The Law and Sin
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”
Rom 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;
Rom 7:10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;
Rom 7:11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Rom 7:12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Rom 7:13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
Rom 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
Rom 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
Rom 7:16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
Rom 7:17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Rom 7:20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Rom 7:21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
Rom 7:22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
Rom 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Rom 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
v7 – Paul is clearly saying here that the Law is not sin. And it is not. The Law is not sin, but it does excite our sinful nature which is of the flesh. He then stated that he would not have known sin if there was no law. As an example, he uses the tenth commandment, “You shall not Covet.” He would never have known about coveting if the Law never stated you shall not covet. We, during our unsaved days, did not like to follow laws. When we heard we were not allowed to do something, we suddenly wanted to do it. As a child I felt that way, but I feared my parents, and rarely did I participate, however, when I did, I did all I could to make sure they never found out.
v8 – If it be asked in what way the Law led to this, we may reply that the main idea here is that opposition to the desires and passions of wicked men only tends to make desires stronger. This is the case regarding sin in every form. An attempt to hold back from doing something we want to by denouncing it by laws and penalties tends to make us more desirable of it which otherwise would have been dormant in us if we had not known of it.
v9-11 – This is opposed to what he immediately adds respecting another state, When he had died. It is as though he had a particular peace; he thought himself secure, free from his conscience. It appears he esteemed himself righteous based on his works, esteeming himself to be blameless. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Philippians 3:1-7. He then says that which was to result in life, actually produced death.
v12 – He then sums up this section by declaring the Law and the commandments are indeed holy and righteous. It brought to our attention what was wrong.
v13 – Sin is the cause of death. Not the Law. It is not the fact that the act was called sin by the Law, it was the fact that knowing it was wrong, we were tempted and succumbed to the temptation which was the cause of our death. Because the command was given and what was aroused in our mind and will, sin was completely developed. It was no longer dormant in us, but it was exposed. The idea is that these dormant sins are brought to the surface to reveal our true nature. Man should be acquainted with his true nature and not allow himself to be deceived. It is part of God’s plan to develop these secret things in us to show us who we really are. Because only by knowing this will the sinner be induced to apply the remedy and strive to be saved.
v14-15 – This does not mean that the Law is designed to control the spirit, on the contrary, it is a declaration that the evils we do are not caused by the Law, for the Law itself is good and meant for our good. It is man’s issue. The flesh is often described as the source of evil passions; the spirit as the source of purity due to the Holy Spirit. Paul then says he does not understand his actions. What he desires to do, what he approves of he does not do. However, that which I do not want to do; that which he disagrees with he does. I believe we all do this. Our new nature does not want to sin, but we do by giving into our flesh, allowing our desires to be fulfilled. Our desire in our minds and spirit is to serve God, and not to sin. The strength of natural passions may in unguarded moments overcome. For instance, a man who was an infidel before his conversion, and whose mind was filled with unbelief and blasphemy, will find the effect of his former habits of thinking that are lingering in the mind. The very passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Galatians 5:17.
v16 – Summing up this thought, when we do those things we hate, we are agreeing with the law, thus confessing the Law to be good. Not for saving us, but for declaring that we hate what the Law says is bad.
v17-20 – This is obviously figurative language, for it is actually the man that sins when evil is committed. However, the apostle is making the distinction between sin and what he intends by the pronoun “I”. By the former he evidently means his corrupt nature. By the latter he refers to his renewed nature, his Christian principles. He does not approve or love it in his present state, but that it is the result of his native propensities. Every Christian can say that he does not choose to do evil but wishes to be perfect, but is lead astray by his corrupt passions. Dwelling in us is a strong expression denoting that sin had taken up its habitation in the mind. It has not been fully dislodged. This is the idea expressed by the phrase, “indwelling sin”.
v21 – And because of all that he wrote before, especially chapter 7, he finds the principle that when I want to do good, evil is present in me. John Wesley put it this way, ” I find then a law – An inward constraining power, flowing from the dictate of corrupt nature.”
v22-23 – The word translated delight (in the NASB ‘joyfully concur’) occurs no where else in the New Testament. It has the basic meaning ‘rejoiced with anyone’. It denotes a sensible pleasure in the heart. These were his feelings toward the Law of God. Paul struggled with this dichotomy. He delighted in the Law of God and endeavored to follow it, however, there was another law in his flesh that was in constant war with the first. Francis Schaeffer puts it this way, “Through Christ we have become justified before God. His Word informs, calls, corrects and encourages us. Yet in our body, we are still a part of a fallen world. Legally, our problem of guilt before God has been resolved, but factually we are still waiting for the full redemption that will be ours only when Christ returns. Till then, our battle with sin continues. It is truly a ‘captivity’ to sin, and Paul longs for deliverance.”
v24 – This shows us that Paul did not see this battle with sin theoretical, but as a real conflict which he dealt with daily. And I believe we all see it the same way. Paul here cries out because this battle is agonizing to him. This is not the cry of someone who finally understood his lostness, but one from a living but tormented believer, weighed down under the weight of something not of himself, but which he longs to have removed from his renewed self. Also, this question is not stated as if there is no answer, but only to prepare the way for the only answer.
v25 – And this is his thankfulness for the grace and mercy of Jesus, the Son of God. Also, the last part of this verse is not saying we should stop warring against these sinful tendencies. On the contrary, we should continue because victory is ours though Jesus Christ. We may lose a battle here and there, we will win the war because His love and grace is sufficient.