Romans 7The law hath dominion over a man. He is under its power, and exposed to its penalties.—As long as he liveth; that is, as long as his life of sin and impenitence continues—the life referred to in the early part of the preceding chapter, as terminated by union with Christ.
The woman, &c. The point of analogy in this comparison seems to be this,—that the connection of the accountable agent with the claims and penalties of law, is like that of husband and wife—one which only death can sever. The death, however, which frees the believer from his terrible responsibility, is that spiritual change which takes place when he is united to Christ,—when he dies to sin, and begins to live unto righteousness.—I speak to them that know the law; meaning that the illustration was drawn from the provisions of the Jewish law in respect to marriage.
Nay, I had not known sin, &c., that is, the law, instead of being in itself sin, is the great means of exposing sin.
Sin, taking occasion by the commandment; that is, it was not the law which is to be held accountable for the evil effects which result from its promulgation to the soul, but the sinfulness of the heart, taking occasion by the law,—the evil propensities being aroused by the opposition with which the prohibitions of the law confronted them.
I was alive; free from any special or aggravated outward guilt.—Without the law; at the period, whenever that period might have been, before the requirements of the divine law had been clearly brought to my mind.—Sin revived; was aroused to a state of activity, as explained in the two preceding verses.—And I died; was involved in open guilt and ruin. This last expression has sometimes been understood to refer to the humility and self-abasement produced by conviction of sin, under a just appreciation of the divine law; but such a state of mind is spiritually good, whereas the whole context shows that the effect here spoken of, as resulting from the exhibition of the law, was an evil effect. This seems to be placed beyond question by the two following verses.
Wherefore; that is, since the aggravation of human guilt, resulting from the exhibition of the law, is to be charged to sin, that is, to the sinfulness of the heart, and not to the law.
But I am carnal; that is, man is carnal. The idea seems to be that the law itself is holy; it is the man who is to be charged with the sin which the exhibition of the law develops. The pronoun I continues to be used through the remainder of the chapter, as representing human nature; though some suppose that renewed, and others that unrenewed, human nature is denoted. The language is easily susceptible of an interpretation adapted to either supposition; but the latter seems most in accordance with the general design of the apostle in this discussion, which is, to show the utter inefficacy of the law to sanctify and save those who are under its dominion. We may, therefore, understand the passage which follows, to the close of the chapter, as representing the fruitless struggles and the difficulties which would be encountered in an attempt made by one possessing the sinful nature of man, to secure his salvation by the law.
For that which I do; on the supposition, as before explained, that I am endeavoring to save myself by the law.
It is no more I, &c.; that is, in doing it, I am, as it were, under the bondage and coercion of sin.
I delight, &c. They who interpret this passage as above explained, consider this expression, and the others which imply feelings of approbation towards the law of God, as in v. 16, 25, &c., as referring to the approving testimony borne by conscience in favor of the excellence of the law, even in wicked men. Others think that these expressions prove that the subject of this description must be a soul renewed. The question in regard to the true interpretation of the passage is admitted to be a very difficult one.
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