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10and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.

13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

The Inner Conflict

14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.


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10. Was found by me, etc. Two things are stated here — that the commandment shows to us a way of life in the righteousness of God, and that it was given in order that we by keeping the law of the Lord might obtain eternal life, except our corruption stood in the way. But as none of us obey the law, but, on the contrary, are carried headlong on our feet and hands into that kind of life from which it recalls us, it can bring us nothing but death. We must thus distinguish between the character of the law and our own wickedness. It hence follows, that it is incidental that the law inflicts on us a deadly wound, as when an incurable disease is more exasperated by a healing remedy. I indeed allow that it is an inseparable incident, and hence the law, as compared with the gospel, is called in another place the ministration of death; but still this remains unaltered, that it is not in its own nature hurtful to us, but it is so because our corruption provokes and draws upon us its curse.

11. Led me out of the way, etc. It is indeed true, that while the will of God is hid from us, and no truth shines on us, the life of men goes wholly astray and is full of errors; nay, we do nothing but wander from the right course, until the law shows to us the way of living rightly: but as we begin then only to perceive our erroneous course, when the Lord loudly reproves us, Paul says rightly, that we are led out of the way, when sin is made evident by the law. Hence the verb, ἐξαπατᾷν, must be understood, not of the thing itself, but of our knowledge; that is, that it is made manifest by the law how much we have departed from the right course. It must then be necessarily rendered, led me out of the way; for hence sinners, who before went on heedlessly, loathe and abominate themselves, when they perceive, through the light which the law throws on the turpitude of sin, that they had been hastening to death. But he away introduces the word occasion, and for this purpose — that we may know that the law of itself does not bring death, but that this happens through something else, and that this is as it were adventitious. 215215     This verse will be better understood if we consider it as in a manner a repetition, in another form, of what the former verse contains, and this is perfectly consistent with the usual manner of the Apostle. His object seems to have been to prevent a misapprehension of what he had said, that the commandment which was for life proved to be unto death. He hence says, that sin availed itself of the commandment, and by it deceived him, that is, promised him life, and then by it killed him, that is, proved fatal to him. There is a correspondence in meaning between the commandment unto life and deceiving, and between death and killing. In Romans 7:8, sin, as a person, is said to take advantage of the commandment to work every kind of sinful desires: but it is said here to take this advantage to deceive by promising life, and then to destroy, to expose, and subject him to death and misery. — Ed.

12. So then the law is indeed holy, etc. Some think that the words law and commandment is a repetition of the same thing; with whom I agree; 216216     This is doubtless true, and it is an example of what the Apostle’s manner of writing is, it being that of the ancient prophets. How various are the words used in the 119th Psalm to designate the law or the revealed will of God? and two different words are often used in the same verse.
   Having spoken of the law in connection with sin, the Apostle may be supposed to have had the character of sin in view in characterizing the law. Sin works depraved desires and lusts; the law is holy: sin deceives and acts the traitor, the law is plain-dealing and just: sin leads to death and misery; the law is good and leads to happiness. The last contrast is evident from what follows in the next verse, “Was that which is good made death unto me?” — Ed.
and I consider that there is a peculiar force in the words, when he says, that the law itself and whatever is commanded in the law, is holy, and therefore to be regarded with the highest reverence, — that it is just, and cannot therefore be charged with anything wrong, — that it is good, and hence pure and free from everything that can do harm. He thus defends the law against every charge of blame, that no one should ascribe to it what is contrary to goodness, justice, and holiness.

13. Has then what is good, etc. He had hitherto defended the law from calumnies, but in such a manner, that it still remained doubtful whether it was the cause of death; nay, the minds of men were on this point perplexed, — how could it be that nothing but death was gained from so singular a gift of God. To this objection then he now gives an answer; and he denies, that death proceeds from the law, though death through its means is brought on us by sin. And though this answer seems to militate in appearance against what he had said before — that he had found the commandment, which was given for life, to be unto death, there is yet no contrariety. He had indeed said before, that it is through our wickedness that the law is turned to our destruction, and that contrary to its own character; but here he denies, that it is in such a sense the cause of death, that death is to be imputed to it. In 2 Corinthians 3 he treats more fully of the law. He there calls it the ministration of death; but he so calls it according to what is commonly done in a dispute, and represents, not the real character of the law, but the false opinion of his opponents. 217217     This can hardly be admitted. The Apostle in Corinthians evidently states a fact, as he often does, without going into an explanation; and the fact was, that the law proved to be the ministration of death: but it proved to be so through the sin and wickedness of man. — Ed.

But sin, etc. With no intention to offend others, I must state it as my opinion, that this passage ought to be read as I have rendered it, and the meaning is this, — “Sin is in a manner regarded as just before it is discovered by the law; but when it is by the law made known, then it really obtains its own name of sin; and hence it appears the more wicked, and, so to speak, the more sinful, because it turns the goodness of the law, by perverting it, to our destruction; for that must be very pestiferous, which makes what is in its own nature salutary to be hurtful to us.” The import of the whole is — that it was necessary for the atrocity of sin to be discovered by the law; for except sin had burst forth into outrageous, or, as they say, into enormous excess, it would not have been acknowledged as sin; and the more outrageous does its enormity appear, when it converts life into death; and thus every excuse is taken away from it. 218218     Erasmus, Beza, Pareus, Stuart, and others, make up the ellipsis by putting in, “was made death to me,” after “sin.” But there is no need of adding anything. The sentence throughout is thoroughly Hebraistic. What is partially announced in the words, “that it might appear sin,” or, to be sin, etc., is more fully stated in the last clause; and the participle, “working” — κατεργαζομένη, is used instead of a verb, the auxiliary verb being understood. See similar instances in Romans 14:9-13 Calvin’s version is no doubt the correct one. What follows the last ἵνα more fully explains what comes after the first. — Ed.

14. For we know that the law, etc. He now begins more closely to compare the law with what man is, that it may be more clearly understood whence the evil of death proceeds. He then sets before us an example in a regenerate man, in whom the remnants of the flesh are wholly contrary to the law of the Lord, while the spirit would gladly obey it. But first, as we have said, he makes only a comparison between nature and the law. Since in human things there is no greater discord than between spirit and flesh, the law being spiritual and man carnal, what agreement can there be between the natural man and the law? Even the same as between darkness and light. But by calling the law spiritual, he not only means, as some expound the passage, that it requires the inward affections of the heart; but that, by way of contrast, it has a contrary import to the word carnal 219219     This is evidently the case here. As carnal means what is sinful and corrupt, so spiritual imports what is holy, just, and good. As the works of the flesh are evil and depraved works, so the fruits of the Spirit are good and holy fruits. See Galatians 5:19, 22, and particularly John 3:6. — Ed. These interpreters give this explanation, “The law is spiritual, that is, it binds not only the feet and hands as to external works, but regards the feelings of the heart, and requires the real fear of God.”

But here a contrast is evidently set forth between the flesh and the spirit. And further, it is sufficiently clear from the context, and it has been in fact already shown, that under the term flesh is included whatever men bring from the womb; and flesh is what men are called, as they are born, and as long as they retain their natural character; for as they are corrupt, so they neither taste nor desire anything but what is gross and earthly. Spirit, on the contrary, is renewed nature, which God forms anew after his own image. And this mode of speaking is adopted on this account — because the newness which is wrought in us is the gift of the Spirit.

The perfection then of the doctrine of the law is opposed here to the corrupt nature of man: hence the meaning is as follows, “The law requires a celestial and an angelic righteousness, in which no spot is to appear, to whose clearness nothing is to be wanting: but I am a carnal man, who can do nothing but oppose it.” 220220     “He is ‘carnal’ in exact proportion to the degree in which he falls short of perfect conformity to the law of God.” — Scott
   It has been usual with a certain class of divines, such as Hammond and Bull, to hold that all the Fathers before Augustine viewed Paul here as not speaking of himself. But this is plainly contradicted by what Augustine declares himself in several parts of his writings. In his Retractations, B. 1, chapter 23, he refers to some authors of divine discourses (quibusdam divinorum tractatoribus eloquiorom) by whose authority he was induced to change his opinion, and to regard Paul here as speaking of himself. He alludes again in his work against Julian, an advocate of Pelagianism, B. 6, chapter 11, to this very change in his view, and ascribes it to the reading of the works of those who were better and more intelligent than himself, (melioribus et intelligentioribus cessi.) Then he refers to them by name, and says, “Hence it was that I came to understand these things, as Hilary, Gregory, Ambrose, and other holy and known doctors of the Church, understood them, who thought that the Apostle himself strenuously struggled against carnal lusts, which he was unwilling to have, and yet had, and that he bore witness as to this confiict in these words,” (referring to this very text,) — Hinc factum est. ut sic ista intelligerem, quemadmodum intellexit Hilarius, Gregorius, Ambroslus, et cœteri Ecclsiœ sancti notique doctores, qui et ipsum Apostolum adversus carnales concupiscentias, quas habere nolebat, et tamen habebat, strenue conflixisse, eundemque conflictum suum illis suis verbis contestatum fuisse senseruntEd.
But the exposition of Origen, which indeed has been approved by many before our time, is not worthy of being refuted; he says, that the law is called spiritual by Paul, because the Scripture is not to be understood literally. What has this to do with the present subject?

Sold under sin. By this clause he shows what flesh is in itself; for man by nature is no less the slave of sin, than those bondmen, bought with money, whom their masters ill treat at their pleasure, as they do their oxen and their asses. We are so entirely controlled by the power of sin, that the whole mind, the whole heart, and all our actions are under its influence. Compulsion I always except, for we sin spontaneously, as it would be no sin, were it not voluntary. But we are so given up to sin, that we can do willingly nothing but sin; for the corruption which bears rule within us thus drives us onward. Hence this comparison does not import, as they say, a forced service, but a voluntary obedience, which an inbred bondage inclines us to render.

15. For what I do I know not, etc. He now comes to a more particular case, that of a man already regenerated; 221221     It appears from this, that Calvin did not apply the foregoing words, “I am carnal, sold under sin,” in the same way: but they are evidently connected together. They are indeed strong words, and some explain them in such a way as to be wholly unsuitable to a renewed man; but we ought to take the explanation as given by the Apostle himself in what follows, for he handles the subject to the end of the chapter.
   Various fictions have been resorted to by critics on this point. The Apostle has been supposed by some to speak of himself as under the law, or as Stuart terms it, “in a law state,” and such is the scheme of Hammond Others have imagined, that he personates a Jew living during the time between Abraham and the giving of the law; and this was Locke’s idea. A third party have entertained the notion, that the Apostle, speaking in his own person, represents, by a sort of fiction, as Vitringa and some others have imagined, the effects of the law in Jews and proselytes, as opposed to the effects of the gospel, as delineated in the next chapter. And a fourth party maintain, that the Apostle describes a man in a transition state, in whom God’s Spirit works for his conversion, but who is as yet doubtful which way to turn, to sin or to God.

   All these conjectures have arisen, because the language is not taken in its obvious meaning, and according to the Apostle’s own explanation. As soon as we depart from the plain meaning of the text and the context, we open a door to endless conjectures and fictions. The Apostle says nothing here of himself, but what every real Christian finds to be true. Is not a Christian, yea, the best, in this world carnal, as well as spiritual? Is he not “sold under sin?” that is, subjected to a condition, in which he is continually annoyed, tempted, hindered, restrained, checked, and seduced by the depravity and corruption of his nature; and in which he is always kept far below what he aims at, seeks and longs for. It was the saying of a good man, lately gone to his rest, whose extended pilgrimage was ninety-three years, that he must have been often swallowed up by despair, had it not been for the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. The best interpreter of many things in Scripture is spiritual experience; without it no right judgment can be formed. Hence it is that the learned often stumble at what is quite plain and obvious to the illiterate when spiritually enlightened. Critics sometimes find great difficulties in what is fully understood by a simpler minded Christian, taught from above. “Wayfaring men” are far better divines than any of the learned, who possess nothing more than natural talents and natural acquirements. — Ed.
in whom both the things which he had in view appear more clearly; and these were, — the great discord there is between the Law of God and the natural man, — and how the law does not of itself produce death. For since the carnal man rushes into sin with the whole propensity of his mind, he seems to sin with such a free choice, as though it were in his power to govern himself; so that a most pernicious opinion has prevailed almost among all men — that man, by his own natural strength, without the aid of Divine grace, can choose what he pleases. But though the will of a faithful man is led to good by the Spirit of God, yet in him the corruption of nature appears conspicuously; for it obstinately resists and leads to what is contrary. Hence the case of a regenerated man is the most suitable; for by this you may know how much is the contrariety between our nature and the righteousness of the law. From this case, also, a proof as to the other clause may more fitly be sought, than from the mere consideration of human nature; for the law, as it produces only death in a man wholly carnal, is in him more easily impeached, for it is doubtful whence the evil proceeds. In a regenerate man it brings forth salutary fruits; and hence it appears, that it is the flesh only that prevents it from giving life: so far it is from producing death of itself.

That the whole, then, of this reasoning may be more fully and more distinctly understood, we must observe, that this conflict, of which the Apostle speaks, does not exist in man before he is renewed by the Spirit of God: for man, left to his own nature, is wholly borne along by his lusts without any resistance; for though the ungodly are tormented by the stings of conscience, and cannot take such delight in their vices, but that they have some taste of bitterness; yet you cannot hence conclude, either that evil is hated, or that good is loved by them; only the Lord permits them to be thus tormented, in order to show to them in a measure his judgment; but not to imbue them either with the love of righteousness or with the hatred of sin.

There is then this difference between them and the faithful — that they are never so blinded and hardened, but that when they are reminded of their crimes, they condemn them in their own conscience; for knowledge is not so utterly extinguished in them, but that they still retain the difference between right and wrong; and sometimes they are shaken with such dread under a sense of their sin, that they bear a kind of condemnation even in this life: nevertheless they approve of sin with all their heart, and hence give themselves up to it without any feeling of genuine repugnance; for those stings of conscience, by which they are harassed, proceed from opposition in the judgment, rather than from any contrary inclination in the will. The godly, on the other hand, in whom the regeneration of God is begun, are so divided, that with the chief desire of the heart they aspire to God, seek celestial righteousness, hate sin, and yet they are drawn down to the earth by the relics of their flesh: and thus, while pulled in two ways, they fight against their own nature, and nature fights against them; and they condemn their sins, not only as being constrained by the judgment of reason, but because they really in their hearts abominate them, and on their account loathe themselves. This is the Christian conflict between the flesh and the spirit of which Paul speaks in Galatians 5:17.

It has therefore been justly said, that the carnal man runs headlong into sin with the approbation and consent of the whole soul; but that a division then immediately begins for the first time, when he is called by the Lord and renewed by the Spirit. For regeneration only begins in this life; the relics of the flesh which remain, always follow their own corrupt propensities, and thus carry on a contest against the Spirit.

The inexperienced, who consider not the subject which the Apostle handles, nor the plan which he pursues, imagine, that the character of man by nature is here described; and indeed there is a similar description of human nature given to us by the Philosophers: but Scripture philosophizes much deeper; for it finds that nothing has remained in the heart of man but corruption, since the time in which Adam lost the image of God. So when the Sophisters wish to define free-will, or to form an estimate of what the power of nature can do, they fix on this passage. But Paul, as I have said already, does not here set before us simply the natural man, but in his own person describes what is the weakness of the faithful, and how great it is. Augustine was for a time involved in the common error; but after having more clearly examined the passage, he not only retracted what he had falsely taught, but in his first book to Boniface, he proves, by many strong reasons, that what is said cannot be applied to any but to the regenerate. And we shall now endeavor to make our readers clearly to see that such is the case.

I know not. He means that he acknowledges not as his own the works which he did through the weakness of the flesh, for he hated them. And so Erasmus has not unsuitably given this rendering, “I approve not,” (non probo.) 222222     “Pii quod perpetrant non agnoscunt, non approbant, non excusant, non palliant;” — “What the godly do [amiss,] they know not, approve not, excuse not, palliate not.” — Pareus
   The verb γινώσκω is used here in the sense of the Hebrew verb ידע which is often so rendered by the Septuagint. See Psalm 1:6; Hosea 8:4; and Matthew 7:23. — Ed.
We hence conclude, that the doctrine of the law is so consentaneous to right judgment, that the faithful repudiate the transgression of it as a thing wholly unreasonable. But as Paul seems to allow that he teaches otherwise than what the law prescribes, many interpreters have been led astray, and have thought that he had assumed the person of another; hence has arisen the common error, that the character of an unregenerate man is described throughout this portion of the chapter. But Paul, under the idea of transgressing the law, includes all the defects of the godly, which are not inconsistent with the fear of God or with the endeavor of acting uprightly. And he denies that he did what the law demanded, for this reason, because he did not perfectly fulfil it, but somewhat failed in his effort.

For not what I desire, etc. You must not understand that it was always the case with him, that he could not do good; but what he complains of is only this — that he could not perform what he wished, so that he pursued not what was good with that alacrity which was meet, because he was held in a manner bound, and that he also failed in what he wished to do, because he halted through the weakness of the flesh. Hence the pious mind performs not the good it desires to do, because it proceeds not with due activity, and doeth the evil which it would not; for while it desires to stand, it falls, or at least it staggers. But the expressions to will and not to will must be applied to the Spirit, which ought to hold the first place in all the faithful. The flesh indeed has also its own will, but Paul calls that the will which is the chief desire of the heart; and that which militates with it he represents as being contrary to his will.

We may hence learn the truth of what we have stated — that Paul speaks here of the faithful, 223223     “As the Apostle was far more enlightened and humble than Christians in general are, doubtless this clog (indwelling sin) was more uneasy to him than it is to them, though most of us find our lives at times greatly embittered by it. So that this energetic language, which many imagine to describe an unestablished believer’s experience, or even that of an unconverted man, seems to have resulted from the extraordinary degree of St. Paul’s sanctification, and the depth of his self-abasement and hatred of sin; and the reason of our not readily understanding him seems to be, because we are far beneath him in holiness, humility, acquaintance with the spirituality of God’s law, and the evil of our own hearts, and in our degree of abhorrence of moral evil.” — Scott
   “What some mistake as the evidence of a spiritual decline on the part of the Apostle, was in fact the evidence of his growth. It is the effusion of a more quick and cultured sensibility than fell to the lot of ordinary men.” — Chalmers
in whom the grace of the Spirit exists, which brings an agreement between the mind and the righteousness of the law; for no hatred of sin is to be found in the flesh.

16. But if what I desire not, I do, I consent to the law, etc.; that is, “When my heart acquiesces in the law, and is delighted with its righteousness, (which certainly is the case when it hates the transgression of it,) it then perceives and acknowledges the goodness of the law, so that we are fully convinced, experience itself being our teacher, that no evil ought to be imputed to the law; nay, that it would be salutary to men, were it to meet with upright and pure hearts.” But this consent is not to be understood to be the same with what we have heard exists in the ungodly, who have expressed words of this kind, “I see better things and approve of them; I follow the worse.” Again, “What is hurtful I follow; I shun what I believe would be profitable.” For these act under a constraint when they subscribe to the righteousness of God, as their will is wholly alienated from it, but the godly man consents to the law with the real and most cheerful desire of his heart; for he wishes nothing more than to mount up to heaven. 224224     “I consent — consentio — συμφημι, I say with, assent to, agree with, confirm.” — Ed.

17. Now it is no more I who do it, etc. This is not the pleading of one excusing himself, as though he was blameless, as the case is with many triflers who think that they have a sufficient defense to cover all their wickedness, when they cast the blame on the flesh; but it is a declaration, by which he shows how very far he dissented from his own flesh in his spiritual feeling; for the faithful are carried along in their obedience to God with such fervour of spirit that they deny the flesh.

This passage also clearly shows, that Paul speaks here of none but of the godly, who have been already born again; for as long as man remains like himself, whatsoever he may be, he is justly deemed corrupt; but Paul here denies that he is wholly possessed by sin; nay, he declares himself to be exempt from its bondage, as though he had said, that sin only dwelt in some part of his soul, while with an earnest feeling of heart he strove for and aspired after the righteousness of God, and clearly proved that he had the law of God engraven within him. 225225     The last clause of this verse is worthy of notice, as the expression “indwelling sin” seems to have arisen from the words ἡ οἰκουσα ἐν ἐμοὶ — “which dwells in me.” Sin was in him as in a house or dwelling; it was an in-habiting sin, or that which is in-abiding or resident. — Ed.

18. For I know, etc. He says that no good by nature dwelt in him. Then in me, means the same as though he had said, “So far as it regards myself.” In the first part he indeed arraigns himself as being wholly depraved, for he confesses that no good dwelt in him; and then he subjoins a modification, lest he should slight the grace of God which also dwelt in him, but was no part of his flesh. And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts — the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character. 227227     The Apostle here is his own interpreter; he explains who the I is that does what the other I disapproved, and who the I is that hates what the other I does. He tells us here that it is not the same I, though announced at first as though it were the same. The one I, he informs us here, was his flesh, his innate sin or Corruption, and the other I, he tells us in Romans 7:22, was “the inner man,” his new nature. The “inner man,” as Calvin will tell us presently, is not the soul as distinguished from the body, but the renewed man as distinguished from the flesh. It is the same as the “new man” as distinguished from “the old man.” See Ephesians 4:22, 24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But “the inward man,” and “the outward man,” in 2 Corinthians 4:16, are the soul and the body; and “the inner man,” in Ephesians 3:16, the same expression as in Romans 7:22, means the soul, as it is evident from the context. The same is meant by “the hidden man of the heart,” in 1 Peter 3:4. — Ed.

To will is present, etc. He does not mean that he had nothing but an ineffectual desire, but his meaning is, that the work really done did not correspond to his will; for the flesh hindered him from doing perfectly what he did. So also understand what follows, The evil I desire not, that I do: for the flesh not only impedes the faithful, so that they can not run swiftly, but it sets also before them many obstacles at which they stumble. Hence they do not, because they accomplish not, what they would, with the alacrity that is meet. This, to will, then, which he mentions, is the readiness of faith, when the Holy Spirit so prepares the godly that they are ready and strive to render obedience to God; but as their ability is not equal to what they wish, Paul says, that he found not what he desired, even the accomplishment of the good he aimed at.

19. The same view is to be taken of the expression which next follows, — that he did not the good which he desired, but, on the contrary, the evil which he desired not: for the faithful, however rightly they may be influenced, are yet so conscious of their own infirmity, that they can deem no work proceeding from them as blameless. For as Paul does not here treat of some of the faults of the godly, but delineates in general the whole course of their life, we conclude that their best works are always stained with some blots of sin, so that no reward can be hoped, unless God pardons them.

He at last repeats the sentiment, — that, as far as he was endued with celestial light, he was a true witness and subscriber to the righteousness of the law. It hence follows, that had the pure integrity of our nature remained, the law would not have brought death on us, and that it is not adverse to the man who is endued with a sound and right mind and abhors sin. But to restore health is the work of our heavenly Physician.

21. I find then, etc. Here Paul supposes a fourfold law. The first is the law of God, which alone is properly so called, which is the rule of righteousness, by which our life is rightly formed. To this he joins the law of the mind, and by this he means the prompt readiness of the faithful mind to render obedience to the divine law, it being a certain conformity on our part with the law of God. On the other hand, he sets in opposition to this the law of unrighteousness; and according to a certain kind of similarity, he gives this name to that dominion which iniquity exercises over a man not yet regenerated, as well as over the flesh of a regenerated man; for the laws even of tyrants, however iniquitous they may be, are called laws, though not properly. To correspond with this law of sin he makes the law of the members, that is, the lust which is in the members, on account of the concord it has with iniquity.

As to the first clause, many interpreters take the word law in its proper sense, and consider κατὰ or διὰ to be understood; and so Erasmus renders it, “by the law;” as though Paul had said, that he, by the law of God as his teacher and guide, had found out that his sin was innate. But without supplying anything, the sentence would run better thus, “While the faithful strive after what is good, they find in themselves a certain law which exercises a tyrannical power; for a vicious propensity, adverse to and resisting the law of God, is implanted in their very marrow and bones.”

22. For I consent 230230     “Consentio,” συνήδομαι: it is not the same verb as in Romans 7:16; this signifies more than consent, for it includes gratification and delight. See Psalm 1:2. The verb is found only here. Macknight’s version, “I am pleased with,” is very feeble and inexpressive; Stuart’s is better, “I take pleasure in;” but our common version is the best, “I delight in.”
   The γὰρ here would be better rendered “indeed:” the Apostle makes declaration as to his higher principle; and then in the next verse he states more fully what he had said in Romans 7:21. This exactly corresponds with his usual mode in treating subjects. He first states a thing generally, and afterwards more particularly, in more specific terms, and with something additional. — Ed.
to the law of God, etc. Here then you see what sort of division there is in pious souls, from which arises that contest between the spirit and the flesh, which Augustine in some place calls the Christian struggle (luctam Christianam.) The law calls man to the rule of righteousness; iniquity, which is, as it were, the tyrannical law of Satan, instigates him to wickedness: the Spirit leads him to render obedience to the divine law; the flesh draws him back to what is of an opposite character. Man, thus impelled by contrary desires, is now in a manner a twofold being; but as the Spirit ought to possess the sovereignty, he deems and judges himself to be especially on that side. Paul says, that he was bound a captive by his flesh for this reason, because as he was still tempted and incited by evil lusts; he deemed this a coercion with respect to the spiritual desire, which was wholly opposed to them. 231231     Some consider the conclusion of Romans 7:23, “to the law of sin which is in my members,” as a paraphrase for “to itself;” as the Apostle describes it at the beginning as the law in his members: and the reason which may be assigned for the repetition is twofold, — to preserve the distinction between it and “the law of the mind” in the preceding clause, — and to give it a more distinctive character, by denominating it “the law of sin.” We in fact find a gradation in the way in which it is set forth: in Romans 7:21, he calls it simply “a law;” in this verse he first calls it “another law in his members,” and then, “the law of sin in his members.”
   The construction of Romans 7:21, is difficult. Pareus quotes Chrysostom as supposing σύμφηναι from Romans 7:16, to be understood after “law,” so as to give this rendering, “I find then that the law assents to me desiring to do good,” etc., that is, that the law of God was on his side, “though evil was present with him.” He then gives his own view, it being essentially that of Augustine: he supposes ὅτι καλὸς from Romans 7:16, to be understood after “law,” and that ὅτι, in the last clause, is to be construed “though:” the verse is then to be rendered thus, — “I find then the law, that it is good to me desiring to do good, though evil is present with me;” The verse taken by itself may thus present a good meaning, but not one that harmonizes with the context, or that forms a part of the Apostle’s argument. The only other construction that deserves notice is that of our own version, and of Calvin, and it is that alone which corresponds with the context. It has been adopted by Beza, Grotius, Venema, Turrettin, Doddridge, and others.

   This verse, and the two which follow, conclude the subject, and also explain what he had been saying about willing and doing. He in fact accounts here for the paradoxical statements which he had made, by mentioning the operation and working of two laws, which were directly contrary to one another. It seems to be a mistake that he alludes to four laws; for the law of the mind and the law of God are the same, under different names; it is that of the mind, because it belongs to and resides in the mind: and it is the law of God, because it comes from him, and is implanted by his Spirit. To the other law he also gives two names, the “law in his members,” and the “law of sin.” This view is confirmed by the last verse in the chapter, which contains a summary of the whole.

   The latter part of Romans 7:23 is in character with the Hebraistic style, when the noun is stated instead of the pronoun; see Genesis 9:16; Psalm 50:23; and it is also agreeable to the same style to add the same sentiment with something more specific appended to it. This part then might be rendered thus, — “and making me captive to itself, even to the law of sin, which is he my members.” — Ed.

But we ought to notice carefully the meaning of the inner man and of the members; which many have not rightly understood, and have therefore stumbled at this stone. The inner man then is not simply the soul, but that spiritual part which has been regenerated by God; and the members signify the other remaining part; for as the soul is the superior, and the body the inferior part of man, so the spirit is superior to the flesh. Then as the spirit takes the place of the soul in man, and the flesh, which is the corrupt and polluted soul, that of the body, the former has the name of the inner man, and the latter has the name of members. The inner man has indeed a different meaning in 2 Corinthians 4:16; but the circumstances of this passage require the interpretation which I have given: and it is called the inner by way of excellency; for it possesses the heart and the secret feelings, while the desires of the flesh are vagrant, and are, as it were, on the outside of man. Doubtless it is the same thing as though one compared heaven to earth; for Paul by way of contempt designates whatever appears to be in man by the term members, that he might clearly show that the hidden renovation is concealed from and escapes our observation, except it be apprehended by faith.

Now since the law of the mind undoubtedly means a principle rightly formed, it is evident that this passage is very absurdly applied to men not yet regenerated; for such, as Paul teaches us, are destitute of mind, inasmuch as their soul has become degenerated from reason.

24. Miserable, etc. He closes his argument with a vehement exclamation, by which he teaches us that we are not only to struggle with our flesh, but also with continual groaning to bewail within ourselves and before God our unhappy condition. But he asks not by whom he was to be delivered, as one in doubt, like unbelievers, who understand not that there is but one real deliverer: but it is the voice of one panting and almost fainting, because he does not find immediate help, 232232     Ταλαίπωρος, miser, ærumnosus; “it denotes,” says Schleusner, “one who is broken down and wearied with the most grievous toils.” It is used by the Septuagint for the word שדוד, wasted, spoiled, desolated. See Psalm 137:8; Isaiah 33:1. — Ed. as he longs for. And he mentions the word rescue, 233233     “Eripere“ — pluck out, rescue, take away by force; ῥύσεται — shall draw, rescue or extricate; it means a forcible act, effected by power. — Ed. in order that he might show, that for his liberation no ordinary exercise of divine power was necessary.

By the body of death he means the whole mass of sin, or those ingredients of which the whole man is composed; except that in him there remained only relics, by the captive bonds of which he was held. The pronoun τούτου this, which I apply, as Erasmus does, to the body, may also be fitly referred to death, and almost in the same sense; for Paul meant to teach us, that the eyes of God’s children are opened, so that through the law of God they wisely discern the corruption of their nature and the death which from it proceeds. But the word body means the same as the external man and members; for Paul points out this as the origin of evil, that man has departed from the law of his creation, and has become thus carnal and earthly. For though he still excels brute beasts, yet his true excellency has departed from him, and what remains in him is full of numberless corruptions so that his soul, being degenerated, may be justly said to have passed into a body. So God says by Moses,

“No more shall my Spirit contend with man, for he is even flesh,” (Genesis 6:3:)

thus stripping man of his spiritual excellency, he compares him, by way of reproach, to the brute creation. 234234     “This body of death” is an evident Hebraism, meaning “this deadly or mortiferous body;” which is not the material body, but the body of “the old man,” Romans 7:6; called the “body of sin,” when its character is described, and the “body of death,” when the issue to which it leads is intended: it conducts to death, condemnation, and misery. — Ed.

This passage is indeed remarkably fitted for the purpose of beating down all the glory of the flesh; for Paul teaches us, that the most perfect, as long as they dwell in the flesh, are exposed to misery, for they are subject to death; nay, when they thoroughly examine themselves, they find in their own nature nothing but misery. And further, lest they should indulge their torpor, Paul, by his own example, stimulates them to anxious groanings, and bids them, as long as they sojourn on earth, to desire death, as the only true remedy to their evils; and this is the right object in desiring death. Despair does indeed drive the profane often to such a wish; but they strangely desire death, because they are weary of the present life, and not because they loathe their iniquity. But it must be added, that though the faithful level at the true mark, they are not yet carried away by an unbridled desire in wishing for death, but submit themselves to the will of God, to whom it behoves us both to live and to die: hence they clamor not with displeasure against God, but humbly deposit their anxieties in his bosom; for they do not so dwell on the thoughts of their misery, but that being mindful of grace received, they blend their grief with joy, as we find in what follows.

25. I thank God; etc. He then immediately subjoined this thanksgiving, lest any should think that in his complaint he perversely murmured against God; for we know how easy even in legitimate grief is the transition to discontent and impatience. Though Paul then bewailed his lot, and sighed for his departure, he yet confesses that he acquiesced in the good pleasure of God; for it does not become the saints, while examining their own defects, to forget what they have already received from God. 235235     There is a different reading for the first clause of this verse, χάρις τῳ Θέω, “thanks to God,” which, Griesbach says, is nearly equal to the received text; and there are a few copies which have ἡ χάρις κυρίου, “the grace of our Lord,” etc.; which presents a direct answer to the foregoing question: but a considerable number more have ἡ χάρις του θέου, “the grace of God,” etc.; which also gives an answer to the preceding question. But the safest way, when there is no strong reason from the context, is to follow what is mostly sanctioned by MSS. Taking then the received text, we shall find a suitable answer to the foregoing question, if we consider the verb used in the question to be here understood, a thing not unusual; then the version would be, “I thank God, who will deliver me through Jesus Christ our Lord;” not as Macknight renders the verb, “who delivers me;” for the answer must be in the same tense with the question. — Ed.

But what is sufficient to bridle impatience and to cherish resignation, is the thought, that they have been received under the protection of God, that they may never perish, and that they have already been favored with the first-fruits of the Spirit, which make certain their hope of the eternal inheritance. Though they enjoy not as yet the promised glory of heaven, at the same time, being content with the measure which they have obtained, they are never without reasons for joy.

So I myself, etc. A short epilogue, in which he teaches us, that the faithful never reach the goal of righteousness as long as they dwell in the flesh, but that they are running their course, until they put off the body. He again gives the name of mind, not to the rational part of the soul which philosophers extol, but to that which is illuminated by the Spirit of God, so that it understands and wills aright: for there is a mention made not of the understanding alone, but connected with it is the earnest desire of the heart. However, by the exception he makes, he confesses, that he was devoted to God in such a manner, that while creeping on the earth he was defiled with many corruptions. This is a suitable passage to disprove the most pernicious dogma of the Purists, (Catharorum,) which some turbulent spirits attempt to revive at the present day. 236236     “Idem ego — the same I,” or, “I the same;” αὐτὸς ἐγὼ Beza renders it the same — “idem ego,” and makes this remark, “This was suitable to what follows, by which one man seems to have been divided into two.” Others render it, “ipse ego — I myself,” and say that Paul used this dictlon emphatically, that none might suspect that he spoke in the person of another. See Romans 9:3; 2 Corinthians 10:1, 12, 13. The phrase imports this, “It is myself, and none else.”
   He terms his innate sin “the flesh.” By the flesh, says Pareus, “is not meant physically the muscular substance, but theologically the depravity of nature, — not sensuality alone, but the unregenerated reason, will, and affections.” — Ed.