Romans 7:24
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
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(24) So this intestine struggle goes on unceasingly and reaches no decision, till at last the unhappy man cries out, almost in despair, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Who, that is, will help me to overcome these fleshly desires, gendered by a corrupt human nature, which are dragging me down to imminent destruction? The body is the cause of sin, and therefore of death. If only it could be released from that, the distracted soul would be at rest and free.

The body of this death.Thu body (the slave of sin and therefore the abode) of death. The words are a cry for deliverance from the whole of this mortal nature, in which carnal appetite and sin and death are inextricably mingled. To complete this deliverance the triple resurrection—ethical, spiritual, and physical—is needed.

7:23-25 This passage does not represent the apostle as one that walked after the flesh, but as one that had it greatly at heart, not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage, as they also do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction, yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thus provided for their support and comfort. We are not, because of the abuse of such as are blinded by their own lusts, to find fault with the scripture, or any just and well warranted interpretation of it. And no man who is not engaged in this conflict, can clearly understand the meaning of these words, or rightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led the apostle to bemoan himself as a wretched man, constrained to what he abhorred. He could not deliver himself; and this made him the more fervently thank God for the way of salvation revealed through Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end, deliverance from this enemy. So then, says he, I myself, with my mind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as a regenerate man, by Divine grace, serve and obey the law of God; but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity, I serve the law of sin, which wars against the law of my mind. Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but as unable to free himself from it, even in his very best state, and needing to look for help and deliverance out of himself. It is evident that he thanks God for Christ, as our deliverer, as our atonement and righteousness in himself, and not because of any holiness wrought in us. He knew of no such salvation, and disowned any such title to it. He was willing to act in all points agreeable to the law, in his mind and conscience, but was hindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfection the law requires. What can be deliverance for a man always sinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus? The power of Divine grace, and of the Holy Spirit, could root out sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom had not otherwise thought fit. But it is suffered, that Christians might constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretched state from which Divine grace saves them; might be kept from trusting in themselves; and might ever hold all their consolation and hope, from the rich and free grace of God in Christ.O wretched man that I am! - The feeling implied by this lamentation is the result of this painful conflict; and this frequent subjection to sinful propensities. The effect of this conflict is,

(1) To produce pain and distress. It is often an agonizing struggle between good and evil; a struggle which annoys the peace, and renders life wretched.

(2) it tends to produce humility. It is humbling to man to be thus under the influence of evil passions. It is degrading to his nature; a stain on his glory; and it tends to bring him into the dust, that he is under the control of such propensities, and so often gives indulgence to them. In such circumstances, the mind is overwhelmed with wretchedness, and instinctively sighs for relief. Can the Law aid? Can man aid? Can any native strength of conscience or of reason aid? In vain all these are tried, and the Christian then calmly and thankfully acquiesces in the consolations of the apostle, that aid can be obtained only through Jesus Christ.

Who shall deliver me - Who shall rescue me; the condition of a mind in deep distress, and conscious of its own weakness, and looking for aid.

The body of this death - Margin, "This body of death." The word "body" here is probably used as equivalent to flesh, denoting the corrupt and evil propensities of the soul; Note, Romans 7:18. It is thus used to denote the law of sin in the members, as being that with which the apostle was struggling, and from which he desired to be delivered. The expression "body of this death" is a Hebraism, denoting a body deadly in its tendency; and the whole expression may mean the corrupt principles of man; the carnal, evil affections that lead to death or to condemnation. The expression is one of vast strength, and strongly characteristic of the apostle Paul. It indicates,

(1) That it was near him, attending him, and was distressing in its nature.

(2) an earnest wish to be delivered from it.

Some have supposed that he refers to a custom practiced by ancient tyrants, of binding a dead body to a captive as a punishment, and compelling him to drag the cumbersome and offensive burden with him wherever he went. I do not see any evidence that the apostle had this in view. But such a fact may be used as a striking and perhaps not improper illustration of the meaning of the apostle here. No strength of words could express deeper feeling; none more feelingly indicate the necessity of the grace of God to accomplish that to which the unaided human powers are incompetent.

24. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?—The apostle speaks of the "body" here with reference to "the law of sin" which he had said was "in his members," but merely as the instrument by which the sin of the heart finds vent in action, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites (see on [2218]Ro 6:6, and [2219]Ro 7:5); and he calls it "the body of this death," as feeling, at the moment when he wrote, the horrors of that death (Ro 6:21, and Ro 7:5) into which it dragged him down. But the language is not that of a sinner newly awakened to the sight of his lost state; it is the cry of a living but agonized believer, weighed down under a burden which is not himself, but which he longs to shake off from his renewed self. Nor does the question imply ignorance of the way of relief at the time referred to. It was designed only to prepare the way for that outburst of thankfulness for the divinely provided remedy which immediately follows. O wretched man that I am! The word signifies one wearied out with continual combats.

Who shall deliver me? It is not the voice of one desponding or doubting, but of one breathing and panting after deliverance: the like pathetical exclamations are frequent: see Psalm 55:6. One calls this verse, gemitus sanctorum, the groan of the godly.

From the body of this death; or, from this body of death; or, by a Hebraism, from this dead body, this carcass of sin, to which I am inseparably fastened, as noisome every whit to my soul as a dead carcass to my senses. This is another circumlocution, or denomination of original sin. It is called the body of sin, Romans 6:6, and here the body of death; it tends and binds over to death. O wretched man that I am,.... Not as considered in Christ, for as such he was a most happy man, being blessed with all spiritual blessings, and secure from all condemnation and wrath; nor with respect to his inward man, which was renewing day by day, and in which he enjoyed true spiritual peace and pleasure; nor with regard to his future state, of the happiness of which he had no doubt: he knew in whom he had believed; he was fully persuaded nothing could separate him from the love of God; and that when he had finished his course, he should have the crown of righteousness laid up for him: but this exclamation he made on account of the troubles he met with in his Christian race; and not so much on account of his reproaches, persecutions, and distresses for Christ's sake; though these were many and great, yet these did not move or much affect him, he rather took delight and pleasure in them; but on account of that continual combat between, the flesh and spirit in him; or by reason of that mass of corruption and body of sin he carried about with him; ranch such a complaint Isaiah makes, Isaiah 6:5, which in the Septuagint is, , "O miserable I". This shows him to be, and to speak of himself as a regenerate man; since an unregenerate man feels no uneasiness upon that score, or makes any complaint of it, saying as here,

who shall deliver me from the body of this death? or "this body of death"; by which some understand, this mortal body, or the body of flesh subject to death for sin; and suppose the apostle expresses his desire to quit it, to depart out of it, that he might enjoy an immortal life, being weary of the burden of this mortal body he carried about with him: so Philo the Jew (s) represents the body as a burden to the soul, which "it carries about as a dead carcass", and never lays down from his birth till his death: though it should be observed, that when the apostle elsewhere expresses an earnest longing after a state of immortality and glory, some sort of reluctance and unwillingness to leave the body is to be observed, which is not to be discerned here; and was this his sense, one should think he would rather have said, when shall I be delivered? or why am I not delivered? and not who shall deliver me? though admitting this to be his meaning, that he was weary of the present life, and wanted to be rid of his mortal body, this did not arise from the troubles and anxieties of life, with which he was pressed, which oftentimes make wicked men long to die; but from the load of sin, and burden of corruption, under which he groaned, and still bespeaks him a regenerate man; for not of outward calamities, but of indwelling sin is he all along speaking in the context: wherefore it is better by "this body of death" to understand what he in Romans 6:6 calls "the body of sin"; that mass of corruption that lodged in him, which is called "a body", because of its fleshly carnal nature; because of its manner of operation, it exerts itself by the members of the body; and because it consists of various parts and members, as a body does; and "a body of death", because it makes men liable to death: it was that which the apostle says "slew" him, and which itself is to a regenerate man, as a dead carcass, stinking and loathsome; and is to him like that punishment Mezentius inflicted on criminals, by fastening a living body to a putrid carcass (t): and it is emphatically called the body of "this death", referring to the captivity of his mind, to the law of sin, which was as death unto him: and no wonder therefore he so earnestly desires deliverance, saying, "who shall deliver me?" which he speaks not as being ignorant of his deliverer, whom he mentions with thankfulness in Romans 7:25; or as doubting and despairing of deliverance, for he was comfortably assured of it, and therefore gives thanks beforehand for it; but as expressing the inward pantings, and earnest breathings of his soul after it; and as declaring the difficulty of it, yea, the impossibility of its being obtained by himself, or by any other than he, whom he had in view: he knew he could not deliver himself from sin; that the law could not deliver him; and that none but God could do it; and which he believed he would, through Jesus Christ his Lord.

(s) De Agricultura, p. 191. (t) Alexander ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 5,

{14} O {d} wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

(14) It is a miserable thing to be yet in part subject to sin, which of its own nature makes us guilty of death: but we must cry to the Lord, who will by death itself at length make us conquerors, as we are already conquerors in Christ.

(d) Wearied with miserable and continual conflicts.

Romans 7:24. The marks of parenthesis in which many include Romans 7:24-25, down to ἡμῶν, or (Grotius and Flatt) merely Romans 7:25 down to ἡμῶν, should be expunged, since the flow of the discourse is not once logically interrupted.

ταλαίπωρος κ.τ.λ.] The oppressive feeling of the misery of that captivity finds utterance thus. Here also Paul by his “I” represents the still unredeemed man in his relation to the law. Only with the state of the latter, not with the consciousness of the regenerate man, as if he “as it were” were crying ever afresh for a new Redeemer from the power of the sin still remaining in him (Philippi), does this wail and cry for help accord. The regenerate man has that which is here sighed for, and his mood is that which is opposite to the feeling of wretchedness and death, Romans 5:1 ff., Romans 8:1 ff.; being that of freedom, of overcoming, of life in Christ, and of Christ in him, of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, of the new creature, to which old things have passed away. Comp. Jul. Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 458 f., ed. 5. The objection of Reiche, that Paul would, according to this view, speak of himself while he was thinking of men of quite an opposite frame of mind, is not valid; for that longing, which he himself had certainly felt very deeply in his pre-Christian life, and into whose painful feelings he transports himself back all the more vividly from the standpoint of his blissful state of redemption, could not but, in the consistent continuation of the idiosis, be here individualized and realized as present through his ἐγώ. And this he could do the more unhesitatingly, since no doubt could thereby be raised in the minds of his readers regarding his present freedom from the ταλαιπωρία over which he sighs. Reiche himself, curiously enough, regards Romans 7:24 as the cry for help of Jewish humanity, to which “a redeemed one replies” in Romans 8:1; Romans 7:25, standing in the way, being a gloss!

ΤΑΛΑΊΠ. ἘΓῺ ἌΝΘΡ.] Nominative of exclamation: O wretched man that I am! See Kühner, II. 1, p. 41; Winer, p. 172 [E. T. 228].

ταλαίπ., Revelation 3:17, very frequent in the tragedians: Plat. Euthyd. p. 302 B; Dem. 548. 12, 425. 11.

ῥύσεται] Purely future. In the depth of his misery the longing after a deliverer asks as if in despair: who will it be?

ἐκ τοῦ σώματος τ. θανάτου τούτου] τούτου might indeed grammatically be joined to ΣΏΜΑΤΟς (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Estius, and many others, including Olshausen, Philippi, Hofmann, and Th. Schott), since one may say, ΤῸ ΣῶΜΑ Τ. Θ. ΤΟῦΤΟ; but the sense is against it. For that which weighs upon him, namely, the being dependent on the body as captive of the law of sin, lies in the fact that the body belongs to this death, i.e. to the death incurred by sin (which is not physical, but eternal death, comp. Romans 7:10 ff.), consequently to this shameful death, as its seat; not in the fact that this relation takes place in the present body, or in a present time posited with the quality of the earthly body. If the words of the person who exclaims should amount to no more than “the hopeless wish to get rid of the body, in which he is compelled to live,” without expressing, however, the desire to be dead (Hofmann), they would yield a very confused conception. Moreover, by postponing the pronoun, Paul would only have expressed himself very unintelligibly, had his meaning been hoc corpus mortis, and not corpus mortis hujus (Vulgate). Comp. Acts 5:20; Acts 13:26. The correct explanation therefore is: “Who shall deliver me, so that I be no longer dependent on the body, which serves as the seat of so shameful a death?” or, in other words: “Who shall deliver me out of bondage under the law of sin into moral freedom, in which my body shall no longer serve as the seat of this shameful death?” Comp. Romans 8:9, Romans 6:6, Romans 7:5; Romans 7:10 ff.; Colossians 2:11. With what vivid and true plastic skill does the deeply-stirred emotion of the apostle convey this meaning! underneath which, no doubt, there likewise lies the longing “after a release from the sinful natural life” (Th. Schott). In detail, τίς με ῥύσεται corresponds with the αἰχμαλωτίζ. με τῷ νόμῳ τῆς ἁμ. in Romans 7:23; ἐκ τοῦ σώμ. with the τῷ ὄντι ἐν τοῖς μέλεσί μου in Romans 7:23; and τούτου denotes the death as occasioned by the tragic power of sin just described also in Romans 7:23; the genitive relation is the same as in Romans 6:6. The rendering “mortal body” is condemned by the close connection of τούτου with θανάτου, whether (inconsistently enough with the context, see Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25; Romans 8:1-2) there be discovered in the words the longing for death (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Erasmus, Pareus, Estius, Clericus, Balduin, Koppe, and others), or, with Olshausen (introducing what is foreign to the argument), the longing “only to be redeemed from the mortal body, i.e. from the body that through sin has become liable to perish, so that the Spirit may make it alive.” Finally, as in Romans 6:6, so also here, those explanations are to be rejected which, in arbitrary and bold deviation from the Pauline usage, take σῶμα not of the human body, but as “mortifera peccati massa” (Calvin, Cappel, Homberg, Wolf); or: “the system of sensual propensities (σῶμα), which is the cause of death” (Flatt); or: “death conceived as a monster with a body, that threatens to devour the ἐγώ” (Reiche).Romans 7:24. ταλαίπωρος ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος· τίς με ῥύσεται; “a wail of anguish and a cry for help”. The words are not those of the Apostle’s heart as he writes; they are the words which he knows are wrung from the heart of the man who realises that he is himself in the state just described. Paul has reproduced this vividly from his own experience, but ταλαίπωρας ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος is not the cry of the Christian Paul, but of the man whom sin and law have brought to despair. ἐκ τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου: “This death” is the death of which man is acutely conscious in the condition described: it is the same as the death of Romans 7:9, but intensely realised through the experience of captivity to sin. “The body of this death” is therefore the same as “the body of sin” in chap. Romans 6:6 : it is the body which, as the instrument if not the seat of sin, is involved in its doom. Salvation must include deliverance from the body so far as the body has this character and destiny.24. O wretched man, &c.] Lit. Miserable man [am] I. The adjective indicates a state of suffering; the pain of the inner conflict as felt by the regenerate “mind[38].”

[38] In Lord Selborne’s Book of Praise will be found a most remarkable Hymn, (No. ccclxx), beginning “O send me down a draught of love.” The whole Hymn forms a profound and suggestive commentary here.

from the body of this death] Better, perhaps, out of this body of death. The Gr. admits either translation. The best commentary on this ver. is Romans 8:23, where the saints are said to “groan, waiting for the redemption of their body.” Under different imagery the idea here is the same. The body, as it now is, is the stronghold of sin in various ways, (see on Romans 6:6,) and is that part of the regenerate man which yet has to die. The Apostle longs to be free from it as such—as sinful and mortal; in other words, he “groans for its redemption.” Cp. Php 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8.

Such an explanation is surely preferable to that which makes “body” mean “mass” or “load.” Some commentators, again, trace a metaphorical reference to the cruelty of tyrants, (e.g. Virgil’s Mezentius,) who chained the living and the dead together. But this is quite out of character with the severely simple imagery here.Romans 7:24. Ταλαίπωρος ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος) [“O wretched man that I am!” Engl. Vers. But Beng.] wretched me, who am [inasmuch as I am] a man! Man, if he were without sin, is noble as well as blessed; with sin, he rather wishes not to be a man at all, than to be such a man as man actually is: The man [whom Paul personifies] speaks of the state of man in itself, as it is by nature. This cry for help is the last thing in the struggle, and, after that henceforth convinced, that he has no help in himself, he begins, so to speak, unknowingly to pray, who shall deliver me? and he seeks deliverance and waits, until God shows Himself openly in Christ, in answer to that who. This marks the very moment of mystical death.[80] Believers to a certain extent continue to carry with them something of this feeling even to the day of their death,[81] Romans 8:23.—ρύσεται, shall deliver) Force is necessary. The verb is properly used; for ρύεσθαι, is, ἐκ ΘΑΝΑΤΟΥ ἕλκειν (to drag from DEATH), Ammonius from Aristoxenus.—ἐκ) from.—τοῦ σώματος, from the body of death) the body being dead on account of sin, ch. Romans 8:10. The death of the body is the full carrying into execution of that death, of which Romans 7:13 treats, and yet in death there is to be deliverance.—τούτου) σῶμα θανάτου τούτου is said for σῶμα θανάτου τοῦτο, the body of this death, for, this body of death.—Comp. Acts 5:20, note.

[80] The becoming figuratively dead in a spiritual sense to the law and to sin, ver. 4.—ED.

[81] This longing for deliverance from the body of this death.—ED.Wretched (ταλαίπωρος)

Originally, wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor.

Who (τίς)

Referring to a personal deliverer.

Body of this death (τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου)

The body serving as the seat of the death into which the soul is sunk through the power of sin. The body is the literal body, regarded as the principal instrument which sin uses to enslave and destroy the soul. In explaining this much-disputed phrase, it must be noted: 1. That Paul associates the dominion and energy of sin prominently with the body, though not as if sin were inherent in and inseparable from the body. 2. That he represents the service of sin through the body as associated with, identified with, tending to, resulting in, death. And therefore, 3. That he may properly speak of the literal body as a body of death - this death, which is the certain issue of the abject captivity to sin. 4. That Paul is not expressing a desire to escape from the body, and therefore for death. Meyer paraphrases correctly: "Who shall deliver me out of bondage under the law of sin into moral freedom, in which my body shall no longer serve as the seat of this shameful death?" Ignatius, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, speaks of one who denies Christ's humanity, as νεκροφόρος one who carries a corpse.


The man out of Christ. Looking back and summing up the unregenerate condition, preparatory to setting forth its opposite in ch. 8. Paul says therefore, that, so far as concerns his moral intelligence or reason, he approves and pays homage to God's law; but, being in bondage to sin, made of flesh, sold under sin, the flesh carries him its own way and commands his allegiance to the economy of sin.

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