Romans 7:17
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
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(17) This, then, appears to be the true explanation of the difficulty. There is really a dualism in the soul. I am not to be identified with that lower self which is enthralled by sin.

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.It is no more I that do it - This is evidently figurative language, for it is really the man that sins when evil is committed. But the apostle makes a distinction between sin and what he intends by the pronoun "I". By the former he evidently means his corrupt nature. By the latter he refers to his renewed nature, his Christian principles. He means to say that he does not approve or love it in his present state, but that it is the result of his native propensities and passions. In his heart, and conscience, and habitual feeling, he did not choose to commit sin, but abhorred it. Thus, every Christian can say that he does not choose to do evil, but would wish to be perfect; that he hates sin, and yet that his corrupt passions lead him astray.

But sin - My corrupt passions and native propensities.

That dwelleth in me - Dwelling in me as its home. This is a strong expression, denoting that sin had taken up its habitation in the mind, and abode there. It had not been yet wholly dislodged. This expression stands in contrast with another that occurs, where it is said that "the Spirit of God dwells" in the Christian, Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16. The sense is, that he is strongly influenced by sin on the one hand, and by the Spirit on the other. From this expression has arisen the phrase so common among Christians, in-dwelling sin.

17. Now then it is no more I—my renewed self.

that do it—"that work it."

but sin which dwelleth in me—that principle of sin that still has its abode in me. To explain this and the following statements, as many do (even Bengel and Tholuck), of the sins of unrenewed men against their better convictions, is to do painful violence to the apostle's language, and to affirm of the unregenerate what is untrue. That coexistence and mutual hostility of "flesh" and "spirit" in the same renewed man, which is so clearly taught in Ro 8:4, &c., and in Ga 5:16, &c., is the true and only key to the language of this and the following verses. (It is hardly necessary to say that the apostle means not to disown the blame of yielding to his corruptions, by saying, "it is not he that does it, but sin that dwelleth in him." Early heretics thus abused his language; but the whole strain of the passage shows that his sole object in thus expressing himself was to bring more vividly before his readers the conflict of two opposite principles, and how entirely, as a new man—honoring from his inmost soul the law of God—he condemned and renounced his corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts, its stirrings and its outgoings, root and branch).

It is no more I that do it; i.e. it is not I as spiritual or renewed, it is not my whole self, but it is sin that dwelleth in me, that inhabits in me as a troublesome inmate, that I cannot get rid of, that will not out so long as the house stands; as the fretting leprosy in the walls of a house would not out till the house itself were demolished. It is such an inhabitant as is never from home; it is not in us as a stranger for a season, but it makes its constant abode with us.

Now then, it is no more I that do it,.... This is another inference, deduced from what is before said, that since he did not approve, but hated what he did, and willed the contrary, it was not he as spiritual, as born again, as a new man, a new creature, that did it; see 1 John 3:9. He says,

But sin that dwelleth in me; the old man, the carnal I, the evil present with him, the law in his members; which not only existed in him, and wrought in him, and that at times very strongly, but dwelt in him, had its abode in him, as it has in all regenerate persons, and will have, as long as they are in the body.

Now then it is no more I that do it, but {z} sin that dwelleth in me.

(z) That natural corruption, which adheres strongly even to those that are regenerated, and is not completely gone.

Romans 7:17. Νυνὶ δέ] does not introduce a minor proposition attaching itself with a “but now” (Reithmayr and Hofmann)—a view which is unsuitable to the antithetical form of the expression; nor is to be taken, with Augustine, as “nunc in statu gratiae;” but it is the quite common and, in Paul’s writings especially, very frequent as it is, however (see on Romans 3:21), that is, in this actual state of the case, however; namely, since my θέλειν, notwithstanding my conduct, is not opposed to the law, but on the contrary confirms it. In connection with this view οὐκέτι also is not, possibly, temporal, “pointing back to a time in which it was otherwise with the speaker” (Hofmann), namely, to what is related in Romans 7:7-11, but logical, as in Romans 7:20; Romans 11:6; Galatians 3:18. What is indicated by νυνὶ δέ stands to ἐγὼ κατεργ. αὐτό in an excluding relation, so that after the former there can be no mention of the latter. It is the dialectic non jam, non item (Bornemann ad Xen. Cyr. i. 6. 27; Winer, p. 547 f. [E. T. 772]; comp. Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 432).

ἐγά] with emphasis: my personality proper, my self-consciousness, which is my real, morally wishing Ego. It is not this “I” that performs the evil (αὐτό, i.e. ὃ οὐ θέλω, Romans 7:16), but the principle of sin, which has its dwelling-place in me (the phenomenal man), enslaving my better—but against its power too weak—will, and not allowing it to attain accomplishment. That ἐν ἐμοί is not, like ἐγώ, to be taken of the moral self-conscious “I,” is affirmed by Paul himself in Romans 7:18. But it is erroneous to infer, from what he here says of the ἐγώ, the necessity of the explanation in the sense of the regenerate person (see especially Calvin and Philippi); for if the power practising the evil be not the “I,” but the potentiality of sin, this accords perfectly with the state of the σαρκικός, ψυχικός (1 Corinthians 2:14), ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν πεπραμένος (Romans 7:14), consequently of the unregenerate, in whom sin rules, and not the grace and power of the Holy Spirit leading the moral Ego to victory. In the regenerate man dwells the Spirit (Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:16 f.; 1 Corinthians 3:16), who aids the “I” in conquering the sin-power of the flesh (Romans 8:13 ff.; Galatians 5:24).

Romans 7:17. Νυνὶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγὼ κατεργάζομαι αὐτό. ἐγὼ is the true I, and emphatic. As things are, in view of the facts just explained, it is not the true self which is responsible for this line of conduct, but the sin which has its abode in the man: contrast Romans 8:11 τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα ἐν ὑμῖν. “Paul said, ‘It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me,’ and ‘I live, yet not I; but Christ that liveth in me’; and both these sayings of his touch on the unsayable” (Dr. John Duncan). To be saved from sin, a man must at the same time own it and disown it; it is this practical paradox which is reflected in this verse. It is safe for a Christian like Paul—it is not safe for everybody—to explain his failings by the watchword, Not I, but indwelling sin. That might be antinomian, or manichean, as well as evangelical. A true saint may say it in a moment of passion, but a sinner had better not make it a principle.

17. Now] i.e. in this state of the case.

it is no more I] The Gr. is lit. but now no longer I do it, &c. The “no longer” is noteworthy, as implying (in the natural and common meaning of the words) a different previous state. It is possible indeed for the Gr. phrase to mean “no longer” with a logical reference only: q. d., “you can no longer maintain, after this statement, that I, &c.” But the large majority of New Testament parallels are for the time-reference: q. d., “it was once my true self, it is now no longer my true self, which works the will of sin.” Divine grace has now so altered the inner balance that the conscious will hates sin as sin and loves holiness as holiness.—See meanwhile note on Romans 7:9; where it is pointed out that even before grace self and sin are not, in strictness, to be identified. But the present verse goes further; indicating a real antagonism now between sin and the (regenerated) self.

Romans 7:17. Οὐκ ἔτι, no longer) These words are repeated, Romans 7:20.—οἰκοῦσα, dwelling) Romans 7:18; Romans 7:20. This word is afterwards used concerning the Spirit, ch. Romans 8:9.

Romans 7:17Now - no more (νυνὶ - οὐκέτι)

Not temporal, pointing back to a time when it was otherwise, but logical, pointing to an inference. After this statement you can no more maintain that, etc.


My personality proper; my moral self-consciousness which has approved the law (Romans 7:16) and has developed vague desires for something better.

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