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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

Romans 7

Verse 1


Certainly you understand. Paul uses an illustration from human life to show that the Christian is dead to the Law. Luther says: “When a husband dies, his wife, too, becomes free, and each is released from the other. Not in this sense, that the woman is not to take another husband, but rather in this sense, that she is now truly free to take another, which she could not do before she became released from her former husband.” Only as long as he lives. Death released a man from the authority of the Law.

Verse 2


A married woman. The Jews believed that the Law of Moses formed a perpetual obligation. Paul uses marriage to teach them this lesson. But if he dies. The wife was united to her husband during his lifetime, but his death terminated the obligation, leaving her free to marry another.

Verse 3


While her husband is alive. She would be an adulteress, because she would be unfaithful to the law (marriage vows) that united her to her husband. Note that the Jewish Christians to whom Paul wrote believed that to abandon the Law of Moses was equal to spiritual adultery.

Verse 4


That is the way. “Since marriage is terminated by the death of either spouse, you Jews, who were married to God as your king, and obligated to obey the Law of Moses, are legally free from that marriage and Law.” In becoming a Christian, they died with Christ (Romans 6:6), and since the old relationship is terminated, the Law has no claim on them. Now you belong to him. [Marriage is not in the Greek of this verse.] The church is Christ’s bride, however, here he speaks of the individual person being made to BELONG to Christ. He uses a Greek verb-form which points to a specific action in the past, which certainly identifies with Romans 6:5. In order that. The law had no help to give the sinner. In Christ, we have much help (Romans 8:26; Galatians 5:22-26; etc.).

Verse 5


For when we lived. Before we died with Christ. Stirred up by the Law. We would not recognize these desires, if the Law did not identify them (Galatians 5:24; Romans 7:9-10).

Verse 6


We are free from the Law. See Romans 6:2-4. But in the new way of the Spirit. This does not mean that the Jews under the Law did not worship God with spiritual worship. Yet the Law was directed toward weak human nature. In contrast to the old life, we have a new life in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6) which only our possession of the Spirit makes possible (1 Corinthians 2:13-15; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 8:1-4).

Verse 7


That the Law itself is sinful? In Romans 7:5 Paul said that the Law stirred up sinful desires. Of course not! Paul strongly denies that the Law itself was sinful. The restraint of law made him aware of his own sinful nature. [See notes on law at the end of chapter 3.] The experiences which he now gives as examples are those of Saul of Tarsus, yet they also are those of Paul the apostle as well. There is no such thing as the believer becoming “more and more just,” [since his being just at all depends upon God’s act in Christ], neither does the believer’s nature become less and less sinful (Galatians 5:16-18; 1 John 1:8-10). Luther described the Christian as: SIMUL JUSTUS ET PECATOR (at the same time righteous and sinful). The Christian constantly fights against his own sinful human nature (Romans 8:10-18; 1 Peter 4:1-2).

Verse 8


Sin found its chance. Sin was given its chance by the commandment which had the effect of awakening and stirring up evil desires. God’s word of command to Adam and Eve called their attention to the forbidden fruit. For sin is a dead thing. The restraint of law makes sin spring into life, because our human nature rebels against any restraint.

Verse 9


I myself was once alive. Gifford says: “There is a deep tragic pathos in the brief and simple statement; it seems to point to some definite period full of painful recollections.” This could be the time in youth when happy innocence is displaced by the moral conflicts and awareness of mature years. But when the commandment came. The Law makes sin a curse (1 Corinthians 15:56). Without law, sin would have no strength to kill men, since sin is the violation of law.

Verse 10


And I died. The awareness of sin showed him under the sentence of death. It may have been when Christ said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,” that Paul first realized that “Christ has brought the Law to an end,” and he died. Which was meant to bring life. The Law promised life (Romans 10:5). In my case brought death. The Law is a curse to everyone who violates it.

Verse 11


Sin found its chance. Because men were under the Law, sin found its chance to first fool them and then to kill them. Yet this result is not due to the Law itself, since this would make God responsible for our sinning by giving the Law. Sin deceives us by: (1) making us think the demands of the law are unreasonable (compare Genesis 3:5); (2) to kill us by using the curse attached to the breaking of law.

Verse 12


So then. The Law itself is holy, even in its curse, as it restrains us from sin by its threat of punishment. Its moral requirements are holy, right, and good.

Verse 13


Does this mean? Paul has shown us that the Law is holy, right, and good, even though it stirs up evil desires. It was through the Law that sin killed him. But is the Law then death??? By no means! The problem is not the Law, but sin. Sin stirs up our human nature to rebel against the Law, to break it, and by this to place ourselves under the curse of the Law. Sin is shown to be. This is God’s intention: that sin, by turning God’s blessing into a curse, would clearly show what it is and ignite in us an urgent desire to escape from it.

Verse 14


The Law is spiritual. To show us that it is not God’s Law, but rather sin that is the source of death, Paul points out the conflict in man. The Law requires actions which are spiritual, as our mind and conscience tells us. But I am mortal man. He means this in its worst sense (compare Romans 8:5-8). Sold as a slave to sin. Obligated to do whatever evil actions he is prompted to do by sinful desires. Remember Luther’s description of the Christian: “at the same time righteous and sinful.” A Christian does not find life by trying to reform his human nature, nor by purifying his human nature from its sinfulness; but he gets above it and lives in a new existence in Christ. Paul explains this in chapter 8.

Verse 15


I do not understand what I do. The word “slavery” explains his actions. “As a slave, my actions are guided by someone else’s will.”

Verse 16


When I do what I don’t want to do. He knows that sin is wrong, yet he goes on sinning (compare 1 John 1:8-10). The fact that he doesn’t want to sin shows he agrees that the Law is right in its commands and its curse.

Verse 17


So I am not really the one. It is not “Paul the free-man” who sins, but “Paul the slave to sin.” The sin that lives in us: (1) interferes with the good we would like to do; (2) like some evil spirit, it tries to destroy our spiritual nature; (3) tries to control us and take us to death (Romans 7:24).

Verse 18


In my human nature. Compare James 4:5. See notes on Romans 7:14 of this chapter.

Verse 19


I don’t do the good. This proves what he said in Romans 7:18. How often we resolve to do better, and then give in to temptation when it comes. This repeats Romans 7:15, but makes a stronger contrast between good intentions and bad actions.

Verse 20


This means that no longer am I the one. The same answer as Romans 7:17. To be saved from sin, a man must at the same time own it [confess to it] and disown it [repudiate it]. This is the Christian paradox—to live in a condition of “confident despair.”

Verse 21


This law is at work. This is similar to Romans 7:10. “This is how I find the Law—or life under the rule of the Law—works out in actual practice: when I make up my mind to do good, evil is the only choice I have.” Compare Romans 7:7 and note.

Verse 22


My inner being. The inner being is not the same as the new nature; but is the side of human nature that is tuned in to God. Compare Romans 2:14.

Verse 23


But I see a different law. This continual conflict in man goes on between the inner being who delights in the law of God, and the law of sin and death which holds him prisoner.

Verse 24


What an unhappy man I am! This is the despair of natural man, held prisoner by sin, and unable to help himself. [The Christian also feels this constant struggle, but has hope in Christ.] Who will rescue me? The Law cannot help, because it is the curse of the Law which is about to kill him. See Romans 7:9.

Verse 25


Thanks be to God. He has acted already to set us free! Through our Lord Jesus Christ! God sets us free through Jesus Christ! See Romans 8:2. This, then is my condition. By myself – without Christ’s help—the best I can do is serve God’s law with my mind, while the sin that lives in me perverts my weak human nature. Luther says: “This struggle lasts as long as we live; it is more violent in one person, less so in another, according as the Spirit or the flesh grows stronger. And yet the entire person is himself both Spirit and flesh, struggling with himself until he becomes altogether spiritual.” [By flesh, Luther means human nature.] Compare what Paul says in Galatians 5:16-18.

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Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 7". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.