Romans 7 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Romans 7)
7:1 Know 1 ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

(1) By expounding the similitude of marriage, he compares together the state of man both before and after regeneration. The law of matrimony, he says, is this, that as long as the husband lives, the marriage remains binding, but if he is dead, the woman may marry again.

7:3 So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be a 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.

(a) That is, she will be an adulteress, by the consent and judgment of all men.

7:4 2 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the b body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth c fruit unto d God.

(2) An application of the similitude of marriage. "So", he says, "it is the same with us: for now we are joined to the Spirit, as it were to the second husband, by whom we must bring forth new children: we are dead with regard to the first husband, but with regard to the latter, we are as it were raised from the dead."
(b) That is, in the body of Christ, to show us how intimate and near the fellowship is between Christ and his members.
(c) He calls the children, which the wife has by her husband, fruit.
(d) Which are acceptable to God.

7:5 3 For when we e were in the flesh, the f motions of sins, which were by the g law, did h work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

(3) A declaration of the former saying: for he says that the fleshly desires which the law stirred up in us were in us as if they were a husband, from whom we brought forth very deadly and cursed children: but now that husband is dead, and so consequently, being delivered from the force of that killing law, we have passed into the control of the Spirit, so that we bring forth now, not those rotten and dead children, but rather living children.
(e) When we were in the state of the first marriage, which he calls in the following verse the oldness of the letter.
(f) The motions that urged us to sin, which show their force even in our minds.
(g) He does not say "of the law" but "by the law", because they spring from sin which dwells within us, and take occasion to work in us in this way, by reason of the restraint that the law makes, not that the fault is in the law, but in ourselves. h Worked by their strength.

7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that i being dead k wherein we were l held; that we should serve in m newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the n letter.

(i) As if he said, "The bond which bound us is dead, and has disappeared, in as much that the sin which held us does not have anything to hold us with now."
(k) For this husband is within us.
(l) Satan is an unjust possessor, for he deceitfully brought us into bondage to sin and himself: and yet nonetheless, as long as we are sinners, we sin willingly.
(m) As is appropriate for those who, after the death of their old husband, are joined to the Spirit, the ones whom the Spirit of God has made new men.
(n) By the letter he means the law, with respect to that old condition: for before our will is shaped by the Holy Spirit, the law speaks but to deaf men, and therefore it is dumb and dead to us, with regard to the fulfilling of it.

7:7 4 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 o lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

(4) An objection: What then? Are the law and sin the same thing, and do they agree together? No, he says: sin is reproved and condemned by the law. But because sin cannot abide to be reproved, and was not in a manner felt until it was provoked and stirred up by the law, it takes occasion by this to be more outrageous, and yet by no fault of the law.
(o) By the word "lust" in this place he does not mean evil lusts themselves, but the fountain from which they come, for the heathen philosophers themselves condemned wicked lusts, though somewhat poorly. But as for the fountain of lust, they could not so much as determine it, and yet it is the very seat of the natural and unclean spot and filth.

7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin [was] p dead.

(p) Though sin is in us, yet it is not known as sin, neither does it rage in the same way that it rages after the law is known.

7:9 5 For I was alive without the q law once: but when the commandment r came, sin revived, and I s died.

(5) He sets himself before us as an example, in whom all men may behold, first what they are by nature before they earnestly think upon the law of God: that is, stupid, and prone to sin and wickedness, without any true sense and feeling of sin, and second what manner of persons they become, when their conscience is reproved by the testimony of the Law, that is, stubborn and more inflamed with the desire for sin than they ever were before.
(q) When I did not know the law, then I thought that I indeed lived: for my conscience never troubled me, because it was not aware of my disease.
(r) When I began to understand the commandment.
(s) In sin, or by sin.

7:12 6 Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the t commandment holy, and just, and good.

(6) The conclusion: that the law is holy in itself, and that all the fault is in us, the ones who abuse the law.
(t) Concerning the commandment, not to covet.

7:13 7 Was then that which is good u made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might x appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might y become exceeding sinful.

(7) The proposition: that the law is not the cause of death, but our corrupt nature being with the law not only discouraged, but also stirred up: and it took occasion by this to rebel, and the more that things are forbidden it, the more it desires them, and the result of this is guiltiness, and occasion of death.
(u) Does it bear the blame for my death?
(x) That sin might show itself to be sin, and betray itself to be that which it is indeed.
(y) As evil as it could be, showing all the venom it could.

7:14 8 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

(8) The law is the cause of this matter because the it requires a heavenly purity, but when men are born, they are bondslaves of corruption, which they willingly serve.

7:15 9 For that which I do I 10 allow not: for what I 11 would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

(9) He sets himself before us as an example, since he has been regenerated, and in whom may easily appear the strife of the Spirit and the flesh, and therefore of the law of God, and our wickedness. For since the law in a man who has not been regenerated brings forth only death, therefore in him it may easily be accused: but seeing that in a man who is regenerated it brings forth good fruit, it better appears that evil actions proceed not from the law but from sin, that is, from our corrupt nature: and therefore the apostle teaches also what the true use of the law is by reproving sin in the regenerated, unto the end of the chapter: as a little before (that is, from the seventh verse until now) (Romans 7:7-15), he declared the use of it in those who are not regenerated.
(10) The deeds of my life, he says, are not in accordance to my will, rather they are contrary to it. Therefore by the consent of my will with the law, and repugnancy with the deeds of my life, it plainly appears that the law and a properly controlled will induce us to do one thing, but corruption, which also has its seat in the regenerated, another thing.
(11) It is to be noted that the very same man is said to will and not to will, in different respects: that is, he is said to will in that he is regenerated by grace: and not to will in that he is not regenerated, or in that he is in the same state into which he was born. But because the part which is regenerated at length becomes conqueror, therefore Paul, speaking on behalf of the regenerated, speaks in such a way as if the corruption which willingly sins were something outside of a man: although afterward he grants that this evil is in his flesh, or in his members.

7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but z sin that dwelleth in me.

(z) That natural corruption, which adheres strongly even to those that are regenerated, and is not completely gone.

7:18 12 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but a [how] to perform that which is good I find not.

(12) This vice, or sin, or law of sin, wholly possesses those men who are not regenerated, and hinders them or holds those back who are regenerated.
(a) This indeed is appropriate to the man whom the grace of God has made a new man: for where the Spirit is not, how can there be any strife there?

7:21 13 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

(13) The conclusion: as the law of God exhorts to goodness, so does the law of sin (that is, the corruption in which we are born) force us to wickedness: but the spirit, that is, our mind, in that it is regenerated, coexists with the law of God: but the flesh, that is, the whole natural man, is bondslave to the law of sin. Therefore, in short, wickedness and death are not of the law, but of sin, which reigns in those that are not regenerated: for they neither wish to do good, neither do they do good, but they wish and do evil: but in those that are regenerated, it strives against the spirit or law of the mind, so that they cannot live at all as well as they want to, or be as free of sin as they want to.

7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the b inward man:

(b) The inner man and the new man are the same, and are compared and contrasted with the old man; and neither do these words "inward man" signify man's mind and reason, and the "old man" the physical body that is subject to them, as the philosophers imagine: but by the outward man is meant whatever is either without or within a man from top to bottom, as long as that man is not born again by the grace of God.

7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my c mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

(c) The law of the mind in this place is not to be understood as referring to the mind as it is naturally, and as our mind is from our birth, but of the mind which is renewed by the Spirit of God.

7:24 14 O d wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

(14) It is a miserable thing to be yet in part subject to sin, which of its own nature makes us guilty of death: but we must cry to the Lord, who will by death itself at length make us conquerors, as we are already conquerors in Christ.
(d) Wearied with miserable and continual conflicts.

7:25 I e thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I f myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

(e) He recovers himself, and shows us that he rests only in Christ.
(f) This is the true perfection of those that are born again, to confess that they are imperfect.