages, is that either they do not mean to describe a conflict of will with will, or that they betray the illusions to which the mind, unvisited by special grace, must surely be liable regarding the conditions of the soul’s action; illusions which this chapter, among other passages of Revelation, tends to dispel.

[56] Whose conclusions are very different from ours.

(2) Suppose the person described in ch. Romans 7:14-25 to be not regenerate, not a recipient of the Holy Spirit; and compare the case thus supposed with the language of ch. Romans 8:5-9. The consequence must be that one who is “in the flesh” (for St Paul recognizes neither here nor elsewhere an intermediate or semi-spiritual condition,) and who as such “cannot please God,” can vet truly say, “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me;” and, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man;” and, “With the mind I myself serve the law of God.”

Now is this possible, from the point of view of St Paul’s teaching? For consider what he means by the law: not man’s subjective view of moral truth and right, but the absolute and profoundly spiritual demands of the True God upon not the approval of man but his whole will.

Surely when Divine grace makes plain to the man the width and depth of those demands, he needs a “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2) if he is to say with truth, “I delight[57] in the Law;” “I myself with my mind serve it.”

[57] A word which it is impossible to explain away.

(3) The supposed impossibility of assigning the language of this passage to one who is meanwhile “in Christ” and “has peace with God” will at least seem less impossible if we remember St Paul’s manner of isolating a special aspect of truth. May he not, out of his profound, intense, and subtle spiritual experience, have chosen for a special purpose to look on one aspect only as if it were the whole? on his consciousness of the element which still called for “mortification,” hanging on “a cross,” “buffeting,” “groans,” “fear and trembling,” (Romans 8:13; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Colossians 3:5; Php 2:12, &c.;) almost as if he had no other consciousness?

(4) It is often assumed that ch. 8 is an express contrast to ch. Romans 7:14-25. But it is far more likely that it is written to sum up the whole previous Epistle. (See note on Romans 8:1.) If it is designed as a contrast to ch. 7, surely such words as those of Romans 8:13; Romans 8:23, are out of place.

With this view of ch. 8 there is less likelihood of our taking ch. 7 to describe a state antecedent to the experience of ch. 8. But however, if we are right in our remarks in (3), any view of ch. 8 still leaves ch. 7 quite free to be a description of (one side of) regenerate experience.

(5) Tholuck (on Romans 7:15) quotes from Grotius the remark that “it would be a sad thing, indeed, if the Christian, as such, could apply these sayings” (those of the pagan writers who describe an inner conflict) “to himself.” But those who interpret ch. 7 of the experience of a Christian take it to describe not his experience as a Christian, but his experience as a man still in the body, but who, as a Christian, has been illuminated truly to apprehend that infinite Holiness which can only cease to conflict with a part of his condition when at length his trial-time is over.Romans 7:14. Πνευματικός ἐστι, is spiritual) it requires, that every feeling of man should correspond to the feeling [i.e. the will] of God; but God is a Spirit.—σαρκικὸς, carnal) Romans 7:18.—εἰμὶ, I am) Paul, after he had compared together the twofold state of believers, the former in the flesh, Romans 7:5, and the present in the Spirit, Romans 7:6, proceeds in the next place from the description of the first to the description of the second, and does so with a view both to answer two objections, which, in consequence of that comparison might be framed in these words: therefore the law is sin, Romans 7:7, and, therefore the law is death, Romans 7:13; and to interweave in the solution of those objections the whole process of a man, in his transition from his state under the law to his state under grace, thinking, sighing, striving, and struggling forth, and to show the function of the law in this matter: this, I say, he does, Romans 7:7-25, until at ch. Romans 8:1, he proceeds to the topics, which are ulterior to these. Therefore in this 14th verse the particle for does not permit any leap at all, much less does the subject itself allow so great a leap to be made from the one state into the other; for Paul diametrically opposes to each other the carnal state in this verse, and the spiritual state, ch. Romans 8:4, as also slavery in this [“sold under sin”] and the 23d [“bringing me into captivity”] verse, and liberty, Romans 8:2, [“free from the law]. Moreover he uses, before the 14th verse, verbs in the preterite tense; then, for the sake of more ready expression [more vivid realization of a thing as present], verbs in the present tense, which are to be resolved into the preterite, just as he is accustomed to exchange cases, moods, etc., for the sake of imparting ease to his language; and as an example in ch. Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4, he passes from the singular to the plural number, and in the same chapter Romans 7:9, from the first to the second person. Also the discourse is the more conveniently turned from the past to the present time, inasmuch as a man can then, and then only, understand really the nature of that [his former] state under the law, as soon as he has come under grace; and from the present he can form a clearer judgment of the past. Finally, that state and process, though being but one and the same, has yet various degrees, which should be expressed either more or less in the preterite tense, and it is step by step that he sighs, strives eagerly, and struggles forth to liberty: The language of the apostle becomes by degrees more serene, as we shall see. Hence it is less to be wondered at, that interpreters take so widely different views. They seek the chief force [the sinews] of their arguments, some from the former, others from the latter part of this passage, and yet they endeavour to explain the whole section as referring to one simple condition, either that under sin, or that under grace. [We must observe in general, that Paul, as somewhat often elsewhere, so also in this verse, all along from Romans 7:7, is not speaking of his own character, but under the figure of a man, who is engaged in this contest. That contest is described here at great length, but the business itself, so far as concerns what may be considered the decisive point, is in many cases quickly accomplished; although believers must contend with the enemy, even till their deliverance is fully accomplished, Romans 7:24, ch. Romans 8:23, V. g.]—πεπραμένος, sold) A man, sold to be a slave, is more wretched, than he who was born in that condition, and he is said to be a man sold, because he was not originally a slave. The same word occurs in Jdg 3:8, 1 Kings 21:25. Sold: Captive, Romans 7:23.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. We know (οἴδαμεν)

Denoting something generally conceded.

Spiritual (πνευματικός)

The expression of the Holy Spirit.

Carnal (σάρκινος)

Lit., made of flesh. A very strong expression. "This unspiritual, material, phenomenal nature" so dominates the unrenewed man that he is described as consisting of flesh. Others read σαρκικός having the nature of flesh.

Sold under sin

As a slave. The preposition ὑπό under, with the accusative, implies direction; so as to be under the power of.

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