Romans 7:5-6

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.

5. Quum enim essemus in carne, affectus peccatorum qui sunt per Legem, in membris nostris operabantur ad fructificandum morti:

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 old ness of the letter.

6. Nunc vero soluti sumus a Lege, mortui ei in qua detinebamur; ut serviamus in novitate spiritus, et non in vetustate literæ.

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 it 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. 1

The emotions of sins, 2 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. 3

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. 4 -- 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.

1 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.

2 "Affectus peccatorum -- affections of sins;" ta paqh>mata, 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.

3 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, thn ejntolh<n, 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.

4 Our common version is evidently incorrect as to this clause. The pronoun aujtw~| or ejkeinw~|, 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, apoqanontoj, 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.