Romans Chapter Seven
I. Content of the Chapter
The Knowledge and Experience of the Deliverance From the Law
A. The knowledge of the deliverance from the law ---- the analogy of the remarriage of the woman ---- be set free by death:
1. The woman is delivered from her husband by death and is married to another (v.1-3).
2. We are delivered from the law by death and are united with Christ (v.4-6).
B. The passive experience concerning the deliverance from the law ---- the suffering under the bondage of the law:
1. The law activates sins to kill us (v.7-13).
2. The law is spiritual, but is useless to those who are of the flesh and are sold under sin (v.14-20).
3. The suffering of the war among the three laws (the so-called two laws) (v.21-24).
C. The positive experience concerning the deliverance from the law ---- one can be delivered from the law in Christ (v.25).
II. Verse by Verse commentary
Rom. 7:1 “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?”
YLT: “Are ye ignorant, brethren -- for to those knowing law I speak -- that the law hath lordship over the man as long as he liveth?”
The Background: in the early church times, many Judaizers sneaked in the church (Gal. 2:4) and advocated Christians to keep the law and commandments of the Old Testament. At that time, many true believers were deceived by the Judaizers’ doctrines, thinking that one had also to pay attention to works by keeping the law besides the divine grace. Therefore, Paul here used a whole chapter to talk about the problem of the law.
the law, given by God, shows the demand of God to His people. All those who do
not walk according to the law shall be condemned (Gal. 3:10). Therefore, here,
it mentions that “the law has dominion over a man”. However, what the law could
not do in that it was weak through the flesh (
Rom. 7:2 “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. ”
YLT: “for the married woman to the living husband hath been bound by law, and if the husband may die, she hath been free from the law of the husband;”
“for the woman who has a husband”, the “woman” in this analogy refer to
believers. As regards the “husband”, it refers to “the law” according to the
object that one will be
released from. And it refers to “the old man” according to the one who
dies (see v.4;
1) This paragraph is a comparison between the law and Christ. Since the new husband (another man) is “Christ”, the previous husband must be the law.
2) This paragraph obviously points out that what we have been set free from is the law (v.6), so the husband that we shall be set free from must be the law.
3) Though the law has not been dead, it is our old man that dies. To believers in the New Testament who have been dead and live with Christ, the letter of the law has already been crucified on the cross (Col. 2:13-14), so the law can be regarded as dead in spiritual reality.
4) The principle that we have been delivered from the law by death can also be used in dealing with “the world” ---- “through Jesus Christ the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).
However, many recent Bible exegetes think that “the husband” refers to our “old man”. The reasons are listed here so that readers can discern it by themselves:
1) The first verse shows that “the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives”. It is man that “lives”, not the law.
2) God had originally given man the position of being a wife. However, since man had fallen, our old man overstepped the authority of the husband.
3) The purpose of God’s giving the law is to deal with the old man of us. Here, “the law of her husband” refers to the law of the old man.
law does not die. It is our old man that is crucified with Christ (
5) Once the old man dies, the new man can be delivered from the law of the old man and be unto Christ (see v.4).
Rom. 7:3 “So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.”
YLT: “so, then, the husband being alive, an adulteress she shall be called if she may become another man's; and if the husband may die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress, having become another man's.”
Literal Meaning: “if she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress”, “another man” relates to the risen Lord (v.4). “An adulteress”, for one has damaged what is set and jointed by God (see Matt. 19:6-9).
“But if her husband dies, she is free from that law”, the purpose of God’s giving the law is to guard and enlighten us and to be our tutor up to Christ (Gal. 3:23-24). Now, we have been dead and live with Christ by faith. Concerning the law, the old man of us has been dead. As regards the new man, the law is of “no effect” on us (the meaning of the word “be released from” in the original). Therefore, we need no longer to keep the letter of the law. That is in accordance with the statutes of God.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) A man can only belong to one lord. We Christians can not be of Christ and be of others meanwhile. If so, we are adulteress.
2) “Husband” is our reliance. Today, do we rely on Christ? Or other things?
3) The only way of being delivered from what we relied on in the past is “death” ---- the crucifixion. No wonder that Jesus said, “If any one desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).
4) The apostle Paul said, “I did not judge to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1Cor. 2:2). This is what a clean virgin of the Lord should have (see 2Cor. 11:1-2).
Rom. 7:4 “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”
YLT: “So that, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ, for your becoming another's, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God;”;
“you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ”, “the body of
Christ” means that Christ has been in the likeness of sinful flesh for us (
“The law” represents the demand of God upon man. However, God’s demand can be upon the living men. Therefore, once we die, God’s demand will not be upon us. “Also have become dead to the law”, it means that we need not to satisfy God by keeping the customs of the law.
“That you may be married to another—”, it indicates that the purpose is not “death”, but “being married to another”. We should have not only the passive divorce, but also the positive union. Otherwise, it will also be vanity of vanities. We have on one had been out of and go further into on the other hand. It is the discontinuity of one relationship as well as the beginning of another relationship. It is not only the deliverance from the law but also the union with Christ and unto Christ.
“To Him who was raised from the dead”, it has three points of meaning as follows:
was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (
2) Now we are alive to God. But the one who lives now is not the old “I”, but the new creature (2Cor. 5:17).
3) The new man in us has been betrothed to a new husband, namely, Christ (2Cor. 11:2).
“That we should bear fruit to God”, the purpose of our being married to Christ is to yield the fruit of life from Christ so that the Father may be glorified (John 15:5, 8).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We must see that God has no “hope” in the old “man” of us. He knows we cannot be reformed so He crucifies us on the cross. The old man of us is worthy of nothing, but death.
2) If we have not known that we are too wicked to be cured, nor been totally disappointed at ourselves, we can not be delivered from the law. If we still put hope in ourselves, it shows that we have not been dead, for we still intend to do something to please God.
3) Death is the only way for us to be saved. The secret of victory is never seeing ourselves besides Christ and never being willing to see us besides Christ.
to … through the body of Christ”. Our death is through the body of Christ. How
Christ died, so do we. When Christ died, so do we. Christ has been dead, so
have we. We must see the fact accomplished by Christ on the cross so that we
can have the experience of being dead with the Lord (
5) The secret of being divorced with “the old husband” is death. And the secret of being married to Christ lies in resurrection. Resurrection is to live in the newness of life. We can only be united with Christ in the risen life.
6) Since our Lord has been “risen”, we should also be “risen” so that we can be worthy of Him. If the old man has not been “dead”, the new man cannot “live”. If the relationship with the old husband has not been broken, the new relationship with the new husband shall not be started. “Death and resurrection” are the secret for believers to walk in the way of the Lord.
7) Our “new husband” is Christ who loves us. He is the true reliance to us. And we are willing to be bound by Him.
8) Our relationship with Christ is the relationship between a husband and a wife. All the need of a woman who has a husband shall be provided by her husband. Every Christian can receive provision from Christ and enjoy the fullness of Christ.
9) There is a general custom at all times and in all over the world that after a woman has married, she would immediately be given her husband’s surname, thus partaking what her husband was and what he had. Once we are married to Christ, we shall ask immediately in His name. And whatever we ask he may give us (John 14:14; 15:16; 16:24). All that is of Him is ours.
10) The purpose that we are married to Christ is “that we should bear fruit to God”. In other words, if we have not borne fruit of life, we are Christians in vain and have failed in fulfill the purpose of God’s salvation.
11) We who have risen in Christ should bear fruit to glorify God. Therefore, there is only one way ---- that is, to let Christ live in us and let Him live.
12) Many Christians cannot bear fruit, for they have not abided in Christ to enjoy His fullness (John 10:5).
13) We can bear fruit to glorify God by being subject to the risen Lord Jesus more in heart, not by keeping the law and customs.
Rom. 7:5 “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death”
YLT: “for when we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, that through the law, were working in our members, to bear fruit to the death;”;
“for when we were in the flesh”, this is a contrast with verse four,
showing the previous condition when we belonged to the old husband. “In the
flesh”, it means that we are born in the flesh, so we are the flesh (John 3:6
the original) and are totally of the flesh (Gen. 6:
“The sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members”, in our flesh, nothing good dwells (Rom. 7:18). Besides, it is filled with many passions and lusts (Gal. 5:19-21, 24). When the flesh of us has no works seemingly, the passions and lusts may not be seen. However, when the flesh works, the corruption of the flesh will be exposed (Gen. 6:12). The law is not in any honor in satisfaction of the flesh (Col. 2:23), and yet it will bring about the works of the flesh and the evil lusts will be exposed in our members (see Rom. 13:14b).
“To bear fruit to death”, the fruit that we had borne with the old husband was death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:2; 8:6).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Both the two kinds of union bear two different fruit respectively (v.4-5). By our fruits then surely we shall know us (see Matt. 7:20) ---- of the flesh? Or of Christ?
2) The nature of life decides the nature of the fruit. If we live in ourselves, the fruit that we bear may deceive others and even ourselves, but cannot deceive God.
3) The fruit that we bear in the flesh is “the fruit of death” in the sight of God and is of no eternal value.
Rom. 7:6 “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
YLT: “and now we have ceased from the law, that being dead in which we were held, so that we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.”
Literal Meaning: “but now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by”, Christ died for us and paid the price that the law called for. Therefore, He has redeemed us from the condemnation of the law. On the other side, Christ brings us to die with Him so that we have died to the law that we were held by and have been delivered from the bondage of the law. The law cannot rule a dead man, so a dead man has been delivered from the law.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Once a believer has been united with Christ, the law and sin can no longer rule us, for the death of Christ has delivered us from the threats and pressure. Therefore, we will be no longer bound by the letter of the law.
2) Since we have been delivered from the law through death, we shall never be bound or held by the law (Gal. 5:1) to obey the custom that “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (Col. 2:21)”.
3) If we live by the Spirit, let us walk also by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
4) Being delivered from the law has an active meaning ---- to makes us have an attitude of “serving the Lord” and serve Him “in the newness of the Spirit” ---- a state of life that one lives for the Lord and that one is governed by the Holy Spirit.
5) Today, we serve the Lord by the Spirit, not by the letters (2Cor. 3:6 the original); according to power of indissoluble life, not according to law of fleshly commandment (Heb. 7:16); in spirit, not in letter (Rom. 2:28-29).
6) Believers should live in “the newness of the Spirit”. The oldness of the Spirit cannot touch others. If the words, teachings, attitudes and thoughts are conventional, inflexible, monotonous and slow, the living life cannot flow out. A fresh spirit can quicken man and bring man before God.
Rom. 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." ”
YLT: “What, then, shall we say? the law sin? let it not be! but the sin I did not know except through law, for also the covetousness I had not known if the law had not said:”
Literal Meaning: the previous paragraph illustrates the objective fact that Christ has fulfilled for believers on the cross, thus destroying our idea of keeping the law. However, it may also cause our misunderstanding that the law is evil and God should not give the law to His people. Therefore, Paul here gives us right knowledge of the law.
“Is the law sin? Certainly not!” ---- The law itself is absolutely not sin. We should not despise the law of the Old Testament nor blame God.
“On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law”. The main function of the law is to make men know sin so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God (Rom. 3:19-20).
“For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."” ---- The law not only makes men know what sin is, but also lets them know the nature of sins that they have committed (e.g. covetousness). Covetousness itself is sin and is the basic reason for many sins. Just like Paul says in other scriptures that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Man may desire some illegal things, or something that is legal itself and the desire of man is so strong that the object has usurped the position that God should have in man’s heart. Therefore, covetousness is idolatry.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Though the law makes men know sin, it provides no power for men to overcome sin. The law can neither save a man who has not believed the Lord, nor help a Christian live a sanctified life.
2) The covetous lusts in man is the origin of sin (see 1Tim. 6:10). A covetous man will be enticed to leave the Lord sooner or later, because the property shall seize his heart and time and even life.
Rom. 7:8 “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. ”
YLT: “`Thou shalt not covet;' and the sin having received an opportunity, through the command, did work in me all covetousness -- for apart from law sin is dead.”
Literal Meaning: from verse seven, Paul begins to describe his personal experience after being saved in the first person “I (or me)” on behalf of a believer.
The accomplished spiritual fact that Christ has delivered us from the law should be fulfilled in every believer through faith. In our personal experience, once we have been touched by the love of the Lord, we will desire to have a sanctified life or want to do something for the Lord to please the Lord. Therefore, we may unconsciously be made perfect in flesh (Gal. 3:3). In other words, we have put us again under law, for we want to please God by keeping the law. Consequently, it gives sin an exact chance to perform its lusts and passions.
“The commandment”, it hangs and represents all the law (see Matt. 22:35-40). Therefore, the scripture usually uses it as the synonym of the law. Both of them can be used interchangeably.
“Sin was dead”, sin is active and is someone that is out of a person (the devil) (see Gen. 4:7). It hides in the body of believers. We may faintly feel its existence, so it is “dead”. However, once there is proper chance, sin will work actively, just like a fish out of water
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If we always live in the death of the Lord (under grace by faith, not under law), sin that dwells in us is always dead, for it can do nothing on us.
2) Grace means we do not do, but God does. The law indicates we do, but God does not do. If we Let God do, sin will have no chance. If we do by ourselves, sin will have its chance.
Rom. 7:9 “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.”
YLT: “And I was alive apart from law once, and the command having come, the sin revived, and I died;”
Literal Meaning: this verse means that sin in believers is in the state of hibernation before believers desire to keep the law. If the spirit life has not been affected by sin, the life shall be fresh and living. However, once the law comes, it activates sin and man’s spiritual life is about to die (Rev. 3:1-2).
Rom. 7:10 “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.”
YLT: “and the command that for life, this was found by me for death;”
Literal Meaning: the law was given to let those who kept it would live before God (Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:12). However, it contrarily sets man into death. Why? Verse eleven presents us the answer.
Rom. 7:11 “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”
YLT: “for the sin, having received an opportunity, through the command, did deceive me, and through it did slay;”
Meaning of Words: “deceive”: cheat;
Literal Meaning: this verse points the reasons why the law brings death:
1) The purpose that God gives the law is not making man keep it. God intents to make man know his depravity and inability though the law so that man will seek and draw His grace.
2) Sin that hides behind the law deceives believers to keep the law and give up and give up the principle of grace.
3) Once believers are enticed to forsake the grace of God, they have given themselves up to sin. Finally, they must be oppressed by sin.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The problem does not lie in the commandment, but in the sin that hides behind the commandment, for the sin may deceive us.
2) Satan knows our weakness. If we do not have God’s commandment, we may be quiet. However, once we have the commandment of God, we will be overwhelmed by rebellion and itch to go against the commandment of God.
Rom. 7:12 “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
YLT: “so that the law, indeed, holy, and the command holy, and righteous, and good.”
Literal Meaning: the law is the demand of God for the walking of His people. It hangs and represents all the law (see Matt. 22:35-40). The law is given by God. And God is holy (1Pet. 1:16) and God’s works are just (Deut. 32:4) and God Himself is good (Matt. 19:17). Therefore, the law given by God must be holy, just and good. The law is the manifestation of God. If we want to know God, we can know Him from the law.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The positive intention of God’s giving the law is to reveal Him to us so that we can know Him and then enjoy and experience the holy, just and good God.
2) We should touch the spiritual meaning beyond the letter when we read the scripture so that the scripture can really help us. Otherwise, the holy, just and good scriptures shall become another form of law and we cannot be benefited from it.
Rom. 7:13 “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”
YLT: “That which is good then, to me hath it become death? let it not be! but the sin, that it might appear sin, through the good, working death to me, that the sin might become exceeding sinful through the command,”
Literal Meaning: this verse means that:
1) The law is good; it is sin that kills man, not the law.
2) It is sin that kills man by the law; the law becomes the tool of sin that kills man.
3) Sin even deceives and kills man by the good law. Therefore, the nature of sin is exceedingly heinous.
4) Though sin uses the law, the law has actually exposed the true face of sin and made the evil of sin known to man.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Though the law is “holy and just and good” (v.12), we should use it in a right way. If we only keep the apparent letter, sin will still be activated and then kill us.
2) Through the ages, evil usually hides behind the false mask of good and uprightness to deceive men. Therefore, we should not discern anything from its appearance, but from its real intent and motive aa well as the final result.
Rom. 7:14 “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
YLT: “for we have known that the law is spiritual, and I am fleshly, sold by the sin;”
Meaning: “for we know that the law
is spiritual”, since the law is of God, and God is a spirit (John 4:24),
so the law is spiritual. Man can not regard it as custom or letter to keep.
Meanwhile, spiritual demand cannot be met by man’s flesh (
“But I am carnal, sold under sin”, “I am carnal”, it means that flesh is the main constitution of me. In the flesh, I am sold under sin. Sin has absolute power on us to make me obey it.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The law is “spiritual”. Therefore, we must deal with the law from spiritual perspective, but not keep it according to its apparent letter.
2) “The law is spiritual”, what the law asks man to do is all spiritual. Man can neither perfect nor keep the commandment of the law. The root of the problem does not lie in the law, but us.
3) The positive purpose of God’s giving the law was making us touch the spiritual principle beyond the letter. Therefore, we can know Christ and enjoy Christ from the law revealed by God.
4) The law of God is indeed good, but it is in vain on us, for we are carnal, and are sold under sin. Likewise, no matter how complete the legislative regulations are in the world, or how loud the high-sounding words is, they are all in vain, for man has completely corrupted (e.g. no matter how strict the school rules are, there will always be bad students. No matter how strict the law is, there will unavoidably be violators against the law. No matter how good the political policies are, peace can still not always be held in the world.)
5) “Be sold under sin”, it means being a slave of sin. A slave has no freedom. Though he has freedom in his will, he has no freedom in his performances ---- to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find (v.18). Therefore, he who lives under the law by himself cannot but sin.
Rom. 7:15 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
YLT: “for that which I work, I do not acknowledge; for not what I will, this I practise, but what I hate, this I do.”
Meaning of Words: “not understand”: not approve, not accept; “will”: desire; “hate”: detest, loveless;
Literal Meaning: the following three conditions show that we have been sold under sin:
1) “For what I am doing, I do not understand” ---- I am unconscious about what I am doing.
2) “For what I will to do, that I do not practice” ---- I cannot control what I will to do.
3) “But what I hate, that I do” ---- I cannot cease doing what I hate.
From the previous three points, I am totally dominated and controlled by sin and cannot help committing sins.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “Understand” refers to one’s thought; “desire” concerns one’s will; “hate” relates to one’s emotion. Paul here wants to please God by his whole soul. Though he failed, God honored his effort and gave him victory finally (see v.25). Whatsoever you do, labour at it heartily (Col. 3:23).
2) The salvation of God shall never come upon those who live causally in failure and sins and drift through life. Every time, if we want to grow in spirit before God, we shall firstly feel unsatisfied with our present condition. Though the salvation of God is prepared for all, not everyone can receive it. The problem does not lie in God, but in man himself, for man thinks there is no need of salvation. Therefore, man will not pay the price to receive the salvation.
3) Besides, this verse also tells us that if we rely on ourselves, even though we exert all our strength, we can still not overcome sin.
Rom. 7:16 “If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. ”
YLT: “And if what I do not will, this I do, I consent to the law that good,”
Meaning of Words: “agree with”: say jointly, assent to;
Literal Meaning: since my conscience does not agree with my works, it proves that what the law condemns corresponds with my conscience, so I have to admit the law is good.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The law is right. But if we want to rely on the law, we are wrong.
2) “I agree with the law that it is good.” ---- It fully testifies that believers who fail have not changed their heart and still seek good. Though they have sinned, they still hate sin. Man in the world who sins likes the pleasure of sin. However, if a Christian sins, he must be afflicted, for he has the divine life and has the Spirit.
Rom. 7:17 “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
YLT: “and now it is no longer I that work it, but the sin dwelling in me,”
Literal Meaning: “But now, it is no longer I who do it”, “but now”, it connects with the previous verse, which tells that my conscience is not in aggrement with my works. Therefore, it proves that my works are not out of my own will, but sin that dwells in me.
“But sin that dwells in me”, “sin” shows that sin does not sneak into me temporarily, but usurps my role and abides flagrantly in me (Matt. 12:44-45).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “But sin that dwells in me”, it indicates that sin is not only an active thing that works in man, but also a living thing, a person. In fact, sin is the sin of Satan in us. We can almost say that it is Satan himself that dwells in us.
2) “It is … do it, but sin that dwells in me”, it is not shirking our responsibility, but catching the enemy and seeing clearly the enemy. If we have recognized and caught the enemy, we will know how to deal with and overcome it.
Rom. 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. ”
YLT: “for I have known that there doth not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh, good: for to will is present with me, and to work that which is right I do not find,”
Literal Meaning: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwell”, here, “me” refers to the one who dwells in the flesh and has sold under sin (v.14). It is not that believers have no good, but in believers have no good in the flesh.
After a believers has been born again, he can be divided into the outward man and the inward man (2Cor. 4:16). Good, namely, Christ Himself, dwells in the inward man of believers (Eph. 3:17). However, there is no good in the flesh of believers, which is the main part of the outward man.
“For to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. “For” shows that why there is no good in the flesh of man. The will of good is present with me, but I can not perform it. This is the evidence that there is no good in the flesh.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The scriptures usually connect sin and body (see v.25; Col. 3:5), for te body is the residence of sin. According to the sight of God, the body of man is indeed “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), for sin is the controller of man’s body.
2) Paul willed all the time, but always failed. Therefore, the way of victory does not stem from man’s will. Will is not the way of victory. Will plays a worthless role in overcoming sin and pleasing God.
3) We can know that Christianity does not encourage man to do good, but reveals that man will be painful if he does good by himself, for man cannot do good by himself. Therefore, man need to receive the salvation of the Lord.
Rom. 7:19 “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
YLT: “for the good that I will, I do not; but the evil that I do not will, this I practise.”
Literal Meaning: since there is no good in believers, they have no strength to do good or withstand evil.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Here, the man lives by his will. All his “not good” is in his doings, and all his “good” is in his will. God will reveal us a matter that the strength of one’s will can not be his strength of life.
2) Many Christians lives in his will and maintains by his will. Catching one’s self is a great sign that man lives by his will. Christians shall be watchful when eating, walking and talking. One shall be laborious if he always sees himself everyday. It is himself that forces him to be a Christian.
3) To be a Christian by the strength of one’s willpower is like making the water flows upward. There shall be two possibilities of this kind of man. One is that he has not been born again. The other is that he has obtained the new life but does not know to live by this life.
4) “I do not do … that I practice”, the flesh always confuses right and wrong, but never does right. Paul does not take counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16). To take counsel is present with us, but how to perform what is good we do not find. We need not take counsel with flesh.
Rom. 7:20 “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. ”
YLT: “And if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that work it, but the sin that is dwelling in me.”
Literal Meaning: this verse introduces the next paragraph, showing that there is a great strength or power in believers that make us disobey our will and do what we will not to do. This great strength and power is the sin that dwells in us.
Rom. 7:21 “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. ”
YLT: “I find, then, the law, that when I desire to do what is right, with me the evil is present,”
Literal Meaning: “law” refers to the changeless power, such as the natural law of the force of gravity. The law exists all the time. Though man can resist it temporarily though physical power and willpower, he has to surrender in the end.
This verse indicates that we may not be conscious of the existence of the “law” when we do not think, nor work, nor walk. However, when we will to do good, the evil power will immediately be activated so that we will find that there is a law in our body that forces us to do evil.
Rom. 7:22 “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. ”
YLT: “for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man,”
Literal Meaning: we believers have two parts of the outward man and the inward man (see the commentary of verse 18). According to the inward man, we delight in the law of God. There are generally two kinds of interpretation concerning “the law of God” among the Bible exegetes:
1) Some believe that the law of God is the law in the Old Testament.
2) Some think that the law of God refers to “the law of one’s mind” in verse twenty-three, which is a good law (see Rom. 2:14-15) that God put in our thought when He created us. This law opposes against the law of sin in our members that the devil put in us after man fell.
According to the scriptures of this paragraph, “the inward man” and “the mind” are in contrast to the words of “body”, “flesh” and “members”. And “the law of God” and “the law of mind” are in contrast to the phrases of “another law” and “the law of sin”. “Another law” is synonymous with “the law of sin”. And “the law of God” is synonymous with “the law of mind”.
Rom. 7:23 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
YLT: “and I behold another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of the sin that in my members.”
Literal Meaning: this verse means that:
1) There are two laws in every man (including those who do not believe): one is the law that wills to do good, and the other is law in my members.
2) The two laws often war against one another. Sometimes, the law that wills to do good overcomes, so man has the saying of “good man” or that “man's nature at birth is good”.
3) However, the law of sin, stronger than the law that wills to do good after all, captures men to be slaves of sin. Therefore, no matter how “good” a man is, he is still a sinner in the eyes of God (Rom. 3:10, 23).
YLT: “A wretched man I ! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?”
Literal Meaning: “O wretched man that I am!” ---- This is a sign from the heart of man who desires to do good when he falls into afflicted struggles after repeated failures.
“Who will deliver me from this body of death?” ---- “Who will deliver me”, it shows the hopelessness in him, who confesses that he cannot be delivered from such condition by himself.
“Deliver me from this body of death?” ---- It indicates that he has found the sticking point of the problem from his experience, namely, the body. Therefore, all the problems shall be resolved as long as he is delivered from the body.
“This body of death”, it means that:
1) This body is like dead and unable to overcome the sin.
2) All the works of the body is dead and only brings death to man.
3) The end of the body is death and decay.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Paul cries, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” If man also cries like this, it will be very good and hopeful. It is sound voice before God. This voice cried by man is the most spiritual one, and is also the voice most corresponding with the scriptures cried
2) The law is good, but the man in the flesh is powerless (v.14). And man in the flesh struggles and is wretched for the sake of living under law. Therefore, this chapter can be summarized as “the suffering of being bound in the flesh” or “the distress of struggling under law”.
3) When man uses his willpower, he can never rely on the salvation of God. Till one day, he bows down before God and says that he has no way and he does not intend to device any way. Then, he begins to know what salvation is.
4) Man’s end is the beginning of God. When we give up a certain thing, God will then begin to take responsibility for us. He will not help us until when we are exhausted and can no longer do anything.
Rom. 7:25 “I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. ”
YLT: “I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord; so then, I myself indeed with the mind do serve the law of God, and with the flesh, the law of sin.”
The Background: in the times when Paul wrote this book, a murderer had to be punished by a particular horrible penalty: the corpse of the one who was killed and the body of the murderer who still lived should be bound together ---- mouth to mouth, hands to hands, feet to feet. Thus, the dead man and the living man were bound together until the living one died. The murderer could go wherever as he wished. But he had to take the corpse of the one he had killed together. Is there any penalty more terrible than such one? Paul just takes this penalty as an example. He is like the one who is bound with the corpse. Wherever he goes, he is always hindered by such horrible burden, and he can not bear any more and cries, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me … ”? After that, he is awakened. And his despairing cry has turned to songs of praise. He has found the answer, “I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Literal Meaning: “I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ---- “I thank God”, it is God who gives us a way of salvation. “Through Jesus Christ our Lord”, it is our Lord Jesus Christ who fulfills all the work of salvation. We need not to do anything. As long as we commit us unto Him, he will take full responsibility.
“With the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin”, according to the contrastive structure, the law of God is opposite to the law of sin. The former in man makes the inward man serve, and the latter in the members of man makes the “flesh” serve. The problem is that the desire, inclination and willpower of the inward man can never overcome the lusts, indulgences and weakness of the outward man. Therefore, when the two laws war against one another, the flesh must overcome the mind and drag the whole man to serve the law of sin.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) From verse fifteen to twenty, Paul uses the words like “will”, “will not” repeatedly, so the emphatic point in these verses is whether one wills or not. From verse twenty-one to twenty-five, there is another emphasis, namely, “the law”. The conclusion is that man’s willpower will not overcome the law in the end.
2) If man desires to overcome the law of sin, he should rely on the law that is more superior and powerful (see Rom. 8:2).
3) “I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Oh, no matter what difficulty or suffering we undergo, once we confide in the Lord Jesus, we will surely be delivered from them. How wonderful!
4) He who lives under law must hover around the realm of “good” and “evil”, and falls into “death” and “wretchedness” (v.7-24). Only when one turns to Christ ---- “I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord”, can he be detached from them and touch the eternal life.
5) God has condemned the whole old creature and deliver them all to the cross. Therefore, the flesh profits nothing. If we want to try something in the flesh, we have actually rejected the cross of Christ.
6) According to the normal order, the union with Christ in chapter six of this book should immediately bring the release in Spirit in chapter eight. However, God inserts chapter seven of the suffering in the flesh under law into this book for the purpose of letting us deeply know the vanity of the law in experience and the depravity of the flesh and thus give up all hope. Then we will really enjoy the release of Christ, the freedom of the Spirit. How glorious! How precious! Yes, man will not find the salvation of Christ is the only way until he is brought by God into the despair of everything outside of Christ.
7) Chapter six points that how to deal with the old man and sin. And chapter seven shows that the flesh desires to do good. In fact, God does not demand man to do good, but desires man to live in Christ. He wants us to let Christ live and let Christ do.
The Difficulty of Sanctification ---- the Law and the Flesh
A. The difficulty concerning position (outwardly) ---- the law
1. Believers have already delivered from the law ---- the objective truth:
a. The law has dominion over a man as long as he lives ---- such as marriage ties (v.1-3);
b. We have become dead to the law and been married to Christ through the old man’s being crucified with Christ (v.4-6).
2. The function and nature of the law:
a. I would not have known sin except through the law (v.7).
b. The law is holy and just and good (v.12).
c. The law is spiritual (v.14a).
3. Believers put them under law ---- subjective experience:
a. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me (v.8-11).
b. It is not the law produces death, but sin produces death in me through the law (v.13).
B. The difficulty concerning nature (inwardly) ---- the flesh;
1. The flesh is sold under sin:
a. I am carnal, sold under sin (v.14b).
b. What I am doing is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (v.15-17).
2. In my flesh nothing good dwells:
a. To will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find (v.18).
b. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (v.19).
3. The flesh serves the law of sin (v.20-23, 25b):
a. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good (v.21).
b. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (v.22).
c. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity (v.23).
d. With the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (v.25).
4. The way of being saved:
a. The sticking point of the problem is known from the failure of experience ---- “the body of death”. Therefore, we should be delivered from it (v.24).
b. Paul finally finds that he can be delivered from the law through our Lord Jesus Christ (v.25a).
c. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death (8:1-2).
The Introductions of the Law
A. The law has no right (v.1-6) ---- there are two families in chapter seven: that of Adam and of Christ. There are two husbands: one is sin, which is also called old Adam, old self, the flesh, sin that dwells in me, the body of death; and the other is the Lord, the Lord of life as well as the risen Lord.
B. The law has no power (v.7-25) ---- it is the accomplice of sin, but not my shield of the new man. The law can not save me, so I have to be delivered from it. The function of the law is to manifest sins and condemn sins. The law can not deliver man from sin, so it is powerless.
Three Paragraphs in Chapter Seven
A. To be delivered from the bondage through the union with Christ (v.1-6).
B. Sin brings death for man has violated the holy law of God (v.7-13).
C. Believers yield themselves to the sovereignty of Christ in order to be delivered from the bondage of sin (v.14-25).
Our Wars Against Sin
A. “The sinful passions …bear fruit to death” (v.5).
B. “Sin revived and I died” (v.9);
C. “To bring death” (v.10);
D. “Deceived me, and by it killed me” (v.11);
E. “Sin was producing death in me” (v.13); “I am sold under sin” (v.14).
F. “Warring against the law of …bringing me into captivity” (v.23);
G. “It is the Lord Jesus Christ who delivers me” (v.24);
The Law in This Chapter
A. The law is holy and just and good (v.12).
B. The function of the law is to manifest the evil of sin (v.13).
C. When the law is used by sin, man’s lusts and passions will be activated (v.7-8).
D. Sin kills me by the law (v.11).
E. The law cannot save me, nor control the law of sin in man (v.23).
F. We have been dead under law and been delivered from the law. Now, we are not under law, nor belong to law, nor keep the law. We should walk in the Spirit (v.6).
Three Kinds of Service
A. Serve in the newness of the Spirit (v.6);
B. Serve the law of God with the mind (v.25);
C. Serve the law of sin with the flesh (v.25);
What the Law Brings to Man
A. The law exposes what sin is (v.7).
B. The law provides chances to sin to let it work in man (v.8).
C. The law shows the facts of condemnation and death (v.9-10).
D. The law exposes the deceitfulness of sin (v.11).
E. The law reveals the way of God is holy, just and good (v.12).
F. The law exposes the extreme evil of sin, and sin brings death to man in the end (v.13).
The Conflicts Found by Believers in Their Struggles
A. The law is spiritual, but I am carnal (v.14).
B. The law is good, but nothing good dwells in my flesh (v.14, 18).
C. What I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (v.15, 19).
D. To will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find (v.18).
E. That evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good (v.21)
F. Another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind (v.23).
G. With the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (v.25).
The Reason for Believers’ Failures
A. It is not because he does not desire to do good with his will (v.18).
B. It is not because he has not sought to know the truth in his mind (v.15);
C. It is not because he does not hate in his affection (v.15);
D. It is not because he does, or does not do, but he cannot control it (v.15-18);
E. It is not because his inward man does not love the law of God (v.22);
F. It is not because his mind does not serve the law of God (v.25);
G. It is because he has not done through our Lord Jesus (v.25);
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou