Bible Studies In The Christian Library
 
ROMANS CHAPTER 7

VERSES 1-3 "Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2- For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3- So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4- Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God."

A. "Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 
1. Paul is concerned about those Roman brethren who are converted Jews (and there were certainly those present in the Roman church) and also to those Gentile converts who were no doubt under some pressure to take up the beggarly elements of the Law. 
a. Moses Lard makes the argument that while Paul certainly includes the Law of Moses, he is also speaking of any law in general. knowing law, "In the expression, "1 speak to men knowing law," I can not see an exclusive reference to the law of Moses. To restrict the expression thus, as some have done, is certainly arbitrary. The reference is to no particular law, but to law in general, Roman as well as Jewish. I speak to men knowing something of law generally. The point which the Apostle is about to make is true, to the extent intended, of all law, and of one as much as of another. It is therefore unnecessary to assume limitations."

b. While I think that Lardís argument has some merit, I do not believe that it is correct. I am convinced that he is referring to the Law of Moses.

2. He states that the Law had control over a person until that person died. It is obvious that, since we have died and reborn "in Christ" we are no longer under the control of the Law. This is simply a continuation what Paul had been arguing in chapter 6. We are bound by a new law. It is the law of grace (6:14) and Paul will later call it the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ (8:2).
B. "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband."
1. Paul uses the principle of marriage to illustrate how the Christian is no longer joined to the Old Law (Law of Moses). God has always recognized marriage as being for life. The Scriptures teach that there only two grounds for remarriage: death of a spouse, or adultery on the part of a guilty spouse.
2. It is obvious that a woman is not free to remarry while she has a living husband. (Of course, the only exception being fornication on the part of her spouse - Matthew 19:9) 

3. The "Law of her husband" is simply Godís law that bind a man and woman together. 

C. "So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man."
1. This is simply drawing the obvious conclusion. Any woman who marries another while her husband is still alive she is an adulteress. Of course, this principle is also true of men and their spouses. When the womanís husband dies she is then free to marry again, because she is no longer married.
D. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ,"
1. Paul changes the figure a bit, saying that we have died to the Law through Christ. Because we are dead to the Law, we are not committing spiritual adultery by being married to Christ.

2. The "body of Christ" here means the body of Christ which was given to purchase redemption for mankind and which given to purchase redemption.

a. See Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 2:14-15
3. There also seems to be an allusion to our dying to sin in our baptism in Romans 6:1-4.

4. It is interesting to note that he changes from the figure of the husband being dead that frees the wife to the wife (us) being dead to the husband (the Law) and thus freeing the dead wife (us) to be married to another. 

5. One of the footnotes in Reeseís commentary on Romans is instructive concerning why Paul emphasized the dying of the Christian to the Law.

a. Many Jews, including the Judaizers, whom we believe Paul is anticipating as he writes this letter to the Romans, thought that the Law of Moses was of perpetual validity. Thus, in their opinion, even though a man was converted to Christ, he was still obligated to keep the Law of Moses. Paul is denying all this by arguing that death brings a release from law, and anyone who is immersed into Christ, be he Jew or Gentile, is free from any obligation to the demands of the Law of Moses.
E. "that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God."
1. The Christian is spoken of as being married to Christ by being part of the "bride of Christ", the church. See 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32.

2. The "fruit to God" here is probably the same as 6:22. It is likely the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22.
 
 

Verses 5-6 "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6- But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."
A. "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death."
1. Being in the flesh simply refers to the time before they were Christians and the thrust of this verse must refer to those Christians who had been under the domination of the Law of Moses, the Jews.

2. It is significant to note that the word "aroused" is not found in the original text. It should read, "the sinful passions where were by the law." With this in mind we need only go to verse 7 to see what Paul is trying to tell us. Without Godís law the sinful passions that all mankind possess if misdirected would be unknown. Concerning this point, these transgressions of Godís law were always wrong but were amplified for every Jewish believer to see and realize how terrible they were by the Law of Moses, complete with all its regulations.

a. This was the nature of the Law. It provided the believer with condemnation without forgiveness and an understanding of Godís revulsion at their sin without and enjoyment of Godís grace.
3. It was clear that, without forgiveness, all those who lived under the law were doomed to live out their lives in condemnation and be lost. This is why it is so important to realize that the blood of Christ was meant to cleanse all who had been faithful to Godís law before the cross, as well as those who lived afterward (Hebrews 9:15).
B. "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."
1. The Law of Moses was a hard taskmaster which condemned all those who sought to follow it. The state of mind of the person who seeks to please God through the Law of Moses, and fights the evil passions of the flesh, is found in verses 16-24.

2. But now we live under a different law. It is described as the "newness of the Spirit." This is the same as the "newness of life" in 6:4. We have forgiveness of sins, and an assurance that we have eternal life as Godís children (1 John 5:13). Here is the difference in our servitude. We are no long bound as a slave to sin but have chosen to live for and serve a loving master who has freed us from the yoke of condemnation.

3. "Newness of the Spirit" is a contrast to the "oldness of the Law."
 
 

VERSES 7-11 "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 8- But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9- I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10- And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11- For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12- Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good."
A. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 
1. Paul next answers what many would now conclude to his first six verses. If they are now freed from the Old Law because they have died to it, then why must be bad, or sinful. This is the exact same statement that Paul makes in 6:1. 
a. Reese suggests that Paul is dealing with those who would compare the freeing of the Christian from sin and from law and saying that the law was sinful.
2. Aside from the obvious that the Law came from God, Paul teaches another lesson that shows conclusively that the Law was good. He strongly declares, "Certainly not." ("God forbid" - KJV), then makes the argument that he would not have a consciousness of sin without the Law. 
a. Paul uses the same argument concerning the sin revealing nature of the Law. See 3:20; 4:15; and 5:13.
B. "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead."
1. The Law was not wicked but the sinful hearts of men found the commands of God a good excuse to chafe at regulations as seek to sin more.

2. There is a tendency on the part of men who have fallen from Godís grace to have a tendency to desire sin even more when it is forbidden. This is what Paul meant by the last point. Without the commandments of the Law there is no sin. So, for example, there would be no guilt on the part of man not to offer sacrifice (and a consequent temptation to rebel against Godís Law) if that Law did not exist. We have no guilt about not burning incense, because there is no law commanding the burning of such under the new covenant..

C. "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10- And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death."
1. This is likely referring to a time when, in his early childhood, Paul had no understanding of sin and its relationship to the Law of Moses. But when he reached an age where he began to understand the Law he committed sin and died spiritually.

2. The faithful Jew would have thought that the Law would bring life or freedom, but experience taught them that it only brought spiritual death because it condemned without hope of justification.

D. "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me."
1. Sin is personified here as a person. One could just as easily use the name of Satan here. The commandments of the Law of Moses gave the Devil the opportunity to deceive men into transgressing more or Godís Law. One needs only look to what happened to Eve to see what the Devil did. See 2 Corinthians 11:3 and Genesis 3.
E. "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good."
1. Paul is drawing a logical conclusion to the argument that began in verse seven.

2. The Law was pure and holy. It did not cause sin. Sin, as personified by one person, the Devil, caused people to become exceedingly sinful.
 
 

Verse 13- "Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful
A. "Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not!
1. Paul again pauses to answer another objection, or rather, a quibble. Someone would probably ask, "If the Law is so good like you say Paul, why did it cause me to die (spiritually).

2. Again, Paul strongly objects to their objection. "Certainly not" or as the KJV says, "God forbid."

B. "But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good"
1. The real reason for any grief in the heart of man was sin. 
C. "so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful"
1. What the Law did was take sin and amplify it and make it look worse to mankind.

2. It showed up as even worse to sinners because it showed the attitude of God toward sin and sinners.

3. Also, even though the Law of God was good, because of itís nature, tended to make sinners feel their hopelessness.

There is some difference of opinion as to how to interpret the remaining verse in this section. The difference is roughly split between those who believe that Paul is talking about his condition before he came to Christ and those who believe that Paul is talking about a common condition of all Christians. If Paul is talking about the former he is saying that the Law created a desire in him to do write but, because there was no mechanism for cleansing of sins, there was a constant struggle in him because of his sins. If Paul is talking about the latter he would be referring to the Christianís struggle with sin daily. In keeping with the entire chapter context I am convinced that Paul is referring to his condition before he became a Christian and when he was subject to the Law of Moses.

VERSES 14-17 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15- For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16- If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17- "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

A. "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin."
1. It is true that Paul uses the present tense but it seems unlikely that he is referring to his condition while being a Christian. If Paul was referring to the Christian life, how can this possibly square with Paulís statement in chapter 8:1-2?

2. The Law of Moses was a spiritual in that, although there were fleshy rules and regulations, it came from the Lord.

3. Paul had been sold under sin. That is, when he reached an age where he knew the law and sin, he chose to sin and became a slave of sin. See John 8:34.

B. "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."
1. Perhaps the RSV is best here when it translates the first part of the verse as, "I do not understand my own actions."

2. Paul felt the helplessness of the faithful Jew under the Law of Moses who sincerely sought to obey God but fell short. 

3. Paul is saying that he had the will to obey the Law, but did not always have the strength to always obey it. This is the sentiment that Jesus expressed concerning the apostles in Matthew 26:41.

4. Paul is not saying, as the Calvinist contend, that fallen man is devoid of even the desire to do good.

C. "If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good."
1. In this passage Paul is saying that if he admits that he falls below the standards of the Law he thus admits to the rightness of the standard. Just because mankind does not live in perfect harmony with Godís standard does not mean that the standard is bad.

2. Paul nowhere said that the Lawís strict moral codes were evil. On the contrary, coming from God, they were excellent and, to the extent that mankind was able to live up to their percepts, they created a better way of life for man.

D. "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."
1. Paul is saying that sin so dominated him that it became "responsible" for his not being able to conduct his life in perfect with the Law of Moses.

2. Paul is not suggesting that he bore no personal responsibility toward God for his action. He was merely illustrating the enslaving nature of sin. This is what Jesus suggests (John 8:34).

3. The phrase, "sin that dwells in me" suggests the controlling nature of sin outside of Christ.
 
 

VERSES 18-24 "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19- For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20- Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21- I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22- For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 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. 24- O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
A. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice."
1. Paul admits what most men have come to understand throughout history. They want to do what is right and good but the weakness of the flesh to temptation often causes them to give in to sin.

2. Paul wants to explain why "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," thus he uses "for."

3. It is true that the practice of sin can make us reprobate and unable to adequately follow the Law of God. This is the true significance of the phrase, "and were by nature children of wrath" in Ephesians 2:3. "By nature" in the Greek literally means "something learned because of a long practice of sin."

4. Paul reiterates that, even though he wants to do what is right, he often does not.

B. "Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." 
1. This is the same conclusion that Paul made in verse 17. Once again, Paul is NOT saying that men outside of Christ are not responsible to God. What he is saying is that because men choose to rebel against the Law of God they become enslaved to sin.
C. "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22- For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man."
1. Did Paul hate and despise the Law of Moses? Certainly not! His intellect understood that the Law came from God, it had precepts which were for the general benefit and happiness of mankind, and were morally and spiritually superior to any law of man.

2. Most men possess what we might call their "better nature." It is that part of them which understands and sympathizes with right and good and understands that, even though they might not always do it, Godís way is best for their lives.

D. "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."
1. Paul saw a part of him which was tempted by sin and enjoyed the practice of sin. There is that part of man, which because of continued practice, delights in sinful conduct.

2. Even though that, "better nature" desires to do right, because we have become the slaves of sin, we tend to be enslaved by the nature and consequences of sin.

E. "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
1. Without a true means of forgiveness there can be not deliverance from the enslavement of sin. 

2. This comes back to one of the real purposes of the Law of Moses. It was to show the awfulness of sin. Without a mechanism of forgiveness and deliverance, it showed the awfulness of sin without the possibility of freedom from its consequences. This led Paul to declare that he was in a hopeless situation.
 
 

Verse 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."
A. "I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
1. This is really the conclusion to the whole matter. Jesus Christ delivered him from this hopeless situation! He now has forgiveness, through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7) and true freedom (John 8:36).

2. Paul cannot be referring to his present state. If he were he would be saying that it is possible for men to truly accept the pardon found in Christ and still be enslaved. While it does seem to be the case that men can still struggle with sin, even as Christian, it is not the case that we must remain the slaves of sin.

B. "So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
1. After briefly digressing to expression the joy that Paul has in Christ, he goes back to the condition of men who have been enslaved by sin. It is entirely proper to say that this is a continuing link from chapter 7 with chapter 8.
2. There is that "war of the minds" which causes man to want to do what is right, but because of the enslavement of sin, cannot keep the Law perfectly.

 

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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