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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 7 - Verse 1
ROMANS Chapter 7
Few chapters in the Bible have been the subject of more decidedly different interpretations than this. And after all that has been written on it by the learned, it is still made a matter of discussion, whether the apostle has reference, in the main scope of the chapter, to his own experience before he became a Christian, or to the conflicts in the mind of a man who is renewed. Which of these opinions is the correct one I shall endeavour to state in the Notes on the particular verses in the chapter. The main design of the chapter is not very difficult to understand. It is evidently to show the insufficiency of the law to produce peace of mind to a troubled sinner. In the previous chapters he had shown that it was incapable of producing justification, chapters 1-3, he had shown the way in which men were justified by faith, Ro 3:21-31; 4:1-25. He had shown how that plan produced peace, and met the evils introduced by the fall of Adam, Ro 5. He had showed that Christians were freed from the law as a matter of obligation, and yet that this freedom did not lead to a licentious life, Ro 6. And he now proceeds still further to illustrate the tendency of the law on a man both in a state of nature and of grace; to show that its uniform effect in the present condition of man, whether impenitent and under conviction, or in a state of grace under the gospel, so far from promoting peace, as the Jew maintained, was to excite the mind to conflict, and anxiety, and distress. Nearly all the peculiar opinions of the Jews the apostle had overthrown in the previous argument. He here gives the finishing stroke, and shows that the tendency of the law, as a practical matter, was everywhere the same. It was not, in fact, to produce peace, but agitation, conflict, distress. Yet this was not the fault of the law, which was in itself good, but of sin, Ro 7:6-24. I regard this chapter as not referring exclusively to Paul in a state of nature, or of grace. The discussion is conducted without particular reference to that point. It is rather designed to group together the actions of a man's life, whether in a state of conviction for sin or in a state of grace, and to show that the effect of the law is everywhere substantially the same. It equally fails everywhere in producing peace and sanctification. The argument of the Jew respecting the efficacy of the law; and its sufficiency for the condition of man, is thus overthrown by a succession of proofs relating to justification, to pardon, to peace, to the evils of sin, and to the agitated and conflicting moral elements in man's bosom. The effect is everywhere the same. The deficiency is apparent in regard to ALL, the great interests of man. And having shown this, the apostle and the reader are prepared for the language of triumph and gratitude, that deliverance from all these evils is to be traced to the gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord, Ro 7:25
Verse 1. Know ye not. This is an appeal to their own observation respecting the relation between husband and wife. The illustration (Ro 8:2,3) is designed simply to show, that as when a man dies, and the connexion between him and his wife is dissolved, his law ceases to be binding on her; so also a separation has taken place between Christians and the law, in which they have become dead to it; and they are not now to attempt to draw their life and peace from it, but from that new source with which they are connected by the gospel, Ro 8:4.
For I speak to them, etc. Probably the apostle refers here more particularly to the Jewish members of the Roman church, who were qualified particularly to understand the nature of the law, and to appreciate the argument. That there were many Jews fix the church at Rome has been shown, (see Introduction) but the illustration has no exclusive reference to them. The law to which he appeals is sufficiently general to make the illustration intelligible to all men.
That the law. The immediate reference here is probably to the Mosaic law. But what is here affirmed is equally true of all laws.
Hath dominion. Greek, Rules; exercises lordship. The law is here personified, and represented as setting up a lordship over a man, and exacting obedience.
Over a man. Over the man who is under it.
As long as he liveth. The Greek here may mean either as HE liveth," or "as it liveth," that is, the law. But our translation has evidently expressed the sense. The sense is, that death releases a man from the laws by which he was bound in life. It is a general principle, relating to the laws of the land, the law of a parent, the law of a contract, etc. This general principle the apostle proceeds to apply in regard to the law of God.
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