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7. Struggling With Sin
1Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth? 2For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. 3So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man. 4Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God. 5For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. 7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet: 8but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting: for apart from the law sin is dead. 9And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; 10and the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death: 11for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me. 12So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. 13Did then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; --that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful. 14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do. 16But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. 18For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. 19For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practise. 20But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. 21I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present. 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? 25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
4. Through the body of Christ. Christ, by the glorious victory of the cross, first triumphed over sin; and that he might do this, it was necessary that the handwriting, by which we were held bound, should be cancelled. This handwriting was the law, which, while it continued in force, rendered us bound to serve 203203 “Obæratos“ — debtors bound to serve their creditors until payment is made. — Ed. sin; and hence it is called the power of sin. It was then by cancelling this handwriting that we were delivered through the body of Christ — through his body as fixed to the cross. 204204 That his crucified body is intended, is clear from what follows; for he is spoken of as having “been raised from the dead.” — Ed. But the Apostle goes farther, and says, that the bond of the law was destroyed; not that we may live according to our own will, like a widow, who lives as she pleases while single; but that we may be now bound to another husband; nay, that we may pass from hand to hand, as they say, that is, from the law to Christ. He at the same time softens the asperity of the expression, by saying that Christ, in order to join us to his own body, made us free from the yoke of the law. For though Christ subjected himself for a time of his own accord to the law, it is not yet right to say that the law ruled over him. Moreover, he conveys to his own members the liberty which he himself possesses. It is then no wonder that he exempts those from the yoke of the law, whom he unites by a sacred bond to himself, that they may be one body in him.
Even his who has been raised, etc. We have already said, that Christ is substituted for the law, lest any freedom should be pretended without him, or lest any, being not yet dead to the law, should dare to divorce himself from it. But he adopts here a periphrastic sentence to denote the eternity of that life which Christ attained by his resurrection, that Christians might know that this connection is to be perpetual. But of the spiritual marriage between Christ and his Church he speaks more fully in Ephesians 6
That we may bring forth fruit to God. He ever annexes the final cause, lest any should indulge the liberty of their flesh and their own lusts, under the pretense that Christ has delivered them from the bondage of the law; for he has offered us, together with himself, as a sacrifice to the Father, and he regenerates us for this end — that by newness of life we may bring forth fruit unto God: and we know that the fruits which our heavenly Father requires from us are those of holiness and righteousness. It is indeed no abatement to our liberty that we serve God; nay, if we desire to enjoy so great a benefit as there is in Christ, it will not henceforth be right in us to entertain any other thought but that of promoting the glory of God; for which purpose Christ has connected us with himself. We shall otherwise remain the bond-slaves, not only of the law, but also of sin and of death.
5. For when we were, etc. He shows still more clearly by stating the contrary effect, how unreasonably the zealots of the law acted, who would still detain the faithful under its dominion; for as long as the literal teaching of the law, unconnected with the Spirit of Christ, rules and bears sway, the wantonness of the flesh is not restrained, but, on the contrary, breaks out and prevails. It hence follows, that the kingdom of righteousness is not established, except when Christ emancipates us from the law. Paul at the same time reminds us of the works which it becomes us to do, when set free from the law. As long, then, as man is kept under the yoke of the law, he can, as he is sinning continually, procure nothing for himself but death. Since bondage to the law produces sin only, then freedom, its opposite, must tend to righteousness; if the former leads to death, then the latter leads to life. But let us consider the very words of Paul.
In describing our condition during the time we were subject to the dominion of the law, he says, that we were in the flesh. We hence understand, that all those who are under the law attain nothing else but this — that their ears are struck by its external sound without any fruit or effect, while they are inwardly destitute of the Spirit of God. They must therefore necessarily remain altogether sinful and perverse, until a better remedy succeeds to heal their diseases. Observe also this usual phrase of Scripture, to be in the flesh; it means to be endued only with the gifts of nature, without that peculiar grace with which God favors his chosen people. But if this state of life is altogether sinful, it is evident that no part of our soul is naturally sound, and that the power of free will is no other than the power of casting evil emotions as darts into all the faculties of the soul. 205205 To be “in the flesh” has two meanings, — to be unrenewed, and in our natural corrupt state, as Calvin says, see Romans 8:8, — and to be subject to external rites and ceremonies as the Jews were, see Galatians 3:3; Philippians 3:4. Its meaning here, according to Beza and Pareus, is the first; according to Grotius and Hammond, the second; and according to Turrettin and Hodge, both are included, as the context, in their view, evidently shows. — Ed.
The emotions of sins,
“Affectus peccatorum — affections of sins;” τα παθήματα, etc., — “cupiditates — desires,” or lusts, Grotius.. The
word is commonly taken passively, as signifying afflictions, sufferings; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; but here, and in Galatians 5:24, it evidently means excitements, commotions, emotions, lusts or lustings. “Passion” in our language admits of two similar meanings — suffering, and an excited feeling, or an inward commotion.
These “emotions” are said to be through the law, — “made known by the law,” says Chrysostom; but “occasioned by the law,” is more correct, as it appears from Romans 7:8, or, “made to abound by the law,” as in Romans 5:20. The law, instead of making men holy, made them, through the perversity of human nature, to sin the more. “Emotions of sins” is an Hebraism for “sinful emotions” — “The members” are those of the “old man,” and not those of the material body, though it is commonly thought that they are the latter, and mentioned, because they are employed as the instruments of sin: but there are many sins, and those of the worst kind, which are confined to the mind and heart. It is therefore more consistent to regard them as the members of “the body of sin,” Romans 6:6. — Ed. which are through the law, etc.; that is, the law excited in us evil emotions, which exerted their influence through all our faculties; for there is no part which is not subject to these depraved passions. What the law does, in the absence of the inward teacher, the Spirit, is increasingly to inflame our hearts, so that they boil up with lusts. But observe here, that the law is connected with the vicious nature of man, the perversity of which, and its lusts, break forth with greater fury, the more they are checked by the restraints of righteousness. He further adds, that as long as the emotions of the flesh were under the dominion of the law they brought forth fruit to death; and he adds this to show that the law by itself is destructive. It hence follows, that they are infatuated, who so much desire this bondage which issues in death.
6. But now we have been loosed from the law, etc. He pursues the argument derived from the opposite effect of things, — “If the restraint of the law availed so little to bridle the flesh, that it became rather the exciter of sin; then, that we may cease from sin, we must necessarily be freed from the law.” Again, “If we are freed from the bondage of the law for this end, that we may serve God; then, perversely do they act who hence take the liberty to indulge in sin; and falsely do they speak who teach, that by this means loose reins are given to lusts.” Observe, then, that we are then freed from the law, when God emancipates us from its rigid exactions and curse, and endues us with his Spirit, through whom we walk in his ways. 207207 That the moral, and not the ceremonial law, is meant here, is incontestably evident from what the Apostle adds in the following verses. He quotes the moral law in the next verse; he calls this law, in Romans 7:10, the commandment, την ἐντολὴν, which was unto life, see Matthew 19:16; and he says, that “by it” sin “slew” him, which could not have been said of the ceremonial law. — Ed.
Having died to that, etc. This part contains a reason, or rather, indicates the manner in which we are made free; for the law is so far abrogated with regard to us, that we are not pressed down by its intolerable burden, and that its inexorable rigor does not overwhelm us with a curse. 208208 Our common version is evidently incorrect as to this clause. The pronoun αὐτῷ or ἐκεινῷ, is to be supplied. There is an exactly similar ellipsis in Romans 6:21 Beza and several others, as well as our version, have followed a reading, αποθανοντὀ, which Griesbach disregards as of no authority; and it is inconsistent with the usual phraseology of the Apostle. See Romans 7:4, and Galatians 2:19. — Ed. — In newness of spirit; He sets the spirit in opposition to the letter; for before our will is formed according to the will of God by the Holy Spirit, we have in the law nothing but the outward letter, which indeed bridles our external actions, but does not in the least restrain the fury of our lusts. And he ascribes newness to the Spirit, because it succeeds the old man; as the letter is called old, because it perishes through the regeneration of the Spirit.