Section 10 Romans 7:1-6
Deliverance from the law
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 7:
7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
7:23 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.
7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
7:25 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.
STRUCTURE OF SECTION 10
|10 (a)||7:1||Death ends the dominion of the law.|
|10 (b)||7:2,3||Death ends relationship with the law.|
|10 (c)||7:4-6||Resurrection begins relationship with Christ.|
SUBJECT OF SECTION 10
We noted in connection with 5:14 that the apostle has three men in view, Adam, Moses and Christ. He has shown how we are freed from Adam in principle by the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ, 6:1-14, then how we are freed in practice by the application of the doctrines delivered to us, 6:15-23. He now shows our deliverance from “Moses”, i.e. the law. To explain this, he uses two distinct but connected illustrations. First, in verse 1, the illustration using the principle of law in general. This principle is that death ends the dominion of the law over any person, male or female. Then the illustration in verses 2 and 3 using the principle of the law of the husband, which states that as long as he is alive, his wife is bound to him. Should he die, however, she is free to marry another. It is vitally important to see that the governing principle in the life of the believer is the law or principle of the Spirit, 8:2, and He empowers us to live a life that expresses Christ. The law of Moses cannot give us strength to do this, hence there is the need for chapter 7, to show that conclusively.
10 (a) DEATH ENDS THE DOMINION OF THE LAW
7:1 Know ye not, brethren– again the apostle appeals to their Christian intelligence. Cf. 6:3,6,9,16. (For I speak to them that know the law)- either the law of Moses or the law of Rome will illustrate the principle about to be stated. How that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?- laws only regulate living people. The word for man is “anthropos” meaning man in general, an individual person, male or female.
10 (b) DEATH ENDS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LAW
7:2 For the woman which hath an husband– in 6:15-23 the servant/master relationship was in view, with the emphasis on obedience. Here the husband/wife relationship, with the emphasis on faithfulness and fruitfulness. Is bound by the law to her husband as long as he liveth– the law of marriage is that “what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”, Matthew 19:6. The only One with authority to break the tie is the One who made it, and He breaks it by the death of one of the partners. Those who refuse this verse as an argument against divorce say that the apostle is merely using an illustration, which is not in the context of instructions concerning marriage. But if there were exceptions to the “married for life” principle, it would undermine the apostle’s doctrine here regarding the law. If the “exception clause” were valid today, then since it is not mentioned in Mark or Luke, the latter could be accused of giving an incomplete, and therefore misleading view of the subject of divorce. Since, however, both Mark and Luke were inspired by the same unerring Spirit as was Matthew, then we must conclude that Matthew includes the phrase “except it be for fornication”, knowing that the original readers of the gospel would be well aware of its limited application. But if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband– the law of the husband is not his command, but the principle involved in having a husband. The point is that death breaks the connection. Loosed means discharged, cleared.
7:3 So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress– so binding is this “law of the husband”, that it still operates even if she is unfaithful. She is “an adulteress by trade or calling” if the first husband is still alive. Note that her unfaithfulness has not ended the marriage, for if it had, she would not be an adulteress. But if her husband be dead, she is free from that law– and only in this way can she be free. So that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man– she can be rightly married to a second man, but only if the first is dead.
10 (c) RESURRECTION BEGINS RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
7:4 Wherefore, my brethen, ye also are become dead to the law – note that he does not use the word “therefore”, (implying logical consequence), which would suggest that he is immediately applying the illustration of verses 2 and 3, but “wherefore”, (implying logical connection), showing that he is first of all using the principle of verse 1, that death ends the dominion of the law. By the body of Christ– who took responsibility on the cross for our transgression of the law, and as a consequence was made a curse, which is far worse than being simply accursed. He has absorbed the consequences of our law-breaking in His own body, and yet has risen again bodily, and by association with Him in that process we are delivered from the law in a righteous way. See Galatians 2:19, where we are said to be dead to the law through the law, i.e. the very demands that the law made upon us, which were fully met by Christ in His death, have served to be the means of our deliverance. If the law had not made its demands, Christ would not have died, and we would not have been delivered by His death. That ye should be married to another– now he does use the illustration from verses 2 and 3, to show that the second man, Christ, is the one to whom we are linked, not the first “man”, the law. Even to Him who is raised from the dead- showing that the things He did in His death have satisfied the demands of God, enabling Him to link His people with Himself in a sphere where the law does not operate, namely resurrection ground. Cf. Joshua 1:2, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan”. That we should bring forth fruit unto God- not only are we expected to be faithful to our “husband” from henceforth, (for He will never go into death and absolve us from our relationship with Him), but also we are to produce children by this marriage, which is what “bring forth fruit” means. We should reproduce Christ in our lives. See Galatians 4:10; 5:22.
7:5 For when we were in the flesh- the characteristic description of sinners, see 8:9. The motions of sins, which were by the law- motions are passions, evil desires. Because the mind of the natural man is not subject to the law of God, 8:7, when the prohibitions of the law come to him, he rebels, and does the contrary thing. It is not that the law incites to sin, but the heart of man is contrary to the righteous demands of the law. Perhaps the allusion is to the unfaithful wife of verse 3, who allowed the flesh to overcome her. Did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death- each part of our body has characteristic sins of which it is capable, and when allowed to, the result is as when a mother bears children in a house where the plague is- they are doomed from birth. The contrast is with the “fruit unto God” of verse 4.
7:6 But now- in contrast to when we were natural men in the flesh. We are delivered from the law- by the means described in verse 4. Note this is the common position of all believers, as far as God is concerned. Whether all are in practice delivered is another matter. That being dead wherein we were held- the husband, the law, has “died”, and by so doing has released us from its dominion, as verse 2 had said. When he says the law has died, the apostle is using the word die in a figurative sense, meaning, “has lost its power to dominate us”. The law itself enshrines unchanging principles, and the apostle declares it to be spiritual in verse 14, and delights in it in verse 22. See also Romans 13:8-10. That we should serve in newness of spirit- lest we should think that our new-found freedom from the law allows us licence, the apostle reverts to the figure of servant/master. Newness of spirit- a new attitude of spirit now motivates us; no longer the drudgery of law-keeping with its failure and misery. See Psalm 51:10,12. The phrase prepares the way for chapter 8. And not in the oldness of the letter- the law is now outdated, as far as being a means of attaining to righteousness, see Romans 10:4, and the code of commandments written on stones has been replaced by the living example of Christ. It is Christ that is written on our hearts, 2 Corinthians 3:3.
Section 11 Romans 7:7-25
Defence of the law and despair under the law
STRUCTURE OF SECTION 11
|11(a)||7:7||The law is not sin, because of what it says.|
|11(b)||7:8-11||The law is not sin, because of what it does.|
|11(c)||7:12,13||The law is not sin, because of what it is.|
|11(d)||7:14||The difference understood: the law is spiritual.|
|11(e)||7:15-17||The deeds unwanted: the law is good.|
|11(f)||7:18-20||The desire unrealised: the law is weak.|
|11(g)||7:21-23||The delight undermined: the law is appreciated.|
|11(h)||7:24||The despair unrelieved: the law cannot deliver.|
SUBJECT OF SECTION 11
In the first part of the section, the apostle defends the law, lest it be thought that the fact that the believer is delivered from it implied some defect in the law. In the second half of the section, he shows that the believer who places himself under the law will soon be in despair. The believer may be looked at as having two natures, one in accordance with God’s present reckoning of him, and the other, (because the body which he had before he was saved is still the same, even though now yielded to God), in accordance with what he was before he was saved. Consequently Paul divides himself up, so to speak, in the following verses, for the purpose of explaining the difference between these two natures, and their opposite desires and tendencies.
7:7-13 DEFENCE OF THE LAW
11 (a) THE LAW IS NOT SIN, BECAUSE OF WHAT IT SAYS
The expression of verse 5, “the motions of sins which were by the law”, and the argument in general in the previous verses about the irrelevance of the law as an aid to Christian living, may give the impression that the apostle is condemning the law, which, after all, was given by God.
7:7 What shall we say then?- a favourite expression of the apostle in this epistle, encouraging involvement by his readers, and causing them to think about what they are reading. Is the law sin?- if the result of the application of the law is fruit unto death, then is there some fault with the law? God forbid. Nay- strong denials, for Paul will not have it that the law is evil. I had not known sin, but by the law- far from being sinful, the law exposes sin, so that a person knows it, and has no excuse. For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet- the heart of Paul and the particular command were on a collision course. The law upholds God’s standards inflexibly.
11(b) THE LAW IS NOT SIN, BECAUSE OF WHAT IT DOES
7:8 But- introducing the true alternative to the false idea that the law is sin. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment- “occasion” is a base of operations in war. Sin used the command as a means of waging its war on God. Wrought in me all manner of concupiscence- which is evil desire. Sin and concupiscence are evil, but not the law. For without the law sin was dead- the sin-principle was inactive, not being provoked into resistance to the law all the time Paul did not try to please God through the law. Note the figurative use of the word dead in connection with the law, supporting the explanation of the word “dead” in verse 6.
7:9 For I was alive without the law once- when he was converted he had life from God apart from law-keeping. But when the commandment came- note the prominence of the words “I” and “me”, in the remainder of the chapter, and the absence of the words “Spirit” and “Lord Jesus”, except verse 25. We note also the expression in verse 25, “I myself”, as if he was on his own in trying to please God. The most satisfactory view is that Paul is presenting a situation that was, and is, personal to him, in which he tries to please God as a believer by the use of the law. So we might think of Paul going into Arabia subsequent to his conversion, (see Galatians 1:17, and connect with 4:24,25), and finding that even when there was nothing to attract him in the surroundings, yet still the desire to covet was within. In isolation in Arabia, he would inevitably think of the law given at Sinai in Arabia. Sin revived, and I died- the commandment “thou shalt not covet” came home to him, sin rose up from its slumbers, and dealt a death-blow to his earnest but ignorant desire to serve God by the law.
7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death-Christ had said to the lawyer, “this do and thou shalt live”, Luke 10:28. But Paul found the law slew him, for he fell down over the “this do”, and so forfeited the right to life. Far from being the Good Samaritan, “doing” and “living”, he was like the robbed man, left half-dead by the roadside. The representatives of the ceremonial and civil law, (the priest and Levite), would not save him.
7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment- as stated in verse 8, whereas there the result was sins, but here the result is death. Deceived me, and by it slew me- sin, using “it”, (that is, the particular commandment he mentions), misled Paul into thinking that he could keep the law now that he was a believer. Thus sin used the command “Thou shalt not covet” to reduce Paul to inactivity as far as living to please God was concerned.
11 (c) THE LAW IS NOT SIN, BECAUSE OF WHAT IT IS
7:12 Wherefore the law is holy- the law considered as a whole is totally free from evil. And the commandment holy, and just and good- the particular precepts of the law, illustrated by the one about covetousness emphasized here, partake of the character of the whole, being holy. They are just, being designed to lead to a righteous life. They are good, for the whole law is fulfilled by loving God and one’s neighbour. See Romans 13:8-10.
7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid- anticipating an objection which will disparage the law. Was it the law itself which resulted in Paul being slain, verse 11? The answer is no, but sin within fought against the law, and forced it, so to speak, to execute judgement on Paul. But sin, that it might appear sin- the law brought sin out into the open and exposed it for what it was. Working death in me by that which is good- having exposed sin, the law pronounced the death penalty on it. So the goodness of the law is maintained, for it defends the honour of God in regard to sin, and the badness of sin is manifested. That sin by the commandment- become exceeding sinful- the commandment is the specific one of verse 7, “thou shalt not covet”, but in other circumstances any of the commandments of the law would have the same effect. Might become exceeding sinful– sin does not alter when the law confronts it, but it is shown up in all its wickedness, as it uses God’s holy law to provoke into sin.
7:14-25 DESPAIR UNDER THE LAW
11 (d) DIFFERENCE UNDERSTOOD- THE LAW IS SPIRITUAL
7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual- this is common Christian knowledge, since the law is from God. Spiritual could be summed up in the words “holy, just, good” of verse 12. But I am carnal- not only a contrast with the law, but “I”, speaking for myself, (the word is emphatic), considered as mere unaided flesh. Note the repetition of “I” in the passage. He was but weak flesh, if unaided by the Spirit. Sold under sin- by sinning, Adam sold God’s rights over him to the Devil, at a fearful price. What Adam did affects us still, for we are linked to him naturally. Not only are we sold, but sold under, for sin is a slavemaster who crushes and dominates ruthlessly.
11 (e) DEEDS UNWANTED- THE LAW IS GOOD
7:15 For that which I do I allow not- that which he achieves through effort, when he surveys it, he disowns it as not what he would want to be known by. The process by which the achievement is arrived at is now detailed. For what I would, that do I not- that which he really wants to achieve as something he would want to be known by, he fails to accomplish because he does not do what he wills to do. But what I hate, that do I- the reverse is true, and what he does do he hates.
7:16 If then I do that which I would not- the apostle now draws a conclusion from the experience of verse 15. I consent unto the law that it is good- the general knowledge concerning the law as being spiritual, is confirmed in his experience. If he is for good, and against evil, then he is in agreement with the law, which commands good and condemns evil.
7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it- by “I” he means himself considered as a new man in Christ. Cf. “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin”, 1 John 3:9. But sin that dwelleth in me- he pinpoints the cause of the trouble. Of course Paul must take responsibility for his actions; he cannot excuse sin by saying he is not the doer of it- nor can we. This would confirm that Paul is speaking as a believer, for he has two natures, one that cannot sin, which he identifies with, and one that can sin, which he disassociates from.
11 (f) DESIRE UNREALISED- THE LAW IS WEAK.
7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing- he is now concentrating attention on how to achieve worthwhile things, and knows that nothing beneficial can come from the flesh within. Note the parenthesis, showing that there are two persons Paul calls “me”. There is the “me” that is centred in his flesh, and the new “me”, which wills to do good, as the next phrase shows. For to will is present with me- this is another indication that Paul is speaking as a converted man, for the unsaved are not willing to do God’s will. But how to perform that which is good I find not- in his flesh he can find no power to do what is right in the sight of God. He is limiting his search to what is within himself in these verses. He will tell us the power to do good in the next chapter.
7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do- almost a repetition of verse 15, as if he is going round in circles. Note that he labels what he hates (verse 15) as evil, it is not a question of personal dislikes, but what is condemned by the law which he agrees with, verse 16.
7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me- he thinks of the outcome of what he does, and describes it as evil, since it is the sin-principle which empowers him.
11 (g) DELIGHT UNDERMINED- THE LAW IS APPRECIATED
7:21 I find then a law- the word law is used in different ways in these verses; here it simply means a principle which regulates action. That, when I would do good, evil is present with me- this is the law or principle which operates in his heart, and which he has described in verses 15-20.
7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man- another indication that Paul is writing as a believer. The inward man is his real person, distinguished from the outward man, which is his body, see 2 Corinthians 4:16. The believer delights in the principles of righteousness enshrined in the law of Moses, but that does not mean he is subject to it as a rule of life; the apostle will show that grace has provided a better way to please God.
7:23 But I see another law in my members- he has discerned the workings of the contrary principle which is based in his body. Warring against the law of my mind- which is the principle that he delights in the law of God. The fact that he speaks of this law being at war with him shows the seriousness of the situation. It also shows he speaks as a believer, for there is no conflict within the unbeliever- sin holds total sway there. And bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members- like the kings of the east in Genesis 14, going to war and taking Lot captive. Except that the battleground is within Paul, not in the world.
11 (h) DESPAIR UNRELIEVED- THE LAW DOES NOT DELIVER
7:24 O wretched man that I am!- like those unfortunate people who are trapped in the middle of warring parties, Paul’s person is a battleground, and he is unable to overcome in the situation, and feels wretched as a result. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?- note that he has gone back to using the word death, which comes in when the law and sin come into conflict, verses 11,13. He sees no other way of describing his body, than as the scene of his defeat.
7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord- that which is brought in through Christ is alone able to set us free from the power of indwelling sin. In anticipation of the next chapter he gives God thanks. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin- the summary of the whole section, where Paul is relying on himself alone, “I myself”, and finds that the flesh still serves the law of sin, even when he is mistakenly seeking to serve God through His good law. The way of success is detailed for us in the next chapter.