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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 7

Verses 1-25

The Inadequacy of the Law to save

1-6. St. Paul had spoken of the Law in a way which would offend an earnest Jew: cp. Romans 3:20-21; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20. In this chapter (Romans 7:7-25) he shows that the Law is divine in its character and beneficent in its work, but unable to free a man from the power of sin. Indeed, though not the cause, it is the occasion of sin. But first, in Romans 5:1-6, the statement in Romans 6:14, that Christians are not under law, is enforced and explained. Law which governs one state of life is often not applicable to another. Of this the marriage law is an example. And the Christian, by the death of his old self, has passed into another state, one in which the Law no longer has force.

Paraphrase. ’(1) Does any one hesitate at my statement (Romans 6:14) that we “are not under law”? Let me remind him that the power of any law over a man ends at his death. And we have died with Christ to the old state of sin in which law applies, and risen with Him to a new life. (2) Or the change in our condition may be compared to the remarriage of a woman after the death of her husband. By his death, the legal ties which bound her to him were annulled; (3) for now the Law has no power to condemn the woman, although it condemned a second union while the husband lived. (4) In like manner, the Law which applied to us when we were wedded to our old self, had no more to do with us when our old self was crucified with Christ. So we were free to wed the risen Christ, that through union with Him we might bring forth fruit for God our Master. (5) The state in which our fleshly nature ruled was not of such a character that we should desire to return to it. For the sinful passions which the Law revealed, and by revealing stimulated, caused us to bring forth fruit for Death as our master. (6) But, as it is, the Law has ceased to affect us. This does not mean that we are free to sin, but that now we serve God from inward impulse, instead of because we are told to do so by a law.’

1. Know the law] lit. ’know law,’ i.e. probably law in general: all know that law ceases to be concerned with people when they are dead.

2. Loosed] RV ’discharged’: cp. Romans 7:6. Law of her husband] i.e. the marriage law.

4. By the body of Christ] i.e. through your union with Christ crucified.

5. Motions of sins] RV ’sinful passions.’ ’Passions’ = passive feelings, e.g. hunger; sinful, when they control the will. By the law] cp. Romans 7:7-25, Romans 5:20, and on Romans 6:14.

6. Delivered] RV ’discharged.’ That being dead] RV ’having died to that,’ i.e. to the Law. Spirit] RV ’the spirit.’ In the new state, the spiritual part of the man has been emancipated, and has become the predominant part of him. He lives, as it were, in a spiritual world, and has become a spiritual person; and therefore desires to carry out God’s will freely and fully. In the old state, his obedience was constrained, and therefore limited, by a written code.

7-13. Although, in order that we might truly serve God, it was necessary that we should be set free from the Law (Romans 7:1-6), yet the Law is not evil. On the contrary, it does God’s work, for it detects the sinfulness hidden in the soul, and exposes it in its true nature.

Paraphrase. ’(7) Are we to infer (e.g. from Romans 7:5) that the Law is evil? Not so: the Law brings sin to light. For example, the tenth commandment made me conscious of the sin of coveting. (8) Not only so, but my sin became active when there was a commandment to resist, so that I coveted all the more because coveting is forbidden. Without law, sin is dormant. (9) So it was with me; my conscience was untroubled until I realised the commandment, then sin sprang to life, and I knew myself to be dead before God. (10) How startling a consequence of a commandment which pointed the way to spiritual life! (11) But it was the fault of sin within, which persuaded me to love that which I knew the commandment forbade, not the fault of the commandment, (12) which is holy and righteous and beneficent. (13) Thus I realised the exceeding wickedness of the sin within me, for it not only brought me to death, but did so by preventing the beneficent commandment from having any other effect than that of awakening my resistance.’

7. Lust] RV ’coveting.’ St. Paul instances the most searching and comprehensive commandment of the second table.

8. Taking occasion] RV ’finding occasion.’ By the commandment, etc.] RV ’wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting.’ Without] RV ’apart from.’

9. I was alive] ’I’ emphatic

10, Ordained] RV omits.

11. Deceived] RV ’beguiled’: cp. Genesis 3:13. ’All sin is committed under a deception, momentary at least, as to (1) the satisfaction to be found in it, (2) the excuse to be made for it, (3) the probability of its punishment’ (Vaughan).

13. But sin] Understand ’became death unto me.’ Working] RV ’by working.’

14-25. St. Paul, taking his own case as typical, shows that spiritual death (Romans 7:11-13) is due, not to the Law, nor to the free choice of his true self, which approves the Law (vv.

14-16, 22), but to the power of sin within (Romans 7:17, Romans 7:20.). In doing so, he draws a picture of conflict, in which he does evil unwillingly, and is unable to do the good he wishes (Romans 7:15-20). His personality includes two parts—’flesh’ (the lower animal nature) and ’mind’ or ’inward man’ (i.e. the part which thinks and reasons). The ’mind’ reverences God’s Law, but is conquered by the ’flesh,’ which sin controls. He needs a deliverer (Romans 7:21-25).

The state described is that of one who has been awakened to the claim of God’s Law and to hate sin, but is not under the power of the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8). It probably describes St. Paul’s experience for some length of time before his conversion.

Paraphrase. ’(14) The Law appeals to man’s spiritual nature, and that is why I cannot keep it, for the fleshly nature, over which sin rules, predominates in me. (15) I am like a slave, who works out his master’s thoughts without sharing them. I do not what I wish, but what I hate, (16) thus acknowledging the moral excellence of the Law even while I break it. (17) It follows that the sin which dwells within me is the real agent of my wrong-doing. (18) For I know that no good dwells in my fleshly nature, because my good wishes are ineffectual, (19) and I do the evil I wish to avoid. (20) But if I do it against my will, the sin which dwells within me is the real agent. (21) Thus I am not free. Although I wish to do the good, sin says, “Thou shalt not do good, thou shalt do evil,” and I am obliged to obey. (22) My reason and conscience delight in the Law of God, (23) but the law of sin (Romans 7:21), which rules my body, wars against the dictates of my reason and conscience and robs me of my liberty. (24) I need a deliverer from this reign of sin in my body’ (cp. Romans 6:6; ’body of sin’), ’(25) whom I find in Christ. The sum of the matter is that, left to myself, I am divided, serving a law of God with my reason and conscience, but a law of sin with my fleshly nature.’

15. Allow] RV ’know.’

24. The body of this death] Sin and death go together. The body which is under the power of sin is also given over to death.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 7". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.