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FIRST PART. SUPPLEMENTARY. CHAPS. 6-8. SANCTIFICATION.
BY faith in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ the believer has obtained a sentence of justification, in virtue of which he stands reconciled to God. Can anything more be needed for his salvation? It seems not. The didactic treatise, intended to expound salvation, seems thus to have reached its close. Why then a new part?
The attentive reader will not have forgotten that in the first part of chap. 5 the apostle directed our attention to a day of wrath, the day of the judgment to come, and that he dealt with the question by anticipation, whether the justification now acquired would hold good in that final and decisive hour. To settle this question, he brought in a means of salvation of which he had not yet spoken: participation in the life of Christ; and it was on this fact, announced beforehand ( Rom 5:9-10 ), that he based the assurance of the validity of our justification even in the day of supreme trial. When uttering those words, Paul marked out in advance the new domain on which he enters from this time forward, that of sanctification.
To treat this matter is not to pass beyond the limits traced in the outset by the general thesis expressed Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” For in the expression shall live, ζήσεται , there is comprehended not only the grace of righteousness, but also that of the new life, or of holiness. To live is not merely to regain peace with God through justification; it is to dwell in the light of His holiness, and to act in permanent communion with Him. In the cure of the soul, pardon is only the crisis of convalescence; the restoration of health is sanctification. Holiness is true life.
What is the exact relation between these two divine blessings which constitute salvation in its real nature: justification and holiness? To put this question is at the same time to inquire into the true relation between the following part, chaps. 6-8, and the portion of the Epistle already studied. The understanding of this central point is the key to the Epistle to the Romans, and even to the whole Gospel.
1. In the view of many, the relation between these two blessings of grace ought to be expressed by a but. “No doubt you are justified by faith; but beware, see that you break with the sin which has been forgiven you; apply yourselves to holiness; if not, you shall fall into condemnation again.” This somewhat prevalent conception of the relation between justification and sanctification seems to us to find instinctive expression in the words of Th. Schott: “Here we enter upon the domain of the preservation of salvation.” According to this view, salvation consists essentially of justification, and sanctification appears solely as the condition of not losing it.
2. Other expositors make what follows, in relation to what precedes, a therefore, if one may so speak: “You are justified freely; therefore, impelled by faith and gratitude, engage yourselves now to renounce evil, and do what is well-pleasing to God.” This mode of understanding the relation between justification and holiness is probably that followed by most of the readers of our Epistle at the present day.
3. According to others, Reuss and Sabatier for example, the connection sought would require to be expressed by a for, or in fact: If faith justifies you, as I have just shown, it is because in fact, by the mystical and personal union which it establishes between Christ and us, it alone has the power to sanctify us. The gift of pardon flows, on this view, from that of holiness and not the reverse; or, to speak the truth, these blessings of grace are confounded with one another. “Paul knows nothing,” says Sabatier expressly, “of the subtle distinction which has given rise to so many disputes between declaring righteous and making righteous, justum dicere and justum facere. ” So thought also Professor Beck of Tübingen. This is the opinion which was elevated by the Council of Trent to the rank of a dogma in the Catholic Church.
4. Finally, in these last days a bold thinker, M. Lüdemann, has explained the connection sought after a wholly new fashion. The appropriate form for expressing the connection is, according to him: or rather. This author will have it that the first four chapters of our Epistle expound a wholly juridical theory of justification, of purely Jewish origin, and not yet expressing the real view of the apostle. It is a simple accommodation by which he seeks to gain his Judeo-Christian readers. His true theory is of Hellenic origin; it is distinguished from the first by its truly moral character. It is the one which is expounded chaps. 5-8. Sin no longer appears as an offence to be effaced by an arbitrary pardon; it is an objective power which can only be broken by the personal union of the believer with Christ dead and risen. By the second theory, therefore, Paul rectifies and even retracts the first. The notion of justification is suppressed, as in the preceding view, at least from the standpoint of Paul himself; all that God has to do to save us is to sanctify us.
We do not think that any of these four solutions exactly reproduces the apostolic view; the two last even contradict it flatly.
1. Sanctification is more and better than a restrictive and purely negative condition of the maintenance of the state of justification once acquired. It is a new state into which it is needful to penetrate and advance, in order thus to gain the complete salvation. One may see, Romans 10:10, how the apostle distinguished precisely between the two notions of justification and salvation.
2. Neither is it altogether exact to represent sanctification as a consequence to be drawn from justification. The connection between the two facts is still more intimate. Holiness is not an obligation which the believer deduces from his faith; it is a fact implied in justification itself, or rather one which proceeds, as well as justification, from the object of justifying faith, that is, Christ dead and risen. The believer appropriates this Christ as his righteousness first, and then as his holiness ( 1Co 1:30 ). The bond of union which connects these two graces is not therefore logical or subjective; it is so profoundly impressed on the believer's heart only because it has an anterior reality in the very person of Christ, whose holiness, while serving to justify us, is at the same time the principle of our sanctification. Reuss justly observes in this relation, that from the apostle's point of view, we have not to say to the Christian: “Thou shalt sin no more;” but we must rather say: “The Christian sins no more.”
3. As to the third view, which finds in sanctification the efficient cause of pardon and justification, it is the antipodes of Paul's view. Why, if he had understood the relation between the two in this way, would he not have commenced his didactic treatise with the part relating to sanctification (vi.-viii.), instead of laying as its foundation the exposition of justification (i.-v.)? Besides, is not the then ( Rom 6:1 ): “What shall we say then? ” enough to show the contradiction between this view and the apostle's conception? He must have said: “ For (or in fact) what shall we say?” Finally, is it not evident that the whole deduction of chap. 6 assumes that of chap. 3, and not the reverse? If the opinion which the works of Reuss have contributed to accredit in the Church of France were well founded, we must acknowledge the justness of the charge which this writer brings against the apostle of “not having followed a rigorously logical course, a really systematic order.” But it is a hundred to one when a reader does not find the Apostle Paul logical, that he is not understanding his thought; and this is certainly the case with the critic whom we are combating. The apostle knew the human heart too well to think of founding faith in reconciliation on the moral labors of man. We need to be set free from ourselves, not to be thrown back on ourselves. If we had to rest the assurance of our justification, little or much, on our own sanctification, since this is always imperfect, our heart would never be wholly made free Godward, absolutely set at large and penetrated with that filial confidence which is itself the necessary condition of all true moral progress. The normal attitude Godward is therefore this: first rest in God through justification; thereafter, work with Him, in His fellowship, or sanctification. The opinion before us, by reversing this relation, puts, to use the common expression, the cart before the horse. It can only issue in replacing the church under the law, or in freeing it in a manner far from salutary, by setting before it a degraded standard of Christian holiness.
4. The fourth view, while equally at variance with the doctrine of the gospel, compromises, besides, the loyalty of the apostle's character. Who can persuade himself, when reading seriously the first part of the Epistle relating to justification by faith, that all he demonstrates there with so much pains, and even with so great an expenditure of biblical proofs (iii. and iv.), is a view which he does not adopt himself, and which he proposes afterward to set aside, to substitute in its room one wholly different? To what category morally are we to assign this process of substitution presented ( Rom 6:1 ) in the deceptive form of a conclusion ( then) and so ably disguised that the first who discovers it turns out to be a professor of the nineteenth century? Or perhaps the apostle himself did not suspect the difference between the two orders of thought, Jewish and Greek, to which he yielded his mind at one and the same time? The antagonism of the two theories perhaps so thoroughly escaped him that he could, without suspecting it, retract the one while establishing the other. Such a confusion of ideas cannot be attributed to the man who conceived and composed an “Epistle to the Romans.”
Sanctification, therefore, is neither a condition nor a corollary of justification: nor is it its cause, and still less its negation. The real connection between justification and Christian holiness, as conceived by St. Paul, appears to us to be this: justification by faith is the means, and sanctification the end. The more precisely we distinguish these two divine gifts, the better we apprehend the real bond which unites them. God is the only good; the creature, therefore, cannot do good except in Him. Consequently, to put man into a condition to sanctify himself, it is necessary to begin by reconciling him to God, and replacing him in Him. For this purpose, the wall which separates him from God, the divine condemnation which is due to him as a sinner, must be broken down. This obstacle once removed by justification, and reconciliation accomplished, the heart of man opens without reserve to the divine favor which is restored to him; and, on the other hand, the communication of it from above, interrupted by the state of condemnation, resumes its course. The Holy Spirit, whom God could not bestow on a being at war with Him, comes to seal on his heart the new relation established on justification, and to do the work of a real and free inward sanctification. Such was the end which God had in view from the first; for holiness is salvation in its very essence. Justification is to be regarded as the strait gate, through which we enter on the narrow way of sanctification, which leads to glory.
And now the profound connection between the two parts of the Epistle, and more especially between the two chaps. 5 and 6, becomes manifest. It may be expressed thus: Even as we are not justified each by himself, but all by one, by Jesus Christ our Lord (comp. Romans 5:11; Romans 5:17; Rom 5:21 ); so neither are we sanctified each in himself, but all in one, in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, Rom 8:39 ).
The course of thought in the following part is this: In the first section the apostle unfolds the new principle of sanctification contained in the very object of justifying faith, Jesus Christ, and shows the consequences of this principle, both as to sin and as to law ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ).
In the second, he casts a glance backward, in order to compare the action of this new principle with the action of the old, the law ( Rom 7:7-25 ).
In the third, he points to the Holy Spirit as the divine agent who causes the new principle, or the life of Christ, to penetrate the life of the believer, and who by transforming him fits him to enjoy the future glory, and to realize at length his eternal destiny ( Rom 8:1-39 ).
In three words, then: holiness in Christ ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ), without law ( Rom 7:7-25 ), by the Holy Spirit ( Rom 8:1-39 ). The great contrast on which the thought of the apostle moves here is not, as in the previous part, that between wrath and justification; but the contrast between sin and holiness. For the matter in question is no longer to efface sin, as guilt, but to overcome it as a power or disease.
The apostle was necessarily led to this discussion by the development of his original theme. A new religious conception, which offers itself to man with the claim of conducting him to his high destiny, cannot dispense with the demonstration that it possesses the force necessary to secure his moral life. To explain this part, therefore, it is not necessary to assume a polemic or apologetic intention in relation to a so-called Jewish-Christianity reigning in the Church of Rome (Mangold), or to some Jewish-Christian influence which had begun to work there (Weizsäcker). If Paul here compares the moral effects of the gospel (chap. 6) with those of the law (vii.), it is because he is positively and necessarily under obligation to demonstrate the right of the former to replace the latter in the moral direction of mankind. It is with Judaism, as a preparatory revelation, that he has to do, not with Jewish-Christianity, as in the Epistle to the Galatians. Here his point of view is vastly wider. As he had discussed (chap. 3) the question of the value of the law in relation to justification, he could not but take up the same subject again in connection with the work of sanctification (vii.). Besides, the tone of chap. 6 is essentially didactic; the polemical tendency does not come out till chap. 7, to give place again in viii. to positive teaching, without the slightest trace of an apologetic or polemic intention.
It is equally plain how palpably erroneous is the view of those who would make the idea of Christian universalism the subject of the whole Epistle, and the principle of his plan and method. The contrast between universalism and particularism has not the slightest place in this part, which would thus be in this exposition wholly beside the subject.
How bold was the apostle's undertaking, to found the moral life of mankind on a purely spiritual basis, without the smallest atom of legal element! Even to this hour, after eighteen centuries, how many excellent spirits hesitate to welcome such an experiment! But Paul had had a convincing personal experience, on the one hand, of the powerlessness of the law to sanctify as well as to justify; and, on the other, of the entire sufficiency of the gospel to accomplish both tasks. This experience he expounds under the guidance of the Spirit, while generalizing it. Hence the personal turn which his exposition takes here in particular (comp. Rom 7:7 to Rom 8:2 ).
Vv. 1, 2. “ Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for as long time as he liveth? For the married woman is bound by the law to her living husband; but if the husband have died, she is loosed from the law of the husband. ”
We are familiar with the meaning of Paul's question: Or are ye ignorant; it explodes the negation of the expounded truth by an indisputable truth. The meaning here is therefore: Or, if ye are afraid, in the work of your sanctification, to yield yourselves solely to this new master, grace, and think that ye cannot dispense with an external rule like that of the law, know ye not that...? The form of address: brethren, had not occurred, as Hofmann observes, since Romans 1:13. The apostle is about to have recourse to a more familiar mode of teaching than he had hitherto used in his Epistle; hence he approaches his readers addressing them by this title, which gives to what follows the character of a conversation.
In the parenthesis: for I speak to those who..., the for refers to the negative answer which is to be supplied after the question: are ye ignorant: “No, ye cannot be ignorant of the legal prescription which I am about to quote”...
We must avoid translating as if the article τοῖς stood before the participle γινώσκουσι : “ to those among you who know the law. ” The grammatical form proves that the apostle here, as well as by the word brethren, is addressing the whole of the church of Rome. This is one of the passages from which many conclude that this church was almost exclusively composed of Jews (Baur, Holtzmann), or at least of proselytes (De Wette, Beyschl.). Nevertheless, even Mangold allows (p. 73) that “this expression may apply also to Christians of Gentile origin, as the O. T. was received and read throughout the whole church as a document of revelation.” One might even go farther, and maintain that it would be superfluous to remind those who had been Jews that they are such as know the law. Very early the reading of the O. T. passed from the worship of the synagogue to that of the church. The Epistles addressed to the churches of the Gentiles prove to what an extent the apostles assumed their readers to be acquainted with the history and oracles of the O. T. St. Paul thus interrogates the Galatians, who certainly were not of Jewish origin ( Rom 4:21 ): “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, understand ye not the law?”
Now, here is one of the articles of that law, which, spiritually applied, solved the question of the relation between the Christian and the law. The code, in case of death, allowed the surviving spouse to remarry. If, consequently, it is a fact that there was a death in the case of the believer, it follows, according to the law itself, that he is set free from the law, his former spouse. Such is the summary of the following verses.
So true is it that Rom 7:1 is still connected with Romans 7:14, and gives the development of the words of that verse: not under the law, that the term κυριεύειν , to be master, to have power over, is borrowed from that verse.
The term man, ἄνθρωπος , may designate either sex. In Romans 7:2, where the case of the female is specially in question, Paul uses another word ( ἀνήρ ) to denote the husband.
The subject of the verb ζῇ , lives, according to our translation, is, the man. The law bears rule over the individual man, so far as his civil relations are concerned, as long as he is in life. Some commentators (Or., Er., Beng.) understand as the subject of the verb lives, νόμος , the law. This would give the idea of the abolition of the law by the coming of Christ, in the sense of Romans 10:4. But this sense is incompatible with the following verse, where the word ζῶντι (to the living husband) reproduces the idea of ζῇ , liveth, from Romans 7:1, as well as with the antithesis: “but if the husband be dead. ” Besides, the idea of the whole passage is not that of the objective abolition of the law by the coming of Christ; the point in question is the believer's subjective emancipation from this external standard through faith in Christ's death. Philippi agrees with us in making ὁ ἄνθρωπος , man, the subject of the verb ζῇ , liveth; but he applies the notion of living to life in sin ( Rom 6:2 ), to which faith in Christ has put an end ( Rom 6:2-11 ). The meaning of these last words of the verse would thus be: “The law has only power over the man as long as he continues in his own life, in his natural state of sin; from the time he renounces it to enter into union with Christ, he is set free from the law.” Hence it would follow that Romans 7:1, instead of citing an example taken from the law, with the view of illustrating the thought of the passage, would itself express this thought. But it is impossible thus to separate Rom 7:1 from the sequel. The for of Rom 7:2 shows that the latter is only the explanation of the article of the law quoted in Romans 7:1. Besides, how could the reader have suspected this extraordinary meaning of the word live, which would here designate neither common life nor life in God? Finally, the words: “I speak to you as to those who know the law,” forbid us to take the following maxim as anything else than an extract from the law. The first three verses form a whole: the example, namely, taken from the code relating to conjugal life. Rom 7:4 will apply the general maxim contained in this example to the domain of religion.
Vv. 2. The maxim cited in Rom 7:1 is developed in Romans 7:2. The same law which renders the woman inseparable from the man as long as he lives, sets her free from this subjection as soon as he dies. In the first proposition the emphasis is on the word ζῶντι , living; in the second, on the words: if he be dead. The precept Deu 24:2 expressly authorized the marriage of a woman put away by her first husband with a second; and a fortiori, a new marriage after the first husband was dead. If, in the first proposition, the apostle does not speak of the case of divorce, it is because he is referring to the woman as the acting party, and because in any case it did not belong to the woman to put away her husband. The husband alone had the right to give a letter of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1. The expression κατήργηται , literally: is annulled, has ceased to be, and hence, naturally, is freed from, is chosen to extend in a sense to the woman herself the notion of death, which applies in strictness only to the husband. The conjugal bond being broken by the husband's death, the wife dies also as a wife. Thus the formula of Romans 7:1, which seemed to apply only to the deceased, is found to apply likewise to the widow. She is dead (to the conjugal bond) in her dead husband. Some take the expression: the law of the husband, as meaning the article of the code concerning marriage, lex ad maritum pertinens. But it is more natural to understand by this law the legal power with which the husband is invested in relation to his wife.
The difficult question in this verse is why Paul takes as an example a wife losing her husband and free to remarry, rather than a husband losing his wife and enjoying the same right. For the two cases equally demonstrate the truth of the maxim of Romans 7:1. The fact that the law bound the woman more strictly than the husband, does not suffice to explain this preference. It is the application which Paul proposes to make of his example to the spiritual life which will give us the solution of the question. It shows, in point of fact, that Paul had in view not only the breaking of the believer's soul with the law (the first husband), but also its new union to the risen Christ (the second husband). Now in this figure of the second marriage, Christ could only represent the husband, and the believer, consequently, the wife. And this is what leads the apostle to take a step farther, and to attribute death to the wife herself. For Christ having died, the believing soul cannot espouse Him except as itself dead.
First Section (6:1-7:6). The Principle of Sanctification Contained in Justification by Faith.
This entire section is intended to lay the foundations of Christian sanctification. It includes three portions.
The first ( Rom 6:1-14 ) unfolds the new principle of sanctification in the very object of justifying faith.
The second ( Rom 6:15-23 ) exhibits the intrinsic power possessed by this principle, both to free the believer from sin, and to subject him to righteousness.
In the third ( Rom 7:1-6 ), Paul infers from this double fact the right henceforth possessed by the believer to renounce the use of the former means, the law. The new morality is thus solidly established.
Vv. 3. “ So then if, while the husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if the husband be dead, she is freed from the law, that she may not be an adulteress, though she be married to another man. ”
This verse is not a needless repetition of Romans 7:2. It serves to draw from the legal prescription explained in Rom 7:2 the conclusion which the apostle has to demonstrate the legitimacy of a second union in the case supposed. What would be a crime during the husband's lifetime, becomes legitimate when he is dead.
The term χρηματίζειν strictly signifies to do business, and hence: to bear the name of the profession to which one is devoted. To this day a large number of our family names are names of some trade. Comp. also Acts 11:26.
The expression: freed from the law, is defined by the context: it bears special reference to the law on the rule of marriage. But the expression is designedly kept up in all its generality to prepare for the absolute application of it to believers, which the apostle is about to make.
That she may not be an adulteress (if she marries again): the law was really intended to reserve for her such liberty.
Augustine, Beza, and Olshausen have attempted another explanation, according to which Rom 7:2-3 are not the development, but the allegorical application of the maxim of Romans 7:1. In its clearest form it is as follows, as it seems to me: The woman bound by the law to her living husband is the human soul subjected by the law to the dominion of sin (the first husband). The latter, sin, dying (through faith in Christ crucified), the soul is set free from his power, and enjoys the liberty of entering into union with Christ risen (the new husband). But this explanation would carry us back to the idea of the preceding passage (emancipation from sin), whereas Rom 7:6 shows clearly that Paul means to speak here of emancipation from the law. Then the relation between Rom 7:1-2 would require to be expressed, not by for, but by so ( οὕτω ), or so that ( ὥστε ). Finally, the ὥστε , so that, of Rom 7:4 shows it is not till then that the moral application begins.
Vv. 4. “ So that, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should belong to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God. ”
Coming to the application, the apostle approaches his readers anew, and more closely, addressing them as: my brethren. It is as if he were to say to them familiarly: Let us see! Now, then, is it not clear to you all?
The conjunction ὥστε , so that, cannot be taken, as some have sought to do, in the sense of likewise, or so then. The natural sense: so that, is perfectly suitable, if only the force of this conjunction is made to bear not exclusively on the following verb: Ye are dead to the law, but on the verb with its entire connection: Ye are dead to the law; that ye should belong to another. It is not the death of believers in Christ crucified whose legitimacy the apostle wished to show by the preceding example taken from the law, but the new union of which this death is the condition.
The same need of drawing close to his readers which suggests the form of address: my brethren, leads him also to use the second person, which is more in keeping with the direct application to which he is now coming.
Ye also: quite like this wife who is dead (as a wife) through her husband's death, and who thus has the right to marry again. ᾿Εθανατώθητε , ye are dead, or more literally: Ye have been put to death in relation to the law. The first aorist passive here expresses, as usual, the highest degree of passivity. Jesus draws believers as it were violently into communion with Him in His sufferings. This participation in His violent death is not exactly the same in this passage as that spoken of in Rom 7:6 of the preceding chapter. The latter referred to the believer's death to sin, whereas Paul says here: “Ye are dead to the law. ” Christ on the cross died to the law, inasmuch as this punishment set Him free from the jurisdiction of the law, under which He had passed His life, and from the Jewish nationality which had determined the form of His earthly existence ( Gal 4:4 ). The believer who appropriates this death appropriates also the glorious liberty which in the case of Christ was its consequence. Delivered in Him from the law of ordinances ( Eph 2:15 ), he enters with Him into the higher life of communion with God. When Paul says: by the body of Christ, he reminds us that it was this body which formed the bond between Christ and the theocratic nation ( Rom 1:3 ); and that this bond once broken in His case by death, it is also broken in that of believers, who draw their life from Him. There is no reference in this context to the gift of His body as the price of our redemption (Gess).
The application of the idea of death to believers, in the words: Ye are dead to the law, agrees with the observation we have made on the expression κατήργηται , she (the wife) is annulled, has ceased to be (as a wife), at the end of Romans 7:2. As the new husband is a dead and risen Christ, the wife must necessarily be represented as dead (through the death of her first husband, the law), that she may be in a position to be united to Christ as one risen again. It is a marriage, as it were, beyond the tomb. And hence it is that the apostle is not content with saying: “Ye have been put to death in relation to the law; that ye should belong to another,” but adds immediately: “ to Him who is raised from the dead. ”
We can now understand perfectly how Paul, with this application in view from the beginning, extended the notion of death, which, strictly speaking, applied only to the husband, to the wife, by the term κατήργηται , she is abolished, has ceased to be, Romans 7:2.
It is easy to see that this figure of a marriage between the soul dead in Christ crucified and Christ risen expresses exactly the same idea as we have found already in Romans 6:5, and as was developed in the whole passage Romans 6:6-10; only this idea is resumed here to deduce from it the believer's enfranchisement in regard to the law. We may therefore thus sum up the contents of these four verses: As by His death Christ entered upon an existence set free from every legal statute and determined by the life of God alone, so we, when we have died to sin, enter with Him into this same life in which, like a remarried widow, we have no other master than this new Spouse and His Spirit.
The object of this new union, says Paul, concluding this development, Romans 7:4, is, that we may bring forth fruit unto God. By this expression he unmistakably continues and completes the figure which he began, namely, that of marriage. The new issue which is to spring from this union between the Risen One and His church is an activity rich in holy works wrought in the service of God ( καρποφορῆσαι τῷ Θεῷ , to bear fruit unto God). To reject this view of the figure is to show a prudery which is neither in harmony with the spirit of antiquity, nor with that of the gospel itself. It is, in fine, to put oneself in contradiction to the two following verses, which can leave no doubt as to the apostle's real meaning.
On what does the that depend? Hofmann and Schott hold that it must be connected solely with the last words: to Him that is raised from the dead, that...; Christ is raised to a celestial life that He might communicate it to us, and render us active in God's service. But the aim of the resurrection cannot be thus restricted, and the sequel proves that the that depends, as is natural, on the principal idea: that ye should be married to another. It is not the resurrection, it is the union of the believer with the Risen One, which has for its end to give birth to a life of good works. This appears from the following verses, in which the apostle contrasts union with the law, which produced fruits of sin, with union with Christ, which results in the best fruits. What has led Hofmann to this false explanation is the desire to account for the transition from the second person plural: ye have been put to death...ye were married..., to the first: we should bring forth fruit: “ He is raised for us, believers, that we should bring forth”...Some commentators, indeed (Meyer, to a certain extent), suppose that the verb in the second person and the pronoun ὑμᾶς ( you) were written from the viewpoint of Judeo-Christians; for, it is said, only people formerly subject to the law could become dead in relation to it. The last verb in the first person is, on the contrary, it is said, written from the standpoint of all Christians. But the author of these lines, being himself of Jewish origin, would require to say, and especially when speaking of Judeo-Christians, we, rather than ye. Comp. Galatians 3:13, where, speaking in the name of believers of Jewish origin, he says we, to contrast with them afterward, in Romans 7:14, the Gentiles, and in the end to combine both in a final we. The true explanation of the contrast between ye and we in our passage is simpler. At the beginning of this passage, Paul, to get near to his readers, had passed from the didactic tone to the direct address: brethren! It was a way of saying to them: “Understand thoroughly, brethren; it is your own history which was contained beforehand in this legal prescription.” A new and still more urgent apostrophe had followed in Romans 7:4 ( my brethren), at the point where from the explanation Paul was passing to the application. And now the application being made by the: Ye became dead, that ye should belong, the didactic tone of the treatise recommenced with the: that we should bring forth fruit, which is true not only of the Roman readers, but of the whole Church; and the first person continues ( Rom 7:5-6 ); comp. Romans 8:12-13 (the inverse change). In Rom 7:6 he also affirms, as well as in Romans 7:4, things which at first sight can only suit believers of Jewish origin: “ that (the law) under the power of which we were held. ” This is because the apostle does not forget that the experiment of the effects of the law made by the Jews is to the benefit of all mankind. For if the law had continued for the Jews, its maintenance must have issued in extending the reign of the law to the rest of the world; and so it was indeed that Paul's adversaries understood it ( the Judaizing false brethren), so that it is when addressing all believers that he can say: “Ye became dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to the Risen One.” Calvin also says, speaking of every Christian: “From hand to hand, passing from the power of the law, we were given over to Christ.” Apart from Christ, the Gentiles would have no other religious future than subjection to the Jewish law.
The apostle had just proved by the law itself that believers, in consequence of the death which they have undergone, may without unfaithfulness cast off the yoke of the law, and contract a new union with Christ. He now points out the grave reason which they have for using this right and preferring this new union to the previous one. The fruits which shall issue from it will be as excellent as those which proceeded from the former were detestable. This expression: fruits, recalls the conclusion of the preceding passage, Romans 6:20-23, where the moral result of the two servitudes was described. Here the subject is two marriages. The contents of the two Rom 7:5-6 were announced in the last words of Romans 7:4. And first, Romans 7:5: the first marriage and its fruits.
Vv. 5. “ For when we were in the flesh, the affections of sins, excited by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death; ”
The for evidently bears not on Rom 7:5 only, but on Rom 7:5-6 together.
The expression: to be in the flesh, is very far from being synonymous with living in the body; comp. Galatians 2:20. The term flesh, denoting literally the soft parts of the body, which are the usual seat of agreeable or painful sensations, is applied in biblical language to the whole natural man, in so far as he is yet under the dominion of the love of pleasure and the fear of pain, that is to say, of the tendency to self-satisfaction. The natural complacency of the ego with itself such is the idea of the word flesh in the moral sense in which it is so often used in Scripture. Now, what part does the law play in the moral development of man in this state? The affections of sins, παθήματα ἁμαρτιῶν , are, says Paul, excited by it. The Greek term, which may be rendered by affection or passion, denotes an essentially passive state. And, indeed, the affections of sense, which correspond to certain external objects fitted to satisfy them, are less of the nature of spontaneous determinations of the will, than the effect of impressions received. As to the complement: of sins, it might be taken either as the genitive of cause (produced by sins), or of quality (which have the character of sins). But in both senses the singular: of sin, would have been more natural. This complement might also be explained as the genitive of apposition: the affections in which the varied inward forms of sin consist, such emotions as are intemperate or impure, interested or proud, selfish or violent. But is it not more natural to see in this complement: of sins, the genitive of effect? the affections which do not fail to produce every kind of sins, as soon as, being strongly excited, they seek their gratification.
The regimen: by the law, depends directly on the word paqh/mata, the affections; it cannot signify: produced by the law, which would be to say too much; for they result from the natural state which Paul designated by the expression: to be in the flesh. We must therefore explain: excited by the law; this coming into collision with those instincts which were asleep, makes them pass into the active and violent state. Why as a fact do we find man degrading himself so often, by passing beyond the simple satisfaction of his wants, and plunging into excesses to which the brute does not descend? There is not in the latter case that arrest of law which seems so often nothing more to man than an incitement to evil-doing.
The term ἐνηργεῖτο , acted, operated, literally, worked within, denotes that sort of inward fermentation which is produced when the passions, excited by the resistance of the commandment, seek to master the body in order to their gratification. The verb ἐνεργεῖσθαι , to act, operate, is always taken by Paul in the middle sense, which we give to it here, never in the passive sense. to be put in action; comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Galatians 5:6; 2Co 1:6 ; 2 Corinthians 4:12, etc. etc. The word: the members, corresponds to the expression: of the sins. Every evil instinct has, so to speak, an agent corresponding to it in one of the members of the body. The result of this impure working, caused by the shock of the holy law against the carnal heart of the natural man, is an abundance of evil fruits which produce death in man; comp. James 1:14-15. The εἰς , to, in order to, contains, as it always does, the notion of end, and not only of effect. In the affections of the flesh, it is said, Romans 8:6, there is a secret aspiration after death. The man who acts without God tends to separate himself ever more profoundly from God.
Vv. 6. “ But now we are delivered from the law, being dead to him under whom we were held; so that we serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. ”
The contrast between this but now and the when we were of Romans 7:5, corresponds exactly, both as to form and substance, with the contrast between the when ye were and the but now, Romans 6:20; Romans 6:22; only with an application to another domain (that of the law). In the κατηργήθημεν , literally, we were annulled, we again find the form already explained in Romans 7:2, where it was said of the woman deprived of her standing as a married wife by the death of her husband: κατήργηται , she is abolished, she has ceased to be (as a wife). Here, as in the former case, this verb, construed with the preposition ἀπό , from, contains the idea of the most complete deliverance. We have seen in Rom 7:4 that this deliverance resulted from the death undergone in Christ ( ye were put to death). It is this last idea which is recalled by the being dead, ἀποθανόντες . The reading of the T. R.: ἀποθανόντος , that under which we were held (the law) being dead, arises, according to Tischendorf, from a mistake of Beza, who followed Erasmus in a false interpretation which he gives of a passage from Chrysostom. In point of fact, as we have seen, the idea of the abolition of the law is foreign to this passage. As to the reading τοῦ θανάτου of the Greco-Latins: “We are delivered from the law of death under which we were held,” it has probably been occasioned by the expression: to bring forth fruit unto death, Romans 7:5; but this qualification of the law is equally foreign to the passage before us.
Could the master, under whom we were held, possibly be, as Hofmann would have it, the flesh, taking the ἐν ᾧ as a neuter pronoun? But the whole context, as well as the parallel passage, Romans 7:4, shows clearly that the subject in question is the law. The antecedent of ἐν ᾧ is the demonstrative pronoun τουτῷ ( him, that is to say, the master) understood. The last words: under whom we were..., appear superfluous at first sight; but they are intended to remind us of the example taken from the law, which was the starting point of this demonstration ( Rom 7:1-3 ).
But this liberation does not tend to license. On the contrary, it is to issue in a δουλεύειν , a new servitude of the noblest and most glorious nature, which alone indeed deserves the name of liberty. This term δουλεύειν , to serve, is chosen as alone applicable to the two states about to be characterized.
In newness of spirit, says the apostle; he thus designates the new state into which the Holy Spirit introduces the believer, when He establishes a full harmony between the inclination of the heart and moral obligation; when to do good and renounce self for God has become a joy. With this state, of which he gives us a glimpse, and which he reserves for description (chap. 8), the apostle in closing contrasts the former state. This he puts second, because it is the state which he proposes to describe immediately, Romans 7:7-25. He calls it oldness of the letter: there may be in this expression an allusion to the old man, παλαιὸς ἄνθρωπος , Romans 6:6; but anyhow Paul wishes to designate this state as now past for the believer; it is from the viewpoint of his new state that he can characterize it thus. The letter is the moral obligation written in the code, imposing itself on man as a foreign law, and opposed to his inward dispositions. Is it not legitimate ( Rom 7:1-4 ) and advantageous ( Rom 7:5-6 ) to break with such a state, and enter upon the other, as soon as this possibility is presented by God Himself?
The apostle has shown in the first section that the gospel has the power to sanctify, and thereby to put an end at once to the reign of sin and law, which are one and the same state. He proceeds to explain that the law need not be an object of regret, since it is powerless to sanctify. It has therefore no well-founded protest to raise against the judgment which falls on it. Such is the subject of the following section.
Vv. 7. “ What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Let it not be! Nay, I did not learn to know sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, if the law had not said, Thou shalt not covet. ”
Some commentators think that in the second question the word sin should be taken in the sense of a cause of sin. But Paul would easily have found a way of expressing this thought more precisely. The simple meaning of the terms which he uses is this: Is the law something bad in itself, contrary to the essence and will of God, and consequently malignant? And this meaning suits the context still better than the preceding one, which, however, does not imply that we should paraphrase ἁμαρτία , sin, by ἁμαρτωλός , sinner (Mey., Philip.), a term which can only be applied to a personal agent.
While repelling with indignation the conclusion ascribed to him, the apostle nevertheless points out the measure of truth which it contains. The law does not produce sin, but it is the law which reveals it. There might be given to the word ἄλλα , but, which follows the: Let it not be! the meaning of a strong contrast: Nay, but on the contrary. To unveil sin is in reality, in some respects, the opposite of producing it. But the apostle has already in view what he proceeds to expound in Romans 7:8, the fact of the growth of sin as an effect of its detection by means of the law. And hence we think it better to give to the word ἄλλα , but, a restrictive sense, in relation to the strong negation which precedes. No, assuredly! But at least this cannot be denied.
It is unnecessary to give to οὐκ ἔγνων , literally: I did not learn to know, the meaning of the conditional (understanding ἄν ): I should not have known. The indicative is perfectly suitable. It is a fact: “I did not learn to judge of sin otherwise than by the light of the law.”
The notion of knowledge, contained in ἔγνων , has been here explained in many ways. Fritzsche applies it to the existence of sin, as when it is said: I did not know pain; for I had not yet suffered. But this meaning would throw the responsibility of sin on the law, the very thing which Paul wishes to avoid. Meyer thinks that the law made sin known by calling forth its violence, and so rendering it more easily perceived. But in this sense the idea of Rom 7:7 would not differ from that of Romans 7:8; now this is precluded by the δέ , progressive or adversative, at the beginning of the verse (see the strait to which Meyer is reduced to explain this transition). Tholuck and Philippi give an entirely different sense to the word know. The point in question is not the proof of the fact of sin, but the understanding of its culpability: “It was by the law that I knew sin as an act contrary to the will of God.” But why in this way force the application of the word know, when its simple meaning is perfectly sufficient: “I did not perceive in myself the presence of the evil instinct of sin, except by means of the law;” comp. the ἔγνων , Luke 8:46: I became aware of, I became conscious. This sentence is absolutely parallel, whatever Meyer may say, to that in Romans 3:20: “By the law is the knowledge of sin.”
And how was this discovery, made by means of the law, effected? This is what the apostle explains in the following proposition: “ For also I had not known lust if ”...He explains by a concrete fact what he has just stated more abstractly in the preceding proposition. If he discovered sin by the law, it was because one of the commandments made palpable to him the presence of lust, of whose abnormal existence in his inner man he would otherwise have remained forever ignorant.
This τὲ γάρ , for also, and in fact, denotes two things: 1st, a second fact of the same kind as the preceding ( τέ , also); and 2d, the second fact serving as a proof or explanation to the first ( γάρ , for). Paul might have remained ignorant forever of the state of sin in which his heart was sunk, if lust had not made it palpable to him. And the presence of lust would have forever escaped him, if the tenth commandment had not made it known to him. ᾿Επιθυμία , lust, denotes that involuntary motion of the soul ( θυμός ) toward ( ἐπί ) the external object which presents itself as corresponding to its desire. This motion of the soul toward the objects which can satisfy it is so natural to the human heart, that it would be absolutely lost in the general current of life, and would not fall specially under the eye of conscience, unless the law said: Thou shalt not covet. This prohibition is needed to bring man to fix his attention on this spontaneous movement of the soul, and to discover in this fact the symptom of an inward revolt against the divine will.
The pluperfect ᾔδειν has, strictly speaking, the meaning of an imperfect: I had learned to know, and hence: I knew. But in consequence of the if (if not=except) which follows, this verb can only be taken logically in the sense of a conditional (understanding, as is frequently done, the ἄν which indicates this mood): I should know (present), or: I should have known (past). It may therefore be translated in two ways: “I should not know lust (present), except the law said to me ( ἔλεγεν , imperfect).” Or: “I should not have known (I should not have been aware of) lust, except the law had said” (extending the ellipsis of the ἄν to the second verb). In the second case, Paul goes back in thought to the previous time denoted by ἔγνων : “I did not know except by...; and in fact I should not have been made aware of...except”...What seems to me to decide in favor of the latter sense, which places the action in the past, is the relation indicated between the two propositions, and expressed by the τὲ γάρ , for also, or and in fact. For the abstract terms: sin and law (in the first proposition), there are substituted in the second the two concrete terms: lust and commandment. Sin appears in lust, as law in the commandment. This is what is signified in reality by the τὲ γάρ , the τέ denoting the transition from the general to the particular, and the γάρ characterizing the particular fact as a proof or explanation in relation to the general: “I did not learn to know sin except by the law; for in fact I should not have been aware of lust (in which sin is revealed), had there not been a positive commandment saying to me: Lust not.” With this sense also agrees the difference between the two verbs: ἔγνων , from γιγνώσκειν , to learn to know, and ᾔδειν , from ἰδεῖν , to perceive (a fact). It was through the tenth commandment that Paul discovered lust, and it was by finding out this inward fact of lust that he became conscious of his state of sin.
In this picture of his inner life Paul gives us, without intending it, a very high idea of the purity of his life as a child and a young man. He might, when confronted with the nine commandments, have to the letter claimed for himself the verdict, Not guilty, like the young man who said to Jesus: “All these have I kept from my youth up.” But the tenth commandment cut short all this self-righteousness, and under this ray of the divine holiness, he was compelled to pass sentence of condemnation. Thus there was wrought in him, Pharisee though he was, without his suspecting it, a profound separation from ordinary Pharisaism, and a moral preparation which was to lead him to the arms of Christ and His righteousness. To this so mournful discovery there was added ( δέ , Rom 7:8 ) by and by a second and still more painful experience.
This whole exposition is introduced by the objection which consists in identifying the law with sin. But it must not be thought that the apostle's aim is really to exonerate the law from such a suspicion. Who, in the circle in which he taught, could have pronounced such a blasphemy against an institution recognized to be divine? What the apostle wishes to justify is not the law; it is his own teaching, from which it seemed to follow that the two things, law and sin, are inseparably united, or even identical. Had he not just proved that to be set free from sin is to be so also from the law? Does it not seem to follow that the law and sin are one and the same thing? It is this impious consequence from which he proceeds to clear his gospel. He shows that if the law plays so active a part in the history of sin, it is by no means because of its own nature, which would be wicked, but because of the exceedingly sinful nature of sin.
Second Section (7:7-25). Powerlessness of the Law to Sanctify Man.
Sixteenth Passage (Vers. 7-25.)
The essential ideas of this passage are the following: After having involved man in death ( Rom 7:7-13 ), the law leaves him to struggle in this state which cleaves to his nature, and from which it has no power to extricate him ( Rom 7:14-23 ). It cannot bring him farther than to sigh for deliverance ( Rom 7:24-25 ).
But in developing this theme of the powerlessness of the law, is not the apostle turning backward? Was not this subject treated already in chap. 3? It seems so, and this is one of the reasons why Reuss thinks that our Epistle is deficient in systematic order. But what Paul proved in chap. 3 was the insufficiency of the law to justify; the demonstration to be given in the part relative to justification by faith. What he proves here is its powerlessness to sanctify, which is entirely different, at least in the eyes of the apostle, and of all those who do not confound justification and sanctification.
It is perfectly intelligible how, after displaying the sanctifying power of the gospel ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ), the apostle should take a look backward to consider the work of the law, and describe it from this point of view. This retrospective glance at the part played by an institution which he regards as divine, and which had ruled so important a part of his life, does not at all, as has been thought, assume Judaizing readers, or even such as were of Jewish-Christian origin. The question of the influence of the law was of general interest; for the new gospel revelation appeared everywhere as a competitor with the ancient revelation of the law, and it concerned all to know their respective value in the work of man's sanctification; some, on the one side, wishing to know if they should remain under the law; others, if they should place themselves under its discipline.
The following section consists of only one passage, divided into two parts. In the first ( Rom 7:7-13 ), the apostle proves from experience that the law can only kill man morally that is to say, separate him from God; in the second, from Romans 7:14, he shows its powerlessness to extricate him from the sad state into which he is plunged. The passage has this peculiarity, that the theses demonstrated are not expounded in a general way, but in a purely personal form; Romans 7:7: “ I had not known”...; Romans 7:8: “Sin wrought in me ”...; Romans 7:9: “ I was alive... I died”...; Romans 7:11: “Sin deceived me; ” Romans 7:14: “ I am carnal;” Romans 7:15: “What I would, that I do not;” Romans 7:22: “ I delight in the law of God;” Romans 7:24: “Who shall deliver me? ” Romans 7:25: “ I thank God.” This style continues even into the beginning of the following chapter, Romans 8:2: “The law of the spirit of life hath made me free.” The question is, who is the personage denoted throughout this whole piece by the ἐγώ , I? Commentators have indulged in the most varied suppositions on this point.
1. Some Greek commentators (Theoph., Theod. of Mops.) have thought that Paul was here speaking of himself as representing the whole race of mankind from the beginning of its existence, and was thus relating the great moral experiences of the human race up to the time of its redemption.
2. Others (Chrys., Grot., Turret., Wetst., Fritzs.) apply this description to the Jewish nation. Apostolus hic sub primâ personâ describit hebraeum genus, says Grotius. The experiences here described (see below) are referred to the different phases of their history.
3. A large number of commentators (most of the Fathers, Er., the Pietistic school, the rationalistic critics, Beng., Thol., Neand., Olsh., Baur, Mey., Th. Schott, Holst., Bonnet, etc.), consulting the context more strictly, think that the apostle, in virtue of his past history, is here introducing himself as the personification of the legal Jew, the man who, being neither hardened in self-righteousness, nor given over to a profane and carnal spirit, seeks sincerely to fulfil the law without ever being successful in satisfying his conscience.
4. After his dispute with Pelagius, Augustine, who had formerly adhered to the previous opinion, gave currency to another explanation. He expounded the passage, especially from Romans 7:14, as referring to the converted Christian; for he only can be so profoundly in sympathy with the divine law as Paul describes himself in the passage, and on the other hand every believer in the course of his life has those profound experiences of his misery which are here described by the apostle. This opinion was followed by Jerome, then adopted by the Reformers, and defended in our time by Philippi, Delitzsch, Hodge, etc.
5. Only two commentators, so far as known to us, restrict the application of the passage to the apostle's own person. Hofmann, who, if we understand rightly, refers it to Paul as a Christian, but such as he finds himself when he abstracts for a moment from his faith, and Pearsall Smith, who thinks that Paul is here relating a painful experience of his Christian life, in consequence of a relapse under the yoke of the law; after which chap. 8, he thinks, sets forth his return to the full light of grace.
We shall not pronounce on what we believe to be the true sense of the apostle till we have studied this controverted passage in all its details. The first part extends to the end of Romans 7:13. It explains the effects of the first living contact between the divine law and the carnal heart of man. Sin is unveiled, Romans 7:7, and in consequence of this discovery it gathers strength and grows ( Rom 7:8-9 ), so that man, instead of finding life in his relation to the law, finds death ( Rom 7:10-11 ). But this tragical result must be ascribed not to the law itself, but to sin, which uses the law to this end.
Vv. 8. “ Then sin, taking occasion, wrought in me by the commandment all manner of concupiscence; for without the law sin is dead. ”
After revealing to him the presence of sin, the law itself intensified in him the force of this evil principle. This idea of progress is indicated by the δέ , now, then, which makes the fact described in Romans 7:8 a sequel to that of which we are reminded in Romans 7:7. The word ἀφορμή , which we translate by occasion, strictly signifies the point of support from which the spring or flight proceeds ( ἀπό , ὁρμάω ). Some critics make the words διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς , by the commandment, dependent on the participle λαβοῦσα , having taken. In this case we should not have to translate: “Taking occasion from the commandment,” which would require one of the prepositions ἀπό or ἐκ usual in such a case. The meaning would be: “Taking occasion by means of the commandment.” But it is more natural to make this clause depend on the principal verb wrought. For, in the other sense, there would have been no reason for inserting the subject between this clause and the participle which depended on it. The analogous construction of Rom 7:11 also leads us to make the clause: by the commandment, dependent on the principal verb wrought.
What is the occasion meant by the apostle? The usual answer is, the commandment itself: “ In lege est occasio,” says Calvin. This meaning is not inadmissible. Sin, finding a series of prohibitions enumerated in the commandment, made use of this means to enkindle desire for the forbidden objects. But is it not more probable that Paul finds the occasion of which sin makes use, in those forbidden objects themselves, when they appear to the eye or imagination? “Sin finding an occasion, in the view of one of those objects in regard to which God says to me: Thou shalt not covet, took advantage of the circumstance to kindle in my heart, through this very prohibition, the manifold lusts which are related to those different objects.” The point in question here is the well-known experience already remarked by the ancients, that man always inclines to forbidden fruit. Comp. Proverbs 9:17. The prohibition has for its effect to fix the object strongly on the imagination, and thereby to lend it a new charm. The heart is as it were fascinated by it, and the latent desire changes into intense aspiration. Thus every word of the commandment has, so to speak, the property of awakening in the heart a new lust. But it must be constantly borne in mind that this is only so because sin, the egoistic instinct, already exists in the heart. The commandment of itself does not produce this result; it is sin which, so to speak, trades upon the commandment for its own profit. On a sound nature, the commandment would not have acted thus; witness the first temptation in which a foreign agent required to play the part here ascribed to sin.
Calvin, in his eagerness to exculpate the apostle completely from the charge of ascribing to the law the aggravation of sin, gives this verse a purely logical meaning. Paul means, according to him, that the law manifested the various lusts already present. Detexit in me omnem concupiscentiam. This is evidently to distort the meaning of the apostle's words.
And in what state, then, was sin before the law had thus made it abound in all manner of particular lusts? It was dead, says Paul. This expression, far from signifying that it did not exist, proves, on the contrary, its presence, but, virtually, like the germ of a disease still slumbering, which the least circumstance may cause to break out so as to bring the malady to the acute state. And it is this malignant principle, already in existence, which bears all the responsibility of the disagreeable effects of the law. The literal translation would be: Without law sin is dead. It is not as Mosaic law, but as law, that is to say, as an external letter, that the code produces this pernicious effect on the sinful soul. And this is what warrants us in applying this description to the law of nature, and what explains how the nitimur in vetitum may also be a confession of the heathen conscience.
We must beware of understanding with Beza the verb ἦν , was: “Without law sin was dead.” The very ellipsis of the verb proves that we have here a general proposition.
The verses which follow initiate us more deeply still into the apostle's moral experiences, when he was under the law.
Vv. 9, 10 a. “ And I was alive when I was formerly without law; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; ”
Calvin well expresses the rhythm of these verses: “The death of sin is the life of man; and, on the contrary, the life of sin is the death of man.”
The Vatic. reads ἔζην instead of ἔζων : both forms are classical. What is this life which the apostle enjoyed when he was yet without law? Augustine, the Reformers, and some modern commentators (Bengel, Bonnet) think that the time in question is when, sunk in his Pharisaical delusions, filled with self-righteousness, Paul thought himself in possession of the life of God, of true righteousness. They understand the: I was alive, in the sense of: I thought myself alive. This interpretation is in itself forced; but there is more against it. Could Paul really say of himself that, as a Pharisee, he was without law? It was, on the contrary, the time when he was absolutely under the law, ὑπὸ νόμον , according to 1 Corinthians 9:20, kept under the charge of the schoolmaster, who was to bring him to Christ, according to Galatians 3:24. Then if it was his Pharisee life which he wished to characterize in the words: when I was formerly without law, what would be the time denoted by the following words: when the commandment came? Will it be said: the time of his conversion, when the law took its inmost meaning for him, in Christ, its full spiritual bearing? “Though before his eyes,” says Calvin, when speaking of his life as a Pharisee, “the law did not seriously affect his heart with the conviction of the judgment of God.” It was only by the Spirit of Christ that his eyes were opened, and that the commandment truly humbled and condemned him. But where, then, is this idea of the interposition of Christ, and of the profound crisis of which he speaks elsewhere as a new creation? And was the understanding of the commandment then the sole or even the principal character of this transformation? Certainly, if these words refer to his conversion, some indication or other would not be wanting to designate this transition to a new faith. To discover a period in Paul's life to which the words: formerly when I was under the law, really apply, we must go back to the days which preceded the awakening of his moral consciousness under the operation of the law. We are thereby led to the period of his childhood, before he was subjected to the Pharisaic ordinances and the exact discipline of the law. From the age of twelve, young Israelites were subjected to the legal institutes, and became, as was said, sons of the law, bené hattorah. This stage of his outward life was undoubtedly for the young Saul the signal of the inward crisis described from Rom 7:7 onward. From the moment he found himself called to apply the prescriptions of the law seriously to his conduct, he was not slow to discover sin within him; for in the depths of his heart he found lust; and not only did the law unveil this evil principle to him, but it intensified its power. The torrent bubbled and boiled on meeting with the obstacle which came in its way. Till then Saul was alive, morally and religiously, which does not mean merely that he thought himself alive; nor does it denote merely the innocent and pure sprightliness of childhood, yet untroubled by any remorse. The word live, when used by Paul, always includes something more profound. It refers here to the state of a young and pious Israelitish child, trained in the knowledge and love of Jehovah, tasting by faith in the promises of His word the blessings of the covenant, awaking and going to sleep in the arms of the God of his fathers, and seeking not to displease Him in his conduct. There was here a real beginning of life in God, a pure flame, which was extinguished no doubt afterward by self-righteousness and by the inward strife inseparable from it, but which burst forth at last magnificently at the breath of faith in Jesus Christ.
The words: when the commandment came, after what precedes, refer simply to the appearance of the commandment, with its holy majesty, in the conscience of young Saul. Then began in him the serious attempt to put it fully into practice. The term commandment is used instead of law, because, as Rom 7:7 shows, it is specially the tenth commandment which is in question. It is by it above all that the work here described is effected in him. This work was, as Paul tells us, to make sin live or revive. The term live forms an antithesis to the other: sin is dead ( Rom 7:8 ). It is a somewhat difficult question which of its two meanings is to be attached to the preposition ἀνά in the composition of the verb ἀναζῆν , that of anew (like our re in revive): recovered life; or whether, according to its strict signification, above, it merely denotes here the transition from the passive to the active state: took life. Meyer, in favor of the first sense, insists on the fact that it is impossible to quote, either in the N. T. or in the classics, a single case in which this verb or its analogues ( ἀναβιόω , ἀναβιώσκομαι ) signifies anything else than revive (Luke 15:24, for example). This cannot be denied. Nevertheless it is true that many verbs compounded with ἀνά do not at all include the idea of a return to a previous state; thus ἀνατέλλω , to spring (speaking of plants), and to rise (speaking of the stars); ἀναβοάω , to raise the voice, to cry; ἀναζέω , to bubble up. The verb ἀναβλέπω is taken in both senses: to look above (Matthew 14:19; Mark 7:34; Luk 19:5 ), and to see anew (Acts 9:12; Act 9:17-18 ). In John 9:11, the meaning is doubtful. If we translate: “ recovered life,” what is the previous life of sin present to the mind of the apostle? Origen discovers here his system of the pre-existence of souls, and of a fall anterior to this present life. Hilgenfeld also ascribes this idea to the apostle. But how obscurely would it be expressed, and how would it come about that no other trace of it is found in his writings? Rom 5:12 is anything but favorable to this theory. Augustine and Bengel think of the first appearance of sin in paradise; but this fact is too remote to furnish us with the explanation of the word revive here. It would be better to hold that Paul was thinking of sin as it had lived in his parents before reviving in him. But what is simpler still is to abandon this idea of the renewal of the life of sin, and to explain ἀναζῆν in the sense of: to awake to active life.
The commentators who have applied the preceding words to the Pharisaic epoch of the apostle's life, are embarrassed by the declaration: Sin revived, and I died (10a). Would such be the terms in which he would characterize his new birth? Impossible! But they apply, it will be said, to the most advanced stage of his Pharisaism. M. Bonnet says in this direction: “Sin, pursued to its last intrenchments, manifested its power by a desperate resistance...; and, on the other hand, the man saw the nothingness of his moral life, and succumbed to the sentence of death executed by the law within the depths of his consciousness.” But where in Paul's Epistles do we find the evidences of such a crisis? It seems to me more natural to carry it back to the time when his moral consciousness was first developed, and to hold that this state was gradually increasing during the whole time of his Pharisaism.
Romans 7:10 a The transition of sin from its latent state to that of an active force was to Saul a mortal stroke. The internal divorce between God and him was consummated: to infantine liberty there succeeded fear, to filial feeling the revolt of the heart and servile obedience, two equally sure symptoms of death. A weight henceforth repressed the impulse of his soul Godward.
The words which follow serve to bring out the unforeseen character of this effect (Romans 7:10 b), and give the true explanation of it ( Rom 7:11 ).
Vv. 10 b, 11. “ And the commandment, which should have guided me to life, was found to turn me to death; for sin, taking occasion, deceived me by the commandment, and by it slew me. ”
This coming into activity on the part of sin, which Paul felt as if he were the object of a spiritual murder, was occasioned by a gift of God, the commandment; for this was the instrument of it, the commandment which God had given to the faithful Israelite with the words: “This do and thou shalt live ” ( Lev 18:5 )! Instead of guiding him to holiness and peace, or giving life, it did the opposite, by revealing sin to him and increasing its power, it raised a thick wall between God and him, and involved him in death! The feeling of surprise which so unexpected a result produced is expressed by the word εὑρέθη , was found.
Meyer understands the term death (end of the verse) of eternal death, in the sense that the man who passes through such experiences is doomed to final perdition (apart, of course, from redemption). But Paul is speaking of a more immediate result, a separation from God, that spiritual death which he describes himself, Eph 2:1 et seq.
Undoubtedly this description of the effects of the law exhibits only one aspect of the truth, that which had been particularly experienced by Saul the Pharisee. For he then regarded the law as the means of establishing his own righteousness ( Rom 10:3 ), and not as the pathway opened to divine grace. The psalmists frequently describe the effects of the law in a wholly different light (Psalms 19, 119, etc.), and we cannot doubt that Jesus Himself, during the period of His development up to His baptism, found in it the fulness of what God had promised: Doing these things, thou shalt live by them, or what is expressed by the words of Paul: “The commandment which was given me to guide me to life. ” Only, if it is to display this beneficent effect, the law must be received either by a heart free from sin, or otherwise by a heart which does not separate the commandment from the grace accompanying the law, a heart which seeks in it not the means of acquiring self-merit and gratifying its pride, but the way of union to the God of the covenant by sacrifice and prayer: as an illustration, let the parable of the Pharisee and the publican serve!
Vv. 11 is intended to explain what really took place. It throws back the blame of the sad experience related, on its true author, sin, as was already done in Romans 7:8, while reproducing this explanation more forcibly after the fuller development of the experience itself in Romans 7:9-10. The word ἡ ἁμαρτία , sin, is placed foremost; for it is the true culprit, not the law; it is this depraved instinct which the commandment encountered, and which caused the latter to produce a result diametrically opposed to that for which it was given.
The words taking occasion refer, as in Romans 7:8, to the external objects corresponding to our various lusts. The commandment, by raising a barrier between these objects and us, makes them appear so much the more desirable; we cannot get rid of the impression that a jealous God takes pleasure in refusing them to us, for the very reason that they would promote our happiness. Such is the mirage which sin produces in us by the commandment itself. The words: deceived me by the commandment, certainly contain an allusion to the part played by the serpent in Genesis 3:0, where, as we have said, it fills the office here ascribed to sin in relation to man in innocence. It deceives and seduces Eve by ascribing hatred to God, love to itself; and hence murder, separation from God, either by internal revolt or external disobedience.
The repetition of the clause: by the commandment...by it, with each of the two verbs, expresses forcibly how contrary to the nature of the commandment is the part which sin makes it play.
The verb ἐξαπατᾳν includes the two ideas of deceiving, and of thus causing to deviate from the right road ( ἐκ , out of). Deception causes to deviate, and deviation leads to death: by it slew me. It is incomprehensible how Calvin should take the liberty of giving a purely logical sense to the terms deceived and slew: “Sin was unveiled by the law as a seducer and murderer ( Ergo verbum ἐξεπάτησεν non de re ipsâ, sed de notitiâ exponi debet).”
It remained to conclude by finally formulating the result of this profound psychological analysis contained in the passage Romans 7:7-11. This is what is done in Romans 7:12-13. The ὥστε , so that, Romans 7:12, announces a conclusion.
Vv. 12, 13. “ So that the law assuredly is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. Did then that which is good become death unto me? Let it not be so! But sin, that it might appear sin, wrought death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. ”
The result formulated in these two verses is this: The holier the law is, the more does sin, which has used it to produce evil, appear thereby in the blackness of its nature.
The apostle begins, in view of the result indicated, by removing from the law all suspicion of blame. The μέν , undoubtedly, has no corresponding δέ , but. So far as the sense goes, the δέ is found in Romans 7:13 b This μέν is intended to guard beforehand the unassailable character of the law. Whatever may be said afterward, nothing shall invalidate the character of holiness belonging to the law. The law, ὁ νόμος , here denotes the Mosaic system in its entirety, and the commandment ἡ ἐντολή , each article of the code in particular. The term ἅγιος , holy, is the word which in Scripture denotes the perfect love of good; when it is applied to God, it is the identity of His will with goodness; when it is applied to the creature, it is his voluntary consecration to God, the one Being essentially good. The law is holy, precisely because it demands this consecration, and the commandment also, because each commandment only demands this consecration in a particular relation. The two characteristics just and good flow from and are included in that of holiness. The commandment is just ( δικαία ), because it regulates in a normal way the relations between different beings. It is good ( ἀγαθή ), in the sense of beneficent; this epithet is explained by the preceding words: fitted to give life ( Rom 7:10 ).
Vv. 13. Here was the place strictly speaking for the but ( δέ ), answering to the μέν , assuredly, of Romans 7:12. But Paul interrupts himself; he feels the need of yet again stating the problem in all its difficulty. This is what he does in the question beginning Romans 7:13. The difference between the reading of the majority of the Mjj., ἐγένετο (aorist), and that of the T. R., γέγονε (perfect), is this: The first expresses the act by which this whole internal history was brought about; the second, the permanent state which resulted from that act. The first is therefore rather connected with what precedes, the second with what follows. From the internal point of view both may consequently be defended; but the authorities are rather in favor of the first.
The problem being thus put afresh in all its rigor, the second part of Rom 7:13 gives its solution precisely as the μέν of Rom 7:12 leads us to expect, and as we have stated it at the beginning of that verse.
The second part of the verse has been construed in many ways. And first, what is the verb of the subject ἡ ἁμαρτία , sin, which begins the sentence? Either it is derived from the preceding sentence, by understanding ἐγένετο θάνατος : “But sin (not the law) became my death,” or “turned me to death.” But is not this ellipsis somewhat serious? Or the verb is found in the following participle κατεργαζομένη , by making it a finite verb: “But sin, that it may appear sin, works my death (Calvin: operatur mihi mortem) by that which is good.” To this meaning there has been objected the form of the participle. But if the apostle means to denote rather a quality than an act of the subject, the participle may be suitable: “Sin ( is) working death,” that is to say, is capable of working, or wicked enough to work it. But this return to the present tense would be singular after the past ἐγένετο ; then it would require rather the present φαινῇ , may appear, than the aorist φανῇ , might appear. Paul is not speaking of what is, he is reflecting on what has taken place. The first of the two constructions would therefore be preferable; but there is still room for hesitation between two alternatives: ( a) Either the participle κατεργαζομένη is taken as in explanatory apposition to the principal subject ἡ ἁμαρτία , sin, by making the three words ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία a short parenthetical proposition: “But sin, that it might appear sin, turned me to death, working my death by what was good.” The participle κατεργαζομένη would have the force of the Latin gerund. Only the general sense suffers from an awkward tautology: to turn to death by working death! ( b) Or the participle κατεργαζομένη is joined to the proposition ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία : “But sin (turned me to death), that it might appear sin by working my death by that which is good.” This second sense is evidently preferable. As to making the second ἁμαρτία the subject of this dependent proposition: “But sin turned me to death that sin might appear (to all eyes) working my death by what is good,” it cannot be thought of; this construction would require the article ἡ before the second ἁμαρτία . We should therefore range ourselves without hesitation on the side of construction No. 1 b, were it not for two grave difficulties, the one arising from the thought itself, the other from the connection between the two ἵνα , in order that, which follow one another in this verse. Could Paul say: Sin turned me to death, that it might appear sin slaying me by a good thing? The idea is rather this: Sin caused my death by a good thing, that it might appear so much the more sin. Then what relation are we to establish in this sense between the two thats? Are they parallel as two distinct and simultaneous ends: Sin turned me to death, 1st, that it might appear sin; 2d, that it might become exceeding sinful? But the fact of becoming is not parallel to that of appearing; the latter is rather the result of the former. Or should we give to γένηται , become, a purely logical sense, as is done by many commentators: that it might appear exceedingly sinful in the view of my conscience? But this verb would only serve in this sense to repeat the idea of the verb φανῇ , might appear; and then why change the term? Or should we see in the second that a more remote end in relation to which the first that would only be the means? But appearing is not the means of becoming; on the contrary, appearing is the result of becoming. It is clear that none of those constructions is wholly satisfactory.
It seems to me that to obtain a result in harmony both with the requirements of language and of logic, it is enough to modify construction No. 1, and combine it so modified with No. 2. We need to understand not ἐγένετο -ΣΨΜΒ > , παγε 2 U 9 , - vΣΨΜΒ >άνατος , but merely the verb ἐγένετο , then to make of this finite verb the point of support for the participle κατεργαζομένη : “But sin, that it might appear sin, turned to [became] working ( ἐγένετο κατεργαζομένη ) my death by what was good.” We have thus a simple ellipsis, a meaning exact, clear, and in keeping with the context; we keep up the past tense ( ἐγένετο ), which suits the aorist φανῇ ; we get an analytic form ( ἐγένετο κατεργαζομένη ) which, while leaving the fact in the past, serves to bring out (by the present participle) the permanent attribute, and not merely the initial act, as the aorist κατειργάσατο ( Rom 7:8 ) would have done. Finally, in this way we get without difficulty at the explanation of the two thats. The verb ἐγένετο κατεργαζομένη , became working, becomes the point of support for the second that, which gives a clear meaning: sin wrought death by goodness, that it might become as sinful as possible. God willed that sin, by killing by means of that which was ordained to give life, should commit a true masterpiece of perversity. Hence the second that: it applies to the fact in itself ( γένηται , might become). And why did God will that it should be so? This is what we are told in the outset by the first that: that sin might appear fully what it is, sin ( ἵνα φανῇ ἁμαρτία ). These three words form a parenthetical proposition put at the beginning to indicate from the first the final aim of this whole unexpected dispensation. It was necessary that to manifest completely its evil nature (the first that), sin should inflict death on me, not by something evil (which would throw part of the odium of this murder on the means employed), but by something good (the commandment), that the crime might be completely the work of sin (the second that).
Thus we have three ideas (1) sin slays by that which is good; (2) that thereby it may accomplish an act worthy of its nature; (3) and that thereby (final end) this nature may be manifested clearly. It is obvious from this progression that we must beware of taking γένηται , might become, in the logical sense, and of identifying as far as the sense goes the two thats, as Meyer does.
On Romans 7:7-13.
The commentators who apply the moral experiences described by the apostle in this passage (p. 270) to mankind in general, apply the words I was alive ( Rom 7:9 ) to the period of paradise; those which follow: when the commandment came, to the prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the rest of the passage, extending to the end of the chapter, to the fall and its consequences. By the question: What shall we say then ( Rom 7:7 )? Paul would thus invite his readers to a general contemplation of the history of our race from the beginning, to justify what he has been expounding in regard to emancipation from the law ( Rom 7:1-6 ). But this interpretation is excluded first by the words ἁμαρτία νεκρά , sin is dead ( Rom 7:8 ). In paradise, according to St. Paul, sin was not dead; it did not exist (ch. Rom 5:12 ). Then neither would the term ἀνέζησεν , as understood, be suitable to designate the first appearance of sin. Finally, the commandment expressly quoted ( Rom 7:7 ) belongs to the code of Sinai, and thus brings us face to face with the Jewish law.
Those who, from Chrysostom to our day (p. 271), apply this passage to the Jewish people, find in the words I was alive an indication of the patriarchal period when the promise was the bond between God and man, and in the coming of the commandment, the epoch of Moses, when the law broke this relation, and produced the great national revolts. This interpretation connects itself more easily with the context than the preceding. But neither is it tenable. When we think of the shameful sins of the patriarchal period, can we apply to that time the descriptions of sin being dead, and I was alive? Then is it historically demonstrable that through the giving of the law, the state of the nation was made sensibly worse, and that its relation to Jehovah was broken? Do not the words of Paul apply to an inward event ( covetousness, revelation of sin), rather than to a great national experience? Finally, what subtleties are we led into by this explanation, when we attempt to apply it in a consequent way to the end of the section! When we come to the passage 14-25, we must then, with Reiche, apply the first of the two I's which are in conflict, to the ideal Jew, the Jew such as he ought to be, and the other, to the real Jew, such as he shows himself in practice! We do not deny that the human conscience in general, and the Jewish conscience in particular, may recognize their experiences in those which are here described. But that is natural; is not Paul a man and a Jew? The truth is, the whole is narrated about himself, but with the conviction that his experience will infallibly be that of every Israelite, and of every man who will seriously use the moral or Mosaic law as a means of sanctification.
The point in question now is to trace this experience to its profound cause. Such is the study to which the following section ( Rom 7:14-25 ) is devoted ( for, Rom 7:14 ).
Vv. 14. “ For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under the power of sin. ”
We have in this cycle, Romans 7:14, an affirmation: “I acknowledge that the law...but I am captive;” then the demonstration of this fact ( Rom 7:15-16 ); finally, Romans 7:17, the conclusion, which is merely the reaffirmation of the thesis now demonstrated.
The reading of some MSS. οἴδαμεν δέ , then, or but we know, has no meaning. We must read γάρ , for, with the majority of the Mjj. and versions. This for might signify: The case was really so; for witness my state as it resulted from this fatal crisis. The law slew me, and what proves it is the state of death in which I found myself involved from that time. But it is more natural to understand the transition from the preceding passage to this somewhat differently. Holstein seems to me to put it well when he says: From the historical phenomenon, described Romans 7:7-13, Paul now ascends to its real moral nature, which explains it: “The law produced on me the effect which I have just described, because there is an opposition between its nature which is holy, and mine which is corrupt.” This transition includes what we have presented in the first place, for the state in which the law involves us is only the continuation of that in which it had found us. It finds us diseased, and leaves us so. If this is the explanation of the for, we need not be surprised at the use of the present in the verbs which follow. We do not certainly say with Hodge: Paul speaks of the regenerate man abstractly from his faith for the time; but we say: Paul speaks of the unregenerate man without concerning himself with the question how far the unregenerate heart still remains in the regenerate believer. He describes man as he is by nature, man as he knew him, and still finds him in himself, every time that his natural character shows itself. Here is the permanent essence of human nature since the fall outside the action of faith. Thus is explained the use of the present, without our saying that Paul describes his present state.
Some commentators, such as Jerome, Hofm., Schott, write οἴδα μέν : I know undoubtedly. But after that should we not have had simply εἰμι δέ , but I am, instead of ἐγὼ δὲ ... εἰμι : “but as for me, I am”...? In point of fact, this form implies a very marked contrast between the I thus emphasized, and some other subject in the preceding context. And this subject to which the I, ἐγώ , forms an antithesis, can only be the subject of the preceding verb we. We are thus led to regard the ordinary reading as necessary: οἴδαμεν , we know. In this we, Paul no doubt includes with himself all believers who have passed through the same experiences, and even the Jews who are at one with Christians regarding the truth affirmed by him.
The knowing, of which he here speaks, is more than a matter of understanding; the sequel shows that it implies a cordial adhesion to that truth (comp. the verbs σύμφημι , συνήδομαι , Romans 7:16; Rom 7:22 ): “We know and heartily own that the law is excellent.”
The epithet spiritual, applied to the law, has been understood by many, Beza for example, in this sense, that the law is suited to the spiritual nature of man (the πνεῦμα , the spirit, in man); whence it follows that it demands not only external observance, but also the obedience of the heart. But the term πνευματικός , spiritual, is usually connected with the idea of the Divine Spirit; and as in chap. Romans 8:4, Paul says himself that what is demanded by the law is wrought in them who walk after the Spirit (evidently God's Spirit), it is more exact to understand here by spiritual: agreeable to the impulse or tendency of the Divine Spirit. What the law commands is nothing else than what the Holy Spirit works in the heart where He dwells. There is a complete identity between the external precept of the law and the internal working of the Spirit. The idea found here by Calvin, that the law cannot be fulfilled except through the Spirit, follows indeed from the expression used by Paul, but does not express its meaning.
But, says Paul, returning upon himself, of what avail practically is this knowledge which we all have of the holy spirituality of the law? By the use of the pronoun I, he here contrasts with this collective acknowledgment ( we know) the wholly individual experience of his carnal state; and in this latter he finds the invincible obstacle to the fulfilment of the law, however it may be recognized, as perfect in theory. The reading of the T. R. and of the Byzs., σαρκικός , and that of the Mjj. of the two other families, σαρκινός , have almost the same meaning: carnal. But the first adjective denotes carnal activity, the second the carnal substance, and by metonymy the carnal nature. As the apostle in this passage is contrasting with the essentially good law not only his own sinful action, but his corrupt nature, the form σαρκινός is certainly preferable.
The notion flesh is here taken in its moral sense, and embraces, as it does in all cases where the flesh is opposed to God, or to what is divine, the whole human person. Paul feels his natural self controlled by the flesh, that is to say, by self-complacency, the inclination to seek self-satisfaction in everything. This tendency is what determines his natural will. And hence the incompatibility between his nature and that of the law, which demands absolute self-consecration.
He adds in explanation of the term carnal, the words: sold to sin, literally, “ under sin.” Thereby he compares himself to a slave bought for money. The seller is the flesh, and the buyer, who has become his master, sin. In fact, a fatal contract, as it were, has taken effect on us, whereby the violence of the flesh has given over our will to the power of sin. The expression sold under is stronger than the usual form sold to; it includes the idea of the shameful state of servitude which has followed the act of sale.
Conclusion regarding the passage Romans 7:14-25.
Before entering on the study of this passage, we had concluded from the context, and from the section taken as a whole, that this part could only refer to Paul's state as a Pharisee. It was the natural consequence of the identity of the subject of the passage Romans 7:7-13 (on which all, or nearly all, are agreed) with that of the section Romans 7:14-25. This view seems to us to have been confirmed by the detailed study of the whole passage. Paul has avoided, with evident design, every expression specially belonging to the Christian sphere, and the term πνεῦμα , the Spirit, in particular, to make use only of terms denoting the natural faculties of the human soul, like that of νοῦς , the mind. The contrast in this respect with Rom 8:1-11 is striking. We can thus understand why this is the passage in all Paul's Epistles which presents the most points of contact with profane literature. The state of the pious Jew under the law does not differ essentially from that of the sincere heathen seeking to practice goodness as it is revealed to him by conscience ( Rom 2:14-15 ).
Neither has it seemed to us that the verbs in the present offer an insurmountable obstacle to this explanation. Not only did Rom 7:24 prove with what liveliness Paul in writing this passage recalled his impressions of former days. But it must also be remembered, and Paul cannot forget it, that what for him is a past, is a present for all his sincere fellow-countrymen of whom he is himself the normal representative. Finally, does he not feel profoundly, that as soon as he abstracts from Christ and his union with Him, he himself becomes the natural man, and consequently also the legal Jew, struggling with sin in his own strength, without other aid than the law, and consequently overcome by the evil instinct, the flesh? What he describes then is the law grappling with the evil nature, where these two adversaries encounter one another without the grace of the gospel interposing between them. No doubt this is what explains the analogy between this picture and so many Christian experiences, and which has misled so many excellent commentators. How often does it happen that the believer finds nothing more in the gospel than a law, and a law more burdensome still than that of Sinai! For the demands of the cross go infinitely deeper than those of the Israelitish law. They penetrate, as a sacred writer says, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and discerning even the thoughts and intents of the heart” ( Heb 4:12 ). Now as soon as the Christian has allowed the bond between Christ and his heart to be relaxed, however little, he finds himself face to face with the gospel, exactly like the Jew face to face with the law. Obliged to carry into effect the injunctions of Jesus and the apostles in his own strength, since Christ no longer lives in him, is it surprising that he should make the same, and even more bitter experiences, than the Jew under the yoke of the Decalogue? Faith in Christ is usually supposed to be a fact accomplished once for all, and which should necessarily and naturally display its consequences, as a tree produces its fruits. It is forgotten that in the spiritual domain nothing is done which does not require to be continually done again, and that what is not done again to-day, will to-morrow begin to be undone. Thus it is that the bond of the soul to Christ, whereby we have become His branches, relaxes the instant we do not re-form it with new active force and begins to break with every unpardoned act of infidelity. The branch becomes barren, and yet Christ's law demanding its fruitfulness remains (John 15:0). Thus, then, he recommences the experience of the Jew. And this state is the more frequent and natural because we Christians of the present day have not passed, like Paul, from the law to faith through that profound and radical crisis which had made the one dispensation in him succeed to the other. From the fact of our Christian education, it happens rather that we learn to know the gospel at once as law and grace, and that we make, so to speak, the experiences of Jew and Christian simultaneously, and that very often (when there has been no marked conversion) to the end of our life. But we must beware of concluding therefrom that this state of half Jew half Christian is normal, and may be justified by the passage, Romans 7:0. It is against this enervating view, resting on a false interpretation of our chapter, that the most recent religious movement has just sought to protest. It has brought out forcibly the difference between the spiritual state described in chap. 7 and that which chap. 8 describes, and claimed for the latter only the name of Christian. Is not the one in fact what Paul calls oldness of the letter, the other, newness of Spirit ( Rom 7:6 )? These cannot be, as Philippi would have it, the two aspects of one and the same state; they are two opposite states. We ought to humble ourselves because of the last traces of the former, when we find them in ourselves, as for something abnormal, and aspire after the complete possession of the glorious privileges which constitute the second.
Of the various explanations mentioned above (pp. 15, 16), we therefore set aside the application of this passage: 1. To mankind in general; 2. To the Jewish people, considered in their external and national history; 3. To Paul, as the representative of regenerate Christians; 4 Neither can we share Hofmann's opinion, who finds here only the entirely personal experiences of Paul. How would those experiences interest the Church, and deserve a place in the description of the method of salvation, given in the Epistle to the Romans, if they had not something of a prototypical character? Paul himself ascribes to them this character, Ephesians 3:8-10, and 1 Timothy 1:12-16. He regards himself as the normal example of what must happen to every man who, in ignorance of Christ, or thinking to dispense with Him, will yet take the law in earnest. It is only as such that he can think of presenting himself prominently in the pronoun I, in a work of supreme importance like our Epistle.
As little can we accept the explanation proposed in the treatise of Pearsall Smith: Bondage and Liberty. According to this writer, as we have said, the apostle is here giving the account of a sad experience through which he passed, some time after his conversion, by yielding to the attempt to “render himself perfect by his own efforts,” so that in consequence of this aberration sin recovered life in him; he saw himself deprived of his intimate communion with Christ, and consequently also of victory over sin (see p. 14). This idea assuredly does not merit refutation, especially when this example of the apostle's alleged aberration is contrasted with that of an American preacher, who for forty years had known only the experience of chaps. 6 and 8 of the Romans, those of triumph, and never the experience of chap. 7, that of defeat (p. 28)! We cannot express our conclusion better than in these words of M. Bonnet ( Comment. p. 85): “The apostle is speaking here neither of the natural man in his state of voluntary ignorance and sin, nor of the child of God, born anew, set free by grace, and animated by the Spirit of Christ; but of the man whose conscience, awakened by the law, has entered sincerely, with fear and trembling, but still in his own strength, into the desperate struggle against evil;” merely adding that in our actual circumstances the law which thus awakens the conscience and summons it to the struggle against sin, is the law in the form of the Gospel, and of the example of Jesus Christ, taken apart from justification in Him and sanctification by Him.
Vv. 15. “ Indeed what I perform I know not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. ”
This verse contains the proof from fact of the state of slavery which Paul has just affirmed. The slave knows not what he does, for he does the will of another. So Paul complains that his work is not the result of a distinct view in which he has, as it were, intellectually possessed himself beforehand of what he was going to do; it is the result of blind instinct, which drags him along as if without his knowledge, so that when he sees it realized, it is not what he wished; it is, on the contrary, what he detests. The expression: I know not, should not be taken in the sense: “I do not own as good,” a forced sense, and one which is not necessary.
The θέλειν , will, which Paul does not execute, is of course the willing of good, and what he hates and yet executes is certainly evil. The moral tendency of his will to purpose good and hate evil, is connected with the acknowledgment of the perfection of the law of which he spoke in Romans 7:14. But this will which puts itself on the side of the law is nothing more than a desire, a wish, a simple I should like, which gives way in practice. Such, indeed, is the frequent meaning of θέλειν , to will, in Paul ( 1Co 7:7 ; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Col 2:18 ).
The term πράσσειν , to do, has the meaning of working at, and expresses the idea that his practical activity does not follow the direction of his will. Μισεῖν , to hate, here denotes moral reprobation; and ποιεῖν , to do, which has the sense of accomplishing, realizing, refers not to activity in exercise ( πράσσειν ), but to the product of the activity, so that the exact paraphrase of the two last propositions would be this: “At the time when I act, I am not working in the direction of my desire to fulfil the law; and when I have acted, I find myself face to face with a result which my moral instinct condemns.”
It is asked how Paul could ascribe to himself this desire of good and hatred of evil, while speaking of the time when he was yet under the law? but we ask in turn of those who refer this verse to Paul in his regenerate state, how he could in this state ascribe to himself the powerlessness with which he charges himself, especially if we compare the contrast he brings out between the state described here and the delineation of the Christian he draws in chap. 8? In fact, what this verse expresses is nothing else than what is contained in the words of Jesus, John 3:24: “He that doeth truth cometh to the light.” To do the truth certainly denotes the loyal desire of goodness; and this disposition precedes faith in the case of the men of whom Jesus is speaking, since the latter is its consequence: cometh to the light. We meet with the same thought in the parable of the sower, Luke 8:15, when Jesus speaks of the honest and good heart in which the gospel seed produces its fruit; comp. also Rom 2:7 and Acts 10:34-35. It is understood, of course, that such a disposition exists only as the work of Him who is alone good. But there is a way of regarding the corruption of human nature contrary to the gospel, and which when thoroughly weighed is self-destructive.
Vv. 16 likewise reproduces the second part of Romans 7:14; it is, so to speak, the paraphrase of the words: sold to sin. It is not to be thought that Paul wishes to exculpate himself in the least when he says: “It is not I who do it, but sin.” On the contrary, he wishes to make the miserable state of bondage to which he is reduced the more palpable; he is not master even in his own house; there he finds a tyrant who forces him to act in opposition to his better wishes. What humiliation! What misery! It is the state of sin regarded from its painful rather than its culpable point of view.
The adverbs now, νυνί , and no more, οὐκέτι , cannot have a temporal meaning here; Paul states the moral conclusion drawn from the facts which he has just recorded. Their meaning is therefore logical. Now means: “Things being so;” no more: “not as if the normal state, that of full moral liberty, still existed in me.”
Vv. 16, 17. “ If then I do that which I would not, I consent with the law that it is good. And now it is no more I that perform it, but sin that dwelleth in me. ”
These two verses draw the conclusion from the fact mentioned Romans 7:15, a conclusion which is the reaffirmation of the thesis laid down in Romans 7:14.
The reprobation with which Paul's conscience visits his own work, is a solemn homage rendered by him to the law, for thereby he takes part with the law against himself. The preposition σύν , with, in the verb σύμφημι , I give testimony, I applaud with, can only bear on the regimen τῷ νομῷ , the law: “I declare, in concert with the law, that the contents of the law are good.” It is the reproduction of the assertion: “We know that the law is spiritual.”
Vv. 18 b, 19. “ For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. ”
In what precedes, Paul had already claimed a certain will in relation to good; he here affirms the same thing more expressly. This will is present; παράκεισθαι , to be beside, and as it were within reach. The verb θέλειν , to wish, denotes, as in Romans 7:15-16, a simple desire, an intention rather than a fixed and deliberate decision; comp. the passages quoted. Paul means: as to good intentions, they are present and in abundance; but the execution...that is what I find not. Not finding is the opposite of being within reach. Instead of οὐχ εὑρίσκω , I find not, read by the Byzs. and the Greco-Lats., there is found in the four Alex. a simple οὐ , not: “But the doing of good, not!” ( οὐ παράκειται ). This reading has something harsh and abrupt which renders it suspicious. Whence could this word εὑρίσκω , I find, have come into the text, corresponding so well with the term παράκεισθαι , to be present? Has not Meyer ground for suspecting a copyist of having passed carelessly from the οὐχ , Romans 7:18, to the following οὐ , Rom 7:19 ?
Second Cycle: Romans 7:18-20 .
The first verse again contains a thesis parallel to that of Romans 7:14. This thesis is demonstrated by experience in the second part of the verse and in Romans 7:19, which thus correspond to Rom 7:15-16 of the first cycle. Finally, in Rom 7:20 we find as a conclusion the reaffirmation of the thesis; it is the parallel of Romans 7:17.
Romans 7:18 a “ For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. ”
This thesis, reproducing that of Romans 7:14: I am carnal, connects itself, by terms used, with the last words of Romans 7:17; comp. the two expressions: “Sin dwelling in me,” and “in me dwelleth no good thing.” The γάρ , for, is explanatory rather than demonstrative. It is the same experience which is again expounded more precisely; comp. the similar for, Romans 7:10. It might seem, when Paul said, Romans 7:14: I am carnal, that he left nothing subsisting in the ego which was not flesh. The contrary appeared, however, from the we know preceding; for he who recognizes that the law is spiritual, must possess in himself something spiritual. This distinction between the ego, the I, and the flesh, is emphasized still more fully in Romans 7:18. For it is obvious that the phrase that is has a restrictive sense, and that Paul means: in me, so far at least as my person is carnal. He therefore gives it to be understood that there is something more in him besides the flesh. This something is precisely that in him which recognizes the spirituality of the law, and pays it homage. We thereby understand what the flesh is in his eyes, the complacent care of his person, in the form of pride or sensuality. Now this is precisely the active power which in practice determines the activity of the unregenerate man. The flesh thus understood does not exclude the knowledge, and even the admiration of goodness; but it renders this noble faculty fruitless in ordinary life, by enslaving to itself the active principle, the will. There is therefore really, as Paul gives it to be understood, good in the ego, but in the understanding only, the contemplative faculty, not in the flesh which gives the active impulse. See this contrast exactly stated in Romans 7:25.
The proof from fact follows.
Vv. 19. The I find not was the proof that no good whatever dwelt in the flesh; it is demonstrated in turn by the two facts stated in Romans 7:19. The only difference between this verse and Romans 7:15 b, is that here the verb ποιεῖν , to do, accomplish, is applied to good, while the verb πράσσειν , to work at, is applied to evil; which leads to this sense: “I do not succeed in realizing the good which I would, while I find myself working at the evil which I would not.”
The two notions of good and evil must of course be taken in their deepest sense, embracing the inward disposition as well as the external act. Even in doing the external task, one may himself, and in the eyes of God, find that he is doing evil.
The conclusion is expressed in Romans 7:20.
Vv. 20. “ Now if I do that I would not, I myself, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. ”
A conclusion uniform with that before enunciated, Romans 7:16-17: “I am not master of myself; a stranger has forced his way into my house and holds me captive.”
This is really the proof of the sold unto sin, Romans 7:14. Paul does not say so by way of excuse, but to describe a state of the profoundest misery. And every time he repeats this confession, it is as if he felt himself seized with a stronger conviction of its truth. The ἐγώ , I (after that I would not), is rejected by important authorities, and condemned by Meyer. But Tischendorf seems to me to be right in preserving it. It stands in a moral relation to the ἐγώ , I, which follows: “What I would not, I myself, it is not really I who do it.”
Vv. 21. “ I find then, this law, that, when I would do good, evil cleaves to me. ”
Always the same two characteristics of his moral state: will for good, but powerless; evil carrying him away in practice.
We have frequently seen the term νόμος , law, taking the general sense of a governing principle of life; any rule whatever imposing itself authoritatively on the will ( νόμος πίστεως , the law of faith; νόμος ἔργων , the law of works, Romans 3:27; νόμος πνεύματος , τῆς ἁμαρτίας , the law of the spirit, of sin, Romans 8:2, etc.). Such, undoubtedly, is the meaning of the word here. Paul is summing up the mode of his existence since the time when the law came in to affect his inward life, and from which the law gives him no means of escape. This is what he calls τὸν νόμον , this law. This general and abstract meaning of the term law follows first from the expression: the law of God, Romans 7:22, where by this complement of God the law of which he speaks here is contrasted with the moral and Mosaic law; and next from Romans 7:23, where Paul again applies the general idea of law, speaking, in contrast to the law of God, of another law.
This mode of existence appears with two opposite characteristics; the will for good: to me who would do good, and the doing of evil: evil cleaves to me. The dative τῷ θέλοντι , to me who would, is the object of τὸν νόμον , the law; for this word has here a very active sense: “The law which imposes itself on me who would do”...We have taken the liberty of translating the words thus: with me, when I would do. The ὅτι , that, depends also on τὸν νόμον , the law: this law which I find in me consisting in the fact that...
The verb παράκεισθαι , to be present with, is taken here in the same sense as in Romans 7:18: to be within reach, to present itself at once: “As to me, when I wish to do good, evil is present first.”
The two ἐμοί , to me, serve to bring out strongly the unity of the subject who has the misfortune to wish one thing and to do its opposite.
The numerous critics who have begun with taking the term law in this verse in the sense of the Mosaic law, have thereby involved themselves in inextricable difficulties. Witness the following: 1. Knapp and Olshausen take τὸ καλόν , good, as in apposition to τὸν νόμον , the law; then ὅτι , that, as the object of I find: “As to me who would perform the law, that is, good, I find that evil is present with me.” But this apposition is very strange, and the participle τῷ θέλοντι would require to be placed before τὸν νόμον . 2. Chrysostom and the Peshitto take the words τῷ θέλοντι , to me wishing, as the dative of favor, and the conjunction ὅτι in the sense of because: “I find the law coming to my aid, to mine who would do good, and that because evil is present with me.” The law coming to Paul's help in the struggle against evil! The idea is the antipodes of what Paul teaches throughout this whole chapter. 3. Ewald obtains a directly opposite sense, by taking τὸ κακόν , evil, as the apposition to τὸν νόμον , the law: “I find the law, that is, evil, present with me when I would do good.”
Not only is this construction forced grammatically, but above all this identification of the law and of evil would be an evident exaggeration (comp. Rom 7:7 ). Only Marcion could have expressed himself thus. 4. Meyer gives as the object of the participle θέλοντι , wishing, the substantive law, and takes ποιεῖν , to do, as the infinitive of aim: “I find that with me when I wish the law with the view of doing good, evil is present.” But the object τὸν νόμον would require to be placed between τῷ and θέλοντι ; and the term wishing the law is unsupported by example. Finally, it is far from natural to take the infinitive ποιεῖν , to do, as the infinitive of aim; it is evidently the object of θέλοντι , wishing. 5. The masterpiece of all these explanations is that of Hofmann; according to him the verb ποιεῖν , to do, has no object; it must be taken in the sense of acting; τὸ καλόν , good, is an attribute of τὸν νόμον , the law, and ὅτι signifies because: “I discover that the law is goodness for me when I would act, because evil is present with me;” meaning: that evil, by arresting me in my eagerness to act when good is before me, serves to prove to me by this resistance that it is really the law which I intend to realize. Is it possible to imagine a more tortuous thought and a more artificial construction? The active verb ποιεῖν , to do, without an object; the attribute separated from its substantive, etc.!
The true meaning of the word νόμος , law, which we have established, delivers this poor verse from all those tortures to which it has been subjected. Our meaning is found in a goodly number of commentators (Calvin, Tholuck, Philippi, etc.). If after that confirmation were needed, it would be found in the two following verses, the one of which demonstrates the: in me when I would do good (Romans 7:21 a), the other the: evil is present with me (Romans 7:21 b).
Third Cycle: Romans 7:21-25 .
This cycle, while repeating the same experiences, stamps them as the abiding and definitive result of the state of things described throughout the whole passage ( ἄρα , consequently). The following cycle really contains the full picture of man's state under the law. Like the others, it first expresses the general thesis, Romans 7:21, parallel to Romans 7:18; Romans 7:14; then the proof from fact, Rom 7:22-23 as above; and finally, the conclusion, Romans 7:24-25, which, while reproducing that of the other cycles, goes beyond it and forms the transition to the description of the new state which has replaced the former in the regenerate (chap. 8).
Vv. 22, 23. “ For I applaud the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. ”
The verb συνήδομαι strictly signifies: I rejoice with. Does it mean, as van Hengel thinks: with other persons, who like me take pleasure in the law? Or as Meyer understands it, with the law itself, which as well as myself takes pleasure in the good it prescribes? The first idea is not supported by the context, and the second is unnatural; for the law is not the subject, but the object of συνήδεσθαι , of the feeling of joy spoken of by the apostle. We must therefore apply the σύν , with, to the inwardness of the feeling experienced: I rejoice in and with myself, that is to say, in the inmost chamber of my being. This term is still stronger than the σύμφημι , to agree with, of Romans 7:16. The latter merely signified: “What the law declares good, I declare good along with it,” while here we have an eager and even delighted adherence.
The complement of God, added to the law, brings out the moral elevation of the rule, and so justifies the assent indicated by the verb συνήδομαι , I applaud.
The last words: after the inward man, expressly remind us that it is only to a part of his being that we must apply what Paul here says of himself. We must beware of confounding the inward man with the new man ( καινὸς ἄνθρωπος ). Paul means to speak only of that which he calls, Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25, the understanding, the νοῦς , the organ with which the human soul is endowed to perceive the true and good, and to distinguish them from the bad and false. Here especially is the action of the moral consciousness, that faculty which has little more than a theoretic character, and which in practice exercises no control over the will sufficient to constrain it to do what it approves. The outward man, the acting phenomenal personality, remains under the dominion of another power which draws it on the other side ( Rom 7:23 ). Again, in 2Co 4:16 we come upon the contrast between the inward and the outward man, but modified by the context. The first in this passage denotes the whole man morally regarded, the will as well as the understanding, and the second, physical man only.
We have already shown, on occasion of the expressions used, Romans 7:16, that nothing affirmed by Paul here passes in the least beyond what Jesus Christ Himself ascribes to man unconverted, but desirous of goodness and placed under the influence of the divine law and of the prevenient grace which always accompanies it; comp. John 3:21. St. Paul in chap. 2 had already recognized not only the existence of moral conscience in the Gentiles, but the comparative rightness with which they often apply this divine rule in the practice of life.
Vv. 23. This verse is the development of 21b: Evil is present with me. All the expressions of this verse refer to the same figure and form a picture. At the moment when the speaker starts to follow the law of God which attracts him, he beholds ( βλέπω , I see) an armed adversary advancing against him to bar his passage; such is the literal meaning of the term ἀντιστρατεύεσθαι , to set oneself in battle against. This enemy is a law opposed to that of God dwelling in his own members. Thereby Paul denotes the egoistical instincts attached to the members of the body, and which seek their gratification through them, in spite of the assent the understanding gives to the law which labors to repress them. Thus two adversaries find themselves as it were face to face, the law of the mind and that which dwells in the members. The prize of the contest is the I, the ego which both seek; and its ordinary result, the taking of the ego by the second.
The words: bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, represent the ego at the moment when it is dragged captive ( αἰ χμαλωτίζειν , to make prisoner) by the law of the members, and so given over to the power of sin. St. Paul calls this master the law of sin which is in my members. These last words appear at first sight like a repetition. But they are added to show in these members, which strive so faithfully against the law of the mind to wrest the ego from it, the army equipped as it were by sin to fight in its service and pay.
In the two verses, 22 and 23, we thus find four particular laws mentioned, in which there is summed up the general law, or the entire mode of living belonging to the natural man. Two of these laws are objective, and are imposed on the will as it were from without. The one is the law of God, the moral law written or unwritten; the other is the law of sin, that egoistical instinct which hereditarily reigns over mankind since the fall. To these two objective laws there correspond two subjective ones, which are, so to speak, the representatives of the two former in the individual: the law of the mind, which is nothing else than the moral sense in man, appropriating the law of God, and making it the rule of the individual; and the law of the members, which is, on the other hand, the subjective organ by which the individual falls under the law of sin. And the four laws combined, the habitual fact being added of the victory which the latter two gained over the former two, constitute the general law of our existence before regeneration, that order of life which Paul recognizes within him when he examines himself, the νόμος of Romans 7:21. If the apostle were merely a cold moralist, dissecting our state of moral misery with the scalpel of psychological analysis, he would have passed directly from Rom 7:23 to the second part of Romans 7:25, where in a precise antithesis he sums up once more the result of this whole investigation. But he writes as an apostle, not as a philosopher. In drawing the picture of this state, the question he feels weighing on his heart is one of salvation. Anguish seizes him as if he were still in the heat of this struggle. He utters the cry of distress ( Rom 7:24 ), then immediately that of thanksgiving, because now when he is writing he knows of deliverance (Romans 7:25 a); after which he resumes the course of exposition in the second part of Romans 7:25.
Vv. 24, 25. “ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. ”
The figure of the preceding verse continues in this; these two exclamations are those of the inward man, who, feeling himself led captive to the law of sin, utters a groan and then cries for help. The term ἄνθρωπος , man, is fitted to remind every reader that the state described is really his own, so long as the deliverer has not appeared for him.
Why does Paul here call himself wretched, rather than guilty? Because the point in question is not the condemnation resulting from guilt; this subject was treated in the first part, chaps. 1-5. The innate power of evil, against which that of the law is shattered, is a hereditary disease, a misfortune which only becomes a fault in proportion as we consent to it personally by not struggling against it with the aids appropriate to the economy in which we live. Thus undoubtedly is explained the cry of the apostle: ταλαίπωρος , wretched!
The term ῥύεσθαι , to deliver, is used to denote the act of the soldier who runs at his comrade's cry to rescue him from the hands of the enemy. It too belongs to the same order of figures as the two verbs ἀντιστρατεύεσθαι and αἰχμαλωτίζειν in the preceding verse.
The enemy who keeps the prisoner bound is here called the body of this death. The term body has sometimes been taken as a figurative expression, signifying merely mass, load. Thus Calvin says: Corpus mortis vocat massam peccati vel congeriem, ex quâ totus homo conflatus est. But there occurs the mention in Rom 7:23 of the μέλη , members, of the body in the strict sense; and such a figure is far from natural. Chrysostom, followed by several, takes the body in the strict sense; but in the cry he finds a call for death, also in the strict sense: How long shall I be obliged to live in this miserable body? Calvin's explanation of the apostle's cry amounts to the same thing: “He teaches us to ask for death as the only remedy of evil; and such indeed is the only end which can make the desire of death lawful.” It is impossible to mistake the meaning of this saying more completely. Does not the apostle give thanks in the following sentence for the deliverance obtained? And is this deliverance then death? Assuredly not; it is the spiritual emancipation described in chap. 8. It is then the body strictly so called which is in question, but the body in a sense analogous to that in which it was called, Romans 6:6, the body of sin. It is the body regarded as the principal instrument of which sin makes use to enslave the soul and involve it in spiritual death, estrangement from God, the life of sin (Romans 7:5: to bring forth fruit unto death). The body continues with the Christian, but to be to his soul an instrument of righteousness, to bring forth fruit unto God ( Rom 7:4 ); comp. Romans 6:12-13. Those who applied the whole passage, Romans 7:14-23, to the regenerate believer, were of course led to the explanation either of Chrysostom or Calvin.
Should the adjective τούτου be connected with σώματος , the body ( this body of death), or with θανάτου , death (the body of this death)? The Greek phrase would give rise to an almost inevitable misunderstanding, if the first construction were the true one; and Meyer rightly observes that the sigh for deliverance does not arise from the fact that the body is this earthly body, but from the fact that the body is the instrument of this state of death in which the soul is sunk ( Rom 7:11 ). This observation seems to us to decide the question.
There are two things in the form of the second question of Rom 7:24 which do not harmonize well with the supposition that Paul is here speaking as the representative of regenerate humanity. There is the indefinite pronoun τίς , who. A Christian may find himself in distress; but he knows at least the name of his deliverer. Then there is the future: will deliver me. In speaking as a Christian, Paul says, Romans 8:2: hath made me free; for to the believer there is a deliverance accomplished once for all, as the basis of all the particular deliverances which he may yet ask. He does not pray, therefore, like the man who utters the cry of our verse, and who evidently does not yet know this great fundamental fact. Finally, let us reflect on the opposite exclamation in the following words: I thank God through Jesus Christ. If, as is manifest, we have here the regenerate believer's cry of deliverance, corresponding to the cry of distress uttered in Romans 7:24, it follows as a matter of course that the latter cannot be the apostle's, except in so far as he throws himself back in thought into a state anterior to the present time.
Vv. 25. Of the three readings presented by the documents in the first part of this verse, we must first set aside the Greco-Latin: ἡ χάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ , the grace of God. This would be the answer to the τίς in the preceding question: “Who shall deliver me?” Answer: “The grace of God.” This reading evidently arises from the desire to find an immediate answer to the question in the words which followed it. According to the reading of the Vatic. and Origen: χάρις τῷ Θεῷ , thanks to God! the exclamation would be a triumphant one, corresponding to the previous cry of pain. The copyists might easily yield to the temptation of thus contrasting cry with cry; but would not this change of mood be somewhat abrupt? Is it not probable that the analogous passage, 1 Corinthians 15:57, has exercised some influence on the form thus given to our text? We therefore hold to the received reading, notwithstanding the authority of Tischendorf: εὐχαριστῶ τῷ Θεῷ , I thank God, not only because it has representatives in the three families of documents, but also because, having a more peaceful character, it contrasts better both in form and matter with the agonizing agitation which characterizes the two preceding questions.
Is the mediation of Jesus Christ, referred to in the following words, to be applied to the giving of thanks itself, of which He is the mediator and instrument in the presence of God, or to the deliverance, which is the understood ground of the giving of thanks, and of which Jesus Christ was the instrument? The first meaning is defended by Hofmann; but it is not supported by the general idea, while the second is demanded by the context; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:57.
The special feature in the deliverance, of which the apostle is here thinking, is not the pardon of sins through the blood of Christ, but victory over sin through Christ crucified and risen, communicated to faith by the Holy Spirit; comp. the contrast established by Paul himself between these two means of grace contained in Christ, chap. Romans 5:1-2.
If Paul does not develop the mode of deliverance, it is because every reader can and should supply it on the instant from the preceding passage, Rom 6:1 to Romans 7:6. The apostle indeed may satisfy himself at this point with few words, because, as Schott well says, he is merely recalling what he has been expounding at great length; we shall add: and announcing what he is about fully to develop, Rom 8:1 et seq.
After this interruption in the description of his state of misery previously to faith, Paul returns to his subject in the second part of Romans 7:25, which is a sort of summary of the whole passage, Romans 7:14-23. It seems to me that the ἄρα οὖν , so then, has the double office of taking up the broken thread ( ἄρα ) and of marking that there is here a conclusion ( οὖν ). This conclusion might be regarded as the consequence of the: I thank through Jesus Christ, in this sense, that without Christ Paul's state would still be that which is about to be expressed in the two following propositions; so Meyer thinks. But this connection has the awkwardness of making an idea, which has only been expressed in passing, control the general thought of the whole piece. I am therefore more inclined to agree with Rückert, in connecting the then with the entire piece, which is about to be recapitulated in two striking sentences. We have already found more than once, at the close of a development, a pointed antithesis intended to sum it up by recalling the two sides of the question; comp. chap. Rom 5:21 and Romans 6:23.
The two particles μέν and δέ , the first of which is not often used in the N. T., forcibly bring out the contrast. The rejection of the μέν in the Sinaït. and two Greco-Latins is a pure negligence. This form ( μέν and δέ ) shows that the first of the two thoughts is mentioned only in passing and with the view of reserving a side of the truth which is not to be forgotten, but that the mind should dwell especially on the second.
The pronoun αὐτὸς ἐγώ , I, myself, has been variously understood. Some (Beza, Er.) have taken it in the sense of I, the same man, ego idem: “I, one and the same man, am therefore torn in two.” This meaning, whatever Meyer may say, would suit the context perfectly; but it would rather require the form ἐγὼ ὁ αὐτός . The examples quoted to justify it are taken wholly from the language of poetry. Others (Grot., Thol., Philip.) understand it: I, I myself, ipse ego; “I, that same man who have thus been deploring my misery.” But this meaning would only be suitable if what Paul proceeds to say of himself formed a contrast (or at least a gradation) to the preceding description. Now, as we shall immediately see, far from saying anything new or different, he simply sums up in order to conclude. This pronoun has also been explained in the sense of I alone, ego solus, that is, isolating my person from every other. This sense would be the true one if it had not the awkwardness of substituting a numerical notion ( one only) for the purely qualitative idea of the pronoun. As Hofmann says, “the αὐτός , self, serves to restrict the I to himself;” that is, to what Paul is in and by himself. The undoubted antithesis is: I in what I am through Christ ( Rom 7:24 ) or in Christ ( Rom 8:1 ). By this statement of his case he replaces himself in the position described from Romans 7:14. The instant he abstracts from the interposition of Christ the deliverer in his moral life, he sees only two things in himself, those mentioned in the immediate sequel. On the one hand, a man who with the mind serves the law of God. The term νοῦς , the mind, is strangely tortured by Hodge, who paraphrases it thus: “the heart so far as regenerated;” and by Calvin and Olshausen, the one of whom takes it as: “the rational element of the soul enlightened by God's Spirit;” the other: “the understanding set free [by regeneration] to fulfil the law.” But where is there a word of God's Spirit in the passage? Do we not again meet here with the same expression as in Romans 7:23: the law of my mind, equivalent to the term: the inward man, Rom 7:22 ? True, Calvin makes bold to say that “it is the Spirit which is there called the inward man!” Paul's language is more strict, and it is enough to prove that this specially Christian sense, which is sought to be given to the term mind, is false; that, as Meyer observes, if it were the regenerate man who is here in question, the order of the two propositions would necessarily require to be inverted. Paul would have required to say: “With the flesh no doubt I serve the law of sin, but with the mind the law of God;” for it is on the latter side that victory remains in the Christian life. The mind here therefore simply denotes, as in Romans 7:22, that natural organ of the human soul whereby it contemplates and discerns good and gives to it its assent. If this organ did not exist in the natural man, he would no longer be morally responsible, and his very condemnation would thus fall to the ground.
The expression seems extraordinarily strong: “ serve the law of God!” But comp. Romans 7:6: “ serve in oldness of the letter,” and Philippians 3:6: “as to the righteousness of the law blameless.” It is impossible to overlook a gradation from the we know, or we acknowledge, Romans 7:14, to the I agree with ( σύμφημι ), Romans 7:16; from this term to the I rejoice in ( συνήδομαι ), Romans 7:22; and finally from this last to the I serve, Romans 7:25; Paul thus passes from knowledge to assent, from that to joyful approbation, and from this, finally, to the sincere effort to put it in practice. He therefore emphasizes more and more the sympathetic relation between his inmost being and the divine law.
As the first of the two antithetical propositions sums up the one aspect of his relation to the law, Romans 7:14-23 (the goodwill of the mind), the second sums up the opposite aspect, the victory gained by the flesh in the practice of life. And this is the point at which human life would remain indefinitely, if man received no answer to the cry of distress uttered, Romans 7:24. Olshausen and Schott have thought right to begin the new section (the description of the state of the regenerate man) at Romans 7:25. But this obliges us either to admit an immediate interruption from the second part of this verse onward, or to give to the term νοῦς , the mind, the forced meaning given to it by Olshausen. Hofmann succeeds no better in his attempt to begin the new section with the ἄρα οὖν , so then (25b). How would a second ἄρα , then, Romans 8:1, immediately follow the first? And, besides, the contrast which must be admitted between 25b and Rom 8:1 would require an adversative particle ( δέ , but), much more than a then.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 7". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19