Romans 7:8
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, worked in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
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(8) Taking occasion.—The word in the Greek implies originally a military metaphor: taking as a “base of operations,” i.e., an advanced post occupied as the starting-point and rendezvous for further advances. Sin is unable to. act upon man without the co-operation of law, without being able to hold up law before him, and so show itself in its true colours.

The words “by the commandment” may either go with “taking occasion” or with “wrought in me.” The sense would, in either case, be very much the same, “taking advantage of the commandment,” or “wrought in me by the help of the commandment.” The first is the construction usually adopted, as in the Authorised version, but there seem to be reasons of some force for preferring the second. The phrase “wrought in me coveting by the commandment” would thus be parallel to “working death in me by that which is good,” below.

Concupiscence.—Rather, coveting; the same word which had been used above. Sin and the Commandment together—Sin, the evil principle in men, acting as the primary cause, and the Commandment as the secondary cause—led their unfortunate victim into all kinds of violation of the Law. This is done in two ways: (1) the perverseness of human nature is such that the mere prohibition of an act suggests the desire to do that which is prohibited; (2) the act, when done, is invested with the character of sin, which hitherto it did not possess. It becomes a distinct breach of law, where previously there had been no law to break. This is what the Apostle means by saying that “without the Law sin was dead.” Until there was a written prohibition, Sin (the evil principle) was powerless to produce sinful actions.

7:7-13 There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin, which is necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon, but by trying our hearts and lives by the law. In his own case the apostle would not have known the sinfulness of his thoughts, motives, and actions, but by the law. That perfect standard showed how wrong his heart and life were, proving his sins to be more numerous than he had before thought, but it did not contain any provision of mercy or grace for his relief. He is ignorant of human nature and the perverseness of his own heart, who does not perceive in himself a readiness to fancy there is something desirable in what is out of reach. We may perceive this in our children, though self-love makes us blind to it in ourselves. The more humble and spiritual any Christian is, the more clearly will he perceive that the apostle describes the true believer, from his first convictions of sin to his greatest progress in grace, during this present imperfect state. St. Paul was once a Pharisee, ignorant of the spirituality of the law, having some correctness of character, without knowing his inward depravity. When the commandment came to his conscience by the convictions of the Holy Spirit, and he saw what it demanded, he found his sinful mind rise against it. He felt at the same time the evil of sin, his own sinful state, that he was unable to fulfil the law, and was like a criminal when condemned. But though the evil principle in the human heart produces sinful motions, and the more by taking occasion of the commandment; yet the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. It is not favourable to sin, which it pursues into the heart, and discovers and reproves in the inward motions thereof. Nothing is so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert it. The same heat that softens wax, hardens clay. Food or medicine when taken wrong, may cause death, though its nature is to nourish or to heal. The law may cause death through man's depravity, but sin is the poison that brings death. Not the law, but sin discovered by the law, was made death to the apostle. The ruinous nature of sin, and the sinfulness of the human heart, are here clearly shown.But sin - To illustrate the effect of the Law on the mind, the apostle in this verse depicts its influence in exciting to evil desires and purposes. Perhaps no where has he evinced more consummate knowledge of the human heart than here. He brings an illustration that might have escaped most persons, but which goes directly to establish his position that the Law is insufficient to promote the salvation of man. Sin here is personified. It means not a real entity; not a physical subsistence; not something independent of the mind, having a separate existence, and lodged in the soul, but it means the corrupt passions, inclinations, and desires of the mind itself. Thus, we say that lust burns, and ambition rages, and envy corrodes the mind, without meaning that lust, ambition, or envy are any independent physical subsistences, but meaning that the mind that is ambitious, or envious, is thus excited.

Taking occasion - The word "occasion" ἀφορμὴν aphormēn properly denotes any material, or preparation for accomplishing anything; then any opportunity, occasion, etc. of doing it. Here it means that the Law was the exciting cause of sin; or was what called the sinful principle of the heart into exercise. But for this, the effect here described would not have existed. Thus, we say that a tempting object of desire presented is the exciting cause of covetousness. Thus, an object of ambition is the exciting cause of the principle of ambition. Thus, the presentation of wealth, or of advantages possessed by others which we have not, may excite covetousness or envy. Thus, the fruit presented to Eve was the exciting cause of sin; the wedge of gold to Achan excited his covetousness. Had not these objects been presented, the evil principles of the heart might have slumbered, and never have been called forth. And hence, no one understand the full force of their native propensities until some object is presented that calls them forth into decided action. The occasion which called these forth in the mind of Paul was the Law crossing his path, and irritating and exciting the native strong inclinations of the mind.

By the commandment - By all law appointed to restrain and control the mind.

Wrought in me - Produced or worked in me. The word used here means often to operate in a powerful and efficacious manner. (Doddridge.)

All manner of - Greek, "All desire." Every species of unlawful desire. It was not confined to one single desire, but extended to everything which the Law declared to be wrong.

Concupiscence - Unlawful or irregular desire. Inclination for unlawful enjoyments. The word is the same which in Romans 7:7 is rendered "lust." If it be asked in what way the Law led to this, we may reply, that the main idea here is, that opposition by law to the desires and passions of wicked men only tends to inflame and exasperate them. This is the case with regard to sin in every form. An attempt to restrain it by force; to denounce it by laws and penalties; to cross the path of wickedness; only tends to irritate, and to excite into living energy, what otherwise would be dormant in the bosom. This it does, because,

(1) It crosses the path of the sinner, and opposes his intention, and the current of his feelings and his life.

(2) the Law acts the part of a detector, and lays open to view that which was in the bosom, but was concealed.

(3) such is the depth and obstinacy of sin in man, that the very attempt to restrain often only serves to exasperate, and to urge to greater deeds of wickedness. Restraint by law rouses the mad passions; urges to greater deeds of depravity; makes the sinner stubborn, obstinate, and more desperate. The very attempt to set up authority over him throws him into a posture of resistance, and makes him a party, and excites all the feelings of party rage. Anyone may have witnessed this effect often on the mind of a wicked and obstinate child.

(4) this is particularly true in regard to a sinner. He is calm often, and apparently tranquil. But let the Law of God be brought home to his conscience, and he becomes maddened and enraged. He spurns its authority, yet his conscience tells him it is right; he attempts to throw it off, yet trembles at its power; and to show his independence, or his purpose to sin, he plunges into iniquity, and becomes a more dreadful and obstinate sinner. It becomes a struggle for victory; in the controversy with God he re solves not to be overcome. It accordingly happens that many a man is more profane, blasphemous, and desperate when under conviction for sin than at other times. In revivals of religion it often happens that people evince violence, and rage, and cursing, which they do not in a state of spiritual death in the church; and it is often a very certain indication that a man is under conviction for sin when he becomes particularly violent, and abusive, and outrageous in his opposition to God.

(5) the effect here noticed by the apostle is one that has been observed at all times, and by all classes of writers. Thus, Cato says (Livy, xxxiv. 4,) "Do not think, Romans, that it will be hereafter as it was before the Law was enacted. It is more safe that a bad man should not be accused, than that he should be absolved; and luxury not excited would be more tolerable than it will be now by the very chains irritated and excited as a wild beast." Thus, Seneca says (de Clementia, i. 23,) "Parricides began with the law." Thus, Horace (Odes, i. 3,) "The human race, bold to endure all things, rushes through forbidden crime." Thus, Ovid (Amor. iii. 4,) "We always endeavour to obtain what is forbidden, and desire what is denied." (These passages are quoted from Tholuck.) See also Proverbs 9:17, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." If such be the effect of the Law, then the inference of the apostle is unavoidable, that it is not adapted to save and sanctify man.

For without the law - Before it was given; or where it was not applied to the mind.

Sin was dead - It was inoperative, inactive, unexcited. This is evidently in a comparative sense. The connection requires us to under stand it only so far as it was excited by the Law. People's passions would exist; but without law they would not be known to be evil, and they would not be excited into wild and tumultuous raging.

8. For without the law—that is, before its extensive demands and prohibitions come to operate upon our corrupt nature.

sin was—rather, "is"

dead—that is, the sinful principle of our nature lies so dormant, so torpid, that its virulence and power are unknown, and to our feeling it is as good as "dead."

But sin; i.e. the corruption of our nature, the depraved bent and bias of the soul, called before lust.

Taking occassion by the commandment; i.e. being stirred up or drawn forth by the prohibition of the law. The law did not properly give occasion, but sin took it. The law (as before) is not the cause of sin, though by accident it is the occasion of it. In a dropsy, it is not the drink that is to be blamed for increasing the disease, but the ill habit of body. Such is the depravedness of man’s nature, that the things which are forbidden are the more desired: the more the law would dam up the torrent of sinful lusts, the higher do they swell. The law was given to restrain sin, but through our corruption it falls out contrarily. The law inhibiting sin, and not giving power to avoid it, our impetuous lusts take occasion or advantage from thence, the more eagerly to pursue it.

Wrought in me all manner of concupiscence; i.e. inordinate affections and inclinations of all sorts.

For without the law; i.e. without the knowledge of the law.

Sin was dead; i.e. comparatively dead. Sin hath not so much power, either to terrify the conscience, or to stir up inordinate affections; it is like a sleepy lion, that stirs not. But sin taking occasion by the commandment,.... By "the commandment" is meant, either the whole moral law, or that particular commandment, "thou shalt not covet", Exodus 20:17, which, the Jews say, comprehends all;

"God, (say they (f),) caused them (the Israelites) to hear the ten words, which he concluded with this word, "thou shalt not covet"; , "for all of them depend on that": and to intimate, that whoever keeps this commandment, it is as if he kept the whole law, and whoever transgresses this, it is all one as if he transgressed the whole law;''

and no doubt but it does refer to any unlawful thought of, desire after, and inclination to anything forbidden in the other commandments. By "sin" is meant, not the devil, as some of the ancients thought; but the vitiosity and corruption of nature, indwelling sin, the law in the members that took "occasion" by the law of God; so that the law at most could only be an occasion, not the cause of sin, and besides, this was an occasion not given by the law, but taken by sin; so that it was sin, and not the law, which

wrought in him all manner of concupiscence. The law forbidding every unclean thought, and covetous desire of unlawful objects, sin took an occasion through these prohibitions to work in him, stir up and excite concupiscence, evil desire after all manner of things forbidden by the law; hence it is clear that not the law, but sin, is exceeding sinful:

for without the law sin was dead; not that, before the law of Moses was given, sin lay dead and unexerted, for during that interval between Adam and Moses sin was, and lived and reigned, and death by it, as much as at any other time; but when the apostle was without the law, that is, without the knowledge of the spirituality of it, before it came with power and light into his heart and conscience, sin lay as though it was dead; it was so in his apprehension, he fancied himself free from it, and that he was perfectly righteous.

(f) Abkath Rochel, l. 1. par. 1. p. 3. Ed. Huls.

But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was {p} dead.

(p) Though sin is in us, yet it is not known as sin, neither does it rage in the same way that it rages after the law is known.

Romans 7:8. Δέ] placing over against the negative declaration of Romans 7:7 the description of the positive process, by which the consciousness of desire of Romans 7:7 emerged: but indeed sin took occasion, etc. In this ἀφορμήν placed first emphatically, not in ἡ ἁμαρτία (Th. Schott), lies the point of the relation.

ἡ ἁμαρτία] as in Romans 7:7, not conceived as κακοδαίμων (Fritzsche); nor yet the sinful activity, as Reiche thinks; for that is the result of the ἐπιθυμία (Jam 1:5), and the sin that first takes occasion from the law cannot be an action.

For examples of ἀφορμὴν λαμβ., to take occasion, see Wetstein and Kypke. The principle of sin took occasion, not, as Reiche thinks, received occasion; for it is conceived as something revived (Romans 7:9), which works.

διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς] through the command, namely, the οὐκ ἐπιθυμ. of Romans 7:7. This interpretation is plainly necessary from the following κατειργάσατο κ.τ.λ. Reiche, following De Dieu and several others, erroneously (comp. Ephesians 2:15) takes ἐντολή as equivalent to νόμος. We must connect διὰ τ. ἐντ. with κατειργ. (Rückert, Winzer, Benecke, de Wette, Fritzsche, Tholuck, Umbreit, van Hengel, and Hofmann), not with ἀφορμ. λαβ. (Luther and many others, including Reiche, Köllner, Olshausen, Philippi, Maier, and Ewald), because ἀφορμ. λαμβάνειν is never construed with διὰ (frequently with ἐκ, as in Polyb. iii. 32. 7, iii. 7. 5), and because Romans 7:11 (διʼ αὐτῆς ἀπέκτ.) and Romans 7:13 confirm the connection with κατειργ.

κατειργ. ἐν ἐμοὶ πᾶσαν ἐπιθ.] it brought about in me all manner of desire. Respecting κατεργάζ., see on Romans 1:27. Even without the law there is desire in man, but not yet in the ethical definite character of desire after the forbidden, as ἐπιθυμία is conceived of according to Romans 7:7; for as yet there is no prohibition, and consequently no moral antithesis existing to the desire in itself (“ignoti nulla cupido,” Ovid, A. A. 397), through which antithesis the inner conflict is first introduced. Every desire is, in accordance with the quite general οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις, to be left without limitation. No desire (as respects category) was excluded. A reference to the desires, which the state of civilisation joined with a positive legislation calls forth (de Wette), is foreign to the connection. Comp. Proverbs 9:17.

χωρὶς γὰρ νόμου ἁμαρτία νεκρά] sc. ἐστι, not ἦν (Beza, Reiche, Krummacher), just because the omission of the verb betokens a general proposition: for without the law, i.e. if it do not enter into relation with the law, sin, the sinful principle in man, is dead, i.e. not active, because that is wanting, by which it may take occasion to be alive. The potentiality of the nitimur in vetitum is indeed there, but, lacking the veto of the νόμος (τοῦ τὸ πρακτέον ὑποδεικνύντος καὶ τὸ οὐ πρακτέον ἀπαγορεύοντος, Theodoret), can exhibit no actual vital activity; it does not stir, because the antithesis is wanting. Hence the law becomes the δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας, 1 Corinthians 15:56, though it is not itself τοῦ παρανομεῖν παραίτιος (Chrysippus in Plut. de Stoic. Rep. 33). Erroneous is the view held by Chrysostom, Calvin, Estius, Olshausen, and others, that νεκρά implies the absence of knowledge of sin (οὐχ οὕτω γνώριμος). The νόμος is here, as throughout in this connection, the Mosaic law, which contains the ἐντολή (Romans 7:7; Romans 7:9; Romans 7:12). That this may be and is misused by the principle of sin, in the way indicated, arises from the fact, that it comes forward merely with the outward command (thou shalt, thou shalt not), without giving the power of fulfilment; comp. Lipsius, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 63 ff. And the analogous application, which the general proposition admits of to the moral law of nature also, is indeed self-evident, but lies here aloof from the apostle’s sphere of thought.Romans 7:8. ἀφορμὴν λαβοῦσα means “having received,” not “having taken” occasion. ἡ ἁμαρτία is sin as a power dwelling in man, of the presence of which he is as yet unaware. How it “receives occasion” is not stated; it must be by coming face to face with something which appeals to ἐπιθυμία; but when it has received it, it avails itself of the commandment (viz., the one prohibiting ἐπιθυμία) to work in us ἐπιθυμία of every sort. It really is the commandment which it uses, for without law sin is dead. Cf. Romans 4:15, Romans 5:13 : but especially 1 Corinthians 15:56. Apart from the law we have no experience either of its character or of its vitality.8. But] This word refers to the statement “I had not known lust;” and this verse explains the action of the law in causing (indirectly) the knowledge of sin.

sin] As a principle, “working” evil desires as its result.

occasion] The Gr. word = the French point d’appui. The positive inexorable precept, presented to the fallen will, became the fulcrum for the energy of the evil principle.

concupiscence] The same word as that just rendered “lust.”—The verb is aorist; wrought; but the reference is not necessarily to any single crisis of the past. St Paul probably views the whole past action of the Commandment and of Sin respectively as, in idea, one thing. Not, however, that there may not have been a crisis of “fierce temptation” in his recollection.—These remarks apply to Romans 7:9-11 also.

sin was dead] The context explains this phrase. Sin, as sin, as resistance to God, (see fourth note on Romans 7:7,) was torpid till the Law called it out. It was present; for certainly he does not mean that he was once sinless; but it was present as a blind negative bias rather than otherwise.Romans 7:8. Διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς, by the commandment) The construction is with the following verb [κατειργάσατο, wrought concupiscence by the commandment. Not as Engl. V., Taking occasion by the commandment, here and at Romans 7:11]; as in Romans 7:11 twice.—χωρὶςνεκρὰ, without—dead) A self-evident principle.—νεκρὰ, dead) viz. was: it did not so much rage through concupiscence: or the word to be supplied may be, is.Verse 8. - But sin, taking occasion, through the commandment wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (or, of lust): for without (or, apart from) law sin is dead. Here, as in Romans 5:12, seq., sin is personified as a power, antagonistic to the Law of God, that has been introduced into the world of man, causing death. In ch. 5. its first introduction was found in the scriptural account of Adam's transgression. It has ever since been in the world, as is evidenced by the continuance of the reign of death as it comes to all men now (vers. 13, 14). But it is only when men, through law, know it to be sin, that it is imputed (ver. 13), and so slays them spiritually. Apart from law, it is as it were dead with respect to its power over the soul to kill. It is regarded here as an enemy on the watch, seizing its occasion to kill which is offered it when law comes in. It may be observed here that, though it is not easy to define exactly in all cases what St. Paul means by death, it is evident that he means in this place more than the physical death which seemed, at first sight at least, to be exclusively referred to in ch. 5. For all die in the latter sense of the word; but only those who sin with knowledge of law in the sense intended here (see also note on Romans 5:12). It is supposed by most commentators that the expression κατειργάσατο in this verse means, not only that "the commandment" brought out lust as sin, but further that it provoked it, according to the alleged tendency of human nature to long all the more for what is forbidden; Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata. Whether or not we have this tendency to the extent sometimes supposed, the context certainly neither requires nor suggests the conception, either here or in vers. 5 and 7. It is true, however, that the language of vers. 5 and 8 does in itself suggest it. Against it is the reason which follows; "for without law sin is dead," which can hardly mean (as the strong word νεκρά would seem in such case to require) that lust itself is altogether dormant until prohibition excites it. Calvin interprets κατειργάσατο thus: "Detexit in me omnem concupiscentiam; quae, dum lateret, quo-dammodo nulla esse videbatur;" and on ἁμαρτια νεκρά remarks, "Clarissime exprimit quem sensum habeant superiora. Perinde enim est ac si diceret, sepnltam esse sine Legs peccati notitiam." Sin


Occasion (ἀφορμὴν)

Emphatic, expressing the relation of the law to sin. The law is not sin, but sin found occasion in the law. Used only by Paul. See 2 Corinthians 5:12; Galatians 5:13; 1 Timothy 5:14. The verb ἀφορμάω means to make a start from a place. Ἁφορμή is therefore primarily a starting-point, a base of operations. The Lacedaemonians agreed that Peloponnesus would be ἀφορμὴν ἱκανὴν a good base of operations (Thucydides, i., 90). Thus, the origin, cause, occasion, or pretext of a thing; the means with which one begins. Generally, resources, as means of war, capital in business. Here the law is represented as furnishing sin with the material or ground of assault, "the fulcrum for the energy of the evil principle." Sin took the law as a base of operations.

Wrought (κατειργάσατο)

The compound verb with κατά down through always signifies the bringing to pass or accomplishment. See 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 7:10. It is used both of evil and good. See especially Romans 7:15, Romans 7:17, Romans 7:18, Romans 7:20. "To man everything forbidden appears as a desirable blessing; but yet, as it is forbidden, he feels that his freedom is limited, and now his lust rages more violently, like the waves against the dyke" (Tholuck).


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