corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Romans 7



Other Authors


Verse 1

1.] Connect with ch. Romans 6:14, which is in fact the sentence immediately preceding. Reiche and Meyer connect with Romans 6:23; ‘The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord: this you can only doubt by being ignorant,’ &c.

Krehl believes ch. 7 to be the expansion of ‘Death is the wages of sin,’—and ch. 8, of ‘the free gift of God is eternal life.’ But not only does this division not hold, for much of ch. 8 regards the conflict with sin and infirmity,—but the prominence of νόμος as the subject here forbids the connexion with ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτ θάνατος.

The steps of the proof are these: The law binds a man only so long as he lives (Romans 7:1):—e.g. a married woman is only bound to her husband so long as he lives (Romans 7:2-3):—so also the Christian being dead with Christ and alive to Him is freed from the law (Romans 7:4).

ἀδελφοί] Not addressed particularly to Jewish Christians: see below: but generally to the Roman church.

γινώσκουσιν γ. νόμ. λαλ.] For I am speaking (writing) to men acquainted with the law; i.e. the persons to whom I address this epistle are such as know the law: not ‘I speak to those who know the law,’ as if he were now addressing a different class of persons,—which would require τοῖς γὰρ γινώσκουσιν τὸν νόμον τοῦτό φημι, see Galatians 4:21. Nor does the knowledge of the law here affirmed of the Romans prove that the majority of them were Jewish Christians: they may have been Gentile proselytes.

ὅτι ὁ νόμ. κυρ. τοῦ ἀνθρ.…] that the (Mosaic: for of that, and not of any other law, is the whole argument) law hath power over a man (not ὁ νόμ. τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ‘a man’s law,’ and κυριεύει absolute, ‘has dominion,’—as Hamm. and Dr. Burton, which is very questionable Greek and still worse sense) as long time as he (the man, see Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6 :—not the law, as Origen, Erasm., Grot., Estius, al., which would introduce the irrelevant question of the abrogation of the law, whereas the whole matter in argument is the relation of the Christian to the law) lives.

Verses 1-4

1–4.] The Christian is dead to the law by being dead with Christ, and has become His.

Verses 1-6

1–6.] The explanation and proof of the assertion ch. Romans 6:14, οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑπὸ νόμον, ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν: the answer to the question of Romans 6:15 having occupied Romans 6:16-23.

Verse 2

2.] For (not merely = e.g., but, as Thol., the example is itself the proof) the married (ref.) woman is bound by the law to the living husband: but if the husband die, she is set free from (lit. annulled from) the law of (‘regarding,’ compare reff. and ὁ νόμος τοῦ λεπροῦ. Leviticus 14:2) the husband (no hypallage).

Verse 3

3.] And accordingly ( ἄρα οὖν, ‘from the same consideration, it follows that’) while her husband lives she shall be called (see ref.—and on this use of the future, as declaring what shall follow on a condition being fulfilled, Winer, edn. 6, § 40. 6) an adulteress, if she attach herself to (become the wife of) another man: but if her husband die, she is free from the law ( τοῦ ἀνδρός), so that (it matters little whether τοῦ μή is the result or the purpose: it is better always to keep the latter in view, and to regard the result in such sentences as for the moment spoken of as the purpose to which its constituents contributed) she is not an adulteress, though she have attached herself to another man.

So far all is clear. But when we come to the application of the example, this must carefully be borne in mind, as tending to clear up all the confusion which has here been found by Commentators:—that the Apostle is insisting on the fact, that DEATH DISSOLVES LEGAL OBLIGATION: but he is not drawing an exact parallel between the persons in his example, and the persons in his application. The comparison might be thus made in terms common to both: (1) Death has dissolved the legal obligation between man and wife: therefore the wife is at liberty to be married to another:—(2) Death has dissolved the legal obligation between the law and us: therefore we are at liberty to be married to another. So far the comparison is strict. Further it will not hold: for in the example, the liberated person is the survivor,—in the thing treated, the liberated person is the dead person. And so far from this being an oversight or an inaccuracy, it is no more than that to which, more or less, all comparisons are liable; and no more can be required of them than that they should fit, in the kernel and intent of the similitude. If it be required here to apply the example further, there is no difficulty nor inconsistency in saying (as Chrys. al.) that our first Husband was the Law, and our second is Christ; but then it must be carefully borne in mind, that we are freed, not by the law having died to us, (which matter here is not treated,) but by our having died to the law. It is not necessary with Calv. and Tholuck, to suppose that in Romans 7:4 there is an euphemistic inversion, ‘we are dead to the law,’ instead of ‘the law is dead to us;’ indeed such a supposition would, from what is said above, much weaken the argument, which rests on our being slain with Christ, and so freed from the law.

Verse 4

4.] So then (inference both from Romans 7:1, the general fact, and Romans 7:2-3, the example), my brethren, ye also (as well as the woman in my example, who is dead to the law of her husband) were slain to the law (crucified, see Galatians 2:19-20. The more violent word is used instead of ἀπεθάνετε, to recall the violent death of Christ, in which, and after the manner of which, believers have been put to death to the law and sin,—and the historic aorist to remind them of the great Event by which this was brought about) by means of the (crucified) Body (compare διὰ τῆς προσφορᾶς τοῦ σώματος τοῦ ἰης. χρ., Hebrews 10:10) of Christ, that you should become attached to another, (even) to Him who was raised from the dead (alluding both to the comparison in Romans 7:2-3, γένηται ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῳ, and to ch. Romans 6:4-5, ἵνα ὥσπ. ἠγέρθη χριστὸς κ. τ. λ.), that we should (here strictly final, as Thol., Meyer, De W., &c. Not merely ecbatic, as Fritzsche) bring forth fruit (alluding to καρπόν, ch. Romans 4:22, and at the same time (Luke 1:42) carrying on the similitude of marriage. Not that this latter must be pressed, for there is only an allusion to it: nor on the other hand need the least objection be raised to such an understanding of the words, as any one conversant with St. Paul’s way of speaking on this subject will at once feel: compare 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:30-32) to (dat. commodi, ‘to the honour of’) God.

Verse 5-6

5, 6.] In the fleshly state (before we died with Christ) sinful passions which were by the Law worked in us and brought forth fruit to death: but now that we are dead to the law, we are no longer servants in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit. The Law (ch. Romans 5:20, alluded to again Romans 6:14) was the multiplier of sin To this thought, and the inferences from it, the Apostle now recurs, and contrasts the state under the law in this respect, with that of the believer in Christ. For when we were in the flesh (= virtually, “under the law:” see the antithesis in Romans 7:6; so almost all Commentators, ancient and modern,—except Beza, Bengel, Reiche, and Thol., who take it to mean the mere fleshly state, in which the Spirit is not yet energizing, and Ambrst(42), Calov., Olsh., al., who interpret it of the state of the unregenerate. But how does ἐν τῇ σαρκί denote ‘under the law?’ Some say, on account of its carnality, as more or less Theodoret, Œc(43), Hammond, Grot., al.: some, on account of the power of sin under the law,—as Chrys., Theophyl., Calv., al.: best of all is it to understand it, with Rückert, Köllner, Meyer, Fritz., De Wette, as pointing to the period before death with Christ, in which we were sensual and sinful: so that ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ εἶναι forms a contrast with θανατωθῆναι. But, as De W. observes, it must not with Fritz. be rendered ‘quum viveremus,’ as this is never the sense of ἐν ( τῇ) σαρκὶ ( εἶναι),—not even 2 Corinthians 10:3; nor, I may add, Philippians 1:24) the stirrings (‘passions of sins,’ objective gen., which led to sins: not by hendiadys for παθήμ. ἁμαρτωλά, which, as always, destroys the force) of sins, which were by means of the law (the incitements,—not the sins, in this place, though ultimately it was so, the incitement leading to the sin. The full meaning of διὰ τοῦ νόμου must be kept, ‘which were by means of the law:’ i.e. the law occasioned them. Locke argues for the rendering, ‘under the law,’ ‘in the time of the law,’ which would destroy the force of the argument connecting the law with sin, here put so strongly as to require the question of Romans 7:7) wrought (‘energized:’ not pass., but middle: see note on Galatians 5:6) in our members (the instruments of sin, ch. Romans 6:13) to the bringing forth of fruit (see on τοῦ μή, Romans 7:3; the καρποφ. was the final object of their energizing, not the mere result.

In καρποφ. here, the allusion to progeny is very distant, if it exists at all. Meyer makes it refer to an adulterous state, and personifies θάνατος; but this can hardly be) unto death (only a verbal antithesis to τῷ θεῷ:—‘whose end was death’):

Verse 6

6.] But now (opposed to ὅτε, Romans 7:5) have we been delivered (annulled) from the law, having died (to that) wherein we were held (the reading ἀποθανόντος cannot even be brought into discussion, as it appears to be only a conjecture of Beza’s, arising from a misunderstanding of the text (and of Chrysostom’s commentary, who did not read it),—see the analogy explained on Romans 7:1; the other reading, τοῦ θανάτου, is a correction to suit Romans 7:5. So that ἐν ᾧ either refers directly to νόμου, ἀποθανόντες being absolute and parenthetic, or we must understand ἐκείνῳ aft. ἀποθ. I prefer the latter, as suiting better the style of the Apostle and the whole connexion. The omission of the demonstrative pron. probably is occasioned by a desire to give especial prominence to the fact of ἀποθανόντες, or perhaps on account of the prepos. ἀπό in composition, as in ch. Romans 10:14, πῶς οὖν ἐπικαλέσωνται εἰς ὃν οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν;), so that we serve (not ‘should serve,’ as E. V.: the pres. describes the actual state:—understand ‘God’ after serve) in the newness of the Spirit (i.e. of the Holy Spirit of God, who originates and penetrates the Christian life:—the first mention of the Spirit so much spoken of in ch. 8) and not in the oldness of the letter (the law being only a collection of precepts and prohibitions, but the Gospel a service of freedom, ruled by the Spirit, whose presence is liberty), καινότης and παλαιότης are not as in ch. Romans 6:4, καινότητ ζωῆς, attributes of the genitives which follow them, but states in which those genitives are the ruling elements.

Verse 7

7.] τί οὖν ἐρ., see note, ch. Romans 6:1.

ὁ ν. ἁμαρτία;] Is the law (not, as Jowett, ‘conscience,’ but in our case, the revealed law of God, which awoke the conscience to action) sin?—not ‘the cause of sin,’ which in one sense the Apostle would not have denied,—but sin, abstract for concrete, sinful, or, as Bengel, ‘causa peccati peccaminosa.’ ὁ νόμος itself being abstract, that which is predicated of it is abstract also. The contrast is, ὁ νόμος ἅγιος, Romans 7:12. The question itself refers back to Romans 7:5, τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τὰ διὰ τοῦ νόμου. It is asked, not by an objector, but by the Apostle himself, in anticipation of an objection.

ἀλλά] Is but here in contrast to ὁ νόμ. ἁμαρτ., meaning, ‘so far from that,’—or is it a qualification of μὴ γένοιτο, meaning ‘but still it is true, that …?’ Neither explanation exactly suits the context, which is, by a proper elucidation of the law’s working as regards sin, to prove it to be holy. I would rather understand ἀλλά, but what I mean is …,—I say not that, but … There surely is no contrast to ὁ νόμ. ἁυαρτία, see Romans 7:8.

οὐκ ἔγνων] ‘non cognoscebam, ni …,’—I was living in a state of ignorance of sin, were it not … This construction comprehends in it οὐκ ἂν ἔγνων as a consequence, and is therefore often said to be put for it; but it has its propriety, as here, where a historical state is being described, and the unconditional indicative is more appropriate. Tholuck makes it = ‘non cognoveram, ni …’ in which case the indic, expresses more plainly than the conjunctive the absolute dependence of the fact on the condition.

There is some difficulty in understanding the mutual relation of the clauses, τὴν ἁμ. οὐκ ἔγνων, and τήν τε γὰρ ἐπιθ. οὐκ ᾔδειν. It is well known that τε differs from καί, in not coupling things co-ordinate, but attaching things subordinate, to a former. Thus Thucyd. i. 9 begins ἀγαμέμνων τέ μοι δοκεῖ …, on which Poppo remarks (cited by Thol.), ‘Sequitur exemplum auctæ Græcorum opulentiæ … ductum ex rebus Agamemnonis et causis expeditionis Trojanæ;’ an example being a subordinate verification of a general categorical statement. The γάρ also shews that the second clause is subordinated to, and aileged in substantiation of the first. Then what is ἁμαρτία? Is it sin in act, or sin in principle,—the principle of sin? Not sin in act, so that ἁμ. οὐκ ἔγν. should mean, ‘I had not entered into contact with sin,’ i.e. ‘had not sinned:’ as Fritz.: for then the law would have truly and actually been the cause of sin: nor, sin in act, so that the meaning were, ‘I had not known the nature of a sinful act:’ for this would not agree with the subordination of ἐπιθυμία below: the ἐπιθ. being more general ( πᾶσαν ἐπιθ.) than the particular acts which it induced. But the reference must be to sin in principle, the principle of sin: I had not recognized such a thing as sin, but by means of the law. So Calv., Melancth., Calov., Rückert, Kölln., Olsh., Thol., De Wette.

The law here is in the full sense of the Mosaic law as regarded himself,—not excluding the wider sense on which I have insisted in the former part of the Epistle when applied to others.

τήν τε γὰρ] For neither (‘neque enim’) had I known (by experience: ‘known any thing of’) coveting (the motions of the flesh towards sin,—whether acted on or not,—whether consented to or not:—this motion he would not have perceived, because he was simply moving with it) if the law had not said, Thou shalt not covet (reff. Exod. Deut.). ‘Covet,’ in the above sense. The Apostle omits all the objects there specified, and merely lays hold of the idea contained in ἐπιθυμήσεις. And it may well be said and strictly, that the ‘coveting’ there spoken of would lead to all kinds of sin—therefore murder, adultery, &c., if carried out: and that the prohibition of desire there serves as an example of what the law actually forbids elsewhere.

Verses 7-25

7–25.] An explanation of the part which the law has in bringing out sin, by example of the Apostle’s own case. In this most important and difficult passage, it is of the first consequence to have a clear view of the form of illustration which the Apostle adopts, and of the reason why he adopts it. The former has been amply treated of by almost all Commentators: the latter, too generally, has escaped their enquiry. But it furnishes, if satisfactorily treated, a key to the other. I ask then first, why St. Paul suddenly changes here to the first person? And the answer is, because he is about to draw a conclusion negativing the question ( ὁ νόμος ἁμαρτία;) upon purely subjective grounds, proceeding on that which passes within, when the work of the law is carried on in the heart. And he is about to depict this work of the law by an example which shall set it forth in vivid colours, in detail, in its connexion with sin in a man. What example then so apposite, as his own? Introspective as his character was, and purified as his inner vision was by the Holy Spirit of God, what example would so forcibly bring out the inward struggles of the man which prove the holiness of the law, while they shew its inseparable connexion with the production of sin?

If this be the reason why the first person is here assumed (and I can find no other which does not introduce into St. Paul’s style an arbitrariness and caprice which it least of all styles exhibits), then we must dismiss from our minds all exegesis which explains the passage of any other, in the first instance, than of Paul himself: himself indeed, as an exemplar, wherein others may see themselves: but not himself in the person of others, be they the Jews, nationally or individually, or all mankind, or individual men. This being done, there arises now a question equally important,—Of what self is it that he speaks throughout this passage? Is it always the same? If so, is it always the carnal, unregenerate self? or always the spiritual, regenerate? Clearly not the latter always; for to that self the historical account of Romans 7:7-13 will not apply, and still less the assertion, in the present, of Romans 7:14. Clearly not the former always: for to that the assertion of Romans 7:22 will not apply, nor that of Romans 7:25. Is it always the complex self, made up of the prevailing spiritual-regenerate, with the remains of the carnal-unregenerate? Not always this: although this seems nearer to satisfying the conditions: for in the description Romans 7:9, ἐγὼ ἔζων χωρὶς νόμου ποτέ, and in ἐγὼ σὰρκινός εἰμι κ. τ. λ. Romans 7:14, there is no complexity, but the ἐγώ is clearly the carnal man. Therefore not always the same. If not always the same, where is the distinction? If we look carefully, the Apostle himself will guide us to it. Having carried on the ἐγώ unqualified and unexplained till Romans 7:18, he there has occasion to say οὐκ οἰκεῖ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἀγαθόν. But he is conscious that, as he had written to the Cor. (1 Corinthians 3:16), τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν: he therefore finds it necessary to correct himself by an explanation, what ἐγώ he meant, and adds to ἐν ἐμοί,— τουτέστιν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου. So that ἐγώ there is equivalent to ἡ σάρξ μου, i.e. ‘myself in my state of life to the law and sin, and acting according to the motions of sin.’ Again, when the approval of the law of God is affirmed (not the mere θέλω, which I will treat by and by), it is not barely ἐγώ, but to avoid confusion, in Romans 7:22 the Apostle adds κατὰ τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον, and in Romans 7:25, prefixes αὐτός; in both cases shewing that (see notes below) he speaks of the complex man, himself made up of an ἔσω, and an ἔξω ἄνθρωπος, of ὁ νοῦς and ἡ σάρξ. Are we then justified in assuming, that up to Romans 7:22 the carnal-unregenerate self is spoken of, but after that the complex self? Such a supposition would not be consistent with the assertion of the θέλω from Romans 7:15 onwards: no such will existing in the carnal-unregenerate man. I believe the true account will be nearly as follows:—from Romans 7:7-13 incl. is historical, and the ἐγώ there is the historical self, under the working of conviction of sin, and shewing the work of the law; in other words, the carnal self in the transition state, under the first motions towards God generated by the law, which the law could never have perfected. Then at Romans 7:14, Paul, according to a habit very common to him, keeps hold of the carnal self, and still having it in view, transfers himself into his present position,—altering the past tense into the present, still however meaning by ἐγώ (in Romans 7:14), ἡ σάρξ μου. But, having passed into the present tense, he immediately mingles with this mere action of the law upon the natural conscience, the motions of the will towards God which are in conflict with the motions towards sin in the members. And hence arises an apparent verbal confusion, because the ἐγώ e.g. in Romans 7:17, of whom it is said, οὐκ ἔτι ἐγὼ κατεργάζομαι αὐτό, being the entire personality, the complex self, is of far wider extent than the ἐγώ of whom it is said οὐκ οἰκεῖ ἐν ἐμοί, τουτέστιν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου, ἀγαθόν. But the latter ἐγώ, in this part of the chapter, is shewn to be (Romans 7:17; Romans 7:20) no longer properly ἐγώ, but ἡ οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ ἁμαρτία,—and so it passes altogether out of sight after Romans 7:20, and its place is taken by the actual then existing complex self of Paul, compounded of the regenerate spiritual man, sympathizing with God’s law, serving God’s law, in conflict with the still remaining though decadent carnal man, whose essence it is to serve the law of sin, to bring captive to the law of sin. This state of conflict and division against one’s self would infallibly bring about utter ruin, and might well lead to despair (Romans 7:24), but for the rescue which God’s grace has provided by Jesus Christ our Lord. And this rescue has been such, that I, the αὐτὸς ἐγώ of Romans 7:25, the real self, the nobler and better part of the man, serve, with the νοῦς (see there), the law of God: whereas it is only with the flesh, according to which (ch. Romans 8:4) I do not walk, but overcome and mortify it, that I serve (am still subject to) the law of sin. Then this subjection of the flesh to the law of sin, to the δουλεία τῆς φθορᾶς, is fully set out, in its nature,—consequences to the carnal,—and uses to the spiritual,—in ch. 8.

Any thing like a summary of the exegesis of this passage would be quite beyond my limits. I must refer the student to commentaries on this epistle alone,—and especially to that of Tholuck, where a complete and masterly history is given. It may suffice here to say, that most of the ancients suppose ἐγώ to represent mankind, or the Jews generally, and the whole to be taken chronologically,—to Romans 7:9 as before the law, after Romans 7:9 as under the law. This was once Augustine’s view, Prop. 44 in Ep. ad Rom. vol. iii. p. 2071, but he afterwards changed it (Retract. i. 23, vol. i. p. 620) and adopted in the main that advocated above.

The default of a history of the exegesis will be found to be in some measure compensated by the account of opinions given under the separate verses below.

Verse 8

8.] But (proceeding with the development of sin by means of the law) sin (the sinful principle or propensity, but without any conscious personification on the part of the Apostle,—see some excellent remarks on personification in Tholuck) having found occasion ( ἀφορμή, as its derivation shews, means more than mere opportunity,—it indicates the furnishing the material and ground of attack, the wherewith and whence to attack. The words here are not to be joined, as Luth., Olsh., Meyer, with διὰ τ. ἐντολῆς [which belongs to κατηργάσατο, see below]:—for (1) ἀφορμ. λαβεῖν διὰ would not express whence the ἀφορμή is taken, as παρά or ἐκ, but only by what means some ἀφ. is taken from some source,—which would not here suit the Apostle’s meaning, seeing that the source itself was the commandment,—and (2) Romans 7:13, διὰ τοῦ ἀγ. κατεργ., decides the matter here,—but absolutely, as frequently, see Wetst.) by means of the commandment (not = τοῦ νόμου, but the tenth commandment, the prohibition in question) wrought in me (not ‘wrought out,’ ‘brought into action,’ but ‘originated’ [using this commandment as its instrument]) all (manner) of coveting; for without the law sin is (not ‘was:’ the omission of the verb substantive shews the sentence to be a locus communis,—and compare ch. Romans 4:15) dead (powerless and inactive: compare 1 Corinthians 15:56, ἡ δύναμις τ. ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος).

This deadness of sin without the law must not be understood as meaning that sin was committed but not recognized, the conscience being not informed nor awakened: such a statement would be true, but would not touch the matter argued here. Erasmus (Thol.) well explains the νεκρά,—‘Quum ante legem proditam (but see below) quædam peccata nescirem, quædam ita scirem, ut mihi tamen licere putarem, quod vetita non essent,—levius ac languidius sollicitabatur animus ad peccandum, ut frigidius amamus ea, quibus ubi libeat potiri fas sit. Cæterum legis indicio proditis tot peccati formis, universa cupiditatum cohors irritata prohibitione cœpit acrius ad peccandum sollicitare.’ Compare also Proverbs 9:17, and (Wetst.) Ovid. Amor. ii. 19. 3, ‘Quod licet ingratum est, quod non licet acrius urit:’ and ib. iii. 4. 17, ‘Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata:’ and Seneca, de Clem. i. 23 (Thol.), ‘Parricidæ cum lege cœperunt, et illis facinus pœna monstravit:’ and a remarkable passage from Cato’s speech in Livy xxxiv. 4, ‘Nolite eodem loco existimare, Quirites, futuram rem, quo fuit, antequam lex de hoc ferretur. Et hominem improbum non accusari tutius est, quam absolvi, et luxuria non mota tolerabilior esset, quam erit nunc, ipsis vinculis, sicut fera bestia, irritata, deinde emissa.’

Verse 9

9.] It is a great question with Interpreters, of what period Paul here speaks. Those who sink his own personality, and think that he speaks merely as one of mankind, or of the Jews, understand it of the period before the law was given: some, of Adam in Paradise before (?) the prohibition: those who see Paul himself throughout the whole think that he speaks,—some, of his state as a Pharisee: this however would necessitate the understanding the legal death which follows, of his conversion, which cannot well be: some, of his state as a child, before that freedom of the will is asserted which causes rebellion against the law as the will of another: so Meyer, Thol., al. Agreeing in some measure with the last view, I would extend the limits further, and say that he speaks of all that time, be it mere childhood or much more, before the law began its work within him,—before the deeper energies of his moral nature were aroused (see on ἐλθούσης below).

But ( ἔζων opposed, but only formally, to νεκρά, and so having δέ: so Meyer and De W.) I was alive (not merely ‘lived,’ ‘went on,’ but emphatic, ‘vivus eram,’ as Aug(44), i.e. ‘lived and flourished,’—contrasted with ἀπέθανον below) without the law (the law having no recognized place in my moral existence) once; but when the commandment (above, Romans 7:8) came (purely subjective; not ‘was enacted,’ ‘came in,’—but ‘came to me,’ as we say, ‘came home to me,’ ‘was brought home to me’), sin sprung into life (not ‘revived:’ however true it may be that sin was merely dormant, the idea insisted on here, is, that it was dead and came to life, began to live and flourish:—but this is not to be compared with ἀνέβλεψα in John 9:11; see note there),

Verse 10

10.] but I died (ceased to live-and-flourish as before,—fell into that state of unhappiness, which even afterwards under the gospel he calls θάνατος, Romans 7:24, ch. Romans 8:2): and (not an additional particular, but = ‘and so,’ merely changing the subject from ‘I,’ to ‘the commandment’) the commandment which was for (tending to) life (compare ch. Romans 10:5, ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὰ ἄνθρωπος ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς, and reff. there: the life is one of prosperity primarily, but capable of, and indeed requiring (Romans 10:5) a higher interpretation), this (very commandment) ( αὕτη directs attention in a marked way to the antecedent subject: so frequently αὐτός and ἐκεῖνος: see Matthew 24:13; Winer, edn. 6, § 23. 4) was found (subjective— οὐκ εἶπεν ὅτι ἡ ἐντολὴ γέγονέ μοι θάνατος, ἀλλʼ εὑρέθη, τὸ καινὸν καὶ παράδοξον τῆς ἀτοπίας οὕτως ἑρμηνεύων), Chrys.) by me (to be) unto (tending to) death (explained on ἀπέθ. above).

Verse 11

11.] For (explanatory how Romans 7:10 happened) sin (the sinful principle within me) having found occasion (absol. as in Romans 7:8, where see note),—by means of the commandment deceived me (there is a plain reference to the Tempter deceiving Eve, which was accomplished by means of the commandment, exciting doubt of and objection to it, and lust after the forbidden thing: see reff. 2 Cor., 1 Tim.), and by it slew me (i.e. brought me into the state of misery and death, mentioned in Romans 7:10;—but there is an allusion again to the effect of the fall as the act of the Tempter).

Verse 12

12.] So that (seeing it was not the law in general, nor this particular commandment, that wrought coveting in me, but the sinful principle in me taking advantage of these, which themselves were given εἰς ζωήν and not εἰς θάνατον) the law (indeed) is holy ( μέν, as understanding a δέ to fellow—‘but it was sin,’ &c.: which does follow in an expanded form, in Romans 7:13), and the commandment ( οὐκ ἐπιθυμήεις, Romans 7:8) holy and just and good (Theodoret thus accounts for the epithets: ἀγίαν προσηγόρευσεν ὡς τὸ δέον διδάξασαν· δικαίαν δέ, ὡς ὀρθῶς τοῖς παραβάταις τὴν ψῆφον ἐξενεγκοῦσαν· ἀγαθὴν δέ, ὡς ζωὴν τοῖς φυλάττουσιν εὐτρεπίζουσαν. See also 1 Timothy 1:8).

Verse 13

13.] Did then the good (= ‘that which was good,’ i.e. ἡ ἐντολή, but made abstract for the sake of greater contrast) become death (so ὁ νόμ., ἁμαρτια, Romans 7:7) to me? Was it, after all, the commandment itself that became to me this death of which I speak?

Far from it: but (it was) sin (that became death to me.

The construction adopted by Vulg., Luth., al., ἀλλὰ ἡ ἁματρία, ἵνα φανῇ ἁμ., διὰ τ. ἀγ. μοι κατεργαζομένη [ ἧν] θάνατον, is hardly admissible);—that it might appear (be shewn to be) sin, (by) working death to me by means of the good (that which was good: see above. The misuse and perversion of good is one of the tests whereby the energy of evil is detected; so that sin, by its perversion of the (good) commandment into a cause (evil) of death, was shewn in its real character as sin. That this is the rendering is evident by the following clause, which is parallel with it. Erasm., Valla, Elsner, Dr. Burton, al., make ἁμαρτία the subject: ‘that sin might appear to be working death, &c.’ (‘so that sin appears to have effected my death,’ &c. Dr. Burton, most ungrammatically): there is no objection to this on the ground of ἁμαρτ. being anarthrous, as even Bp. Middleton himself reluctantly acknowledges;—the objection lies in the context, as above), that (explains and runs parallel with the former ἵνα, as in 2 Corinthians 9:3, where he adds to the 2nd ἵνα, καθὼς ἔλεγον) by means of the commandment sin might become exceeding (above measure) sinful: i.e. that sin, which was before unknown as such, might, being vivified and brought into energy by (its opposition to) the commandment, be brought out as being (not merely ‘shewn to be’) exceedingly sinful (sinful in an exaggerated degree—prominent in its true character as the opponent of God).

Verse 14

14.] On the change into the present tense here, see above in the remarks on the whole section. Hitherto has been historical: now the Apostle passes to the present time, keeping hold yet of the carnal ἐγώ of former days, whose remnants are still energizing in the renewed man. For (by way of explaining and setting in still clearer light the relative positions of sin and the law, and the state of inner conflict brought about by their working) we know (it is an acknowledged principle amongst us, see reff.) that the law is spiritual (sprung from God, who is a Spirit, and requiring of men spiritual purity. These meanings, which have been separately held by different Commentators, may, as Thol. and De W. observe, well be united): but I (see beginning of section) am carnal ([subject to the law of the flesh, and in bondage to it, see below] σάρκινος, stronger than σαρκικός; carneus rather than carnalis, but it is doubtful whether the two endings were not used indiscriminately: see Tholuck), sold (into slavery, see reff.; but the similitude must not be exacted in all particulars, for it is only the fact of slavery, as far as its victim, the man, is concerned, which is here prominent) under (to, and so as to be under the power of) sin.

Tholuck (who differs from the view of this section advocated above, yet) adds here: “The ἐγώ appears here in its totality as sinful, while in Romans 7:16; Romans 7:20 it is distinguished from sin. That Paul does not here bear in mind this distinction, may be justified by the maxim, ‘à potiori fit denominatio;’ the ἐγώ is a slave, and has not his own will: as Romans 7:23 shews, the ἐγώ which is hostile to sin, the νόμος τοῦ νοός, is under coercion, and the man is a captive. So Arrian in Epict. ii. 22: ὅπου γὰρ τὸ ἐγὼ καὶ τὸ ἐμόν, ἐκεῖ ἀνάγκη ῥέπειν τὸ ζῶον, εἰ ἐν σαρκἰ, ἐκεῖ τὸ κυριεῦον εἶναι, εἰ ἐν προαιρέσει, ἐκεῖνο (qu. ἐκεῖ?) εἶναι.”

The latter clause of the verse is the very strongest assertion of man’s subjection to the slavery of sin in his carnal nature.

Verse 15

15.] For (a proof of this πεπράσθαι under sin, viz. not being able to do what I would, Romans 7:15-17) that which I perform (am in the habit of doing) I know not (act blindly, at the dictates of another: which is proper to a slave. σκοτοῦμαι φησί, συναρπάζομαι, ἐπήρειαν ὑπομένω, οὐκ οἶδα πῶς ὑποσκελίζομαι, Chrys. The meaning, ‘I approve not,’ introduced by Aug(45) and held by Erasm., Beza, Grot., Estius, Semler, al., is not sanctioned by usage,—see note on 1 Corinthians 8:3,—and would make the following clause almost a tautology): for (explanation of last assertion, shewing how such blind service comes to pass) not what I desire, that do I (this θέλω is not the full determination of the will, the standing with the bow drawn and the arrow aimed; but rather the inclination of the will,—the taking up the bow and pointing at the mark, but without power to draw it:—-we have θέλω in the sense of to wish, 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 14:5; 2 Corinthians 12:20), but what I hate (= οὐ θέλω, Romans 7:19; no distinction in intensity between θέλω and μισῶ), that I do (no distinction here between πράσσω and ποιῶ, as apparently in John 3:20-21, where see note: for they are interchanged in Romans 7:19-20).

The Commentators cite several parallel passages from profane writers: e.g. Seneca, Hippol. 604, ‘Vos testor omnes cœlites, hoc quod volo, me nolle;’—Epictetus, Enchiridion ii. 26, ἐπεὶ γὰρ ὁ ἁμαρτάνων οὐ θέλει ἁμαρτάνειν, ἀλλὰ κατορθῶσαι, δῆλον ὅτι ὃ μὲν θέλει οὐ ποιεῖ, καὶ ὃ μὴ θέλει ποιεῖ:—the well-known lines of Ovid, Met. Romans 7:19, ‘aliudque cupido, Mens aliud suadet: video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor:’—Plautus, Trinummus iii. 2. 31, ‘Scibam ut esse me deceret, facere non quibam miser:’—&c.

Verse 16

16.] But if (= ‘now seeing that;’ takes up the foregoing and draws an inference from it) what I wish not, that I do, I agree with (bear witness to) the law that it is good (viz. ‘in that the law prohibits what I also dislike,—the law and I are as one in proscribing the thing,—the law, and my wish, tend the same way’).

Verse 17

17.] Now however (‘quod autem quum ita sit,’ not of time, as Grot., ‘nunc post legem datam,’—or Koppe, ‘ex quo Christianus factus sum’) it is no longer (not a chronological, but a logical sequence, ‘it can no more be said, that;’see reff.) I that perform it ( κατεργ. as recalling Romans 7:8-15), but sin that dwelleth in me. Here the ἐγώ is not the complex responsible self, by which the evil deed is wrought, and which incurs the guilt of working it: but the self of the WILL in its higher sense, the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος of Romans 7:22. The not bearing this in mind has led to error in interpretation and doctrine: e.g. when it is supposed that the Christian is not responsible for his sins committed against his spiritual will and higher judgment; whereas we are all responsible for the ἔργα of the sin that dwelleth in us, and it is in this very subjection to and involution with the law of sin in our members, that the misery consists, which leads to the cry in Romans 7:24.

Verse 18

18.] An explanation of the οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ ἁμαρτία of the last verse. For I know (by experience, detailed in the next verse) that there dwells not in me, that is, in my flesh, (any) good (thing). I said, sin that dwelleth in me, because I feel sure, from experience, that in me (meaning by ‘me’ not that higher spiritual self in which the Spirit of God dwells, but the lower carnal self: see on this important limitation the remarks at the beginning of the section) dwells no good thing. And what is my proof of this? How has experience led me to this knowledge? For (the proof from experience) the wish (to do good) is present with me ( παρ., not metaphorical, see reff., but, as προκεῖμαι in Homer, used commonly of meats served up to, lying before, any one); but to perform that which is good, is not (the absence of εὑρίσκω in (46) (47) (48) (49), and the variations of γινώσκω and ἔχω in one or two mss. and versions,—and besides, the somewhat unusual termination of the sentence with οὐ,—are too strong presumptions of its being an interpolation, to allow of its retention) (present with me).

Verse 19

19.] And this οὐ παρακεῖσθαι of the doing good is shewn by my acts, in that I do not the good that I wish (to do), but the evil which I do not wish, that I do.

Verse 20

20.] The inference of Romans 7:17 restated, with the premiss of Romans 7:16 in the place of νυνὶ δέ:—but its meaning is now clearer and deeper than then; we know now that the ἐγώ which in the present verse does not the evil thing, is the better ἐγώ of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος,—whereas the ἐμοί in which sin dwells and rules, though included in the complex self, is the lower ἐγώ, ἡ σάρξ μου. And so the way is now prepared for at once setting forth the conflict within us between these two.

Verse 21

21.] I find then (i.e. as appears from what has been detailed) the (this) law (presently to be defined as the law of sin in my members, and exemplified in the following words: so τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ κυρίου, ὡς ἔλεγεν, Acts 11:16 :— τῶν λόγων τοῦ κυρίου ἰησοῦ, ὅτι αὐτὸς εἶπεν, Acts 20:35 (De W.). This is the view of Calv., Beza, Grot., Estius, Wolf, Winer, Meyer (ed. 1, but in subsequent editions he has altered his view more than once), De Wette, al. It cannot well be referred to the Mosaic law, as, with various forced arrangements and constructions, Chrys., Theophyl., Theodoret, Tholuck, Olsh., Fritz., Köllner; the great objection being, that all these do violence to the context. Tholuck’s remark, that had νόμον meant as above, it would have been anarthrous, or τοῦτον τὸν νόμον, is sufficiently answered by the above examples: and the dative after εὑρίσκω, to which he also objects as inadmissible in any language, is justified by Soph. Œd. Col. 966, οὐκ ἄν ἐξεύροις ἐμοὶ | ἁμαρτίας ὄνειδος οὐδέν,—and by Plato, Rep. iv. p. 421, ἕτερατοῖς φύλαξιν εὑρήκαμεν, ‘alia invenimus nostris custodibus observanda,’ Ficin.) to me (for myself) wishing to do good, that (consisting in this, that) evil is present with (see above, Romans 7:18) me.

Verse 22-23

22, 23.] Explanation of the conflict above alleged to exist. For I delight in ( σύν not signifying participation with others, but as perhaps in συνλυπούμενος, Mark 3:5, and in the phrase σύνοιδά μοι; denoting ‘apud animum meum.’ Thol.

συνήδομαι is a stronger expression than σύμφημι, Romans 7:16) the law of God after the inner man (= νοῦς, Romans 7:25,—see reff.—and compare Peter’s ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος, ref. 1 Pet. But not merely the mental and reasoning part of man:—for that surely does not delight in the law of God:—it is absolutely necessary to presuppose the influence of the Holy Spirit, and to place the man in a state of grace before this assertion can be true. And it is surprising to find Commentators like Tholuck and De Wette, while they acknowledge that συνήδομαι is stronger than σύμφημι, yet denying the gradual introduction of the spiritual man in the description of this conflict. True, THE SPIRIT is not yet introduced, because purposely kept back until treated of as the great deliverer from this state of death; the man is as yet described as compounded of the outer and inner man, of ἡ σάρξ and ὁ νοῦς, and the operations of the two are detailed as if unassisted,—even the term πνεῦμα for the human spirit being as yet avoided,—but all this is done, because the object is to set the conflict and misery, as existing even in the spiritual man, in the strongest light, so that the question in Romans 7:24 may lead the way to the real uses and blessed results of this conflict in ch. 8); but I see (= ‘find:’—as if he were a spectator of that which is going on within) a different law (differing in kind and aim, not = ἄλλος merely) in my members (= ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου, Romans 7:18), warring against ([in continual dissension and conflict with] ἀντιστρ. is not to be joined with βλέπω so as to = ἀντιστρατεύεσθαι, though that would be an allowable construction, see Acts 8:23; 1 Corinthians 8:10,—but βλέπωμου forms an independent sentence antithetic to συνήδομαιἄνθρωπον) the law of my mind (the consent viz., to the law of God, which my mind yields; not = the law of God, any more than the different law in my members = the law of sin,—but both meaning the standard or rule set up, which inclination follows:—the one in the νοῦς, in harmony with the law of God,—the other in the μέλη or σάρξ, subservient, and causing subservience, to the principle or law of sin), and bringing me (the whole complex self—the ‘me’ of personality and action) into captivity with ( ἐν, not exactly ‘by means of,’ but pointing out the department in which, the investiture with which, the taking captive has place. Nor would the simple dative be ‘by means of,’ as Chrys, Theodoret, Theophyl.,—but merely ‘to:’ the dat. commodi aft. αἰχμαλ.) the law of sin (the sinful principle, of resistance to God’s law, ἡ ἁμαρτία as awakened and set energizing, Romans 7:9, by that law) which is in my members.

Commentators have much disputed whether the ἔτερος νόμος, and the νόμος τῆς ἁμαρτ., both ἐν τοῖς μέλεσίν μου, are different, or the same. The former view is held by Calv., Beza, Köllner, Rückert, De W.: the latter by Reiche, Meyer, Fritz., Tholuck. It appears to me (see above) that the identity cannot be maintained without introducing great confusion into the sentence.

Verse 24

24.] The division of the man against himself,—his inward conflict, and miserable state of captivity to sin in the flesh, while with the mind he loves and serves the law of God. From this wretched condition, which is a very death in life, who shall deliver him? σώματος cannot well be figurative, ‘universitas vitiorum,’ or ‘mortifera peccati massa,’ but must, on account of the part which ἡ σάρξ and τὰ μέλη have hitherto borne, be literal. Then how is τούτου to be taken? Some (Syr., Erasm., Calv., Beza, Olsh., Winer) join it with σώματος, and (not Winer) justify the construction as a Hebraism: but Winer has refuted the notion (edn. 6, § 34. 3. b) of a Hebraism, and the arrangement has no Greek example. It can only be joined with θανάτου;—and that most fitly, as the state which he has been describing is referred to by τοῦ θανάτου τούτου. Then the body of this death will mean, ‘the body whose subjection to the law of sin brings about this state of misery,’ compare σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ch. Romans 6:6. From this body, as the instrument whereby he is led captive to the law of sin and death, he cries out for deliverance: i. e to be set free, as ch. Romans 8:2, from the law of sin and death.

Some Commentators, misled by the notion of a Hendiadys ( σώματος τοῦ θ. = θνητοῦ σώματος), a most fruitful source of error in exegesis, have imagined that the verse implies a wish to be delivered from the body (by death), and expresses a weariness of life.

The cry is uttered, as De Wette well observes, in full consciousness of the deliverance which Christ has effected, and as leading to the expression of thanks which follows. And so, and no otherwise, is it to be taken.

Verse 25

25.] The rec. εὐχαριστῶ has but slender authority, and in the great variety of readings, it is not easy to determine, ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ is evidently a correction to answer to τίς above; so that our choice lies between χάρις τῷ θ. and χάρις δὲ θ.

The sentence is (not, of course, constructionally, as the var. readg. ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ, but logically) an answer to the preceding question: Thanks to God (who hath accomplished this) by means of Jesus Christ our Lord. This exclamation and thanksgiving more than all convince me, that Paul speaks of none other than himself, and carries out as far as possible the misery of the conflict with sin in his members, on purpose to bring in the glorious deliverance which follows. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:56-57, where a very similar thanksgiving occurs.

ἄρα οὖν κ. τ. λ.] These words are most important to the understanding of the whole passage. We must bear in mind that it had begun with the question, IS THE LAW SIN? The Apostle has proved that it is NOT, but is HOLY. He has shewn the relation that it holds to sin, viz. that of vivifying it by means of man’s natural aversion to the commandment. He has further shewn, that in himself, even as delivered by Christ Jesus, a conflict between the law and sin is ever going on: the misery of which would be death itself, were not a glorious deliverance effected. He now sums up his vindication of the law as holy; and at the same time, sums up the other side of the evidence adduced in the passage, from which it appears that the flesh is still, even in the spiritual man, subject (essentially, not practically and energetically) to the law of sin,—which subjection, in its nature and consequences, is so nobly treated in ch. 8 So then (as appears from the foregoing), I myself (I, who have said all this against and in disparagement of the law; I, who write of justification by faith without the deeds of the law: not ‘I alone,’ without Christ, as opposed to the foregoing,—as De Wette, Meyer: nor, ‘ego idem,’ I, one and the same person, as Beza, Erasm., Calv., Olsh.: nor ‘ille ego,’ as Grot., Thol. See, for the meaning given above, ch. Romans 8:26 ( αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα); Romans 9:3; Romans 15:14; 2 Corinthians 12:13, in all which places (see on ch. Romans 15:14) it has the same force) with my mind (indeed) ( ὁ νοῦς = ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρ. as in Romans 7:23) serve the law of God (cf. συνήδομαι, Romans 7:22), but with my flesh (the ἐγώ of Romans 7:18; and the σάρξ throughout of ch. 8) the law of sin. It remains to be seen how this latter subjection, which in the natural man carries all with it, is neutralized, and issues only in the death of the body on account of sin, in those who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 7:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology