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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Romans 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

MATRIMONIAL ILLUSTRATION OF SANCTIFICATION

1-4. While the Bible contains but one great compound fact, i. e., sin and its remedy, accommodatory to our feeble and finite senses, while locked up in these houses of clay, it utilizes an infinite diversity of imagery, beautifully and variantly expository of the wonderful redemptive scheme. Since God is the Author of both nature and grace, there is perfect harmony throughout His works in both departments. Consequently the deep and otherwise incomprehensible spiritual truths revealed in the Bible are constantly elucidated with an infinite diversity of imagery, deduced from the most common affairs and events of every-day life. The church of God throughout the Bible is symbolized by a holy woman, and that of Satan, i. e., the fallen church, by a harlot. In these four verses we have a grand metaphoric truth revealed under the figure of a woman becoming enamored of a most lovable man, and while exceedingly anxious to become his bride, still encumbered with an old husband, for whose death she must patiently wait before the much-desired nuptials can be legally celebrated. This woman is the human soul betrothed to Christ in regeneration, gladly receiving His periodical visits in revival times, bringing her nice presents and talking more and more about the projected wedding, which is only postponed with great reluctance, awaiting the death of the loathsome old, tobacconized, drunken, wife-beating husband, who is none other than Adam the First, here antithesized by the law, and must get out of the way before the long-anticipated matrimonial solemnization with her new lover, Adam the Second, can take place. Meanwhile the courtship is progressing, and it seems the old husband will never die, her delectable lover drops a hint: “If that’s all your trouble, you have nothing to do but turn him over to me, and I will dispatch him in the twinkling of an eye.” At this suggestion, she leaps and shouts uproariously. Behold, the old husband is dead and the long-anticipated wedding celebrated on the spot, involving the double interest of old Adam’s funeral and the festal joys of holy wedlock with her Divine Spouse.


Verse 5

5. “For when we were in carnality, the emotions of sins which were through the law were working in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” So long as we are unsanctified a thousand carnal incentives antagonistical to the law of God are stirring us up to give way to known and trifling sin, the first overt act, as we have here clearly revealed in the aorist tense, forfeiting our justification and bringing us back into the old condemnation of our former wicked life.


Verse 6

6. “But we have now been made free from the law, being dead in that in which we were held, So that we serve in the newness of the spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” This verse answers all questions relative to the actual personal profession of entire sanctification on the part of the Apostle Paul and his associated ministry. The very fact that he is free from the law, and, as he says here, that everything in him antagonistical to the law had been slain, amounts to his clear and unequivocal testimony to the crucifixion of the “old man,” which is the very salient fact of entire sanctification. Paul dictated this letter to Tertius in Corinth, A. D. 58, twenty- one years after he had been sanctified in Arabia, consequently he was prepared to give, as he does in the verse, a clear and unequivocal testimony to that glorious experience.


Verse 7

7. “Then what shall we say? is the law sin? it could not be so; but I had not known sin except through law; for indeed I had not known lust unless the law said: Thou shalt not covet.” While as he here affirms it is impossible for the law to be sin, because it is the very radiation of the divine purity and glory; yet from the very fact that the law is God’s light, revealing to us sin that we may fly from it, it follows as a legitimate sequence that if we do not walk in the light and avoid sin, but on the contrary yield to temptation and commit sin, our responsibility is infinitely intensified and our criminality correspondingly aggravated; the law, which God in mercy gave to light us to heaven, bearing witness against us, and thus infinitely augmenting our condemnation.


Verse 8

8. “For sin taking occasion through the commandment wrought out in me all antagonism; for without the law sin was dead.” N. B. — Sin so constantly repeated here is in the singular number, meaning the sin- principle, i. e., original sin and not actual sin, which is in the plural. Where there is no commandment sin is dead, because it has nothing to antagonize.


Verse 9

PAUL’S INFANTILE REGENERATION.

9. “But I was alive at one time without law.” We are all generated in Adam the First, spiritually dead (Psalms 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:22). The moment soul and body united involve personality, we pass normally into the mediatorial kingdom, where Christ gives life to all. Hence, like the Prodigal Son, we are all born in the kingdom of God, and only get out by sinning out. The old theology holding the justification and not the regeneration of infants is untenable, as these two works, though separate and distinct, the former in heaven canceling condemnation, and the latter in the heart vitalizing the spirit; yet they are always synchronal, the one never existing without the other, the former logically preceding, but instantaneously followed by the latter. Justification disqualifies for hell, and regeneration is indispensable to heaven. Hence the hypothesis that our infants are justified and not vitalized is untenable and clearly refuted by this passage; while Paul affirms his own infantile regeneration, which he retained till he reached responsibility and forfeited it by violating known law. Hence this case clearly confirms the regeneration as well as the justification of infants. Therefore, infants are not sinners, but Christians when they are born into the world, and so remain till they commit actual transgression. Is it possible to bring them up without the forfeiture of their infantile justification and regeneration? Certainly; and this is our imperative duty. In that case, would they need conversion? They would, in order to keep them justified and regenerated. If they are born justified and regenerated by the normal work of Christ, in what would their conversion consist? The word does not mean justification and regeneration (though these graces are indispensable in case of actual conversion, being the antithesis of condemnation and spiritual death), but “a turning,” which all infants need, being born depraved, i. e., with inbred sin in the heart, which so turns them away from God that, if not turned round and introduced to the Savior, will start directly away from Him so soon as they set out in responsible life. Hence, take the infant, turn him round, introduce him to the Savior before he loses infantile justification, and then get him sanctified before he backslides, and you would soon see a giant in the kingdom. “The commandment having come, sin revived,


Verse 10

10. “And I died; and the commandment which was unto life, the same was found to me to be unto death.” When Paul reached responsibility, coming in contact with the law, like the rest of us, he unfortunately antagonized it, thus forfeiting his infantile justification. the law, which, instrumental in the divine administration, and, of course, conducive to life, when disobeyed became the swift vehicle of death. Consequently he died spiritually, the inbred sin, of course, lying dormant, having nothing to do till the time came. Then it revived, beginning an exterminating war against the law, he, taking side with it, died spiritually.


Verse 11

11. “For sin, taking occasion through the commandment, deceived me and through it slew me.” This verse explains itself. The commandment aroused inbred sin, hitherto still and dormant in his heart. If he had not yielded to sin, the law would have been a great blessing to him. But, like the rest of us, he yielded to sin, which consequently slew him outright.


Verse 12

12. “So the law indeed is holy, just and good.” That is certainly true, because the law is the very radiation of the divine purity and glory, yet when antagonized becomes the swift vehicle of condemnation, infinitely augmenting eternal responsibility.


Verse 13

13. “Then was that which is good made death to me? It could not be so; but sin, that it may appear sin, was working out death to me through that which is good, in order that sin may appear exceedingly sinful through the commandment.” Here he describes inbred sin, the soul-poison born in him, interpenetrating his organism with the virus of depravity and spontaneously working out death in him as indicated by the middle voice of the verb, thus exhibiting sin in its real horrific turpitude, malignity and deformity, awfully intensified by the incoming of the law, like a rattlesnake enraged when disturbed in his lair by an effort to kill him.


Verse 14

14. “But we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, having been sold under sin.” The law is the very splendor radiating from the throne of God and revealing sin in its horrific deformity. Hence the law is perfectly pure and holy, and, of course, spiritual, i. e., consentaneous with the Holy Spirit. We have here carnal “I” and spiritual “I” used contrastively ever and anon. We must not identify them, for the one represents the old and the other the new man, different as sin is from holiness, and Satan from God. “Having been sold under sin,” an allusion to the Fall, when father Adam sold us all out for a mess of apples. The Greek is the perfect tense, as I here translate, involving the whole human race in original sin.


Verse 15

15. “For that which I do I know not; for I do that which I do not wish, but I do that which I hate.


Verse 16

16. “But if I do that which I do not wish, I consent to the law that it is good: now it is no longer I that do this, but sin that dwelleth in me.” You recognize the error in E. V., and see how Paul certifies that he commits neither known nor willing sin. Can you apply this statement to a sinner? I know not. The normal character of a sinner is to commit known and willing sin. You see positively that this is not only a justified man, but he is living in a very high state of justification, which may be said of few, i. e., that our people in the churches who claim justification could truthfully say that they commit neither known nor willing sin! Let those Christians who apply this chapter to the sinner make the application to themselves, and see whether they are living on a plane superior to Paul at this time in his experience when he certifies twice over that he commits neither known nor willing sin. This is truly the Bible standard of justification. Paul was a man of gigantic mentality and intense moral and spiritual acumen. Hence he thinks, speaks and acts in the superlative degree. In Romans 7:15 he positively certifies that he commits neither known or willing sin. In Romans 7:17 most unequivocally abnegates all personal identity with the sin-trouble in which he is involved.


Verse 17

17. “It is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Enoikousa is from en, “in,” and oikos, “a house.” Hence it means the housed-up sin, i. e., the old sin born in him, and still to his sorrow living in him, though under his bitter protest. Hence you see the source of all the trouble. Despite his will and intelligence to the contrary, this old enemy still occupies the citadel in the deep interior of his heart, never having been dislodged in his miraculous conversion, though so stunned and paralyzed that Paul thought he was gone, and went to preaching heroically in Damascus. Soon the enemy stirs so discernibly that recognition is inevitable. Paul is too intense and thorough-going to wink at the Stygian monster and enter into a compromise. He calls to witness heaven, earth and hell, that this vexatious problem must reach a final solution. He quits the ministry and goes away to the Arabian desert to settle the matter with God. He is determined to strike bottom rock before he leaves the lonely wilderness. Hence he keeps company with the wild beasts three years, but he settles the matter for time and eternity, coming back to Damascus a cyclone of fire. So he moved a flaming tornado through Asia and Europe till he laid down his head on Nero’s block. Instead of being identified with the sin, he meets the charge with a flat denial: “It is not at all I that do it, but him that dwelleth in me.” Light had shone in, revealing to him that indwelling enemy. He enters the conflict like a hero, and is determined to have it out with him. So he wages a three years’ war with Adam the First, and achieves a complete victory, which lasts him to the end of his life.


Verse 18

18. “I know that in me, that is in my carnality, there is no good thing.” This is the carnal “me,” representing Adam the First, in whom there is no good thing. “Me” is here antithetical to spiritual “I” representing his own personality. “To will is present with me, but to work out that which is beautiful is not present with me.” This is the hackneyed confession of the unsanctified. Justification brings us into the kingdom of peace and sanctification into the kingdom of power. “Beautiful” in this verse (E. V. “good”) means the beauty of holiness, which literally charms all true Christians, who spontaneously leap to the conclusion that they can do it, only to sink broken-hearted in contemplation of constant failure. Every real Christian desires and wills to do his whole duty, yet signally failing for lack of power which sanctification alone can supply.


Verse 19

19. “For the good that I wish, I do not; but the evil that I do not wish, that I do.” That is a strong stating, in harmony with the vigor of Pauline thought and expression. It is explained by what follows.


Verse 20

20. “But if I do that which I do not wish, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Unscholarly people reason over this, founding a grave charge against Paul on the identity of “I,” which is utterly untrue, because “I” is not at all identical with itself, as it alternately represents carnality and spirituality, which instead of being identical are unlike as God and Satan, the one being the Son of God, the other that of the devil. Hence such an argument is radically untrue. Here the carnal “I,” representing old Adam, does all the mischief. Romans 7:20 repeats Romans 7:17, certifying his utter innocence in the matter, and laying all the blame on that indwelling sin represented in Romans 7:18-19 by carnal “I.” Hence Paul repeatedly affirms his irresponsibility, laying all the blame on the inbred sin which is causing all the trouble. It is a matter of fact that we are not condemned for the existence of inbred sin in our hearts nor its stirring within us. All this we can not prevent, but we are guilty if we yield to it and commit known and willing sin. This Paul repeatedly abnegates. Again, we become guilty if we do not walk in the light which God gives, and do our best by the grace of God to have this inbred sin destroyed.


Verse 21

21. “Moreover, I find a law, that, to me, wishing to do good, evil is present with me.” This is where the counterfeit professors woefully lie on Paul, making his language an apology for committing sin. They differ from Paul wide as the poles. While they wickedly pervert this Scripture to their own destruction, making it an apology for known and willing sin, Paul positively and repeatedly certifies that he did no such thing, and the only trouble in his case was the inward conflict of an indwelling enemy. His testimony in this verse is that the evil is ever present to menace, tempt and antagonize him in his enterprises to glorify God. While this is true, we must remember his positive abnegation of all yielding to it, and repeated affirmation that this indwelling sin, of its own spontaneity, was really doing all the mischief in the case, while he pleads constantly his own innocency.


Verse 22

22. “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” This inspired affirmation sweeps from the field all who would identify this chapter with a sinner’s experience, from the simple and undeniable fact, patent to all Bible readers, that the sinner has no “inward man,” which is none other than the “new creature” created in the heart by the Holy Ghost in regeneration. A sinner is but an incarnate devil, and utterly destitute of the “new creation’, which the Holy Ghost never imparts till the condemnation is removed by free justification, transplanting him from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. Hence you see the utter untenability of the dogma which would identify the testimony of this chapter with a sinner. I do not wonder that Clarke, Wesley, and other noble spirits of bygone ages, so construed, because they did not have the corrected Greek, the Sinaitic manuscript, a copy of which I hold in my hand, and which has thrown a flood of light on New Testament exegesis, not having been discovered until A. D. 1859, when Dr. Tischendorf, the great German, after forty years of earnest search in the Bible lands for everything that could throw light on the Holy Scriptures, providentially discovered it in the Convent of St.

Catherine on Mt. Sinai, which had been erected in the second century, and in whose archives God has kept this complete copy of the New Testament from the apostolic age, lying hidden and secure during the long roll of the Dark Ages. While a thousand years of Satan’s midnight passed over the world, during which not one man in a thousand could read or write, while blood and barbarism ran riot in every land, and the vandals especially did their utmost to destroy, not only all the Bibles, but all other books, obliterating the last spark of light and civilization from the earth, God, in great mercy, hid away this copy of the New Testament, and thus preserved it from the errors and interpolations incident to that long period of darkness and ignorance, bringing it to light A. D. 1859, just in time to shine out the morning star and felicitous harbinger of the present Holiness Movement, which is, I know, none other than the John the Baptist preceding the second coming of our glorious King to girdle the globe with His Millennial Theocracy and reign forever.


Verse 23

23. “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and striving to bring me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” The E. V. commits a glaring error in this verse by involving the idea that Paul was actually brought into captivity to the law of sin. This conclusion is utterly alien to the Greek, which conveys no such an idea. On the contrary, it is the perpetual present, revealing simply a constant and indefatigable effort on the part of inbred sin to bring him into captivity. But, thank God, it never succeeded, as his testimony repeatedly assures us. In Colossians 3 he gives us a catalogue of the members of this old man of sin, i. e., anger, wrath, malice, envy, jealousy, revenge, lust, temper, pride, vanity, etc. It so happened that this chapter suffered especially in the way of corruptions, which you observe in not only this, but in several other passages, thus accounting for the misunderstandings, misinterpretations and strange applications which have been made by a diversity of exegesis. If the E. V. were correct in this verse, authenticating the conclusion that Paul was ever and anon actually brought into captivity to the law of sin, it would actually require the aorist tense, which does not here occur, but simply the perpetual present, only indicating a continuous effort on the part of the indwelling enemy to bring him into captivity, but fortunately for him never succeeding, as in that case he would have become a backslider.


Verse 24

24. “O wretched man that I am: who shall deliver from this body of death?” Paul was a man of great mind and heart, thinking most profoundly and feeling with an intensity unrealizable by people of ordinary caliber. With the combined powers of his gigantic intellect, iron will, deep, thrilling, electrifying and intense emotionality, he has fought a terrible battle with this indwelling energy antagonizing the law of God; meanwhile, with Napoleonic energy and Alexandrian perseverance, mustering all his powers of mind, heart and spirit, and focalizing all his gigantic volitional enthusiasm, he has striven with desperation to verify the law of God and do His will on earth as the angels do it in heaven. Along this line failure, defeat, collapse and discomfiture have floored him time and again, despite all his wallowing in Arabian sands and importunately crying to God. Three awful years of terrible conflict with this old man of sin, roaring like a lion, floundering like the leviathan and snapping like a crocodile, having fruitlessly passed away, victory evidently further off than ever. We here have a historic metaphor deduced from the custom on the part of ancient conquerors to inflict on their war captives the horrific retribution of binding them fast to a dead corpse taken from the battlefield, tying back to back and limb to limb. It is said that the inhalation of the poisonous miasma emitted from the putrefying corpse invariably killed the living soldier before he got rid of him, unless fortunate to receive some extraneous aid, bringing him happy deliverance. This fact again sweeps away the hypothesis which would apply this chapter to a sinner, as in that case there could be no living body, as every sinner is simply a spiritual corpse. How vividly, clearly and unmistakably do we here see the “double-minded man” (James 1:8; James 4:8),

the corpse representing the old, dead, carnal mind, and the living soldier the mind of Christ, wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost in regeneration. Paul himself, with his glorious Damascus experience of conversion, was this living soldier, with the old man of sin tied to him, represented by the loathsome corpse. Every Christian, when converted, sets out to obey the Lord on earth like the angels in heaven, thus keeping the law in the beauty of holiness; but destined to defeat, failure, mortification, despondency, culminating in desperation, like Paul in the verse when he cried out, “O wretched man that I am!” I went on this line precisely nineteen years, fighting down old Adam by the power of the law, only suffering a thousand signal defeats, till in the midst of a glorious revival, in which I was doing all the preaching, thirty years ago, I reached this memorable Pauline culmination, when, crying out, “O wretched man that I am! “I gave up the fruitless war against indwelling sin, turning the battle over to Him who is mighty to save and strong to deliver. Then, glory to God, the victory came!


Verse 25

25. “Thanks be unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here we have Paul’s testimony to the glorious victory which the Omnipotent Sanctifier gave him in a moment, when, after three years’ battle with indwelling sin, despairing and abandoning his own efforts, he turned the Stygian monster over to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the uproarious shout of victory came in a moment. The church of the present day, with the exception of a little handful of sanctified people, are in the seventh of Romans, roaming round through the howling wilderness of Arabia, where Israel spent forty years. Oh, how we need a hundred thousand Joshuas to lead the universal church into the land of corn and wine! How foolish it is for them to take the fog, darkness, storm and conflicts of this chapter, and not the glorious sunburst which crowns it in the twenty-fifth verse, where Paul leaps and shouts uproariously and trudges back to the great Syrian metropolis to tell the good news and preach the gospel of full salvation like a messenger from heaven. You must remember that while this chapter describes Paul’s battle with indwelling sin while in the justified state, he did not stay in it, but, as you see, he passes out with a shout, leaping triumphantly into the eighth chapter, which opens with a jubilant hallelujah of complete deliverance, roaring a continuous gaudeamus of entire sanctification till it is drowned by the co-mingled hallelujahs of angels and redeemed saints congratulating glorified humanity in the transcendent ultimatum of final and eternal heavenly triumph. “Then, therefore, I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” This observation in recapitulatory, giving a general comprehensive nutshell statement of the uniform experience of humanity under the administration of mediatorial grace.

“Mind” here means the spiritual impartment, enlightened by the Holy Ghost and conservative of our allegiance to the law of God; while “flesh” is used in its general sense of depravity, whose constant trend is earthward, sinward, and Satanward, conservatively to the “law of sin.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 7:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-7.html.

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