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Romans Chapter Seven


Romans 7

We have considered the effect of the death and resurrection of Christ with reference to justification and to practical life. In the early part of the epistle (to chap. 5:11) He has died for our sins. From chapter 5:12, He having died, we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Him. Our state as under the two heads, Adam and Christ, has been discussed. Another point remained to be treated of by the apostle-the effect of this last doctrine upon the question of the law. The Christian, or, to say better, the believer, has part in Christ as a Christ who has died, and lives to God, Christ being raised from the dead through Him. What is the force of this truth with regard to the law (for the law has only power over a man so long as he lives)? Being then dead, it has no longer any hold upon him. This is our position with regard to the law. Does that weaken its authority? No. For we say that Christ has died, and so have we therefore; but the law no longer applies to one that is dead.

In bringing out the effect of this truth, the apostle uses the example of the law of marriage. The woman would be an adulteress if she were to be to another while her husband was alive; but when her husband is dead she is free. The application of this rule changes the form of the truth. It is certain that one cannot be under the authority of two husbands at once. One excludes the other. The law, and Christ risen, cannot be associated in their authority over the soul. But in our case the law does not lose its force (that is, its rights over us) by its dying, but by our dying. It reigns over us only while we live. It is with this destruction of the bond by death the apostle began. The husband died, but in application it is annulled by our dying. We are then dead to the law by the body of Christ (for we have to do with a Christ risen after His death), that we should be to Him who is raised from the dead, in order that we should bear fruit for God; but we cannot belong to the two at once.

When we were in the flesh-when, as man, any one was held to be walking in the responsibility of a man living in the life of nature, as a child of Adam, the law to him was the rule and perfect measure of that responsibility, and the representative of the authority of God. The passions which impelled to sin acted in that nature, and, meeting with this barrier of the law, found in it that which, by resisting it, excited the will, and suggested, even by the prohibition itself, the evil which the flesh loved and which the law forbade; and thus these passions acted in the members to produce fruit which brought in death. But now he was outside its authority, he had disappeared from its pursuit, [1] being dead in that law to the authority of which we had been subjected. Now to have died under the law would have been also condemnation; but it is Christ who went through this and took the condemnation, while we have the deliverance from the old man which is in death. Our old man is crucified with Him, so that it is our deliverance to die to the law. It did but condemn us, but its authority ends with the life of him who was under that authority. And being dead in Christ, the law can no longer reach those who had been under it: we belong to the new husband, to Christ risen, in order that we should serve in newness of spirit, the goodwill of grace in our new life, and-as the apostle will afterwards explain, [2] -not in the bondage of the letter.

This is the doctrine. Now for the conclusions that may be deduced from it. Is the law, then, sin, that we are withdrawn from its authority? By no means. But it gave the knowledge of sin, and imputed it. For the apostle says, that he would not have understood that the mere impulse of his nature was sin, if the law had not said, Thou shalt not covet. But the commandment gave sin occasion to attack the soul. Sin, that evil principle of our nature, [3] making use of the commandment to provoke the soul to the sin that is forbidden (but which it took occasion to suggest by the interdiction itself, acting also on the will which resisted the interdiction), produced all manner of concupiscence. For, without the law, sin could not plunge the soul into this conflict, and give the sentence of death in it, by making it responsible in conscience for the sin which, without this law, it would not have known. Under the law lust acted, with the conscience of sin in the heart; and the result was death in the conscience, without any deliverance for the heart from the power of concupiscence.

Without the law, sin did not thus agitate a will which refused submission to that which checked it. For a barrier to the will awakens and excites the will: and the conscience of sin, in the presence of God's prohibition, is a conscience under sentence of death. Thus the commandment, which in itself was unto life, became in fact unto death. "Do this and live" became death, by shewing the exigencies of God to a sinful nature whose will rejected them, and to a conscience which could not but accept the just condemnation.

A man walks in quiet indifference, doing his own will, without knowledge of God, or consequently any sense of sin or rebellion. The law comes, and he dies under its just judgment, which forbids everything that he desires. Lust was an evil thing, but it did not reveal the judgment of God; on the contrary, it forgot it. But when the law was come, sin (it is looked at here as an enemy that attacks some person or place), knowing that the will would persist and the conscience condemn, seized the opportunity of the law, impelled the man in the direction contrary to the law, and slew him, in the conscience of sin which the law forbade on the part of God. Death to the man, on God's part in judgment, was the result. The law then was good and holy, since it forbade the sin, but in condemning the sinner.

Was death then brought in by that which was good? [4] No. But sin, in order that it might be seen in its true light, employed that which was good to bring death upon the soul; and thus, by the commandment, became exceedingly sinful. In all this, sin is personified as some one who seeks to kill the soul.

Such then was the effect of the law, that first husband, seeing sin existed in man. To bring this out more plainly, the apostle communicates his spiritual apprehension of the experience of a soul under the law.

We must remark here, that the subject treated of is not the fact of the conflict between the two natures, but the effect of the law, supposing the will to be renewed, and the law to have obtained the suffrage of the conscience and to be the object of the heart's affections-a heart which recognises the spirituality of the law. This is neither the knowledge of grace, nor of the Saviour Christ, nor of the Spirit. [5] The chief point here is not condemnation (although the law does indeed leave the soul under judgment), but the entire want of strength to fulfil it, that it may not condemn us. The law is spiritual; but I, as man, am carnal, the slave of sin, whatever the judgment of my inward man may be: for I allow not that which I do. That which I would I do not; and that which I hate I practise. Thus loving and thus hating, I consent to the law that it is good. It is not that I do the evil as to moral intent of the will, for I would not the evil which I do; on the contrary I hate it. It is the sin then that dwells in me, for in fact in me (that is, in my flesh-the whole natural man as he is) there exists no good, for even where there is the will, I do not find the way to perform any good. Power is totally wanting.

In verse 20 the apostle, having this explanation, lays stress upon the I and me. "If that which I myself would" (we should read), and "It is no longer myself that does it, but the sin that dwelleth in me." I find then evil present with the myself which would do good; for, as to the inward man, I delight in the law of God. But there is in me another constant principle which wars against the law of my mind, which brings me into captivity to this law of sin in my members. So that, whatever my desires may be, the better even that they are, I am myself a miserable man. Being man, and such a man, I cannot but be miserable. But, having come to this, an immense step has been taken.

The evil here spoken of is the evil that is in our nature, and the want of power to get rid of it. The forgiveness of sins hadbeen fully taught. What distresses here is the present working of sin which we cannot get rid of The sense of this is often a more painful thing than past sins, which the believer can understand as put away by the blood of Christ. But here we have the conscience of sin still in us, though we may hate it, and the question of deliverance is mixed up with our experience, at least till we have learned what is taught us in this part of the epistle, to judge the old man as sin in us, not ourselves, and reckon ourselves dead. Christ, through whom we now live, having died, and being a sacrifice for sin, our condemnation is impossible, while sin is condemned and we free through "the law of the Spirit of life in him." It is not forgiveness, but deliverance, sin in the flesh being condemned in the cross.

Under divine grace the renewed man learned three things. First, he has come to the discovery that in him, that is, in his flesh, there is no good thing; but, secondly, he has learned to distinguish between himself, who wills good, and sin which dwells in him; but, further, that when he wills good, sin is too strong for him. Having thus acquired knowledge of himself, he does not seek to be better in the flesh, but deliverance, and he has it in Christ. Power comes after. He is come to the discovery and to the confession that he has no power. He throws himself upon another. He does not say, How can I? or, How shall I? but, Who shall deliver me? Now it was when we were devoid of all strength that Christ died for the ungodly. This want of strength is discovered; and we find grace at the end, when with regard to what we are, and to all hope of amelioration in ourselves, grace is our only resource.

But happily, when we cast ourselves upon grace, there is nothing but grace before us. Deliverance is accomplished by our not being alive in the flesh at all: we have died away from it, and from under the law, which held us in bondage and condemnation, and we are married to another, Christ raised from the dead; and as soon as the distressed soul has said, "Who shall deliver me?" the answer is ready, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." The answer is not, He will deliver. Deliverance is already accomplished: he gives thanks.

The man was wretched in conflict under law, without knowledge of redemption. But he has died in the death of Christ out of the nature which made him so; he has quite done with himself. The deliverance of God is complete. The two natures are still opposed to each other, but the deliverance is not imperfect. This deliverance wrought of God, and the progress of its manifestation, are developed in the next chapter.

We may here remark that the apostle does not say, "We know that the law is spiritual, and we are carnal." Had he done so, it would have been to speak of Christians, as such, in their proper and normal condition. It is the personal experience of what the flesh is under law, when the man is quickened, and not the state of a Christian as such before God. Observe, also, that the law is looked at from the point of view of christian knowledge-"we know"-when we are no longer under it, and when we are capable of judging concerning its whole import, according to the spirituality of him who judges: and who sees also, being spiritual, what the flesh is; because he is now not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. [6] Literally, this passage is not the condition of anyone at all; but principles opposed to each other, the result of which is laid open by supposing a man under the law: the will always right, but good never done, evil always. Nevertheless to the conscience this is the practical condition of every renewed man under the law. We may remark one other important principle. Man in this condition is entirely taken up with himself; he desires good, he does not perform it, he does that which he would not. Neither Christ nor the Holy Ghost is named. In the normal condition of a Christian, he is occupied with Christ. But what is expressed in this seventh chapter is the natural and necessary result of the law, when the conscience is awakened and the will renewed. For to will is present with him. But he is under law, sees its spirituality, consents to it, delights in it after the inner man, and cannot perform what is good. Sin has dominion over him. The sense of unanswered responsibility, and the absence of peace, cause the soul necessarily to turn in upon itself. It is taken up entirely with self, which is spoken of nearly forty times from verse 14. It is well to be so, rather than to be insensible. It is not peace.

This peace is found elsewhere, and it is in this; when reduced to the consciousness of one's own inability to do good towards God, one finds that God has done for us the good which we need. We are not only forgiven but delivered, and are in Christ, not in the flesh at all.

The conflict goes on, the opposition between the two natures continues, but we give thanks to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [7] Remark here that deliverance is only found when there is the full conviction of our incapacity and want of power, as well as of our sins. It is much more difficult to arrive at this conviction of incapacity than at that of having sinned. But the sin of our nature-its irremediable perversity, its resistance to good, the law of sin in our members-is only known in its legal gravity by experience of the uselessness of our efforts to do well. Under the law the uselessness of these efforts leaves the conscience in distress and bondage, and produces the sense of its being impossible to be with God. Under grace the efforts are not useless, and the evil nature shews itself to us (either in communion with God, or by downfalls if we neglect communion) in all its deformity in presence of that grace. But in this chapter the experience of sin in the nature is presented as acquired under the law, in order that man may know himself in this position-may know what he is as regards his flesh, and that in fact he cannot succeed in this way in coming before God with a good conscience. He is under the first husband; death had not yet severed the bond as to the state of the soul.

We must now remember that this experience of the soul under the law is introduced parenthetically, to shew the sinful condition to which grace applies and the effect of the law. Our subject is that the believer has part in the death of Christ and has died, and is alive through Him who is risen; that Christ, having by grace gone under death, having been made sin, has for ever done with that state in which He had to do with sin and death in the likeness of sinful flesh; and having for ever done with all that was connected with it, has entered by resurrection into a new order of things-a new condition before God, totally beyond the reach of all that to which He had subjected Himself for us, which in us was connected with our natural life, and beyond reach of the law which bound sin upon the conscience on God's part. In Christ we are in this new order of things.


[1] It is thus, I doubt not, that this passage should be read. My reader may perhaps find "the law being dead." The expression, "dead to that wherein we were held," alludes to verse 4, where it is said, "ye died to the law." Christ under the law died under its curse. To be in the flesh is to live under the responsibility of a man in his natural life-a child of fallen Adam. In that life (unless it is lawless) the law is the rule of human righteousness. We must not confound the flesh being in the Christian with a man being in the flesh. The principle of the old life is still there, but it is in no way the principle of his relationship to God. When I am in the flesh, it is the principle of my relationship with God; but, its will being sinful, it is impossible that I should please God. I may seek for righteousness in it-it will be on the ground of law. But the Christian is dead by Christ to all that state of things-does not live of that life; his life is in Christ, and he has received the Holy Ghost. The flesh is no longer the principle of his relationship with God; on that ground he has owned himself lost. Elsewhere we learn that he is in Christ on the ground upon which Christ is before God. The Holy Ghost, as we shall see, places him there in power by faith, Christ being his life.

[2] He does not say here by the Spirit, because he has not yet spoken of the gift of the Holy Ghost in virtue of the work of Christ. He only speaks of the manner, the character, of the service rendered.

[3] It will be remembered that all through this part of the epistle (that is, from chapter 5:12) we have to do with sin, not with sins.

[4] Sin and death are correlative. The law is introduced in order to make manifest through the offence what they both are. The apostle first asks, "Is the law sin?" since its result was death to man. God forbid! but it gave the knowledge of sin, and wrote death upon the soul through judgment, man being a sinner. The second question is, "The law being thus good in itself, has it become death to me?" No. It is sin which (in order that it might appear in all its enormity) has slain me, using the law as a means, in my conscience. It found in man's condition the means of perverting this good thing, and making it death to him.

[5] There is also conflict, when the Holy Ghost dwells in us. Galatians 5 speaks of this. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit," etc. But then we are not under the law, as the apostle goes on to say, "If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Here the person spoken of is under the law: everything is in connection with the law. The law is spiritual; we consent to the law, we delight in the law. Neither Christ nor the Spirit is mentioned until the question of deliverance comes in.

[6] This gives the key to this-alas! because souls are not free-much spoken-of passage. It is not the present experience of any one, but a delivered person describing the state of an undelivered one. An undelivered person could not speak exactly thus, because he is uneasy as to the result for himself. A man in a morass does not quietly describe how a man sinks into it, because he fears to sink and stay there; when he is out, he describes how a man sinks there. The end of Romans 7 is a man out of the morass shewing in peace the principle and manner in which one sinks in it. All this part of the epistle is more complicated than what precedes chapter 5:12, because our own experience is in conflict withwhat faith teaches us to say. If through grace I am forgiven and justified, there is no contradiction in my experience. It is what God has done for me outside myself. My debt is paid. But if I am to say, I am dead to sin, my experience contradicts it. Hence we have no rest in this respect, till we give up self or flesh as wholly bad and irremediable, and learn that, consequent on redemption, we are not in the flesh at all. Compare chapters 7 and 8.

[7] The last verse of chapter 7 speaks of the abstract mind and character of the opposed natures; one the mind, however, and purpose of heart in the renewed man; the other, the fact of flesh being there, one "I myself," the other "my flesh." So the "I" is right; only it is not considered under the law or the contrary.

── John DarbySynopsis of Romans


Romans 7

Chapter Contents

Believers are united to Christ, that they may bring forth fruit unto God. (1-6) The use and excellence of the law. (7-13) The spiritual conflicts between corruption and grace in a believer. (14-25)

Commentary on Romans 7:1-6

(Read Romans 7:1-6)

So long as a man continues under the law as a covenant, and seeks justification by his own obedience, he continues the slave of sin in some form. Nothing but the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, can make any sinner free from the law of sin and death. Believers are delivered from that power of the law, which condemns for the sins committed by them. And they are delivered from that power of the law which stirs up and provokes the sin that dwells in them. Understand this not of the law as a rule, but as a covenant of works. In profession and privilege, we are under a covenant of grace, and not under a covenant of works; under the gospel of Christ, not under the law of Moses. The difference is spoken of under the similitude or figure of being married to a new husband. The second marriage is to Christ. By death we are freed from obligation to the law as a covenant, as the wife is from her vows to her husband. In our believing powerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, and have no more to do with it than the dead servant, who is freed from his master, has to do with his master's yoke. The day of our believing, is the day of being united to the Lord Jesus. We enter upon a life of dependence on him, and duty to him. Good works are from union with Christ; as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of its being united to its roots; there is no fruit to God, till we are united to Christ. The law, and the greatest efforts of one under the law, still in the flesh, under the power of corrupt principles, cannot set the heart right with regard to the love of God, overcome worldly lusts, or give truth and sincerity in the inward parts, or any thing that comes by the special sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Nothing more than a formal obedience to the outward letter of any precept, can be performed by us, without the renewing, new-creating grace of the new covenant.

Commentary on Romans 7:7-13

(Read Romans 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.

Commentary on Romans 7:14-17

(Read Romans 7:14-17)

Compared with the holy rule of conduct in the law of God, the apostle found himself so very far short of perfection, that he seemed to be carnal; like a man who is sold against his will to a hated master, from whom he cannot set himself at liberty. A real Christian unwillingly serves this hated master, yet cannot shake off the galling chain, till his powerful and gracious Friend above, rescues him. The remaining evil of his heart is a real and humbling hinderance to his serving God as angels do and the spirits of just made perfect. This strong language was the result of St. Paul's great advance in holiness, and the depth of his self-abasement and hatred of sin. If we do not understand this language, it is because we are so far beneath him in holiness, knowledge of the spirituality of God's law, and the evil of our own hearts, and hatred of moral evil. And many believers have adopted the apostle's language, showing that it is suitable to their deep feelings of abhorrence of sin, and self-abasement. The apostle enlarges on the conflict he daily maintained with the remainder of his original depravity. He was frequently led into tempers, words, or actions, which he did not approve or allow in his renewed judgement and affections. By distinguishing his real self, his spiritual part, from the self, or flesh, in which sin dwelt, and by observing that the evil actions were done, not by him, but by sin dwelling in him, the apostle did not mean that men are not accountable for their sins, but he teaches the evil of their sins, by showing that they are all done against reason and conscience. Sin dwelling in a man, does not prove its ruling, or having dominion over him. If a man dwells in a city, or in a country, still he may not rule there.

Commentary on Romans 7:18-22

(Read Romans 7:18-22)

The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do. How different this case from that of those who make themselves easy with regard to the inward motions of the flesh prompting them to evil; who, against the light and warning of conscience, go on, even in outward practice, to do evil, and thus, with forethought, go on in the road to perdition! For as the believer is under grace, and his will is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in the law of God, and in the holiness which it demands, according to his inward man; that new man in him, which after God is created in true holiness.

Commentary on Romans 7:23-25

(Read Romans 7:23-25)

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

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Romans


Romans 7

Verse 1

[1] Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

The apostle continues the comparison between the former and the present state of a believer, and at the same time endeavours to wean the Jewish believers from their fondness for the Mosaic law.

I speak to them that know the law — To the Jews chiefly here.

As long — So long, and no longer.

As it liveth — The law is here spoken of, by a common figure, as a person, to which, as to an husband, life and death are ascribed. But he speaks indifferently of the law being dead to us, or we to it, the sense being the same.

Verse 2

[2] For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

She is freed from the law of her husband — From that law which gave him a peculiar property in her.

Verse 4

[4] Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Thus ye also — Are now as free from the Mosaic law as an husband is, when his wife is dead.

By the body of Christ — Offered up; that is, by the merits of his death, that law expiring with him.

Verse 5

[5] For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

When ye were in the flesh — Carnally minded, in a state of nature; before we believed in Christ.

Our sins which were by the law — Accidentally occasioned, or irritated thereby.

Wrought in our members — Spread themselves all over the whole man.

Verse 6

[6] But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Being dead to that whereby we were held — To our old husband, the law.

That we might serve in newness of spirit — In a new, spiritual manner.

And not in the oldness of the letter — Not in a bare literal, external way, as we did before.

Verse 7

[7] What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

What shall we say then — This is a kind of a digression, to the beginning of the next chapter, wherein the apostle, in order to show in the most lively manner the weakness and inefficacy of the law, changes the person and speaks as of himself, concerning the misery of one under the law. This St. Paul frequently does, when he is not speaking of his own person, but only assuming another character, Romans 3:5; 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Corinthians 4:6. The character here assumed is that of a man, first ignorant of the law, then under it and sincerely, but ineffectually, striving to serve God. To have spoken this of himself, or any true believer, would have been foreign to the whole scope of his discourse; nay, utterly contrary thereto, as well as to what is expressly asserted, Romans 8:2.

Is the law sin — Sinful in itself, or a promoter of sin.

I had not known lust — That is, evil desire. I had not known it to be a sin; nay, perhaps I should not have known that any such desire was in me: it did not appear, till it was stirred up by the prohibition.

Verse 8

[8] But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

But sin — My inbred corruption.

Taking occasion by the commandment — Forbidding, but not subduing it, was only fretted, and wrought in me so much the more all manner of evil desire. For while I was without the knowledge of the law, sin was dead - Neither so apparent, nor so active; nor was I under the least apprehensions of any danger from it.

Verse 9

[9] For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

And I was once alive without the law — Without the close application of it. I had much life, wisdom, virtue, strength: so I thought.

But when the commandment — That is, the law, a part put for the whole; but this expression particularly intimates its compulsive force, which restrains, enjoins, urges, forbids, threatens.

Came — In its spiritual meaning, to my heart, with the power of God.

Sin revived, and I died — My inbred sin took fire, and all my virtue and strength died away; and I then saw myself to be dead in sin, and liable to death eternal.

Verse 10

[10] And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

The commandment which was intended for life — Doubtless it was originally intended by God as a grand means of preserving and increasing spiritual life, and leading to life everlasting.

Verse 11

[11] For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

Deceived me — While I expected life by the law, sin came upon me unawares and slew all my hopes.

Verse 12

[12] Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

The commandment — That is, every branch of the law.

Is holy, and just, and good — It springs from, and partakes of, the holy nature of God; it is every way just and right in itself; it is designed wholly for the good of man.

Verse 13

[13] Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Was then that which is good made the cause of evil to me; yea, of death, which is the greatest of evil? Not so. But it was sin, which was made death to me, inasmuch as it wrought death in me even by that which is good - By the good law.

So that sin by the commandment became exceeding sinful — The consequence of which was, that inbred sin, thus driving furiously in spite of the commandment, became exceeding sinful; the guilt thereof being greatly aggravated.

Verse 14

[14] For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

I am carnal — St. Paul, having compared together the past and present state of believers, that "in the flesh," Romans 7:5, and that "in the spirit," Romans 7:6, in answering two objections, (Is then the law sin? Romans 7:7, and, Is the law death? Romans 7:13,) interweaves the whole process of a man reasoning, groaning, striving, and escaping from the legal to the evangelical state. This he does from Romans 7:7, to the end of this chapter.

Sold under sin — Totally enslaved; slaves bought with money were absolutely at their master's disposal.

Verse 16

[16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

It is good — This single word implies all the three that were used before, Romans 7:12, "holy, just, and good."

Verse 17

[17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

It is no more I that can properly be said to do it, but rather sin that dwelleth in me — That makes, as it were, another person, and tyrannizes over me.

Verse 18

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

In my flesh — The flesh here signifies the whole man as he is by nature.

Verse 21

[21] I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

I find then a law — An inward constraining power, flowing from the dictate of corrupt nature.

Verse 22

[22] For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

For I delight in the law of God — This is more than "I consent to," Romans 7:16. The day of liberty draws near.

The inward man — Called the mind, Romans 7:23,25.

Verse 23

[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.

But I see another law in my members — Another inward constraining power of evil inclinations and bodily appetites.

Warring against the law of my mind — The dictate of my mind, which delights in the law of God.

And captivating me — In spite of all my resistance

Verse 24

[24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Wretched man that I am — The struggle is now come to the height; and the man, finding there is no help in himself, begins almost unawares to pray, Who shall deliver me? He then seeks and looks for deliverance, till God in Christ appears to answer his question. The word which we translate deliver, implies force. And indeed without this there can be no deliverance.

The body of this death — That is, this body of death; this mass of sin, leading to death eternal, and cleaving as close to me as my body to my soul. We may observe, the deliverance is not wrought yet.

Verse 25

[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.

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord — That is, God will deliver me through Christ. But the apostle, as his frequent manner is, beautifully interweaves his assertion with thanksgiving;' the hymn of praise answering in a manner to the voice of sorrow, "Wretched man that I am!" So then - He here sums up the whole, and concludes what he began, Romans 7:7.

I myself — Or rather that I, the person whom I am personating, till this deliverance is wrought.

Serve the law of God with my mind — My reason and conscience declare for God.

But with my flesh the law of sin — But my corrupt passions and appetites still rebel. The man is now utterly weary of his bondage, and upon the brink of liberty.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Romans


Chapter 7. Two Laws of Good and of Evil

The New Way of the Spirit
The Old Way of the Written Code

I. An Illustration from Marriage

  1. The Husband Alice
  2. The Husband Dead
  3. Marry to Christ

II. Sold to Sin

  1. The Law Is Spiritual
  2. Flesh Is Unspiritual
  3. The Sin Living in Me

III. The Struggle of the Two Laws

  1. A Salve to God's Law
  2. A Slave to the Law of Sin
  3. Who Will Rescue Me?
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter Seven General Review
1) To understand the Jewish Christian's relationship to the Law of
2) To comprehend the dilemma one faces without Jesus Christ
Paul has just completed discussing how being baptized into Christ makes 
us dead to sin and free to present our bodies as instruments of 
righteousness unto holiness.  For the benefit of his Jewish readers 
(those who know the Law), he now carries the concept of death and 
freedom one step further: the Jewish believers become dead to the Law 
that they might be joined to Christ.  He illustrates his point by 
referring to the marital relationship.  The result of being freed from 
the Law is that they might "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not 
in the oldness of the letter." (1-6)
Lest his Jewish readers think he is implying that the Law was sinful, 
Paul is quick to dispel that notion.  The Law, he says, is "holy and 
just and good."  The problem is that the Law only makes known that 
which is sinful, but sin took opportunity by the commandment to produce 
evil desire and deceived him, resulting in death (7-12).
To further illustrate his point, Paul pictures himself as man under the 
Law who finds himself in a terrible dilemma.  With his mind he knows 
that which good and wants to do it.  He also knows that which is evil 
and wants to avoid that.  But he finds a "law" (or principle) in his 
flesh which wins over the desire of the mind (13-23).  As a prisoner he 
cries out for freedom.  Is there no hope?  Yes!  God provides the 
solution through His Son Jesus Christ, upon which Paul will elaborate 
in chapter eight (24-25).
      1. Law has dominion over those who live under it (1)
      2. As illustrated by a woman who is married to a man (2-3)
      1. So they can be married to Christ (4)
      2. So they can serve in newness of the Spirit, far superior to
         serving in the oldness of the letter (5-6)
      1. The Law is not sin, but rather makes known sin (7)
      2. But sin takes occasion by the commandment to lead one to death
      1. The problem is not law, but sin (13)
      2. The Law is spiritual, but man is carnal and sold under sin
      3. Though one may desire good and hate evil, one is still
         enslaved by sin (15-23)
      4. Deliverance comes only from God, through Jesus Christ (24-25)
in the flesh - "to be in the flesh is to be under the flesh; and to be
               under it is to be controlled by its propensities, evil
               inclinations, and desires" (Moses Lard)
The Law - the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments (cf. v.7)
law of my mind - that inner desire, which in the context of this
                 chapter, is the desire of one to do that which is
                 good and right
law of sin in my members - "The law which I see 'in my members' is the
                           constant tendency which I notice in them to
                           sin, whenever excited by sinful objects"
                           (Moses Lard)
1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Jewish Believers And The Law (1-6)
   - Limitations Of The Law (7-25)
2) Who is Paul speaking to in this chapter? (1)
   - Those who know the law (Jewish Christians)
3) What example is given to show their relationship to the Law? (2-3)
   - How a woman whose husband dies is free to be married to another
     without being guilty of adultery
4) What is their relationship to the Law when joined to the body of
   Christ? (4-6)
   - Dead to the law, delivered from the law
5) How do we know the Law referred to is the Ten Commandments? (7)
   - To illustrate his point, Paul mentions "You shall not covet", one
     of the Ten Commandments
6) Was the Law responsible for death?  If not, what was? (13)
   - No!  It was "sin" that produced death
7) What dilemma does one face in trying to keep the Law? (15-21)
   - The DESIRE to do good and avoid evil may be there, but the ABILITY
     is found lacking
8) What is the end result of this dilemma? (23)
   - CAPTIVITY to the law (or principle) of sin in one's members
9) Where can one find freedom from this dilemma? (24-25)
   - From God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!


--《Executable Outlines


Two Laws of Good and of Evil

The New Way of the Spirit

The Old Way of the Written Code


I.  An Illustration from Marriage

1.    The Husband Alive

2.    The Husband Dead

3.    Marry to Christ

II.Sold to Sin

1.    The Law Is Spiritual

2.    Flesh Is Unspiritual

3.    The Sin Living in Me

III.       The Struggle of the Two Laws

1.    A Slave to God’s Law

2.    A Slave to the Law of Sin

3.    Who Will Rescue Me?

-- Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament