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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 7





I. Change of relationship from the Law to Christ Illustrated: 7:1-6

II. The Dawn of Conscience: 7:7-13

III. The defence of the Law: 7:14-25

The sense of bondage which comes through the relationship of the law prepares the soul to seek deliverance through relationship to Christ.



'Paul is still defending the doctrine of justification by faith against the supposed objection that it allows sin. The supposition is that if a man be declared just without the works of the law (flawless law-keeping), then he is free to break the law. Paul declares, on the contrary, that justification by faith issues in a life of holiness....He has in the preceding chapter drawn an illustration from the institution of slavery, and has shown that one who is united to Christ has been delivered from the bondage of sin and has been made a servant of righteousness. In this paragraph he is using the illustration of marriage...thus he shows that the life of faith is a life of freedom from sin (habitual) and the law (flawlessness), yet it is a life of purity and holiness.'

'This chapter begins with Paul taking up again the thought he expressed in 6:14. It is freedom from Law that keeps sin from having dominion over people who have sinned. He will make the claim in 7:1-6 that the only way for sinners to acceptably serve their new Master is to get out from under the Law which demands flawlessness. As long as sinners are bound under the iron rule of Law they are required to offer flawlessness. If they offer less than that Sin becomes their master.'

Romans CHAPTER 7:13-25


'After all has been said and done, there are two basic views of the "wretched man" in this section of Scripture: (1) He is a Christian still struggling with sin. (2) He is a non-Christian struggling to fulfill the demands of the law.'


This view is amply put forward by Robert F. Turner:

"In Rom_7:15-16 ; Rom_7:19-23 , Paul repeatedly says, 'what I would...I do not; but what I hate, that do I'. These are not the statements of an 'unregenerate' man. He 'hates' sin (7:15), 'delights' in the law of God (22), and is 'wretched' in recognition of the consequences of sin (24). Neither does this mean he always sins. In the light of his living for God's way, this simply says he knows he is less than perfect --that he sometimes sins in spite of his desire to do what is right. In context, he says one's failure to conquer fleshy appetites results in sin; and saints must recognize this fact. He sees two "laws" in saints (22-23), and here 'law' does not refer to a covenant, but to a rule of action, or compulsion . One such "law" is the saints 'delight in the law of God', the set of his 'mind' (heart/spirit,2:29), the law of God in the 'inward man' ( Heb_8:10 ). But, there is another 'law' in every person who is yet in the fleshly body. The 'law of my members' (2:23) is the compulsion to serve self, to satisfy inordinate fleshly desires. These two forces war against one another, vying for control of one's life...Paul has used himself as an example, to shame those who would ask, 'Shall we continue in sin...' I believe he also shames those of us who seem to forget our need for repentance and prayer...Compare Rom_7:25 , I serve the law of God--with the mind--through Jesus Christ; with Rom_1:9 , I serve God--with my spirit--in the gospel. In 7:25, Paul does not condone sin 'just so your heart is right'. The heart is not right that so reasons. But, he does hold forth hope and encouragement to those who grow weary with the flesh-spirit struggle . If I correctly understand him, in Rom_8:1-39 , he develops this theme. Our spirit can and must prevail over our flesh..'

What brother Turner says is true concerning the 'spirit-flesh' struggle that all Christians experience, other passages teach the same truth (6:12-13; 1Co_9:25-27 ). But I'm not sure that this is Paul's point in Rom_7:13-25 . At this time is seems more logical to me that Paul is describing the frustration that the non-Christian experiences who is trying to "do the right thing" apart from Christ. The sincere Jew who was struggling to keep the demands of the Law.


1. People claim that this section doesn't refer to a non-Christian, because a non-Christian wouldn't be sensitive to God's law (7:18,21,22).

In response chapter 2:14-15 informs us that Gentiles were sensitive to God's law. Cornelius, a non-Christian was sensitive to God's law ( Act_10:2 ). In addition, experience tells us otherwise, many of us who were raised in non-Christian families, grew up being sensitive of trying to do the "right thing".

2. In is claimed that verses 14-25 are written in the present tense rather than in the past, and so they speak of Paul's experience (as well as all saints) while he is writing this letter to the Romans.

But Paul often uses the present tense is speaking about things in the past. ( 2Co_3:7 ; 2Co_3:11 ; Heb_10:9 .

3. It is argued that the context forbids us from going back to an "unsaved" man, since he is already freed from his sin in Chapter 6.

And yet, 7:8-13 has introduced back into the context a man who was alive (in a stage of innocence) and then died (i.e. found himself in an unsaved condition).

In addition, some of the phrases in this section seem difficult in applying to a Christian who is TRYING. "Sold into bondage to sin" (7:14); "nothing good dwells in me" (7:18); "Sin which dwells in me" (7:20); "Wretched man that I am" (7:24). Plus it appears that the man in Chapter 7, who is in bondage (7:14), and a servant of the law of sin (7:25), is said to have been set free from the "law of sin" when he enters into Christ (8:2).


The Doctrine of Calvinism teaches that man is "wholly inclined to all evil" and made "opposite to all good" (Westminster Confession of Faith). People run to Romans chapter 7 and say, 'Ah ha', 'See, a totally depraved man'. And yet, Rom_7:1-25 teaches the exact opposite.

A. This man isn't totally depraved:

At no time is this "wretched man" said to "will" what is wrong. His problem is "living up to" what he longs for (7:15). This man can "see" that God's will is good, he can tell "right from wrong" (7:16) He "wishes" that he could live better than he does (7:18-19,21). This man sees himself as a "wretched person", a frustrated man! (7:15,24). THIS MAN ISN'T TOTALLY DEPRAVED!

McGuiggan makes a good point when he says: 'The "wretched" man is no uncaring decadent .'

Verse 1

Rom_7:1 Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth?

'Or are ye ignorant' -'Or do you not know' (NASV). Any argument that says that the Christian is free to sin without consequence, is an argument based on ignorance. (6:3)

'For I speak to men who know the law' -the Law under consideration in the context is the Law of Moses (7:7). And yet the principle that Paul cites is true concerning Jewish and Roman law (or any other), i.e. 'a person is subject to the law so long as he is alive, and no longer' (NEB). The same principle holds true for the laws of the United States of America. 'The Romans, whether Jew or Gentiles, knew the principle of law' (Robertson p. 366)

'Dominion' -'Jurisdiction' (NASV); 'governs a person only during his lifetime' (Mon); 'that legal claims are only binding on a man so long as he is alive' (Knox). Rules, exercises lordship. 2961. kurieuo ko-ree-yoo'-o; from 2962; to rule: -have dominion over, lord, be lord of, exercise lordship over.

The reason that Paul used the marriage relationship to illustrate this principle is...'Paul required an illustration in which both death and a new life appeared...the death of one's spouse provides an excellent illustration in which death liberates a person who yet remains alive and allows them to enter into a new relationship.'

Verse 2

Rom_7:2 For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband.

'Bound by law' -stands bound (Robertson p. 366) ( Mat_19:6 ) 'The married wife stands bound to the living husband by law. Certainly not only by Jewish but equally by Roman, yea by barbarian law.' (Lenski pp. 443-444)

Here is a specific example of the principle cited in verse 1.

'Discharged' -'Released' (NASV). 2673. katargeo kat-arg-eh'-o; from 2596 and 691; to be (render) entirely idle (useless), literally or figuratively: -abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.

'the law of the husband' -i.e. the law which binds her to the husband. That former relationship is made void, in a sense she dies to that law with the husbands death.

Verse 3

Rom_7:3 So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.

'Joined to another man' -'She be married' (KJV). Clearly divorce in inferred in Paul's example. Paul isn't talking about a woman that is having an affair, but rather a woman that divorces her husband (without Scriptural cause- Mat_19:9 ) and marries another. The second use of the word 'joined' demands that it means 'marry'. The person that argues that 'joined' in the first part of the verse means 'have an affair/unlawful sexual relations with', would have Paul saying in the second part of the verse, 'but if the husband die...she is no adulteress, though she be having unlawful sex with another man.' She may not be an adulteress, but she is a FORNICATOR! Certainly Paul is not advocating fornication or making it less sinful than adultery.

'Called an adulteress' -what 'law' would make such a 'call'? ( Mat_19:8-9 ; Mat_5:32 ; Mar_10:11-12 ). For how long is she 'called' an adulteress? The inference is that she is an adulteress as long as she remains with the second husband. The same is true with any other sin, i.e. one is a fornicator as long as they remain the relationship. ( 1Co_6:9-11 ; Col_3:5-7 )

'but if her the husband die' -I don't think that Paul is dealing with the "adulteress". If that were the case under consideration then Paul should of said, 'she is no longer an adulteress'. I think Paul is simply dealing with the case of a widow. A woman that marries again, that isn't an adulteress, why? Because her first husband is dead.


Since these verses have become a focal point in the Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage Issue, I would like to take the time to respond to some views expressed concerning these verses.

1. 'The passage in Rom_7:1-3 , is dealing with the law of Moses and not marriage...To apply this to the marriage as Jesus spoke about it is erroneous..We need to realize that Paul is not even talking about marriage in the Gospel is not a discussion of divorce and apply this to the marriage relationship in the Gospel Age is erroneous.'

'Appealing to Rom_7:1-3 in an effort to establish an adulterous relationship of a married couple today is a misuse of Paul's illustration.'

'It may surprise many students of the Bible to learn that there are those who do not believe this passage has any bearing or relevance to a study of God's marriage law. They contend that the teaching here concerning marriage is only used as an illustration to show freedom from the law of Moses, and that it is an abuse of the passage to use it to teach about marriage.'

In response:

A. First of all, what is untrue about Paul's illustration? What point in Rom_7:2-3 is erroneous?

Do men and woman have the right to marry? (7:2) Yes- 1Co_7:2 . Do widows have the right to remarry? (7:2) Yes- 1Co_7:39 . Does an unlawful divorce and remarriage result in adultery? (7:3) Yes- Mat_5:32 /19:9. Can a married couple be guilty of adultery? (7:3) Yes- Mat_5:32 . Can one be bound to one man and married to another? (7:3) Yes- 1Co_7:11 / Mat_19:9 (that's why the second marriage involves adultery!) What point in Paul's illustration contradicts other verses that deal with such issues?

If Rom_7:2-3 isn't dealing with God's marriage law during the Gospel Age, then why does it agree with God's marriage law during the Gospel Age?

B. If using something as an illustration negates it's truthfulness, then we had better stop using Eph_5:22-33 , in teaching husbands and wives how to properly treat each other. Because LIKEWISE in these verses, Paul was only using the marriage relationship AS AN ILLUSTRATION. ( Eph_5:32 )

2. 'He shows that Christ's law in Rom_7:2-4 and Mat_19:9 is for two believers '

A. I find a major problem in trying to exclude the non-Christian from Jesus'(and Paul's) teaching about marriage.

(1) Then the Sermon on the Mount is only directed to Christians (because it contains teaching on marriage, divorce, remarriage that agrees with what Paul said in Rom_7:2-3 , Mat_5:32 ). Is so then the non-Christian doesn't commit sin when he lusts upon a woman (5:28), when he hates (5:22), when he lies (5:33), when he violates the law of love (5:44ff), when he worships God hypocritically (6:1-18), when he prays using vain repetitions (6:7), when he tries to serve two masters (6:24), when he doesn't trust God (6:25-32), when he doesn't seek first the kingdom (6:33), when he acts hypocritically in judging (7:1-5)

In saying that two people in a marriage cannot commit adultery, we are playing into the hands of the world. This was the 'standard' of righteousness' that the world ( Mat_5:46-47 ) and the Pharisees and Scribes (5:20) had come up with. Most could see that an 'affair was adultery'. But take the same man, first have him go through the proper 'legal channels' to get rid of his first wife (5:31), and then have him marry the woman he wants, and all of a sudden the world and the nominal church is fooled. But God isn't. Jesus called such 'adultery'. Going through the proper legal channels may 'sanitize' it in the eyes of some, but not in God's eyes. (5:32) After all, there is no difference between the man who cheats on his wife, and the man who divorces her, so he can 'legally' cheat on her.

(2) If the non-Christian isn't under Mat_19:9 , then how can he be under: (a) The exception-what Scripture do preachers show to non-Christians or former non-Christians ( people who divorced their mates for fornication while outside of Christ and remarried), that their current marriage is scriptural? Mat_19:9 ! If the non-Christian isn't under Mat_19:9 , then they don't have the right to divorce their mates for fornication, if as some claim this legislation is ONLY FOR CHRISTIANS. (b) But neither could they be under Mat_19:4-6 . If the non-Christian isn't under God's marriage law, then what right to do have to get married?

In his book previously cited, Homer Hailey argues:

"Where in the Old Testament is there an appeal to Gen_2:1-25 establishing a rule concerning marriage-divorce-remarriage addressed to those out of covenant relationship with God. (p. 41)...Therefore, any principle laid down in Gen_2:1-25 , when man was in fellowship with God, before sin broke the fellowship, is now restored to those in fellowship with God through the blood of his covenant (p. 42)...So, the passage ( Gen_2:24 ) can apply only to those in fellowship with God under Christ's covenant" (p. 43)

The problem is, when we start removing the non-Christian from God's rules about divorce, adultery, remarriage, we must also remove them from God's rules concerning MARRIAGE! If ANY PRINCIPLE laid down in Gen_2:1-25 isn't restored until one enters into Christ, then all non-Christians don't have the right to the marriage relationship (a principle laid down in Gen_2:1-25 ). Then all non-Christian marriages are sinful! The truth is, even in the book of Genesis, after sin entered in, we find sinners who are accountable to God's laws concerning marriage. ( Gen_20:3-6 -Note Abimelech wasn't planning on having an affair with Sarah, he was just planning on marrying her! (legally!) And yet God called such, 'sin'-a sin for Abimelech! Gen_39:9 ; Lev_18:20 ; Lev_18:24 -God held non-Jewish nations accountable for adultery. 1Co_6:9-11 .)

3. 'Let us be reminded, however, that Webster defines adultery as, "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband"....even if one adamantly insists that adultery is always a sexual act, it is apparent that Webster's definition, and those of the various Greek lexicons one may wish to consult, do not apply to people married to each other. It is a fact therefore that the expression "adulterous marriage" is simply a contradiction in terms.'

The problem with this view: Webster and the Lexicons only cite one type of adultery, i.e. the affair the married person is having. But unfortunately, like most of the world, people forget about the other kind of adultery that doesn't fool God. The man or woman that unscripturally divorces their mate ( Rom_7:3 ; Mat_19:9 /5:32) and marries another ( Rom_7:3 / Mat_5:32 ; Mat_19:9 ) Both Jesus and Paul call that situation "adultery" also ( Rom_7:3 / Mat_5:32 / Mat_19:9 ). In fact, to claim that a married couple cannot commit adultery with each other is to contradict what Jesus plainly said. 'and whoever MARRIES a divorced woman COMMITS ADULTERY' ( Mat_5:32 ). Paul agrees, 'She is joined/married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress' (7:3). BRETHREN, WHO IS THIS WOMAN COMMITTING ADULTERY "WITH"?

Verse 4

Rom_7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.

"Dead to the law" -don't make the mistake of thinking that Paul is saying, 'becoming a Christian made you free from obeying law'. The Christian is under law ( 1Co_9:21 ; Jam_1:25 ) But the Jew or Gentile that becomes a Christian is no longer under a system that demands 'flawless obedience' to find favor with God. God expects obedience ( Jam_1:22 ), and yet provision is made for imperfection ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ; 1Jn_2:1-2 ; Rom_4:7-8 ; Jam_5:16 )

"through the body of Christ" -'by becoming identified with the body of Christ' (NEB); 'by union with the body of Christ' (Con). One identifies himself with the 'body of Christ' in baptism ( Rom_6:3 ). Since forgiveness is only in Christ ( Eph_1:3 ; Eph_1:7 ), everyone outside of Christ lives under a system that demands flawlessness, i.e. a system of pure law and no forgiveness for violations of it (i.e. sin). This demonstrates the foolishness of thinking that I can find favor with God through my own efforts. In addition, those that claim that the only sin which the non-Christian commits is the 'sin of not believing in Christ', have missed one of the main points in the Book of Romans (as in other parts of the Bible as well).

"that we might bring forth fruit unto God" -'And why were we made dead to the Law? That they might live in lawlessness? That they might bring forth even more fruit (6:21) of which they should be ashamed?'

They were released through their obedience to Christ in baptism from a system that demanded flawlessness, that they might serve God more effectively! Trying to serve God under a system of flawless law-keeping is discouraging and impossible (like trying to work with someone constantly looking over your shoulder, ready to pounce on your every mistake). Serving God 'in Christ' is encouraging, it's motivating, sins can be repented of and forgiven, mistakes can be corrected, everyday I can know that I am right with God and that I am accomplishing something. ( Eph_2:10 ; Tit_3:1 ; Tit_3:14 ; 2Ti_3:16-17 )

Verse 5

Rom_7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

"For" -here is the reason that we were released from a system of law and married to Christ. "For" under such a system we brought forth fruit unto death, instead of fruit unto God.

"In the flesh" -"Flesh" here doesn't refer to the mere physical body, for Christians are still 'in the flesh, in that sense. Neither does "flesh" here refer to a state of being subject to temptation, for Christians are still subject to temptation ( 1Co_10:23 ; Jam_1:12 ff). "In the flesh" must refer to their condition outside of Christ, when they allowed their bodies to be used as the instruments of sin (6:19). McGuiggan argues that "in the flesh" means "unaided human resources", i.e. we needed to be married to Christ, because depending upon our own moral efforts only brought fruit unto death, i.e. sin.

"the sinful passions" -someone has pointed out that "passion/desire" isn't inherently sinful. When God designed us He built various 'desires' into man. When properly channeled these desires are good ( 1Co_7:2-5 ). And yet, these 'desires' can also be perverted and used for sinful ends. ( Gal_5:19-21 )

"It may be that here is the best point at which to note a grim fact about the works of the flesh. Without exception, every one of them is a perversion of something which is in itself good . Immorality, impurity, licentiousness are perversions of the sexual instinct which is in itself a lovely thing and part of love. Idolatry is a perversion of worship..sorcery is a perversion of the use of healing drugs in medicine (so is drug abuse)..envy, jealousy and strife are perversions of that noble ambition and desire to do well which can be a spur to greatness. Enmity and anger are a perversion of that righteous indignation without which the passion for goodness cannot exist. Dissension and the party spirit are a perversion of the devotion to principle which can produce a martyr...nowhere is there better illustrated the power of evil to take beauty and to twist it into ugliness, to take the finest things and to make them an avenue for sin."

"Which were through the law" -'which were aroused by the law' (NASV) 'The Law didn't make our passions. Nor did the law make our feelings or emotions sinful. It's just that when the Law made demands on us.. it only succeeded in provoking in us the abuse of those feelings and passions.'

We see this in the garden ( Gen_3:3-6 ) in Sodom and Gomorrah (19:9). Unfortunately, when many people are told they 'can't do it', that often encourages them to do it. But the fault is not in law (7:7,12,14), but rather in stubborn people.

"Wrought in our members" -'Were at work' (NASV), 'Were active' (Alf). We yielded our bodies to be the instruments of sin. (6:19)

Verse 6

Rom_7:6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.

"We have been discharged from the law" -true of both Jews and Gentiles, for the Gentiles had 'law' too. (2:14-15) Some have argued that since Christians are said to have 'died' to a law, this proves that the non-Christian isn't under the 'Law of Christ', and therefore not under such things as it's law concerning marriage. It is argued that the non-Christian dies to the "moral law" that he was under.

1. The Jew or Gentile that became a Christian wasn't released from the obligation to obey God's law, but rather was released from the demand of justification on the basis of law, i.e. flawlessness. Outside of Christ both Jew and Gentile had to perfectly obey in order to stay in favor with God. In Christ, they can remain in favor with God, even though they sin, because forgiveness is available to those that trust God. ( Rom_4:6-8 ).

2. Being "in" the New Covenant and enjoying it's blessings ( Heb_8:11-12 ) isn't the same thing as being "accountable to it". The non-Christian is "accountable" to the conditions for admission ( Mar_16:15-16 ); he is accountable to it's moral demands ( 1Co_6:9-11 ; 1Pe_4:3-5 ; Mat_5:28 ); isn't he accountable to it's doctrinal demands? ( Gal_1:6-9 , does the non-Christian sin when he teaches false doctrine or doesn't he?). Isn't he accountable to everything that Christ taught? Or does Joh_12:48 only apply to Christians that reject Christ?

3. In addition, the "law" that the Gentile was under prior to Christ, condemned his adultery also. ( Lev_18:20 ; Lev_18:24 )

McGuiggan makes an interesting comment: "The morality of the "Gentile" law (often called the "Universal Moral Law") is the morality of the Jewish law (2:14-15) ( Lev_18:1 ff confirms this). The standing moral requirements of the Mosaic system (such as loving the Lord, refraining from adultery, etc..) are the same as those laid upon Christians ( Rom_13:8-10 )."

Those that argue that the non-Christian isn't under God's marriage law, are actually saying, 'The non-Christian isn't accountable to the same moral standard as the Christian'. If this is true in marriage, then what other 'moral requirements' is the non-Christian free from? Have we been wrong in preaching against the "sins" of the world ( Eph_5:11 )?

"so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter" -"Under Law there had to be the utter fulfillment of everything ( Gal_3:12 ). In fact, the "Law" doesn't require "faith", it requires flawlessness ( Gal_3:12 )

"Newness of the spirit..oldness of the letter" -this verse isn't teaching: (1) We don't have to obey commands now. (2) The O.T. contained written regulations and the New Testament doesn't. (3) The O.T. wasn't spiritual, for it was (7:14)

'Newness of the spirit' means that as a Christian I recognize that I can't perfectly obey, I must always trust in Christ for mercy upon my repentance. I realize that being released from the demand of "flawlessness" isn't an excuse to sin or treat the Law of God in a casual manner ( 2Ti_2:15 ), I press on, striving to serve God to the best of my ability ( Php_3:12-14 ), all the while humbly confessing my short-comings ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ; Jam_5:16 ). 'Oldness of the letter' is seen in the Pharisees who had turned religion into nothing more than keeping rules, without remembering that trust, humility and such things are necessary also. ( Mat_23:23 ; Luk_18:9 ff)


Verse 7

Rom_7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:

"What shall we say then?" -Another objection is anticipated. 'Then what shall we conclude' (Gspd)

"Is the law sin?" 'Is the Law itself a sinful thing?' (Wey)-Paul has already pointed out that both Jews and Gentiles needed to be released from the demands of "law" (i.e. flawlessness) in order to find favor with God. And that the commands of God had stirred people up to violate them (7:5). In Chapter Six Paul had taught that the Christian is to be "dead" to sin, and in Chapter Seven, "dead to the Law", that seems to link "sin" and "law" awfully close together. The question that would naturally arise, 'then is Law a bad thing?'

"Some people today oppose all inhibitions and prohibitions because they stimulate violations (i.e. the push to legalize such things as drugs and prostitution). That is half-baked thinking '

"I had not know sin, expect through the law.." -"There are those who believe we know what is right and wrong by an inbuilt knowledge. I think this passage plainly refutes that notion...there are those who believe we can determine right and wrong from a rational view of the amoral universe. That is, they believe we can tell what the will of God is on specific questions without special revelation. I don't believe that and I think that this passage establishes that the notion is wrong."

"I think what was true for a Jew was true for a Gentile and that neither of them could say what God's moral requirements were without special revelation to someone." ( Isa_55:8-9 ; Jer_10:23 )

"except the law had said" -the Law isn't evil, Paul insists rather that it is because of his contact with the Law that he found out what is sin, that's a good thing!

"Thou shalt not covet" -the primary 'Law' in the context, then is the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments.

Verse 8

Rom_7:8 but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting: for apart from the law sin is dead.

"Finding occasion" -'taking opportunity' (NASV), 'a starting-point, a base of operations' (Vincent p. 78)

"wrought in me" -'produced in me' (NASV); 'to arouse in me' (TCNT); 'stirred up within me' (Mon).

"all manner of coveting" -'Paul states here..that a knowledge of right, and a command to obey, instead of producing virtue, are strong incentives to vice. As an old Roman writer declared: "We always endeavor to obtain that which is forbidden, and desire that which is denied", or as another confessed: "The permitted is unpleasing; the forbidden consumes us fiercely."'

Like the example of Eve in the garden, the command of God 'not to eat' gave the devil an opportunity to convince Eve that she was being deprived of something good. Or, the command of God to Pharaoh to let Israel go, only made Pharaoh more stubborn to resist.

"for apart from the law sin is dead" -sin can't accomplish anything without a law to transgress. ( 1Co_15:56 )

Verse 9

Rom_7:9 And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;

"I was alive apart from the law once" -but if Calvinism is true (Total Hereditary Depravity, i.e. one is born in sin, born dead), Paul was never alive at anytime prior to his becoming a Christian.

"When the commandment came" -not when God delivered it or first legislated it. 'Most commentators agree that Paul was "apart from the Law" during his childhood. The day came however when he was judged accountable before God--the commandment came. At that point, Paul, like everyone else, sinned against God.'

-'but when the commandment was brought home to me ' (TCNT)

"Sin revived" -'became alive' (NASV); the blissful innocent stage was over. 'He lived in childish innocence prior to accountability; but when he became accountable to law, sin sprang into being.'

"I died" -i.e. I died spiritually.

Verse 10

Rom_7:10 and the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death:

"unto life" -'designed to bring me life' (Wey) "Do this and live" he had heard. The Law was to regulate the living. Paul said: "Apart from the law I was alive", and what happened? That which was to regulate and result in continued living became the occasion of his dying! What a surprise. What a shock! Mustn't this have been awfully disturbing to a pious Jew who bragged on the Law and his possession of it?

A commandment designed to bring out life, turned out in my case to end in death, i.e. because I violated it!

Verse 11

Rom_7:11 for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me.

"Beguiled me" -1818. exapatao ex-ap-at-ah'-o; from 1537 and 538; to seduce wholly: -beguile, deceive.

'And this is the case history of the race. This is only a lightly-veiled allusion to the experience of Eve when the Serpent used the commandment as the "occasion" to beguile the poor woman. Where Sin has entered the life of a person we consistently hear of God's commandments spoken of as if they were an obstacle to life rather than a means of regulating it. Eve was told the commandment was really in her way. If she ignored it she would learn what life was really all about. Nothing has changed. The Devil is still conning people into thinking that God's commandments dry up life, steal away life, stunt life and rob people of life.'

This is one reason that sin is called "deceitful" ( Eph_4:22 ; Heb_3:13 ). All of us, at one time or another were conned into thinking that the will of God stood between us and happiness..'The commandment is lyingly made to appear as a disagreeable obstacle to the gratification of our desires, to our "free self-expression", to "living our own lives".' (Lenski p. 468)

"Slew me" -Killed me off, made a clean job of it (Robertson p. 368). But if one is born into this life, inheriting the sins of Adam, you are already dead, there is nothing left for sin to kill!

Verse 12

Rom_7:12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.

There is nothing wrong with God's law, the problem lies with us, we allow ourselves to become convinced that the commands of God are not in our best interest. We don't trust God enough. ( 1Jn_5:3 ) The law is not a promoter of ungodliness, it is righteous. It is not intended to corrupt or hurt man, rather it is intended for his "good".

Verse 13

Rom_7:13 Did then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good;--that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.

"Did then that which is good become death unto me?" -"become"-'become a CAUSE OF DEATH for me?' (NASV); 'But didn't the law cause my doom?' (Tay).

'Good is it?' someone asks, 'is that which killed me good?'

"God forbid" -Of course not!

"But sin" -God's law wasn't the villain, sin was. Paul died because 'he' violated the Law.

"That it might be shown to be sin" -by the Law sin is exposed, made apparent, and that is useful!

"through that which is good" -i.e. the Law of God. "It was sin that did so, so that it might be recognized as sin, because even through something that was good it effected my death." (Gspd) Another way of viewing this section of the verse is to re-read 7:10-11.

Note: This verse clearly contradicts the doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity. Paul's spiritual death came about when sin used something "good" to kill him with (7:11). But if Paul was dead in sin because he inherited the guilt of Adam's sin, how could "Adam's sin" be called 'good'?

"that through the commandment sin might become exceedingly sinful" -'and in this way the Commandment showed how intensely sinful sin is' (TCNT). It is the Law of God that reveals how bad sin is!

'The commandment, the holy, righteous, and good commandment succeeded in showing how sneaky and powerful the Tyrant Sin was.'

This verse infers that the Word of God is plain and clear, that the awfulness of sin is clearly revealed within it.

'Remember that in this whole section Paul wishes to show that his doctrine DOES NOT logically lead to a life of sinning that grace might have opportunity...He has been saying that, in the Christian's view, Law is so holy that the person who wishes to acceptably serve God must be released from the Law's demands for flawlessness. This section (7:7-25) is his defense of the holy, righteous and good Law. In this verse (13) we learn that the Law has done mankind a service in pointing out how horrific and powerful Sin the tyrant is .'

Verse 14

Rom_7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

"the law is spiritual" -the law cannot be sin, for it is spiritual-i.e. it is of divine origin. ( Heb_1:1 ) Spirit-caused and spirit-given ( 1Pe_1:20-21 ). So much for those that claim that the O.T. is myth or the product of mere human efforts.

"Carnal" -4559. sarkikos sar-kee-kos'; from 4561; pertaining to flesh, i.e. (by extension) bodily, temporal, or (by implication) animal, unregenerate: -carnal, fleshly.

-Lit., made of flesh (Vincent p. 80). McGuiggan says that words ending in 'ikos' indicate dominance or characteristic, one who is dominated by flesh. 'Being worldly is to live as if the only there is, is the world. To be 'fleshy' (carnal) is to live as though the only thing there is, is human nature, the flesh.'

Again, this isn't total depravity or an inherent sinful nature. For Christians could allow themselves to become 'carnal' ( 1Co_3:1 ), Christians could allow themselves to be dominated by the flesh. ( Rom_6:16 ) And Christians could allow themselves to produce the works of the flesh ( Gal_5:16-21 ).

"Sold under sin" -as a slave, i.e. in bondage to sin. The demands of the good, righteous, holy and spiritual Law of God was too much for Paul, he is imperfect, the result being, he found himself in 'bondage to sin'. ( 1Ti_1:13-15 )

Verse 15

Rom_7:15 For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do.

"For that which I do" -'In this and several verses to follow we hear of utter frustration. But we need to get it clear what the frustration has to do with. Is Paul here saying (as the representative for the rest of us) that he is incapable of doing any good deeds? Does he wish us to understand him as being utterly incapable of resisting any temptation? Is he saying: "I find it impossible to do even one good deed?" Is he professing: "I am incapable of resisting even one temptation?" Obviously not! (even non-Christians do some good) What then is his problem? What has him so frustrated? It's that he cannot resist all temptation . It's that he cannot fully satisfy the righteous demands of Law . It's that he cannot fully supply what the law demands though his heart longs to do so. The "good" he seeks for is the full satisfaction of God's law. This he cannot deliver (outside of Christ-8:3-4) And this is what enslaves him and plunges him into frustration.'

"I know not" -'I do not recognize' in its true nature (Robertson p. 369) Recognize, come to know, perceive (Vincent p. 80) 'For that which I am working out I do not approve' (Rhm) 'Yes, I end up doing what I do not acknowledge, what I do not accept as acceptable'


NOTE: Prior to becoming a Christian Paul wasn't wallowing in sin (in the sense that he wasn't a immoral decadent). He was striving to obey God ( Act_22:3 ; Act_23:1 ; Act_26:9 ) (although misguided in his efforts he ended up persecuting Christians). Here is the frustration of a man trying to serve God, that at the end of the year so to speak still finds himself falling short ( Rom_3:23 ), no matter how hard he tried, and tried he did ( Gal_1:14 ). If the Law could justify any man in the New Testament, it had to be Paul, but even hard-working and zealous Paul found himself in sin, found himself violating the good will of God.

"for not what I would" -'for I am not practicing what I would like to do'

"but what I hate, that I do" -Paul wants the opposite of bondage to sin, but since he isn't perfect, and being under the demands of Law (outside of Christ), he found himself in the very situation he was trying to avoid. No matter how hard to tried to avoid sin, he still eventually sinned.

Verse 16

Rom_7:16 But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good.

"I consent" -"I agree with the Law" (NASV); Lit., to speak together with; concur with (Vincent p. 81) This isn't a depraved person!

Here is a great test of honesty. How many Christians 'agree' that God's law is good? How many instead of repenting of and confessing their sins (agreeing that the Law is good), end up trying to justify their sins (confessing that the Law is wrong).

When Paul fell short, when he sinned, when he was grieved that he had failed, he still believed that God's Law was right and good! How many grumble and complain that God's law is too strict, hard, narrow, or difficult? How many think, 'It's unreasonable' for God to demand this of me. Despite the fact that Paul could never keep the law of God perfectly (O.T. or N.T. law), he still confessed, 'the Law is right and good' and doesn't need to be altered. God's moral standard doesn't need to be lowered.

Verse 17

Rom_7:17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me.

"no more I that do it" -clearly Paul isn't saying that he is not responsible for his sins, or that he can't help himself. ( Rom_6:12-13 ; Rom_6:16 ; Rom_6:19 ) In the previous verse he has clearly stated his own personal responsibility, when he says, "I" do the very thing "I" do not wish to do (7:16) . Paul was a man who willed and desired something he couldn't come up with. 'This being so, the action is no longer my own' (TCNT)

"but sin which dwelleth in me" -note: Paul had already confessed that "I" do it (7:16); 'but sin which dominates me' (Lam).

"dwelleth" -in the same sense that Christ dwells in one ( Gal_2:20 ). In the sense of 'influences'.

Verse 18

Rom_7:18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not.

"For I know" -an illustration or explanation of what he has just said.

"in my flesh dwelleth no good thing" -clearly Paul can't be saying that he is wholly evil, for even in this state Paul "desires to do good" (7:15,19)

'If "flesh" here means "sinful nature" we would have Paul saying that no good thing dwells in his "sinful nature". Would that be necessary? Wouldn't that be like saying: "that bachelor is an unmarried man?"'

Paul is saying, that outside of Christ, "good" has no permanent dwelling in him. It is erroneous to say that 'Paul didn't or couldn't do one good thing before he became a Christian'. ( Act_23:1 ; Php_3:6 )

"but to do that which is good is not" -'but the doing of the good is not' (NASV).

'No good thing' gives the impression that Paul is saying he is unable to accomplish even one good act or thought. That isn't what he intends at all (the context reveals that). Of course he can do good things. The "good" that he speaks of in this section is "good" viewed in totality and in relation to Law.'

Paul, as all other's found himself falling short ( Rom_3:23 ) of the demands of Law ( Gal_3:12 ), he couldn't do good all the time, "goodness" didn't have a permanent abode in him. He contemplated "good", he "willed it", he "desired it", but he didn't ALWAYS perform it.

Verse 19

Rom_7:19 For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practise.

"The evil" -since the Law demanded flawlessness, and those that didn't, found themselves condemned ( Rom_3:23 ), and since Paul was as the rest of us, imperfect, he found himself engaged in evil acts. (Like persecuting Christians)

Verse 20

Rom_7:20 But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me.

After all the "wishing" and "desiring" and "trying", being under the demands of Law, one finds that sin still get's it way. Of course not every minute of the day, but merely one sin a year is enough to condemn one under Law.

Again, remember Paul is trying to demonstrate why one needs to die to the Law. For a system of Law justification gives Sin the opportunity to rule.

Verse 21

Rom_7:21 I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present.

Under a system of law, not matter how hard Paul tried and desired to fulfill the demands of the law, he still found himself in sin. Paul had learned this by experience.

"I find then the law" -'the principle' (NASV). All of us 'found out' this same thing. We wanted to do the right thing, but we found ourselves in sin. Even those raised in 'Christian homes' experienced this.

Verse 22

Rom_7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

'There are those who find this difficult to believe of an unforgiven man. But is it really so difficult? Haven't we all experienced strong traces of nobility or hungering after justice in our lives before we came to Christ!'

Haven't we ran across non-Christians that perfectly agreed with our 'Christian' views on moral issues? Here is another verse that plainly refutes the doctrine of 'total depravity'. In fact, for the gospel to appeal to people, there must be something 'in people' that the gospel can appeal to!

Anyone that can read the bible and resent it's message must have a big honesty problem. Even Paul, when outside of Christ, joyfully agreed that the Law of God was a good thing. Here is the good and honest heart ( Luk_8:15 ). When the Christian no longer "delights" in God's law, when a person begins to resent sermons and lessons that present the "law" on the subject, one is in serious trouble. The Bible calls such a person "wicked" ( Psa_1:2 ; Psa_1:4 )

"I delight" -4913. sunedomai soon-ay'-dom-ahee; middle voice from 4862 and the base of 2237; to rejoice in with oneself, i.e. feel satisfaction concerning: -delight.

"inward man" -'is the "I" who reflects on the man as a whole, is the "I" who can sit and look at my body and be aware not only of my body but can be aware of my being aware.'

Verse 23

Rom_7:23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.

"Different law" -'I see another principle' (Gspd); 'rule of action, or compulsion' (Turner). A 'law' unlike the 'character' ('different'-Greek 'heteros'-something of a different nature) of the law of God that he delights in. 'Differing in kind and aim, not "another" merely' (Alford p. 901)

The 'different law' in this verse isn't the Law of Moses, for that is 'good' (7:12). Despite Paul's best efforts and his desire to do good (7:21-22), under the system of Law justification, Paul still observed in himself that sin still was able to carry on a successful campaign against him.

"In my members" -'in the members of my body' (NASV); 6:13,19.

"Warring against" -'battling against' (Ber); 'In conflict with' (Gspd). In continual dissension and conflict with. (Alford p. 901) Taking the field against (Vincent p. 82)

"the law of my mind" -(7:22), Paul's agreement with the law of God. Paul sees two authorities saying to him, 'Do this'. And being under a system that demanded flawlessness, sin was able to take him as a prisoner of war.

"under the law of sin" -don't make the mistake of concluding that Paul is saying, 'I couldn't help myself'. (6:16) Rather, despite the best efforts and intentions, outside of Christ, you will always find yourself in bondage to sin. Sin always wins outside of Christ.

The Ancient World agreed:

'Thus Ovid: "Desire counsels me in one direction, reason in another". "I see and approve the better, but I follow the worse." Epictetus: "He who sins does not what he would, and does what he would not". Seneca: "What, then, is it that, when we would go in one direction, drags us in the other?"

Verse 24

Rom_7:24 Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?

"Wretched man" -5005. talaiporos tal-ah'-ee-po-ros; from the base of 5007 and a derivative of the base of 3984; enduring trial, i.e. miserable: -wretched. 'Involved in the word is "toil, hard work, burdensome labors". Moses Lard translates, "Toil worn man am I". He's tired with toiling. He's a loser and he sighs for a deliverer.'

Originally, wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor. (Vincent p. 84)

"Who shall deliver me" -by crying for a deliverer from all of it Paul admits that he himself is not able to win the battle. It is difficult to convert someone who doesn't see themselves as a sinner and as one who has lost the battle with sin.

"body of this death"- Paul's body had been the instrument of sin (7:23; 6:19; 1Ti_1:13-15 ). His body couldn't keep up with the Law's demand of flawlessness. Hence it was a body was brought upon him spiritual death, and would result in eternal death, unless someone delivered him.

Verse 25

Rom_7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord"- someone had delivered him! He will continue this theme in Chapter 8. 'The exclamation of thanksgiving shows that the longed-for deliverance has actually been achieved' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 643)

"So then" -I view the rest of the verse as a summation of 7:13-24. He is looking back at his condition as a non-Christian, as one under a system that demanded flawlessness. Remember the whole point in Chapter 7 is to demonstrate why we needed to 'die', i.e. be released from a system of law justification.

No, the law isn't evil, for He agrees with everything that it stood for. And yet all his good desires and intentions under such a system didn't count. Standing on his own, in a body of flesh, he was unable to live up to the demands of the law. Thank God for grace, forgiveness, the blood of Christ, repentance and prayer!

"Barclay, as his custom is, makes three very useful suggestions on this seventh chapter. One, this sections shows the inadequacy of human knowledge. (If knowing what is right were the basic issue, we'd have it easy). Two, this section demonstrates the inadequacy of human resolution. (To grit your teeth and resolve to do what is right isn't the accomplishment of the aim.) Three, this section demonstrates the inadequacy of (even correct) diagnosis. As important as this is, it isn't the whole answer at all. Cancer diagnosed remains cancer and needs more than recognition ."

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 7". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.