Romans 7:18
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18-20) Enthralled it is, and the will is powerless. What I do and what I will are opposite things. It is therefore sin that acts, and not I.

Romans 7:18-20. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh — The corrupt and degenerate self, my animal appetites and passions, debased and enslaved as they are by sin through the fall; or in me, while I was in the flesh, chap. Romans 8:8, and not in the spirit, Romans 7:9; dwelleth no good thing Ουκ οικει αγαθον, good dwelleth not. Hence he asserts, in the place just referred to, that they who are in the flesh, whose reason and conscience are under the government of passion and appetite, or who are in their natural unrenewed state, cannot please God. For to will — To incline, desire, and even purpose; is present with me Παρακειται μοι, lies near me, or, is easy for me; but how to perform Κατεργαζεσθαι, statedly to practise, or, habitually work, (see on Romans 7:15;) that which is good Καλον, excellent, I find not — Have not sufficient ability. For the good that I would, &c. — See on Romans 7:15; Romans 7:17, for an explanation of this and the next verse.7:18-22 The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do. How different this case from that of those who make themselves easy with regard to the inward motions of the flesh prompting them to evil; who, against the light and warning of conscience, go on, even in outward practice, to do evil, and thus, with forethought, go on in the road to perdition! For as the believer is under grace, and his will is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in the law of God, and in the holiness which it demands, according to his inward man; that new man in him, which after God is created in true holiness.For I know - This is designed as an illustration of what he had just said, that sin dwelt in him.

That is, in my flesh - In my unrenewed nature; in my propensities and inclinations before conversion. Does not this qualifying expression show that in this discussion he was speaking of himself as a renewed man? Hence, he is careful to imply that there was at that time in him something that was right or acceptable with God, but that that did not pertain to him by nature.

Dwelleth - His soul was wholly occupied by what was evil. It had taken entire possession.

No good thing - There could not be possibly a stronger expression of belief of the doctrine of total depravity. It is Paul's own representation of himself. It proves that his heart was wholly evil. And if this was true of him, it is true of all others. It is a good way to examine ourselves, to inquire whether we have such a view of our own native character as to say that we know that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing. The sense here is, that so far as the flesh was concerned, that is, in regard to his natural inclinations and desires, there was nothing good; all was evil. This was true in his entire conduct before conversion, where the desires of the flesh reigned and rioted without control; and it was true after conversion, so far as the natural inclinations and propensities of the flesh were concerned. All those operations in every stake were evil, and not the less evil because they are experienced under the light and amidst the influences of the gospel.

To will - To purpose or intend to do good.

Is present with me - I can do that. It is possible; it is in my power. The expression may also imply that it was near to him παράκειται parakeitai, that is, it was constantly before him; it was now his habitual inclination and purpose of mind. It is the uniform, regular, habitual purpose of the Christian's mind to do right.

But how - The sense would have been better retained here if the translators had not introduced the word "how." The difficulty was not in the mode of performing it, but to do the thing itself.

I find not - I do not find it in my power; or I find strong, constant obstacles, so that I fail of doing it. The obstacles are not natural, but such as arise from long indulgence in sin; the strong native propensity to evil.

18. For, &c.—better, "For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is in my flesh, any good."

for to will—"desire."

is present with me; but how to perform that which is good—the supplement "how," in our version, weakens the statement.

I find not—Here, again, we have the double self of the renewed man; "In me dwelleth no good; but this corrupt self is not my true self; it is but sin dwelling in my real self, as a renewed man."

In my flesh; i.e. in my fleshly part, or my nature in and of itself.

No good thing; no goodness at all, or no spiritual good.

For to will is present with me; i.e. I can, so long and so far as I follow the motions of God’s Spirit, will that which is good;

but how to perform the good that I would, I find no power or might, at least to perform it in that manner that I desire: the meaning is not that he never did the good he desired; but it often so fell out, he began many good things, but he could not go thorough-stitch with them. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh,.... The apostle goes on to give some further account of himself, what he knew, and was fully assured of by long experience; as that

dwelleth no good thing in him, that is, in his flesh, or carnal self; for otherwise there were many good things dwelt in him; there was the good work of grace, and the good word of God in him, and even Father, Son, and Spirit, dwelt in him; but his meaning is, that there was no good thing naturally in him; no good thing of his own putting there; nothing but what God had put there; no good thing, but what was owing to Christ, to the grace of God, and influence of the Spirit; or as he himself explains it, there was no good thing in his "flesh"; in the old man that was in him, which has nothing in his nature good; no good thing comes out of him, nor is any good thing done by him: and this explanative and limiting clause, "that is, in my flesh", clearly proves, that the apostle speaks of himself, and as regenerate; for had he spoke in the person of an unregenerate man, there would have been no room nor reason for such a restriction, seeing an unregenerate man is nothing else but flesh, and has nothing but flesh, or corrupt nature in him; and who does not know, that no good thing dwells in such persons? whereas the apostle intimates by this explication, that he had something else in him beside flesh, and which is opposed to it; and that is spirit, or the new man, which is of a spiritual nature, and is seated in the spirit, or soul, and comes from the Spirit of God; and in this spiritual man dwell good things, for "the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth"; so that though there was no good thing dwelling in his flesh, in the old than, yet there were good things dwelling in his spirit, in the new and spiritual man, the hidden man of the heart: and he adds,

to will is present with me; which must be understood, not of the power and faculty of the will, with respect to things natural and civil, which is common to all men; nor of a will to that which is evil, which is in wicked men; but of a will to that which was good, which he had not of himself, but from God, and is only to be found in regenerate persons; and denotes the readiness of his mind and will to that which is spiritually good, like that which Christ observes of his disciples, when he says, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak", Matthew 26:41, which may serve much to illustrate the passage before us: since it follows,

but how to perform that which is good, I find not; he found he had no strength of himself to do what he willed; and that he could do nothing without Christ; and that what he did by the strength and grace of Christ, he did not do perfectly. To will to live without sin, not to have a lustful or a revengeful thought in his breast, was present with him, but how to perform, how to live in this manner, which was so desirable to him, being born again, he found not. It may be asked, how does this agree with what the apostle says, "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure?" Philippians 2:13. To this it may be replied, that when God does work in his people both to will and to do, he does not work both equally alike, or to the same degree, so that the work answers to the will; God never works in them so to do, as to will, for when they are wrought in, acted upon, and influenced to do the most, and that in the best manner, they never do all that they would; and sometimes God works in them to will, when he does not work in them to do; as in the case of the disciples of Christ, in whom he worked to will to watch with Christ an hour, but did not work in them to do, Matthew 26:40; and whenever he works in the saints, whether to will or to do, or both, it is always of his own good pleasure.

{12} For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but {a} how to perform that which is good I find not.

(12) This vice, or sin, or law of sin, wholly possesses those men who are not regenerated, and hinders them or holds those back who are regenerated.

(a) This indeed is appropriate to the man whom the grace of God has made a new man: for where the Spirit is not, how can there be any strife there?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 7:18. Basing of the ἀλλʼ ἡ οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ ἁμαρτία in Romans 7:17 on the human (not: Christian) experimental consciousness of the ἔμφυτον κακόν (Wis 12:10).

τοῦτʼ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου] More precise definition to ἐν ἐμοί, by which it is designated, in order to make the meaning clear beyond all doubt, according to its aspect of self-verification here meant; and the latter is expressly distinguished from that of the moral self-consciousness, conveyed by the ἐγώ in Romans 7:17.

That good, that is, moral willing and doing, consequently the opposite of ἁμαρτία, has its abode in the σάρξ of man, i.e. in his materiophysical phenomenal nature (comp. on Romans 7:14), is negatived by οὐκ οἰκεῖ.… ἀγαθόν, and this negation is then proved by τὸ γὰρ θέλειν κ.τ.λ. If the ΣΆΡΞ, namely, were the seat of the moral nature, so that the will of the moral self-consciousness and that residing in the ΣΆΡΞ harmonized, in that case there would be nothing opposed to the carrying out of that moral tendency of will; in that case, besides the willing, we should find also in man the performance of the morally beautiful (ΤῸ ΚΑΛΌΝ, “quod candore morali nitet,” van Hengel). On the identity of the ΚΑΛΌΝ and the ἈΓΑΘΌΝ, according to the Greek view of morality, see Stallb. ad Plat. Sympos. p. 201 C.

παράκειταί μοι] lies before me (Plat. Tim. p. 69 A, Phil. p. 41 D; 2Ma 4:4)—a plastic expression of the idea: there is present in me. Paul presents the matter, namely, as if he were looking around in his own person, as in a spacious sphere, to discover what might be present therein. There he sees the θέλειν (τὸ καλόν) immediately confronting him, before his gaze; but his searching gaze fails to discover (ΟὐΧ ΕὙΡΊΣΚΩ) the ΚΑΤΕΡΓΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ ΤῸ ΚΑΛΌΝ. The performance of the good, therefore, is something not characteristic of the natural man, while that ΘΈΛΕΙΝ of the moral “I” is present with him. “Longe a me abest,” says Grotius aptly in explanation of the reading οὐ sc. παράκειται, with which, however, ΟὐΧ ΕὙΡΊΣΚΩ is perfectly equivalent in sense; so that to render the latter “I gain it not, i.e. I can not” (Estius, Kypke, Flatt, Tholuck, and Köllner), or, “it is to me unattainable” (Hofmann), is inconsistent with the correlative παράκειταί μοι, as well as the ΕὙΡΊΣΚΩ in Romans 7:21. Theodoret has rightly noted the ground of the ΟὐΧ ΕὙΡΊΣΚΩ: ἈΣΘΕΝῶ.… ΠΕΡῚ ΤῊΝ ΠΡᾶΞΙΝ, ἙΤΈΡΑΝ ἘΠΙΚΟΥΡΊΑΝ (namely, that of the Holy Spirit) ΟὐΚ ἜΧΩΝ. But the ἘΓΏ, which has the willing, can not at all be the καινὸς πνευματικὸς ἄνθρωπος (against Philippi), whose ΘΈΛΕΙΝ is the “fidei promptitudo” (Calvin), because that ἐγώ, clogged by the sinful power of the flesh, is naked and void of the ΚΑΤΕΡΓΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ. The latter is the simple to bring about, to bring into execution (see on Romans 1:27); and if, in order to interpret it appropriately of the regenerate person, it be made to mean, to live quite purely (Luther), or the “implere qua decet alacritate” (Calvin), or the act which is in harmony with the will sanctified by the Spirit of God (Philippi), these shades of meaning are purely imported.Romans 7:18. It is sin, and nothing but sin, that has to be taken account of in this connection, for “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, there dwells no good”. For τοῦτʼ ἔστιν see on Romans 1:12. ἐν ἐμοὶ = ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου = in me, regarded as a creature of flesh, apart from any relation to or affinity for God and His spirit. This, of course, is not a complete view of what man is at any stage of his life. τὸ γὰρ θέλειν παράκειταί μοι: θέλειν is rather wish than will: the want of will is the very thing lamented. An inclination to the good is at his hand, within the limit of his resources, but not the actual effecting of the good.18. For I know, &c.] This verse intensifies the statement just made. “Sin dwells in him” to such a degree that “no good thing dwells in him:” the intruder has occupied the whole dwelling, and every part of it is infected: by vitiating the affections and will, sin has spoilt all.—Notice that the emphasis is on “good;” “no good thing:” q. d., “nothing that dwells ‘in me’ is unspoiled, however good originally and in itself. For instance, affections, right and wholesome in themselves, are spoiled by the absence of right affections towards God.”

It is possible to explain the Gr. words somewhat differently, though in a way which alters the sense hardly, if at all: “For I know that it is not a good thing that dwells in me, [but that sin does.]” There is a languor however about the form of such an assertion, quite unlike the context, which insists upon a terrible reality of evil.

in me (that is, in my flesh)] See below on Romans 8:7-8. “The flesh,” practically, is the man as unregenerate, and then (after grace) the Alter Ego of the still-abiding impulses and tendencies of evil. Here St Paul is careful not to say that in his whole condition then present there was no good thing dwelling; for the Divine Spirit (Romans 8:9) and His influences “dwelt in him.” And yet he calls “the flesh” still his Ego; because he is contrasting his condition as a whole with the absolute and holy Law. See note on Romans 7:14, (“I am carnal,”) where is explained the apparent inconsistency of the Ego being sometimes distinguished from, sometimes identified with, what is evil.

is present with me] Is within my reach. Meyer takes this to refer to the unregenerate man; and such is his view of this passage throughout. But see Galatians 5:17, and Php 2:13. In this context, the will is represented as uniformly biassed against sin and for holiness; this, surely, cannot be the unregenerate will.—Logically, no doubt, the will of the believing soul ought always to conquer evil, because faith calls in Divine power. But then just here comes in the mystery stated in Galatians 5:17, and which is a permanent fact of Christian experience.

I find not] The will is, on the whole, really sanctified; but its exercise is impeded. The counter-influences of “the flesh “bewilder it in the struggle. Its weapons, so to speak, are not always drawn.

Another reading, but not so well attested, is, “To will is present with me, but to perform that which is good, is not so.”Romans 7:18. Οἶδα, I know) This very knowledge is a part of this state, which is here described.—τουτέστιν, that is) It is a limitation of the sense; in me is more than in my flesh, and yet the flesh is not called sin itself[75] (we must make this observation contrary to the opinion of Flacius); but what Paul says, is: sin dwells in the flesh. And already this state, of which Paul is treating, carries along with it some element of good.—θέλειν to will) The Accusative, good, is not added after to will; and the delicacy [minute accuracy] of this language expresses the delicacy [minute accuracy] in the use of the expression, to will.—παράκειται) [is present] lies in view, without [my being able to gain] the victory. The antithesis, concerning the performance of good works, is the not [I find not] which occurs presently after. My mind, though seeking [that, which is good], does not in reality find it.

[75] It is only called sinful.—ED.In me

The entire man in whom sin and righteousness struggle, in whose unregenerate condition sin is the victor, having its domain in the flesh. Hence in me considered as carnal (Romans 7:14). That another element is present appears from "to will is present with me;" but it is the flesh which determines his activity as an unregenerate man. There is good in the I, but not in the I considered as carnal. This is brought out in Romans 7:25, "With the flesh (I serve) the law of sin." Hence there is added that is, in my flesh.

Is present (παράκειται)

Lit., lies beside or before.

Perform (κατεργάζεσθαι)

Carry the desire into effect.

I find not (οὐχ εὑρίσκω)

The best texts omit find, and read simply οὐ not. So Rev., "To do that which is good is not (present)."

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