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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - ROMANS 7
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    CHAPTER 7

    Ro 7:1-25. SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

    Relation of Believers to the Law and to Christ (Ro 7:1-6).

    Recurring to the statement of Ro 6:14, that believers are "not under the law but under grace," the apostle here shows how this change is brought about, and what holy consequences follow from it.

    1. I speak to them that know the law--of Moses to whom, though not themselves Jews (see on Ro 1:13), the Old Testament was familiar.

    2, 3. if her husband be dead--"die." So Ro 7:3.

    3. she be married--"joined." So Ro 7:4.

    4. Wherefore . . . ye also are become dead--rather, "were slain."
    - to the law by the body of Christ--through His slain body. The apostle here departs from his usual word "died," using the more expressive phrase "were slain," to make it clear that he meant their being "crucified with Christ" (as expressed in Ro 6:3-6, and Ga 2:20).
    - that ye should be married to another, even to him that is--"was."
    - raised from the dead--to the intent.
    - that we should bring forth fruit unto God--It has been thought that the apostle should here have said that "the law died to us," not "we to the law," but that purposely inverted the figure, to avoid the harshness to Jewish ears of the death of the law [CHRYSOSTOM, CALVIN, HODGE, PHILIPPI, &c.]. But this is to mistake the apostle's design in employing this figure, which was merely to illustrate the general principle that "death dissolves legal obligation." It was essential to his argument that we, not the law, should be the dying party, since it is we that are "crucified with Christ," and not the law. This death dissolves our marriage obligation to the law, leaving us at liberty to contract a new relation--to be joined to the Risen One, in order to spiritual fruitfulness, to the glory of God [BEZA, OLSHAUSEN, MEYER, ALFORD, &c.]. The confusion, then, is in the expositors, not the text; and it has arisen from not observing that, like Jesus Himself, believers are here viewed as having a double life--the old sin-condemned life, which they lay down with Christ, and the new life of acceptance and holiness to which they rise with their Surety and Head; and all the issues of this new life, in Christian obedience, are regarded as the "fruit" of this blessed union to the Risen One. How such holy fruitfulness was impossible before our union to Christ, is next declared.

    5. For when we were in the flesh--in our unregenerate state, as we came into the world. See on Joh 3:6 and Ro 8:5-9.
    - the motions--"passions" (Margin), "affections" (as in Ga 5:24), or "stirrings."
    - of sins--that is, "prompting to the commission of sins."
    - which were by the law--by occasion of the law, which fretted, irritated our inward corruption by its prohibitions. See on Ro 7:7-9.
    - did work in our members--the members of the body, as the instruments by which these inward stirrings find vent in action, and become facts of the life. See on Ro 6:6.
    - to bring forth fruit unto death--death in the sense of Ro 6:21. Thus hopeless is all holy fruit before union to Christ.

    6. But now--On the same expression, see on Ro 6:22, and compare Jas 1:15.
    - we are delivered from the law--The word is the same which, in Ro 6:6 and elsewhere, is rendered "destroyed," and is but another way of saying (as in Ro 7:4) that "we were slain to the law by the body of Christ"; language which, though harsh to the ear, is designed and fitted to impress upon the reader the violence of that death of the Cross, by which, as by a deadly wrench, we are "delivered from the law."
    - that being dead wherein we were held--It is now universally agreed that the true reading here is, "being dead to that wherein we were held." The received reading has no authority whatever, and is inconsistent with the strain of the argument; for the death spoken of, as we have seen, is not the law's, but ours, through union with the crucified Saviour.
    - that we should--"so as to" or "so that we."
    - serve in newness of spirit--"in the newness of the spirit."
    - and not in the oldness of the letter--not in our old way of literal, mechanical obedience to the divine law, as a set of external rules of conduct, and without any reference to the state of our hearts; but in that new way of spiritual obedience which, through union to the risen Saviour, we have learned to render (compare Ro 2:29; 2Co 3:6).

    False Inferences regarding the Law Repelled (Ro 7:7-25).

    And first, Ro 7:7-13, in the case of the UNREGENERATE.

    7, 8. What . . . then? Is the law sin? God forbid!--"I have said that when we were in the flesh the law stirred our inward corruption, and was thus the occasion of deadly fruit: Is then the law to blame for this? Far from us be such a thought."
    - Nay--"On the contrary" (as in Ro 8:37; 1Co 12:22; Greek).
    - I had not known sin but by the law--It is important to fix what is meant by "sin" here. It certainly is not "the general nature of sin" [ALFORD, &c.], though it be true that this is learned from the law; for such a sense will not suit what is said of it in the following verses, where the meaning is the same as here. The only meaning which suits all that is said of it in this place is "the principle of sin in the heart of fallen man." The sense, then, is this: "It was by means of the law that I came to know what a virulence and strength of sinful propensity I had within me." The existence of this it did not need the law to reveal to him; for even the heathens recognized and wrote of it. But the dreadful nature and desperate power of it the law alone discovered--in the way now to be described.
    - for I had not known lust, except, &c.--Here the same Greek word is unfortunately rendered by three different English ones--"lust"; "covet"; "concupiscence" (Ro 7:8) --which obscures the meaning. By using the word "lust" only, in the wide sense of all "irregular desire," or every outgoing of the heart towards anything forbidden, the sense will best be brought out; thus, "For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust; But sin, taking ('having taken') occasion by the commandment (that one which forbids it), wrought in me all manner of lusting." This gives a deeper view of the tenth commandment than the mere words suggest. The apostle saw in it the prohibition not only of desire after certain things there specified, \ but of "desire after everything divinely forbidden"; in other words, all "lusting" or "irregular desire." It was this which "he had not known but by the law." The law forbidding all such desire so stirred his corruption that it wrought in him "all manner of lusting"--desire of every sort after what was forbidden.

    8. For without the law--that is, before its extensive demands and prohibitions come to operate upon our corrupt nature.
    - sin was--rather, "is"
    - dead--that is, the sinful principle of our nature lies so dormant, so torpid, that its virulence and power are unknown, and to our feeling it is as good as "dead."

    9. For I was alive without the law once--"In the days of my ignorance, when, in this sense, a stranger to the law, I deemed myself a righteous man, and, as such, entitled to life at the hand of God."
    - but when the commandment came--forbidding all irregular desire; for the apostle sees in this the spirit of the whole law.
    - sin revived--"came to life"; in its malignity and strength it unexpectedly revealed itself, as if sprung from the dead.
    - and I died--"saw myself, in the eye of a law never kept and not to be kept, a dead man."

    10, 11. And--thus.
    - the commandment, which was, &c.--designed
    - to--give
    - life--through the keeping of it.
    - I found to be unto death--through breaking it.
    - For sin--my sinful nature.
    - taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me--or "seduced me"--drew me aside into the very thing which the commandment forbade.
    - and by it slew me--"discovered me to myself to be a condemned and gone man" (compare Ro 7:9, "I died").

    12, 13. Wherefore--"So that."
    - the law is--"is indeed"
    - good, and the commandment--that one so often referred to, which forbids all lusting.
    - holy, and just, and good.

    13. Was then that which is good made--"Hath then that which is good become"
    - death unto me? God forbid--that is, "Does the blame of my death lie with the good law? Away with such a thought."
    - But sin--became death unto me, to the end.
    - that it might appear sin--that it might be seen in its true light.
    - working death in--rather, "to"
    - me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful--"that its enormous turpitude might stand out to view, through its turning God's holy, just, and good law into a provocative to the very things which is forbids." So much for the law in relation to the unregenerate, of whom the apostle takes himself as the example; first, in his ignorant, self-satisfied condition; next, under humbling discoveries of his inability to keep the law, through inward contrariety to it; finally, as self-condemned, and already, in law, a dead man. Some inquire to what period of his recorded history these circumstances relate. But there is no reason to think they were wrought into such conscious and explicit discovery at any period of his history before he "met the Lord in the way"; and though, "amidst the multitude of his thoughts within him" during his memorable three day's blindness immediately after that, such views of the law and of himself would doubtless be tossed up and down till they took shape much as they are here described (see on Ac 9:9) we regard this whole description of his inward struggles and progress rather as the finished result of all his past recollections and subsequent reflections on his unregenerate state, which he throws into historical form only for greater vividness. But now the apostle proceeds to repel false inferences regarding the law, secondly: Ro 7:14-25, in the case of the REGENERATE; taking himself here also as the example.

    14. For we know that the law is spiritual--in its demands.
    - but I am carnal--fleshly (see on Ro 7:5), and as such, incapable of yielding spiritual obedience.
    - sold under sin--enslaved to it. The "I" here, though of course not the regenerate, is neither the unregenerate, but the sinful principle of the renewed man, as is expressly stated in Ro 7:18.

    15, 16. For, &c.--better, "For that which I do I know not"; that is, "In obeying the impulses of my carnal nature I act the slave of another will than my own as a renewed man?"
    - for, &c.--rather, "for not what I would (wish, desire) that do I, but what I hate that I do."

    16. If then I do that which I would not--"But if what I would not that I do,"
    - I consent unto the law that it is good--"the judgment of my inner man going along with the law."

    17. Now then it is no more I--my renewed self.
    - that do it--"that work it."
    - but sin which dwelleth in me--that principle of sin that still has its abode in me. To explain this and the following statements, as many do (even BENGEL and THOLUCK), of the sins of unrenewed men against their better convictions, is to do painful violence to the apostle's language, and to affirm of the unregenerate what is untrue. That coexistence and mutual hostility of "flesh" and "spirit" in the same renewed man, which is so clearly taught in Ro 8:4, &c., and in Ga 5:16, &c., is the true and only key to the language of this and the following verses. (It is hardly necessary to say that the apostle means not to disown the blame of yielding to his corruptions, by saying, "it is not he that does it, but sin that dwelleth in him." Early heretics thus abused his language; but the whole strain of the passage shows that his sole object in thus expressing himself was to bring more vividly before his readers the conflict of two opposite principles, and how entirely, as a new man--honoring from his inmost soul the law of God--he condemned and renounced his corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts, its stirrings and its outgoings, root and branch).

    18. For, &c.--better, "For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is in my flesh, any good."
    - for to will--"desire."
    - is present with me; but how to perform that which is good%

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