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9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived

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9. For I was alive, etc. He means to intimate that there had been a time when sin was dead to him or in him. But he is not to be understood as though he had been without law at any time, but this word I was alive has a peculiar import; for it was the absence of the law that was the reason why he was alive; that is, why he being inflated with a conceit as to his own righteousness, claimed life to himself while he was yet dead. That the sentence may be more clear, state it thus, “When I was formerly without the law, I was alive.” But I have said that this expression is emphatic; for by imagining himself great, he also laid claim to life. The meaning then is this, “When I sinned, having not the knowledge of the law, the sin, which I did not observe, was so laid to sleep, that it seemed to be dead; on the other hand, as I seemed not to myself to be a sinner, I was satisfied with myself, thinking that I had a life of mine own.” But the death of sin is the life of man, and again the life of sin is the death of man.

It may be here asked, what time was that when through his ignorance of the law, or as he himself says, through the absence of it, he confidently laid claim to life. It is indeed certain, that he had been taught the doctrine of the law from his childhood; but it was the theology of the letter, which does not humble its disciples, for as he says elsewhere, the veil interposed so that the Jews could not see the light of life in the law; so also he himself, while he had his eyes veiled, being destitute of the Spirit of Christ, was satisfied with the outward mask of righteousness. Hence he represents the law as absent, though before his eyes, while it did not really impress him with the consciousness of God’s judgment. Thus the eyes of hypocrites are covered with a veil, that they see not how much that command requires, in which we are forbidden to lust or covet.

But when the commandment came, etc. So now, on the other hand, he sets forth the law as coming when it began to be really understood. It then raised sin as it were from be dead; for it discovered to Paul how great depravity abounded in the recesses of his heart, and at the same time it slew him. We must ever remember that he speaks of that inebriating confidence in which hypocrites settle, while they flatter themselves, because they overlook their sins.