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Romans Seven

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Romans 7:1 Know 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?

Romans 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.

Romans 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.

Romans 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.

dead to the law. Note that the law has not died; rather, we have died to the law. As a woman could marry a new husband only after her first husband had died, so we have been married, as it were, to our great Bridegroom after the law died or—what amounts to the same thing—we died to the law.

Romans 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.

motions. “Motions” is an Old English term for “impulses,” which is the meaning of the Greek text. Paul is saying that the law itself, by its very prohibitions, generates sinful impulses, which lead to breaking the law.

Romans 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.

the letter. Here “the letter” is synonymous with “the law.” In Christ we can serve the Lord, even keeping the law—not because of the law's bondage, but because of the Spirit's freedom (Romans 6:18).

Romans 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.

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

concupiscense. That is, “strong sexual appetite.”

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

I died. The passage from Romans 7:7 through the end of the chapter describes the internal conflict in Paul (as in believers generally) between the old and new natures. Romans 7:22, for example (“I delight in the law of God after the inward man”), could not be the sincere testimony of an unsaved man, but it does reflect the attitude of a true Christian who loves God's law (e.g., Psalm 119:7) but struggles with its temptations because of his still-active old sin-nature.

Romans 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

Romans 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

law is holy. God's law is perfect (Psalm 19:7) and believers should honor it as representing perfectly the holiness and justice of God. But as sinners condemned by the law, our need is not justice but grace and mercy.

Romans 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.

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

Romans 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.

I do. Note the excessive use of the first person pronoun in this passage—no less than thirty-five times in Romans 7:15-24. The old nature, with which Paul was struggling, and with which every believer must struggle, is self-centered instead of Christ-centered. As long as the measure of things is “I-me-mine,” instead of the will of God, then Paul's cry must soon be ours—“O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).

Romans 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

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

Romans 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.

no good thing. Paul, before his conversion, could boast that he was, as “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6). But then he came to see that all his “righteousnesses [were] as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), and accepted “eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:23). If such a man as Paul would have to confess that in his flesh there was nothing good at all, then surely every Christian must say the same.

Romans 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

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

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

inward man. The “inward man” is evidently here the same as the “new man,” for the “old man” (Romans 6:6) could never “delight in the law of God.”

Romans 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.

law of sin. The “law of sin,” which is in our members, is the sin-nature inherited from Adam. It is the spiritual aspect of the universal law of entropy which governs the physical creation ever since God's curse on the ground because of Adam's sin.

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

who shall deliver me. The question, as rightly phrased by Paul, is not what or how, but who. Only the perfect Son of man can deliver a son of Adam from “the body of this death.” The only solution and victor in the struggle between the old and new natures in the believer is “Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

Romans 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.

the law of God. The final verse of this stressful soliloquy of the apostle makes it certain that he is not referring to a spiritual struggle before his conversion, but rather to the conflict between the old and new natures after his conversion.