Rom 7: In this ch, the apostle is expanding upon his initial
answer to the questions posed in Rom 6:1,15, as well as expanding upon his
statement in Rom 6:14: "You are not under LAW, but under grace."
While it is all very well to say that the believer has changed
Masters, yet there is one thing that has not changed: the body itself is prone
to sin, through an inherent weakness. How does this body stand in relation to
Yahweh's code of righteousness -- His Law?
DO YOU NOT KNOW, BROTHERS: The conjunction in the Gr,
at the beginning of this verse, shows the flow from Rom 6.
THE LAW HAS AUTHORITY over a man: In Rom 6:9 Paul said that
"death" had the "dominion"; in Rom 6:14, that "sin" had the "dominion"; and now
-- finally -- that "law" has such "dominion". Such an interrelationship is also
stated in 1Co 15:56: "The sting of DEATH is SIN, and the power of sin is the
AS LONG AS HE LIVES: That is, but only as long as he
lives! Contrary to a belief in a mythical and ever-burning "hell", DEATH
terminates the individual's condemnation; it is the end (Rom 6:21)!
The law has authority over a person only for his lifetime.
Since it has been established, in Rom 6, that the believer died with Christ, one
can anticipate the conclusion -- that whatever authority the law continues to
exercise over others, for the believer that power has been abrogated. Only for
him who in faith appropriates the righteousness of God in Christ is the law
abolished. It remains, of course, as an entity that expresses the will of God;
the life under grace does not belittle the ethical demands of the law -- even if
its power to condemn has been terminated.
Vv 2,3: In order to illustrate his thesis, Paul now expounds
what he elsewhere terms "a great mystery" (Eph 5:32). The divine allegory of
marriage is the perfect analogy, since marriage is a "type" in a "natural" sense
of what God has been preparing in "spiritual" excellence from the beginning of
creation: a multitudinous "bride" to join His Son Christ in an eternal
A MARRIED WOMAN: Lit, "hypandros" = one who in UNDER a
man. Specifically, one who -- like Eve -- has taken a vow in the presence of God
(Gen 2:23; Mat 19:6).
IS BOUND TO HER HUSBAND: "What God has joined together"
AS LONG AS HE IS ALIVE: Thus, the operative law which
binds man and woman together in marriage is operative so long as he (or they)
IF SHE MARRIES ANOTHER MAN WHILE HER HUSBAND IS STILL
ALIVE: The Gr is, literally, "she become another man's". Such a position was
"suffered" by Moses under the Law, "for the hardness of their hearts" (cf Deu
24:1,2; Mat 19:7,8).
SHE IS CALLED AN ADULTERESS: Called, that is, by divine
decree (so "chrematisei" is use 7 of its 9 times in the NT: Mat 2:12,22; Luk
2:26; Acts 10:22; 11:26; Heb 8:5; 11:17; 12:25).
BUT IF HER HUSBAND DIES, SHE IS RELEASED FROM THAT LAW:
The law of marriage binds the partners together only until the death of one or
the other; cf 1Co 7:39.
YOU ALSO DIED TO THE LAW THROUGH THE BODY OF CHRIST:
This happened at the time of baptism: being buried with him by baptism into
death (Rom 6:3,4).
THAT YOU MIGHT BELONG TO ANOTHER: "...that we should no
longer be slaves to sin -- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him" (Rom
6:6-8). Now the individual consciousness, the rational mind, which has shown the
desire to destroy the lusts of the flesh (the old man) in baptism, is now free
to marry the "new man" (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10).
TO HIM WHO IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD: The significance of
being "raised from the dead" lies in the fact that it was Christ's death the
made the fatal blow to the power of the "old man" -- the seed of the serpent, or
lust. It is only through the power of Christ's resurrection that the efficacy of
his victory can pass to us by our identification with his death in baptism, for
we must be raised to "a new life" (Rom 6:4). But how can we do this if Christ
himself did not rise from the dead (cf 1Co 15:17; Phi 3:10)?
IN ORDER THAT WE MIGHT BEAR FRUIT TO GOD: Union with
the "old man", Lust, produced "seed" or "fruit" unto death (Jam 1:15; Rom 6:21).
But in marriage with the "new man", we have "fruit unto holiness and the end
everlasting life" (Rom 6:22). It is Christ, the "husband", who brings about the
conception of "holy fruit" in us, his "bride" (Eph 5:8-11; 3:17; 5:25-27; Col
1:27; 2Co 11:2; Rev 19:7,8).
It should be recalled that in our Lord's teaching the secret
of fruit bearing is union with himself (John 15:1-8), the very truth emphasized
in the passage before us. A somewhat different background for fruit bearing is
predicated in Gal 5:22,23, where the fruit is attributed to the Spirit, in
contrast to the output of the flesh and of the law. Since Paul speaks of the
Spirit in Rom 7:6, the parallel with Gal 5 is close. The attribution of fruit to
Christ in one instance and to the Spirit in another is not disturbing, because
there is much common ground in their relationship to believers (cf Eph
WHEN WE WERE CONTROLLED BY THE SINFUL NATURE: That is,
when we were "married" to the carnal mind, or the "flesh" -- for "the sinful
mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so" (Rom
The KJV has "in the flesh", but this is erroneous, since --
literally -- Christ was "in the flesh", yet he did not bear fruit unto death.
"The phrase 'controlled by our sinful nature' is an attempt to
render 'in the flesh.' Paul has used 'flesh' in several senses thus far: (1) the
humanity of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:3); (2) the physical body (Rom 2:28), (3)
mankind -- 'all flesh' (Rom 3:20); and (4) moral, or possibly intellectual,
weakness (Rom 6:19). Now he adds a fifth: the so-called 'ethical' meaning of
flesh, which is the most common use of the word in his writings and denotes the
old sinful nature. It is this sense of the word that pervades Rom 7; 8, together
with a final use in Rom 13:14. Paul did not employ the word 'flesh' in this
sense when exposing in his earlier chapters the universality of sin. In noting
that the passions are aroused by the law, Paul is anticipating his fuller
statement in vv 7-13 about the manner in which the law promotes sin"
THE SINFUL PASSIONS: The "old man" husband, the
passions of lust (cf 1Jo 2:16; Gal 5:24).
"Although a sinner may have been 'delivered from the power of
darkness', or ignorance, and have been 'translated into' (Col 1:13) the hope of
'the Kingdom of God and of his Christ' (Rev 11:15), by faith in the divine
testimony and baptism into Christ -- yet, if he turn his thoughts back into his
own heart, and note the impulses which work there, he will perceive a something
that, if he were to yield to it, would impel him to the violation of the divine
law. These impulses are styled 'the motions of sins' (Rom 7:5). Before he was
enlightened, they 'worked in his members', until they were manifested in evil
action, or sin; which is termed, 'bringing forth fruit unto death'. The remote
cause of these 'motions' is that physical principle, or quality, of the flesh,
styled indwelling sin, which returns the mortal body to the dust; and that which
excites the latent disposition is the law of God forbidding to do thus and so;
for, 'I had not known sin, but by the law' " (Elp).
AROUSED BY THE LAW: "Through (dia) the law". It was
through the presence of the divine law that "Lust" became "Sin" (see vv 7-13;
WERE AT WORK IN OUR BODIES: The Gr is "energeito" = to
be energized. The faculties of the body were energized by last (cf Rom 6:13,19;
Col 3:5; James 4:1).
SO THAT WE BORE FRUIT FOR DEATH: "Death" is the only
FRUIT that "Lust" can produce (Jam 1:15; cp Rom 5:12; 6:21).
BUT NOW, BY DYING TO WHAT ONCE BOUND US, WE HAVE BEEN
RELEASED FROM THE LAW: The Law has been "reduced to inactivity" (Vine), or
"abolished" (Eph 2:15, sw). Christ by his death rendered the Law "inactive",
having discharged the curse upon him, for he was cursed under two laws (Gal
4:4): (1) by being "made of a woman", he came under the law of condemnation in
his natural body (cf Gen 3:19; John 6:63; 2Co 5:16; 1Co 15:50; Gal 5:24; Col
2:11), and (2) especially, and particularly, in his death, by being hanged upon
a tree (Gal 3:13). Christ died once to the power of sin (Rom 6:10), and
therefore the law had no power over him. If we die WITH Christ (Rom 6:5), then
we will assume the same "victory" (1Co 15:55-57).
SO THAT WE SERVE IN THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT: As
serving the new master: see Rom 6:18. We have risen to "newness of life" (Rom
6:4) as a "new creation" (Gal 6:15), under the "new covenant" (Heb 9:15); we are
married to a "new man" (Eph 2:15; 4:24; Col 3:10), and walking in a "new and
living way" (Heb 10:20).
Paul is amplifying the thought of Eph 4:22-24: "You were
taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which
is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of
your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true
righteousness and holiness."
AND NOT IN THE OLD WAY OF THE WRITTEN CODE: "Spirit"
and "letter" are similarly contrasted in Rom 2:29 and 2Co 3:6. The "written
code" here draws attention to the Mosaic ordinances (cp Heb 8:13; Col 2:14). The
believer, however, is not absolved from responsibility to Yahweh's Code of
Righteousness, for a law still operates to bind him to the "New Man", Christ.
This contrast is not between a literal mode of interpreting Scripture and one
that is free and unfettered. The written code, which has special reference to
the law rather than to Scripture in general, has no power to give life and to
produce a service acceptable to God. Only a person can beget human life, and
only a divine person can impart spiritual life, which is then fostered and
nurtured by the Spirit.
The word "new" has in it not so much the idea of newness in
time as freshness and superiority. This is "the Law of the spirit of life in
Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2), which is contrasted to "the law of sin and death". And
the believer -- far from being free from ALL law -- will in fact be judged by
this "new" law!
Vv 7-13: In case any reader concluded from Paul's previous
remarks on release from the dominion of law, that the Law of Moses was evil, he
now shows that this was not so. Actually, the Law revealed to man the true
nature of his previous "marriage" to the Lusts of the Flesh and the evil nature
of "sin" which was the product of the relationship. The Law condemned certain
actions and desires which were always latent. They were not sinful, however,
until the Law forbade them, and showed how much the flesh ruled over men.
Paul points out that the Law was not evil (actually it was
very good: v 16). However, by placing restraints upon the flesh, it revealed the
flesh as prone, disposed, to sin. The verses in this section are in the past
tense, and therefore had particular reference to Paul's experience with the Law
prior to his conversion to Christ.
WHAT SHALL WE SAY, THEN?: "What shall we conclude?" (cp
usages, in Rom 3:5; 4:1; 6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14,30).
IS THE LAW SIN?: Having seen in v 5 that the passions
of sin came through the Law, the question naturally arises: 'Is the law
therefore the originator of sin?' Is it in itself evil and sinful?
CERTAINLY NOT: Cp Rom 3:4n.
I WOULD NOT HAVE KNOWN WHAT SIN WAS: "Known" here is
"ginosko" = to know by experience or effort, to become acquainted with, to learn
objectively: cp John 1:48; 1Jo 5:20; Eph 5:5.
EXCEPT THROUGH THE LAW: Not "BY" the Law, as KJV; sin
did not come out of the law. But Law spotlighted the sin! "The law cannot be
identified with sin, because it is the law that provides awareness of sin (cf
Rom 3:20). Can one say of an X-ray machine that revealed his disease that the
machine is diseased because it revealed a diseased condition? That would be
utterly illogical" (EBC).
FOR I WOULD NOT HAVE KNOWN WHAT COVETING REALLY WAS:
"Known" here is "oida", to know intuitively, without effort, to understand
subjectively: see Rom 3:20; 4:15.
COVETING: "Lust" (Gr "epithumia": strong desire or
passion of any kind: Vine). Apart from 3 refs where proper desire is indicated
(Luk 22:15; Phi 1:23; 1Th 2:17; cp Deu 14:26), it usually connotes evil desire
in the NT: eg Rom 6:12; 13:14; Eph 2:3; Heb 13;5; 1Co 12:31.
IF THE LAW HAD NOT SAID: That is, REPEATEDLY said
(Weym). Suggesting constant repetition of the command every time the law is
DO NOT COVET: Cit Exo 20;14,17; Deu 5:18,21. Here, the
verb form of "epithumia". The only prohibition in the Law which exclusively
affected the emotions; an "internal" sin in the sense that it would go
undetected by other men.
"To come to grips with this the apostle selects an item from
the Decalogue, the very last of the Ten Commandments. Is he selecting more or
less at random one of the ten for an illustration? Could he have chosen just as
readily the prohibition against stealing or bearing false witness? Possibly he
saw something basic here, for 'to covet' is more precisely 'to desire.' If one
gives rein to wrong desire, it can lead to lying, stealing, killing, and all the
other things prohibited in the commandments. The sin indicated here is not so
much a craving for this or that wrong thing, but the craving itself (note that
Paul does not bother to spell out the particulars of the tenth commandment, such
as the possessions or wife of one's neighbor). In analyzing sin, one must go
behind the outward act to the inner man, where desire clutches at the
imagination and then puts the spurs to the will" (EBC).
SIN: "In this ch we must remember the personification
which is employed. Paul as it were separates the individual from the impulses
which belong to him and speaks of the impulses as though they were a separate
SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY: "Taking occasion" (KJV). Gr
"aphorme" = starting point. Cp Rom 13:14; Gal 5:13; 2Co 5:12; 1Ti 5:14. The word
is often used as a military metaphor for "a base of operations" in war. "Sin
found its rallying point in that command" (Williams). Paul continues the
striking extended metaphor of warfare, the battle between the "spirit" and the
"lusts" to control the "flesh" (Rom 6:13).
"In the background is the Genesis story of the temptation and
the fall. Eve was faced with a commandment -- a prohibition. When desire was
stirred through the subtle suggestion of the serpent, a certain rebelliousness
came into play that is the very heart of sin -- a preference for one's own will
over the expressed will of God. The warning 'Don't' to a small child may turn
out to be a call for action that had not even been contemplated by the child. A
sure way to lose blossoms from the garden is to post a sign that says, 'Don't
pick the flowers' " (EBC).
AFFORDED BY THE COMMANDMENT: "Dia" = through the
commandment. The individual precepts of the Law highlighted sin in its stark
reality, and then the whole Law condemned it.
COVETOUS DESIRE: Gr "epithumia" again. Cp the three
temptations of Jesus: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life
(1Jo 2:16; cp Luk 4:13; etc).
APART FROM LAW, SIN IS DEAD: "For where there is no
consciousness of law, sin shows no sign of life." Sin is dormant apart form law
(see 1Co 15:56). The Law discloses all the evil desires and propensities of the
ONCE I WAS ALIVE APART FROM LAW: The "I" here is
emphatic. When Paul was a boy he was not subject to the Law, and in relation to
it he was without offence, and therefore "alive" (cp Rom 6:13). But when he
became subject to the Law and its restraints at about 12 years of age, he
realized there were impulses within himself which were contrary to the Law and
which would produce death. "The state of unconscious morality, uninstructed but
as yet uncondemned, may, compared with that state of condemnation, be regarded
as a state of 'life' " (Ellicott).
BUT WHEN THE COMMANDMENT CAME: That is, "came home" --
to Paul's mind and conscience.
SIN SPRANG TO LIFE: Gr "anazao" = to live again. It was
no longer dormant and its presence was now recognized. The conviction was
produced that he was a convicted sinner (cp Acts 2:37,38).
AND I DIED: Now he had learned that he was constantly
sinning and was therefore subject to the curse of the Law, which brings death
(cp 1Co 15:5,6). This "dying" is subjective in its force. He felt within himself
the sentence of death, becoming bogged down in hopelessness and despair in
contrast to the blithe self-confidence he had had before.
THE VERY COMMANDMENT THAT WAS INTENDED TO BRING LIFE:
KJV has "which was ordained to life". "Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who
obeys them will live by them" (Lev 18:5). "If you want to enter life, obey the
commandments" (Mat 19:17). "Do this and you will live" (Luk 10:28). Cp also Eze
20:11,13,21; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12. Although it was intended for life, no one ever
kept the Law (Rom 3:9,10). In addition, the Law could not give life of itself,
but drew attention to the means of life, namely faith in the Everlasting
Covenant, ie, the Abrahamic covenant which had been sealed with the blood of
Christ (Heb 13:20; Gal 3:24).
ACTUALLY BROUGHT DEATH: Because no one could keep it
perfectly (except Christ). The Israelites promised, "We will do everything the
LORD has said" (Exo 19:8; 24:3). But they did not do so, and thus perished in
the wilderness (1Co 10:5).
FOR SIN, SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY...: Returning to the
point of v 8...
DECEIVED ME: An obvious allusion to Gen 3:13, where the
serpent completely deceived Eve (cp 2Co 11:3; 1Ti 2:14: Adam was not deceived,
but Eve was thoroughly deceived). "The HEART is deceitful above all things and
beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9; cp Eph 4:22; Jam
PUT ME TO DEATH: "The Law while pointing out the way of
life... was destined to become death by all that sought life by it. While it
demonstrated perfectly to a man what was at enmity in him against God, it could
not help him one whit to vanquish it. It merely brought him consciously into its
THE LAW... THE COMMANDMENT: That is, the whole "Law" as
well as each individual "commandment". (Since "commandment" is singular here, it
may refer particularly to "Don't covet" of v 7.) Cf Mar 10:9; Heb
HOLY: Gr "hagios": that to which reverence is due, that
which is separated. Infers separation from sin and consecration to God: Exo 3:5;
Mat 27:53; Luk 1:35. The law is holy because it comes from a holy God and
searches out sin.
RIGHTEOUS: Gr "dikaios": fulfilling all duties which
are right and becoming. The law is righteous in view of the just requirements it
lays upon men, righteous also because it forbids and condemns sin.
GOOD: Gr "agathos": that which, being good in its
character and constitution, is beneficial in its effect. Yahweh Himself is
essentially good (Mat 19:17). The Law possessed all these attributes because it
revealed man for what he was, as well as his basic need for redemption (Gal
3:24). The Law is also good because its principal aim is life (v 10); its
goodness is reaffirmed in v 13.
DID THAT WHICH IS GOOD, THEN, BECOME DEATH TO ME?: The
Law does not "kill" anyone; man is "killed" by his own sins -- the Law only
BUT IN ORDER THAT SIN MIGHT BE RECOGNIZED AS SIN: Or
"appear" (Gr "phaino": to shine forth) in its true character.
IT PRODUCED DEATH IN ME: "Working" (AV) death as the
final product in the process.
THROUGH WHAT WAS GOOD: KJV has "by", but Gr is "dia"
again, as earlier. "Death" does not come "out of" the Law, but "dia" (through)
the Law. "How evil must that thing be which works the greatest evil through that
which is the perfection of righteousness" (Haldane).
MIGHT BE UTTERLY SINFUL: "Sin is an exceedingly great
sinner" (JT), showing the personification of Sin!
"This enemy within the human nature is the mind of the flesh,
which is enmity against God; it is not subject to His law, neither indeed can be
(Rom 8:7). The commandment of God, which is 'holy, just and good', being so
restrictive of the propensities, which in purely animal men display themselves
with uncontrolled violence, makes them appear in their true colors. These
turbulent propensities the apostle styles 'sin in the flesh', of which it is
full; hence, he also terms it 'sinful flesh'. This is human nature; and the evil
in it, made so apparent by the law of God, he personifies as 'pre-eminently A
SINNER' (Rom 7:12,13,17,18). This is the accuser, adversary, and calumniator of
God, whose stronghold is the flesh. It is the devil and satan within the human
nature; so that 'when a man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lust and
enticed'. If a man examine himself, he will perceive within him something at
work, craving after things which the law of God forbids. The best of men are
conscious of this enemy within them. It troubled the apostle so much, that he
exclaimed, '0, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of
this death' (Rom 7:24), or, this mortal body? He thanked God that the Lord Jesus
Christ would do it; that is, as he had himself been delivered from it, by God
raising him from the dead by His Spirit (Rom 8:11)" (Elp ch 3).
Vv 14-25: Paul having discussed his own experience while under
Law, he now moves on, by an appeal to his present position (as witnessed by the
change in verb tense here), to prove the holiness of the Law in the face of an
uncontrollable body of flesh springing from innate sinfulness. Paul demonstrates
that man cannot attain to righteousness by the exercise of his own will-power to
obey Yahweh's code of righteousness.
Two principal influences emerge in this section, and need to
be clearly distinguished: (a) those innate evil impulses that are the
ever-present possessions of a "carnal" or mortal body, and (b) the individual
conscience in a man, which represents conscious, deliberate desire: the mentally
processed ideal. In this case it is Paul's conscious desire to serve the New
Man, even though housed in a body which prompts him to evil.
THE LAW IS SPIRITUAL: "Pneumatikos" = belonging to or
proceeding from the Spirit. "Things which have their origin with God, and which,
therefore, are in harmony with His character" (Vine). This statement is
consistent with v 12. Cp also Psa 19:7,8; Psa 119.
The Law here is not exclusively the Law of Moses, but more
generally Yahweh's Code of Righteousness (which included the LM), to which all
believers down through the ages are subject and by which they must be judged (cf
vv 22,25; Mat 5; 7:12; Rom 8:4; 9:30,31; 1Co 9:21; Rom 2:2,5).
BUT I AM UNSPIRITUAL: Gr "sarkinos" = "fleshly".
"Carnal" (AV). "Man is carnal, made of flesh, in which resides a principle
contrary to God. It produces works which are the opposite of the fruit of the
Spirit (Gal 5:19-24)" (CRom). Corrupt passions still retain a strong and
withering and distressing influence upon the mind.
SOLD AS A SLAVE TO SIN: Sold, as into slavery (cp Rom
6:12,13). Sin, from the time of Adam, has purchased all flesh, and though the
mind may be "transformed" (Rom 12:1,2) from the realm of King Sin, the body
continues to be haunted by the impulses of its previous possessor. This is the
experience of every bond-slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND: Gr "ginosko" = to recognize as a
result of experience. "I do not understand my own actions." "I do not
approve..." "As the slave performs his task, blindly unquestioning, not having
regard to why the task is set and what the object is, but simply in response to
command of the owner, so there is a surrender to sin's service. It is a service
which is not the voluntary act of a righteous man, but an act he really
I DO NOT DO: "Do" (Gr "prasso") = to practice
habitually, continually, and repeatedly. "I do not practice what I desire"
BUT WHAT I HATE I DO: "Hate" (Gr "miseo": to hate,
usually implying active ill will in words or conduct: Vine). We must hate
wrongdoing (Rom 7:15), iniquity (Heb 1:9), evil in general (Jude 1:23; Rev 2:6).
Cp Psa 119:104,113,128,163.
"Do" = Gr "poieo": the external act or completed action. This
"differs from the preceding word 'prasso' in that 'prasso' has a conscious aim
in view, while 'poieo' simply describes a series of acts which may be void of
such conscious aim and be merely mechanical" (Vine). "Paul's figure of slavery
is cogent here, since he is forced to carry out what he does not want to do,
what he really hates, whereas what he would like to do never seems to
I AGREE THAT THE LAW IS GOOD: The failure to do what he
desires to do is not to be attributed to a wrong attitude toward the law, since
he concurs in the verdict that the law is praiseworthy. In fact, the Law is good
because it inculcates the right kind of conduct, the things that are beneficent
in their results. See v 12n.
"Paul is not, in fact, one person, but two. The 'I' in these
verses is that part of him that is the man who aspires to the godly life of the
Spirit, whilst the 'me' is that part of him that is the man of the flesh --
which houses the evilly inclined disposition" (Spongberg).
"If the failure does not come from a wrong attitude toward the
law, such as indifference or defiance, then the doing of things contrary to the
law must be traced to the power of sin working within him" (EBC).
NOTHING GOOD LIVES IN ME, THAT IS, IN MY SINFUL NATURE:
Or "flesh" (AV). This statement repudiates any theory in the mind of Paul's
readers concerning "inherent goodness" as being an innate possession within
"flesh"; the "flesh" is radically bad!
In Victor Hugo's story, a ship is caught in a storm. The
frightened crew hears a terrible crashing sound below. Immediately the men know
what it is: a cannon has broken loose and is crashing into the ship's side with
every smashing blow of the sea! Two men, at the risk of their lives, manage to
fasten it down again, for they know that the unfastened cannon is more dangerous
than the raging storm. Many people are like that ship -- their greatest danger
areas lie inside, not outside!
LIVES IN ME: Instead of "lives" in Rom 7:18, the word
might better be rendered "dwells" (AV): it is "nothing good" that "dwells" in
me! The invader -- which is "sin in the flesh" -- has managed to secure more
than a foothold; he roams the place, considering it his home. In putting the
matter like this, Paul has moved from a consideration of outward acts to an
emphasis on the unwanted tenancy of sin. With this alien master in control, no
matter how strongly a man wants to do the good, he finds himself checkmated. He
cannot carry it out.
I HAVE THE DESIRE TO DO WHAT IS GOOD, BUT I CANNOT CARRY IT
OUT: "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Mat 26:41; cp Phi 2:13;
V 19 is a virtual repetition of v 15.
Sometimes we can find it a real struggle to walk the Christian
life with all the temptations and pressures life throws at us. Sometimes it can
even get depressing when we tally up our day or our week and realize how often
we have failed to do what we should have done, or have done the things that we
shouldn't have done.
While there is no excuse for sinning and we must still confess
our sins to God and ask for forgiveness, we can be encouraged by the fact that
even Paul, whom we admire as one of the greatest men of God, struggled with
exactly the same sins as we do. He said that the good that he wanted to do he
did not do, and the things that he did not want to do, he did! We all have
exactly the same problems -- whether we are as great as Paul, or whether we
consider ourselves the lowest of the low. Yet Paul, at the end of his life,
despite his struggles, was 100% confident that his Lord was prepared to give him
a crown of everlasting life.
Despite our struggles too, we can have the same confidence as
Paul and know for sure that we will be given the kingdom. It is not an excuse
for sin, but a faith and confidence in the grace and mercy of our God and his
Son, Jesus Christ.
V 20 is a virtual repetition of v 17.
I FIND THIS LAW AT WORK: This "law" is a principle of
operation, ie a rule or "habitually repeated fact". "Principle" (NEB). Cf Rom
WHEN I WANT TO DO GOOD, EVIL IS RIGHT THERE WITH ME:
The fact was that the lusts of the flesh against which he contended were proven
to be stronger than his human will. "For the sinful nature desires what is
contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.
They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (Gal
IN MY INNER BEING: Lit "the man within". This qualifies
the "I" above: the inward man was the real Paul: his intellectual individuality
and consciousness. Cf 2Co 4:16; Eph 3:16; 1Pe 3:4.
I DELIGHT IN GOD'S LAW: Cp Psa 1:2;
THE MEMBERS OF MY BODY: "Melos" here (see Rom 6:13;
7:5n). This is Paul's "outward" man, in contrast to the "inner man" (v 22).
WAGING WAR: The Gr denotes -- not a single battle --
but a whole military campaign. This is a lasting war!
MAKING ME A PRISONER: A "prisoner of war" (cp 2Co 10:5;
2Ti 3:6; Eph 4:8). Cp v 14: "sold as a slave to Sin".
WHAT A WRETCHED MAN I AM! WHO WILL RESCUE ME FROM THIS BODY
OF DEATH?: Paul felt that he bore a loathsome, leprous nature which he
called "a vile body" (or a body of humiliation: Phi 3:21). Such a nature is
This account of the pervasiveness of sin is finished most
impressively by the groans of the wounded captive. Having long maintained a
useless conflict against innumerable hosts and irresistible might, he is at last
wounded and taken prisoner; and to render his state more miserable... "There
seems to be an allusion to the ancient custom of certain tyrants who bound a
dead body to a living man and obliged him to carry it about, till the contagion
from the putrid mass took away his life" (Clarke).
WRETCHED: "Talaiporos": to endure toil, pain, and
hardship as from severe bodily effort.
V 25: a summary of the chapter. "My mind" is a synonym
for the intellectual assent of the believer; and "the sinful nature" for the
human, sin-prone flesh he bears.
"Paul was human and he knew the difficulties of life. His
apostleship did not exempt him from any conflict that is the common lot of all.
His early efforts to keep the law of Moses, combined with his later knowledge of
God's purpose, must have given him a fearless and honest power of introspection.
While it is one Paul, he yet recognizes that he is under two influences. In
Galatians he says 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me' [Gal 2:20]. [But]
here he says, speaking of failure to do as he would have liked, 'It is no more
I, but sin that dwelleth in me.' There is a danger of these words being used to
get rid of personal responsibility. They will always remain true when every
effort has been made to follow righteousness, but should only be used when that
effort has been made, when the words from Galatians can also be used. To follow
a way of sin and excuse it by putting the blame on 'sin that dwelleth in me' is
as far removed as possible from Paul's position. In fact, it would seem that
those only can rightly use his words who are trying most to be followers of Paul
as he was of Christ" (CRom).