Romans 7 - Outline of Romans (MENU page)
Ch. 7-8 continue the discussion of 'Righteousness Imparted' (ie., Sanctification)-
  1. Positional Sanctification (was explained in Rom 6:1-14, as an expansion of 5:12-21)-
    Identification with Christ makes personal holiness possible. In Christ, the believer died to sin and was made alive to God. The believer is to count on this and yield himself to God. Whereas, in Adam, all men are under the reign of sin (through the inherited sinful nature), in Christ that reign has been broken, the believer has entered a new kind of life with Christ, and there is no need to continue in the realm of sin.
  2. Practical Sanctification (6:15-23)-
    Obedience to God is possible for those who are in Christ. Whereas, in Adam, we were servants of the sinful nature, producing fruit (acts of sin) according to its bidding, now, in Christ, the believer is free to obey his new Master (the righteous nature of Christ), in a life of righteousness that produces the fruit (acts characteristic) of holiness.
  3. Powerless Sanctification (ch. 7) - The believer finds himself willing, but unable, to obey his new Master, Righteousness.
    1. Shackles of a Saved Soul - The Law cannot produce Holy living. (7:1-14)
      The holy Law condemns my sinful condition.
    2. Struggle of a Saved Soul - The New Nature cannot produce Holy living. (7:15-25)
      Although my new nature is free to serve God, it has no power within itself, and it is locked in conflict with my old nature.
  4. Powerful Sanctification (ch. 8) - The work of the Holy Spirit.
    [Major points of the outline above were adapted from JVMcGee]
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?
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.
{cp. Mark 10:6-12; 1Cor 7:39}
7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by
{through} the body of Christ;
that ye should be married to another
{GK=heteros, another of a different quality},
[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
{GK=pathema, passions} 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
{ie., the Law}.
Know ye not... that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?-
Paul had asserted (in 6:14) that we are no longer under the Law. Now he explains why, with an illustration, based on marital law. Be careful not to confuse the parts of the analogy.
The key to understanding this analogy is in v.4.--
  1. Wherefore... ye also are become dead to the Law...-
    Notice that it was not the Law that died. Rather, 'you are become dead to the Law.'
    Upon the death of a spouse, the Law is no longer binding on the survivor. However, the Law remains valid and in effect in every case where it is applicable.
  2. ye also are become dead to the Law... that ye should be married to another...-
    Notice also that the wife had to 'become dead' in order to marry again.
    • From this we see that the focus of the analogy is not so much upon the death of the first husband, as upon the legal death of the wife to her first husband.
    • The basis of marital law is Gen 2:24 (cp. Mark 10:8):
      '' 'And they shall be one flesh.' And, therefore, when the husband dies the wife dies too; and the law, that binds her while life lasts, binds her no longer, for she is dead. The wife is dead; the woman remains.'' [Stifler, italics added]
  3. ye also are become dead to the Law... by the body of Christ...-
    What was it that was 'crucified with Christ'? It was our 'old man.' (Rom 6:6)
    Therefore, the 'first husband' represents the believer's old nature. This is also shown by--
    • the Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives'. v.1
      The Law did not die, but the Law has no jurisdiction over a dead man.
    • In v.1, the word 'man' is GK=anthropos. The word translated 'husband' in v.2,3 is GK=aner, which is usually trans. 'man.' Try reading these verses while substituting 'man' for each occurrence of 'husband.' (Keep in mind the two headships: in Adam, or, in Christ.)
      Note that, in v.3, this word for man (or husband) is also used twice in reference to Christ. However, in each case, He is identified as 'another man.' The same word for 'another' is also used of Christ in v.4 (GK=heteros, another of a different kind or quality). The 'old man' died so that we could be joined to 'another' (ie., to someone whose nature is not at all like that of Adam).
that ye should be married {ie., joined} to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead...- cp. 6:8
Christ fulfilled the role of both husbands, in our behalf --
  1. In the flesh, under the Law, we are dead to the 'old man' through 'the body of Christ.' v.4; cp. Gal 4:4,5
  2. In newness of spirit, we are united with 'Him who is raised from the dead.' v.4; cp. 2Cor 5:14-16
    The union between Christ and believers is a vital love relationship (not a cold theoretical concept). This relationship is illustrated by human marriage. In the marriage of Adam & Eve: her life was derived from his, she was meant to be 'an help meet {ie., suitable} for him,' and the two became one (Gen 2:18-24).
         Where could one find a Bride suitable for God's Son? Among all the creatures of earth, and of Adam's descendants, there is not found an help meet for Him. His Bride must be cut off (by death) from all that is other than He (2Cor 11:2), and made alive in His life (Gal 2:20), so that she would be 'spirit of My Spirit, and life of My Life' (cp. Eph 5:30), and truly one with Him in His passions & purposes (Col 1:9-12).
that we should bring forth fruit unto God...- cp. Rom 6:22; Joh 15:5,8
for when we were in the flesh, the motions {GK=pathema, lit., passions} of sins, which were by the law... brought forth fruit...-
My union with the flesh (the Adamic 'old nature') brought forth nothing that pleased God.
Under the Law, the flesh produced only condemnation and death. Rom 6:20,21
(This thought will be expanded in v.7-12.)
But now we are delivered {GK=katargeo, discharged} from the Law... (v.6)
  • ...that being dead {lit., having died to that} in which we were held...-
    (This explains the means of our deliverance.) The thing that held us under the Law's dominion & condemnation was the sinfulness of our old nature. But since 'our old man was crucified' with Christ, we are 'loosed {GK=katargeo, discharged} from the Law' (v.2), our sin nature having been rendered inactive {GK=katargeo, trans. 'destroyed', in Rom 6:6}. The Law which was intended to govern man's sinful nature, no longer has jurisdiction over me, because my 'old man' died with Christ on the cross. (Paul's use of the same GK word highlights his intended connection between these verses.)
  • ...that we should serve in newness {new in form or quality} of spirit...-
    (This explains the purpose of our deliverance.) Our service is no longer to be motivated by the compulsion of the Law, but by love for Christ and for that which He loves. 2Cor 5:14-17; Joh 14:21-23; 21:15-17
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
{GK=epithumia, lust, desire},
except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet
{GK=epithumeo, desire (verb form); cp. Ex 20:17}.
7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment,
wrought in me all manner
{ie., every kind} of concupiscence {GK=epithumia, desire}.
For without
{ie., apart from} 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.
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin?-
ie., Was the failure of my relationship to the Law, due to the fault of the Law?
(or) If I have become dead to sin & the Law, are the Law & sin equivalent?
No! I had not known {understood} sin but {ie., except} by the Law...-
(Note the first person pronoun. Paul writes from his personal experience in v.7-25.)
The Law is good, since it reveals my 'wrong' against its standard of 'right.' cp. Eph 5:13; Rom 5:20
I had not known 'desire,' except the Law had said, Thou shalt not 'desire.'-
Paul uses the tenth of the Ten Commandments to illustrate his point. Ex 20:17
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment wrought in me every kind of 'desire'...-
ie., ''But the moment that command came, the sin in my heart took the command as an occasion to stir up within me every kind of desire. I thought of a thousand things which I wanted, and I longed for them now that they were forbidden.'' [Stifler]
- - The Law elicits the illicit within me, because my rebellious heart rises up against God's standard of righteousness, and against God's dominion over me.
for I was alive without {ie., separate from} the Law once... but when the commandment came...-
When was Paul (a devout Jew) without the Law? Perhaps he means--
  1. as a child, before the age of accountability.(?)
    (Although suggested by some, this meaning is unlikely, since Paul does not develop this thought in any of his writings.)
  2. as a pharisee, while he considered himself to be righteous and a keeper of the Law.
    During that time, he considered himself 'alive' in his zealous service toward God. Php 3:6; Act 23:1 But that was before he comprehended the corruption of his heart which the Law revealed.
    Upon meeting the Lord, suddenly he fell under the searing gaze of God's righteousness, and knew the condemnation of the Law. After he 'saw the light' on the road to Damascus, Paul was driven to prayer & repentance of sin. Acts 9:1-18; 22:16; Rom 3:19,20; Php 3:4-9
  3. as a new believer, having obtained a righteousness from God apart from the Law, by faith in Christ (Rom 3:21-28).
    He had been declared righteous, with the righteousness of Christ imputed to his account (Rom 4:22-25), and he had become dead to sin and alive toward God, through Christ's death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-4). Yet, the Law continued to reveal the presence of his sinful nature.
    - - The Law, like a mirror, reveals my blemishes, but is powerless to remove them.
    - - The Law's ministry is the condemnation of sin.
and the commandment which was ordained to life...- (Lev 18:5)
I found to be unto death...- (Gal 3:10,21)
for sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.-
Just as Satan twisted God's words to convince Eve:
  1. that God meant to withhold a worthy desire from her,
  2. that she could elevate herself to be like God (Gen 3:1-6)...
So, my sin nature, twists God's Law, to convince me:
  1. that God's commandments are an unjust restriction upon my selfish desires (v.8; Jam 1:14,15),
  2. that I myself am capable of fulfilling all righteousness (Rom 10:3).
But when the true impact of the Law dawned upon my heart, I discovered myself to be a rebellious sinner, and justly under the sentence of death.
Wherefore, the Law is holy...(v.12)- This answers the question of v.7.
and the commandment is...-
  1. holy- The Law being 'separated unto' God, and 'apart from sin,' discloses sin.
  2. just {ie., right, righteous}- The Law, God's standard of 'righteousness,' condemns sin.
  3. good- The Law is 'beneficent,' since it was meant to lead to life. Gal 3:21-25
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
{ie., beyond measure} sinful.
7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Although the Law was meant for good (v.12), has it not become the source of death in my case?-
No! The source of death is sin.
Sin is seen in its awfulness, by its deflection of the Law from God's intended good purpose, into an instrument of death. cp. Rom 3:20; 5:20
The Law is spiritual...-
The Law is God's Word. It was communicated by His Spirit.
It speaks to fallen man on a level that is not natural for him. cp. 1Cor 2:14; Heb 4:12
but I am carnal {GK=sarkikos, fleshly}...-
'Carnal' refers to the Adamic mindset and nature (which is ruled by the 'sin principle,' 5:19,20).
This term can refer to both-
  • the 'natural' man (ie., the person who is 'in Adam,' but outside of Christ).
  • the 'carnal' believer (the person who is 'in Christ,' but who is living according to the old nature).
    In contrast, the 'spiritual' believer lives according to God's Spirit (1Cor 3:1,3; Gal 6:1). Romans ch. 8 will develop what it means to be a spiritual believer.
...sold {ie., entirely under the control of the master to whom one is sold as a slave} under sin.-
- - Since Paul is writing from his own experience (in the first person), are we to understand these words as his experience prior to faith in Christ, or subsequent to his faith in Christ?
- - Since Paul has previously proclaimed that a believer is no longer in bondage to sin (cp. Rom 6:1,2,17,18; 7:5,6), could this possibly describe the state of a believer?
It can be said with certainty that slavery to sin does not describe the normal Christian experience.
Paul's words must be understood in the context of this section (ch. 6 - 8) about Sanctification.-
- - the believer, who has been justified (declared righteous) before God, is to become righteous (6:4).
- - the believer, who is identified with Christ, is to bear holy fruit unto God (6:22).
But how does holiness become a reality in our lives? Paul's points in ch. 7 can be summarized as:
Having been set free from sin to serve righteousness... (6:18,22)--
  • Shall we govern our lives by the Law? (7:1-6)
    No. The Law restricts those who are in Adam, ruled by the principle of sin.
    Now that we are in Christ, He is our head.
    We bear holy fruit through union with Him (7:4).
  • Was there something wrong with the Law? (7:7-14)
    No. My sinful nature refused to be governed by the Law.
  • In fact, my sinful nature continues to refuse to obey God. (7:15-25)
    Therefore, it is impossible to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh.
    - - This last point is demonstrated by the struggle within the believer between his new nature (the spiritual man) and his old nature (the carnal man). [The two natures are differentiated by color in the following text.]
7:15 For that which I do I allow {ie., understand} not:
for what I would
{ie., desire to do}, 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
{GK=sumphemi, speak in agreement with} the law that [it is] good.
7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
ie., I do not understand this inner conflict, and cannot overcome it.
Though I now desire to obey God's Law (in my new nature), I cannot fulfill it, because of...
the sin that dwells in me- (ie., the 'sin principle' or the 'sin nature,' that remains resident in me).
This struggle is not the experience of the normal Christian life. cp. 2Pet 1:8,9
This is the experience of the believer who has not yet discovered the power of the Gospel.
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.
Paul draws two lessons from his inner struggle--
  1. there is 'no good' in me (ie., in the old nature). cp. Joh 3:6; Rom 8:7,8
  2. there is no power in me (ie., in the new nature).
    The new nature desires only to please God (1Joh 3:9), but it lacks the strength to do so.
    ''...to will is present with me, but how to perform I find not...''
    The best the new nature can do is to be willing. cp. Mat 26:41
7:21 I find then a law {ie., a constant principle}, 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.
the word 'law' is used in several ways here...
  1. the Law of God- ie., the Mosaic Law, the Will of God.
  2. the law in my members... the law of sin...- ie., the principle that rules the sin nature.
  3. the law of my mind- ie., the principle of agreement with God that rules the new nature.
  4. I find then, a law that...- ie., a principle deduced by my experience of continual failure:
    ''...when I would do good, evil is present with me... bringing me into captivity to the law of sin...''
    For all of his struggling, the believer finds himself entirely 'sold under sin' as its slave. v.14
O wretched {ie., distressed, miserable} man that I am... - (cp. 'wretched' in Rev 3:17)
cp. Psa 6:6; Mat 5:4,6
...who shall deliver me from the body of this death? -
The believer is powerless to break the bondage that holds him slave to the sin nature.
I thank God [who has provided deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord...-
Christ has delivered us. (v.6; Rom 6:6)
The believer need not dwell in the state of defeat and despair, described here.
In ch. 8, we will move from defeat in the body of death, into victory in the Spirit of life.
So, then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [I serve] the law of sin.-
This is not a statement of an acceptable state for the believer.
Rather, (as indicated by the words 'so then...') it is a summary of v.15-24.
This is the state of the believer who attempts to live a holy life in the power of 'I myself.' cp. Joh 15:5

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