Tuesday, November 22, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 7:7-13
(7) What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. (9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (10) And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. (11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. (12) Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (13) Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good: that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Paul repels false inferences regarding the Law in the case of the unregenerate, and he illustrates this from his own experience.
Verse 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. “Is the law sin?” It is as if the objectors had asked if the Law was a bad thing, or is it at fault — is it to blame. Is then the Law the cause of sin? Paul had said in the 5th verse that, when we were in the flesh, the Law stirred our inward corruption, and was thus the occasion of deadly fruit. Is the Law then to blame for this? Or as the apostle expresses it in Gal. 2:17, “the minister of sin?” The force of the objection may be thus stated: “If sinful propensities are excited by the Law, is not the Law the cause of sin?”
Paul vehemently denies this with his indignant negative, “God forbid,” meaning “let it not be” or “far be it from our thoughts.” In the conclusion of this 7th verse he shows how the Law cannot be the cause of sin. In the 8th verse he will show how the Law, though not the cause of sin, was yet the occasion of calling forth into active operation “the movements of sins” — the depraved propensities of our nature.
“I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Paul’s object is to show, from his own experience, both before and after conversion, that a state of subjection to Law is, in the case of fallen men, whether in his wholly lapsed or partially restored state, inconsistent with true holiness. Paul’s changing from the we of the 5th and 6th verses to the I here and continuing to the end of the chapter proves that he turns suddenly from the common experience of himself and all the Roman Christians to his own individual experience. He was not aware of the real nature of sin until the Law made it clear to him. It is the Law, he says, that brought him to a right understanding of the essential character and nature and meaning of sin (Psa. 119:96). He is about to make experimental statements of what passes within — of the working of the Law on the human heart. It is as if he had said, “Verily we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen” (John 3:11; Gal. 1:15-16).
Paul, in the passion of his soul, thunders, “the Law is not sin; on the contrary, I had not known sin but by the Law.” The great instrument which the Holy Ghost uses in the special work of conviction of sin is the Law. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). It was by the inward application of the spiritually of God’s Holy Law that Paul came to “know sin” — its real nature, as opposition to God; its inveterate enmity against Him; its unsuspected lustings within. “The law entered that sin might abound” (Rom. 5:20): by deepening and widening the conviction of sin upon the conscience. Before God’s shining in Paul’s heart he did not know what is sin — putting evil for good, and good for evil (Isa. 5:20). He did not know how opposite to the Divine character and will of a Holy God sin is. He did not know himself to be a lost, guilty sinner — what I am in myself and the damnation that I deserve. Knowing the truth about sin is by the Law which is calculated to give the knowledge of sin, therefore the Law cannot be the cause of sin. God’s Holy Law reveals how criminal, loathsome, and destructive sin is and the Law strongly forbids, awfully denounces and condemns the commission of sin.
“For I had not known lust,” or inordinate forbidden desire (see vs. 8 below). Paul is saying that he would not have known that unrestrained desire was a sin at all (the Jewish Rabbins taught that it was not — the Pharisees thought of sin only in terms of external actions); assuredly I would not have known it to be the great sin that it is, and I would not know that I was a guilty sinner as I now know myself to be, had it not been that the Law in the 10th Commandment had explicitly forbidden inordinate desire, in the precept “Thou shalt not covet” or lust, and that taken home to my heart in awakening power by the Holy Ghost (1 Thes. 4:5). The Law had not only brought Paul to see that to lust was sin (it did far more than give Paul a correct theological view), it brought him to see, feel and mourn over the terrible power of lust in his own life and the corruption of his heart. To desire to sin is sin. We sin in our thoughts, imaginations and desires. Our Lord says this is as much sin as the very act, for sin originates “from within, out of the heart of men” (Mark -23).The 10th Commandment in its very form, in its literal expression, very clearly claims the whole inner life of man. To covet is a question of our inner life, not our outward act. Yea, the spiritual perfection of the whole Law becomes revealed in this 10th Commandment. The sin of covetousness is the desire to possess anything apart from God, against His will, anything that He does not give me and that evidently He does not want me to have. The sin of covetousness implies the longing for mere material things, apart and divorced from things spiritual.
This shows that God’s Law requires inward conformity as well as outward compliance: it is addressed to the motions of the heart as well as prescribes our actions. The apostle refers to the manner in which the true knowledge of sin came into his mind and heart by means of the application of the spirituality of the Law. He, as a pupil of Gamaliel, was “after the righteousness of the law,” according to the manner in which the Jewish teachers judged, “blameless.” He looked at the Law and claimed compliance “in the oldness of the letter.” The Law to him was an outward thing, and viewed in that light, he was a strict doer of the Law. He claimed no God but Jehovah; he abominated idolatry; he had never profaned the sacred name of God nor desecrated His Sabbath. He was above actual commitment of murder, adultery, theft or perjury — he was not touched by actual violation of any of the first nine commandments: but when his darkened eyes were opened to the meaning of the 10th Commandment he saw what a new light it shed over the whole Law as a spiritual thing, then he saw the corruption of his lustful heart and was awakened to the fact of his heinous nature — that he was a sinner, a great one, yea, the very chief. Now he knew by experience what his Lord taught about looking on a woman with lust in the heart as adultery, for Christ taught that the Law is spiritual — it is concerned with a person’s heart and attitude toward God (Matt. 5:27-28).
Verse 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. How does sin use the Law? It does so by arousing in us the element of rebellion that is in us. We are all born rebels; we are all born with an antagonism to God within us. Sin was already in us. The Law aggravates because of this spirit of lawlessness that is in us, and it actually incites us to sin (Rom. ). This commandment, though plainly it could not be the cause of sin, yet Paul said that it was the occasion of sin — “the motions of sin were by the Law.” It becomes worse by that which should amend it. It takes occasion to grow more and more wicked from that which God had appointed to restrain its wickedness. When the holy Law of God is applied to it, its rage and fury breaks forth with more violence. He was convinced of the sinfulness of inordinate desire in all its forms and did not immediately and forever abandon it for he found that “the Law was weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). As Paul had, the convinced sinner discovers that “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” — i.e., forbidden, inordinate desire. “Concupiscence” means lust and desire, especially in an evil sense. Concupiscence is “every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually’ (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Paul was saying that all manner of evil desires and lusts were within his mind and heart and he seemed to be nothing but a mass of corruption, and of evil thoughts, desires and imaginations, a cesspool of iniquity. Indwelling sin, aggravated by the commandment, wrought in us all manner of lusts (James 1:14-15). Effectual application of the Law causes the sinner to see clearly and to feel acutely how he had lived — in utter defiance of it; what he is — a vile sinner; what he deserves; eternal punishment; and how he is in the hands of a sovereign God, entirely at His disposal. Without the Spirit’s application of the Law, sin in his experience was dead, for we had no perception or feeling of its heinousness. “The more the light of the Law shines upon and in our depraved hearts, the more the enmity of our minds is roused to opposition, and the more it is made manifest that the mind of the flesh is not subject to the Law of God, neither can be” (John Murray).
“Sin” here does not merely mean acts of sin; he means sin as a principle and a power which works in fallen human nature — the corruption of our nature, the depraved bent and bias of the soul. This does not originate in the Law, but it takes occasion from the Law, to manifest and exert itself in a way in which, otherwise, it might not have done. Paul said it exited in him a more than ordinary degree of desire after that which was forbidden. As an unjustified and an unregenerate sinner, he was made to see the criminality of inordinate desires, the first tendencies of the heart of evil. And instead of ceasing to desire the forbidden he found his whole heart and nature in hatred and indignation of God and His Law which doomed him to death. His whole inner man rose in rebellion against this revelation the Law showed him of himself. And the word “sin” here means that the sinner is in a state of guilt and condemnation and spiritual helplessness.
“For without the Law sin was dead.” Before the extensive demands and prohibitions of the Law come to operate upon our corrupt nature and is spiritually applied in power in our hearts, “sin was (or is) dead.” The sinful principle of our depraved nature lies so dormant, so torpid, that its virulence and power are unknown and to our feeling it is as good as dead (John 15:22,24). Our condemned helpless state as sinners was dead as we were blinded by sin and Satan to our true condition. “Without Law” means without a knowledge of the spirituality of the Law, in its requisitions and sanctions, as it carries to the conscience a sense of the meaning and authority of the Law, and, of consequence, a conviction of guilt and danger. “Without Law” is to have little felt struggling against the precepts of the Law, for they are but imperfectly known, and their spirituality not at all apprehended; and there is no feeling of remorse or alarm, for the true nature and desert of sin are not brought home to the heart by the Holy Ghost. Only when the Law is applied does the sinner become keenly sensible of his depraved nature and deeply miserable condition as he then sees what sin is. He knows now that he is a sinner with a vile, incurable heart, and feels that he is utterly indisposed to obey the Law’s precepts, utterly incapable of enduring the Law’s penalty, and as unable to escape the obligations of its precepts, and the reach of its adjudged punishments. Apart from the Law, the guilty state of man is comparatively dead, as to the production of sinful propensity or painful feeling.
Verse 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. In this section, vs. 7-13, the apostle Paul gives us some account of the way and manner of his conversion. He says that he “was alive without the law once,” and then sin was dead. What does he mean for there never was a time when he, or any man, was without the Law? Very early in life Paul was a jolly professor of religion — he obtained an extensive and accurate knowledge of the letter of the Mosaic Law. In his unregenerate days he had been a proud Pharisee and entertained good thoughts of his condition. He had received his training under the renowned rabbi, Gamaliel, where his chief occupation was the study of the letter of the Law, yet being totally ignorant of its spirituality he was, vitally and experimentally speaking, as one “without the Law” — without a realization of its design or an inward acquaintance of its power. He was so dull and deluded that he thought sin was dead (Phil. 3:5-6). He supposed that a mere external conformity unto its requirements was all that was necessary, and as he strictly attended to the same, he was well pleased with himself, satisfied with his own righteousness, and falsely assured of his acceptance with God. He thought himself to be somebody. When a man is without Law, he is anti-Law, for the spirituality of the Law of God, is an enemy to the peace of his soul. And the man who would guard his false peace will fight that which disturbs that peace. This is the state of millions in Christendom that have made a profession, being experimentally ignorant of God’s Holy Law — never having been slain by it — then, the more religious they are, the more proud and conceited they will be. “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Religious folks think (and this is the thinking of most unrenewed sinners) that their soul is rich and happy enough, and that they are all right for eternity — that they are safe, eternally secure. But in reality in this state they know “not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). But that was quite consistent with being “without the Law,” in the sense of not understanding its spirituality and true extent, and feeling the power, both of its precepts and of its threatenings, in the conscience. This was Paul’s state “once” — before his conversion on the road to Damascus. And this is the state of all unregenerate men and only the saving mercy of God changes that in the regeneration of the elect.
Paul said when in his experience he was without the Law in this sense, “sin was dead.” He meant that he was spiritually blind and the power of sin was not felt in him. He was not aware that He was “the chief of sinners.” In fact, he was sure that he was not a sinner at all. He had no risings of heart against the strictness and spirituality of the Law, for he was ignorant of them. He was not remorseful, nor was he terrified over his justly merited, certain coming, destruction. Paul was blind and deceived, as all unregenerate men are (Mark 7:8-13).
When sin was dead in his state of deception (in his awareness), he was alive; when sin revived — became alive in his perception, he died. He said “For I was alive without the Law once” — deeming myself as good as anyone else, and able to win God’s approval by my religious performances. The word “alive” does not mean “spiritually alive” for he was in his unsaved state at that time — he was, in this sense, twice dead. It means that he thought of himself as in a good, comfortable, desirable state, in his own estimation. His conscience never troubled him and he knew not his miserable state. He rejoiced in false hopes of eternal life; and he, as most false professors, would have been astonished and indignant had anyone told him that he was “dead in sin” — condemned already, standing guilty of eternally suffering the consequences of the righteous judgment of God.
There was a tremendously important change that came in Paul’s view “when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” When the Holy Spirit used that Tenth Commandment as the arrow of conviction — when the words “thou shalt not covet” were applied to him, when they came in the Spirit’s enlightening and convicting power to his heart and mind, his self-righteous security was pricked and his complacency was shattered (Psa. 40:12). It was brought home to his heart that even the very desire was forbidden and this was applied to his conscience with startling great force — the strictness and spirituality of the Holy Law showed him the corruptness of his heart. He saw the evil of self-will and his heart was pierced as the realization that the Law demanded inward as well as outward conformity to its holy terms. Paul was never able to forget that this dead, lifeless form of words, the letter of the Law, assumed life and power, and entered into his mind and heart as a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Paul, as well as every sinner, knows not the deep depravity of nature and incurable corruption of the heart, until the Law is taken to the heart with mighty efficacy and power by the Holy Ghost. Then it is that “sin revived” — became a fearful reality as I discovered the plague of my heart (Rom. 8:7). He was conscious and terrified at his lusts and corruption of heart which rose in protest against the holy and extensive requirements of the Holy Law and the Lawgiver (Rom. 7:21-23). The very fact that God said “thou shalt not lust” only served to aggravate and stir into increased activity those corruptions of which he was unconscious, and the more he attempted to bring them into subjection the more painfully aware did he become of his own helplessness. The sinful, guilty, condemned state of sinners displayed its true influence, its power to deprave, its power to make miserable. Paul became sensible of a measure of enmity against God and His Law, of which he had never previously been aware. He now saw the sinfulness of his own heart and ways, his blindness, his extreme hardness of heart, his weakness, his willfulness, his heartlessness. He sees that all he does, desires, or even thinks is sinful.
And Paul said that when the Law came and sin revived “I died” (to my own self-righteousness), in his own apprehensions, feelings, and estimate of himself. The object of the Law is to work death and this death referred to is the death in the sinner’s mind. It means conviction that we are utterly lost. That is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing conviction, making a man see that he is a sinner, making him feel that he is a sinner, that he is exceedingly sinful. The awful nature and extent of his sin became a living reality in his heart, and he died to all good opinions of himself. There was the slaying of self-righteousness and the being brought to true loathing of all sin and his sin nature. He saw himself to be a justly condemned criminal and he became a miserable man in his utmost consciousness. Remorse took the place of self-complacency, and a fearful looking for of judgment, of hope of a place, by grace, in the kingdom of God. His corrupt heart now seemed irreconcilable; and nothing seemed to remain for him but irreversible condemnation, hopeless depravity, and everlasting destruction which he agrees with God that he justly deserved. Now he realized his weakness, his helplessness, and his hopelessness.
Reader, have you been there? It is to such sinners that the passage from Rom 5:6 is addressed, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” It is such sinners that are brought to feel that they are “poor in spirit” and “mourn” over their condition before God (Matt 5:3-4). Distrust totally this dry-eyed kind of preaching that has no godly sorrow, and no repentance — preaching that leaves a man thinking that he may be just a little sinner, needing a little Saviour, and believing that a little decision suffices for his salvation. A totally lost sinner needs a Saviour who Himself fully and entirely saves such helpless sinners. Sinners without strength must experience salvation that is of the Lord — salvation which actually saves.
Verse 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. The commandment is said to have been “ordained to life” — that is to the making men happy. This 10th Commandment, and indeed every part of God’s Law, was intended and calculated to promote the happiness of an innocent man. His inclinations would correspond to its requisitions, and to him the path of duty would be the path of pleasure. Obedience to this commandment, which is designed to secure in our minds and hearts full conformity to God’s will, makes all duty most delightful.
“In the original institute of the whole substance of moral obedience was summed up in the single precept, relative to the fruit forbidden. As the Law is a unity, and he who offends in one point is guilty of all; so when the spirit of obedience is tested in a single point only, and confined to that point, a failure here, brings upon man the guilt of the whole — he is liable to the whole penalty. Now this was the sum total of the Law, as a covenant given to Adam, that he should obey, and as the reward of obedience should receive life. This glorious reward was held up as the motive prompting to choice on the side of Law and right. The Law was ordained unto life (Rom. 7:10). This is its object, and to this it was adapted. But it failed in the hands of the first Adam, and the last Adam comes in to make it good, to establish its principle and secure its object” (G. Junkin). In suffering in the stead of the elect the full penalty of the broken Law and also rendering perfect obedience to its precept on their behalf, Christ not only makes complete atonement for all their transgressions, so that the guilt and pollution of sin are forever removed from the sight of the Judge of all, but thereby obtains for them a sure title to the reward of the Law so that they are justified or pronounced righteous before Him with full acceptance. He made good, for His people the reward of the Law which is “life.”
So in consequence of the state into which sin brings men, the case is completely altered, “and the commandment, which was to life” was now in fact “found to be unto death.” The Law as given to man in the state of integrity promised life upon obedience, but man’s sin turned that same Law into a sentence of death (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12). Calvin rightly insists “that the Law is not injurious to us by its own nature, but because our corruption provokes and draws upon us its curse.” The Law, originally fitted to make men happy, corresponding as it did with the apprehensions and convictions of a holy mind, and the dispositions and desires of a holy heart, was now found, in consequence of its opposition to the false judgments and depraved moral principles of fallen man, to be to unregenerate men a source of misery. In his unregenerate state the misery of man renders even the best things to be the occasion of evil to him (Rom. 9:31-32). Prosperity does not produce gratitude but pride. Adversity irritates rather than humbles. The Law which is to be life, is found to be death. Even the “Gospel of salvation” is “a savour of death unto death;” and the foundation of hope “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.”
“How infatuated are those men — and they are the prodigious majority of mankind, even in countries where revelation is most generally known — who live at ease, while all things, even the best things in heaven and earth, are working together for their destruction” (John Brown). Charles Hodge has well said, “How vain therefore is it to expect salvation from the Law, since all the Law does, in its operation on the unrenewed heart, is to condemn and awaken opposition! It cannot change the nature of man.”
Verse 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Paul shows that the problem is sin as he describes the manner in which he had found the Law to be unto death. “Sin” here means the personification of the state of guilt, condemnation, and helplessness, in which the sinner is placed. Paul’s meaning is, “In consequence of my being a guilty, depraved sinner, the Law, which should have guided me, deceived me; the Law, which should have contributed to my happiness, made me miserable.” That sin was the real instigator of Paul’s death, and the Law was only its instrument, is shown by the word “occasion.” “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment (‘Thou shalt not covet’) deceived me.” Sin is not only powerful but subtle and deceitful; it deludes us, beguiles us, and misleads us. In an innocent man, the only tendency of the commandment is to guide into truth and holiness, leading the soul to acknowledge God as spirit and exciting it to worship Him in spirit and truth. But what thoughts does the Law excite in the sinner? He sees the thoughts and lusts of his natural mind totally forbidden by the Law. He sees himself condemned for desiring that which his sinful nature cannot help but desire. He vents his anger at God’s Holy Law — declaring it to be too rigid and utterly unreasonable. He excuses himself and sees no purpose in attempting to keep such a Holy Law or satisfy such a Perfect Lawgiver. These are some of the false views which a discovery of the purity and extent of the spiritual Law of God occasions in the mind of sinful man. Thus does sin take occasion by the commandment to “deceive” men (2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 3:13).
But the apostle represents sin as not only having taken occasion by the commandment to deceive him — to lead him into fatally mistaken views of the Law and the Lawgiver — but also by this Law “having slain him” — made me miserable, very miserable — put me to death. It is not the condemning power which, according to the Divine Law, sin exercises over the sinner that is here referred to. That sentence is passed whether the sinner is aware of it or not. It will be fully executed upon unrepentant sinners in the eternal world. What is spoken of here takes place in this world “when the commandment comes” to the sinner — as experienced by Paul (then Saul of Tarsus). He was slain by the Law — slain by the Law in consequence of his being in a state of “sin” — guilt, condemnation, helplessness. Before conversion all the Redeemed were under the dominion of the law of sin, which found its strength or killing power is the just and holy Law of God. Along with Paul the Law made us all miserable, showing us what great sinners we were — as to our state, condemned criminals, instead of objects of God’s favor; and — as to our character — instead of keepers of God’s commandments, or holy persons — sinners whose inward dispositions were most powerfully opposed to the requisitions of the Divine Law, and whose whole inner life had been a curse of rebellion against it. It filled us with remorse, and agitated us with alarm. It made us feel not only that Hell was our just doomed portion, but gave us a foretaste of its miseries in our experience of a state of rebellion against the Divine will.
This the Law did in our conscience; it could not do otherwise. It had no promise of pardon to hold before us. It could not possibly deliver us from the dominion of sin.
Verse 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. “Wherefore,” with which the 12th verse commences, the apostle refers to the whole discussion, from the beginning of the 7th verse — “Is the law sin?” and concludes from that discussion, that though the Law, in consequence of the influence of sin, had deceived and killed him, that was in no degree the fault of the Law or the Lawgiver. It was entirely the result of sin, and was the manifestation of the inconceivably malignant and destructive nature of sin.
If a people have the Law only in its letter, actually they are without Law, for essentially the Law is spiritual (vs. 14). Just as Paul had experienced, so all the children of God come to see that which the Law has always truly been all the time — spiritual. The Law of God demands heart-holiness (Matt. 22:37-40). The Law of God demands our conformity to certain spiritual principles. The spiritual things commanded by the Law of God are summed up in the words of Moses in Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18. The meaning of this outcry by Paul is that the Law was sanctified in his heart, just as it is in the heart of all true believers. When Paul says here is verse 12, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” when he says in verse 14, “For we know that the law is spiritual,” and when Paul says, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” he, as a true believer, is saying that the Law is holy in his heart, that the Law of God is sanctified unto him in his God-given faith. When the Law of God is holy, spiritual, and a delight upon the inner person of a believer, the Law is sanctified in the heart of that believer. That child of grace then groans under the Law and serves God in the great principles of the Law (Rom. 7:6), with his mind focused on the Cross of Christ (Rom. 7:25).
“Wherefore the law is holy” — the word “holy” here means faultless or perfect: “The statues of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:8). So far from the Law being sin, absolutely no fault attaches to the Law. It is holy, just, and good, not stained with sin, just as is its Author. It forbids nothing but what is wrong and requires nothing but what is right. In its nature, design and rule it is worthy of its all wise, all holy Author. It stands for every thing that is holy and right and Godlike, and against every thing that is sin. Its requisitions are not too extensive — its sanctions are not too severe. It perfectly reflects the character of God Himself. It is a transcript of the Divine nature. Much of our modern pulpit and pew deny this but they but pit themselves against the Scriptures. Romans 8:7 tells us that “the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God,” and continues on to give the proof of this declaration, “for it is not subject to the law of God,” which, manifestly, is another way of saying that the Law is a transcript of the very character of God. Mr. A. W. Pink states the following observation of the Law, “what is that but a summarized description of the Divine perfections. If God Himself is ‘holy, and just and good’ and the Law is an immediate reflection of His very nature, then it will be ‘holy and just and good.’ Again, if God Himself be love (1 John 4::8) and the Law is a glass in which His perfections shine, then that which the Law requires, will be love, and that is exactly the case (Matt. 22:37-39).”
What is true of the Law in general, is true of the particular commandment, which, in the case of the apostle, had wrought all manner of concupiscence, and had been the occasion which sin employed to deceive and slay him. “The commandment is holy, and just, and good.” The commandment is “holy” — faultless, being both just and good. To be “holy” means that it is the absolute antithesis of sin and evil. It is holy for it is an expression of God’s character. It is the function of the Law to give a revelation of God, and His Being and character, in order that we may learn what we have to be, and to become, in order to have communion and fellowship, with Him. The Law is a perfect expression of His desire and of His will. As Paul on the road to Damascus was broken at Christ’s feet and cried “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:1-6), a truly contrite soul will bow to the dominion of God, acknowledging His right to rule over us and our duty to live in entire subjection to Him, and will bemoan his insubordination (Phil. 2:10). He will eye God’s righteousness and own that “His Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good,” and therefore we are without excuse in breaking it.
“Just” is another word for right and equitable. Had the commandment been an unjust one, it could not have been holy, faultless. It is just and right in what it demands of us; it makes no unfair demands of us whatsoever. Nothing can be more just than that for it requires that we do what is right and good toward God and toward man. God, who made us capable of thinking and wishing, has surely a right to regulate us in the use of these faculties. Indeed, if the commandments which forbid certain overt acts are just, the commandment which forbids the desire of what is prohibited must be so also; for, “out of the heart are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). If the heart be habitually wrong the life cannot be right. It is also just and right in the pronouncement and the sentence that it passes upon all sin and transgression, and on all failure to honor its requirements and keep them. At the bar of final Judgment the Law will justly exact its penalty. This was well illustrated in the case of Adam and Eve.
The commandment is not only holy and just, but also good. “Good” here means what is fitted to produce happiness. This is obvious as the term is contrasted in the next verse with “death” which clearly signifies misery. The whole tendency of the commandment is to promote good toward others and ourselves. The Law is good within itself as is so clearly manifested in the reading of Psalm 119 — the theme of which is the goodness of the Law of God in and of itself. John Murray observes, “As ‘holy’ the commandment reflects the transcendence and purity of God and demands of us the correspondent consecration and purity; as ‘righteous’ it reflects the equity of God and exacts of us in its demand and sanction nothing but which is equitable; as ‘good’ it promotes man’s highest well-being and thus expresses the goodness of God.”
Verse 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. The apostle’s assertion that “the commandment is good” — benignant in its tendency — might appear to some not very consistent with what he had stated in reference to the result of this commandment coming to him. “Sin revived — I died.” Sin, reinvigorated by the commandment, “deceived me and slew me by it.” This difficulty the apostle meets and removes in our 13th verse — “Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”
By “that which is good,” we are to understand the Law, the excellence of which he had just declared in the previous verse. And by being “made death,” we are to understand — being the cause of that miserable state which was occasioned by it, and which he describes as his dying — his being put to death — slain. The apostle’s meaning is not, ‘Is the Law, so benignant in its tendency when obeyed, the cause of the misery of the sinner, inasmuch as when disobeyed it denounces adequate punishment on him, and secures the infliction of it?’ “Death” here, is the death the apostle died “when the commandment came to him.” The figurative word death here, does not denote what is termed legal death, a state of condemnation — for in that he was like others — being by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3); nor does it mean what is termed spiritual or moral death, a state of depravity — for he was a depraved sinner from his youth upward; but it means that state of misery produced by the conviction of righteous condemnation for sin as an awakened sinner — sin of which he was previously unaware, and of which he does not, cannot, repent — that remorse, that fear, that sense of unsubdued, apparently irrepressible, and ever growing opposition of the heart to the requisitions of the Divine Law, resulting from the Law being apprehended by the mind and conscience in its spirituality and extent, and irrelaxable inflexibility and obligation. So the question is ‘was the Law the cause of extreme misery into which Paul was plunged’ when ‘the commandment came to him?’
To this question Paul answers by his strong negative, commonly used: “God forbid” — let it not be — and then proceeds to show what was the true cause of this death, this misery. “But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me” — But sin was made death to me, “that sin might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might appear exceeding sinful.” It’s the sinful nature of fallen man, and not the Law, which causes the increased rising of sinful actions within him. Then the deep meaning and authority of God’s Law will be more clearly manifest to the mind and conscience when God shows the sinner his wretched condition. That such results do and must arise from the Law coming to the carnally secure, unregenerate man, is intended by God for the purpose of manifesting the true character of the sinner’s state as guilty and helpless (Rom. 5:20; James 1:13-15).
The Law was never intended as the means of justification or of sanctification to unregenerate men. God did not design it for these purposes; but He did design, and intended it, in its operation on unregenerate sinners, to show how hopelessly depraved and miserable man is and must be, so long as he continues under the condemning sentence of the Divine Law, shut out by it from the only influence which can transform the sinful, miserable sinner into a holy, happy saint.
Sin does in this way appear in its true colors — “working death by that which is good” — that which is in itself only good in its nature and tendency. Sin, by the commandment, does appear to be, in the apostle’s emphatic language, exceedingly, in the highest degree, sinful. The guilty helpless state of man termed “sin” in opposition to the state termed “righteousness,” or justification, is proved by the Law to be the exhaustless source of depravity and misery. The Law thus, so far from securing that sin shall not have dominion over unregenerate man, secures that it shall have dominion over him, and makes no provision for regenerating him. It proves, indeed, that a man must be delivered from the Law, considered as a method of obtaining salvation, in order to obtain either justification or sanctification. The Law cannot make a bad man good.
“That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” The great evil and sinfulness of sin does not appear to a sinner until the awakening and converting work of the Holy Ghost takes place in his soul. The greatness and evil of sin is shown in Scripture in numerous verses, too many to name, but we refer to a few of them. Sin is called filthiness: “I will wash you from your filthiness” (Ezek. 36:25). Sis is called nakedness (Rev. 3:18). Sin is called blindness (Matt. 15:14). It is called folly (Psa. 85:18). It is madness. The prodigal son “came to himself” (Luke 15:17) and Paul said he was exceeding mad (Acts 26:11). Sin is called death; “Dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). It is called an abomination (Prov. 8:7). It does separate between us and God (Isa. 59:2). Sin identifies us as the children of the Devil (John 8:44). Our whole nature is sin, our hearts, our thoughts, our lives, our practices. The sin of our nature spreads over all our faculties — our understanding, reason, will, and affections. When we are regenerated by the Spirit and turned to the Lord Christ in truth, then the evil and wickedness of sin appears in the exceeding sinfulness thereof unto us (Job 40:4).
We address briefly when this experience took place in the heart and life of the apostle. It appears that it was the 3 days after our Lord met him on the road to Damascus, during which “he was without sight, and did neither eat nor drink” (Acts 9:9). On the Damascus road the entire revolution in Paul’s sentiments and feelings, necessary to his being broken at Christ’s feet and embracing Him as his Lord and Saviour, took place as he was regenerated by the Holy Ghost. Before that day Paul had not only no idea of his need of salvation in Christ, but he had no distinct idea of what salvation in Christ even was. He was not in need of a mere decision but his false religion and religious thoughts, his self righteousness, and all his opinions, strongly held, and his habits deeply-rooted, had to be destroyed. He had been given eyes that see by the Holy Ghost (Matt. 11:25) and he had seen the Lord Jesus Christ amid the radiance of Heavenly light (John 1:14). He distinctly heard the voice of the Son of God in his inner man. He who died on the Cross is the Son of God now on His throne as the Living Lord. And having seen and heard the Lord Jesus Christ with spiritual eyes and ears, Paul sees himself in a new light and asked, “And what am I?” Paul began to examine himself. He now saw that everything appeared valuable, or valueless, as it was, or was not, an expression of inward principle — of a right state of mind and heart towards God. He now saw himself as God saw him — in a new light. He was constrained to reckon his former estimate of himself as utterly false — he was brought in “guilty before God.” He felt he was a great sinner, the very chief of sinners. But his rebellious heart rose against the Law and the Lawgiver, and he and the Law had a fearful battle, here (vs. 7-13) so strikingly described, till the deep conviction he experienced resulted in his cry — I am a wretched sinner, guilty, depraved from head to foot, thoroughly miserable; and the question came from the inmost depths of his soul — What must I do to be saved? Out of this thick darkness broke forth the light. God commanded the light to shine out of darkness and shined in his heart “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). By Divine revelation there came to and in him the message and Person of the Cross, the Gospel which he says he “first of all received” (Gal. 1:11-16) — “That Christ had died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). He now saw what true salvation was that he needed, and that the salvation obtained on the Cross by the Lord Jesus Christ for His elect was that salvation. He was now without strength (Rom. 5:6) and he now knew that salvation was not something to be wrought for, but applied in the heart by the Holy Spirit — the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul, by God- given faith, believed that the precious blood of Christ Jesus, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin — that Christ was the Lamb of God bearing and bearing away , the sins of the elect — Paul’s sins. He understands now how Christ must suffer, and then enter into glory. “Behold he prayeth!” (Acts 9:11) — prayeth to the God and Father of our Lord Christ, God in Christ reconciling the elect world to Himself. He feels the bands of sin for ever broken, and “sin has not dominion over him, for he is not under the Law, but under grace.” Christ is most precious to him (1 Peter 2:7) and there is now no condemnation to him as he is now in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Henceforth Paul now “walks at liberty, keeping God’s commandments;” “serving in a new spirit, and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6).
Dear reader, Paul was God’s pattern of how He saves a sinner: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:16). Something parallel to this experience of Paul — essentially the same as this (in a spiritual way), has been the experience of every sinner to whom the Law has been “a schoolmaster, bringing us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). The saint of God knows what it means to be “shut up” to the faith (Gal. 3:22-24). No sinner ever entered into the shelter of sovereign mercy till the avenger of blood was close on him, and every other door of escape shut against him. Only then does the sinner come in with all his heart as he is compelled by the Spirit to come in. We shall end this chapter but first we enter this close and searching question to your conscience. Do you know what it means to lie at the feet of our Sovereign Lord Jesus as a guilty, lost, helpless beggar of mercy? Has the constant cry of your heart become “God, be merciful to me a sinner?” Christ came to save lost sinners. God help us. RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 7:7-13.
Verse 7. The persons who feel no malady of sin see not their want of a Saviour. — William Romaine (1714-1795).
When Adam was created he had a right will and understanding. He heard rightly, he saw rightly, and rightly managed all earthly things in faith and to the praise of God. But since the fall, the will, the understanding, and all the natural faculties are corrupt; so that the man is no longer upright, but warped by sin; he has lost his right judgment in the sight of God, and does everything perversely and contrary to the will and Law of God; he no longer knows God and loves Him, but flees from Him and dreads Him, and says in his heart that He is not a God that is merciful and good, but a judge and a tyrant. We are, therefore, by sin utterly adverse from God, so that we cannot have one right thought concerning God, but think of Him just as we do of an idol. Hence in the 51st Psalm, David defines sin to be a corruption of all the faculties, external and internal; so that no one member can perform its office now as it did in paradise before sin entered; and that we have all departed from God, are filled with an evil conscience, and are subject to disease and death, according to the words of the denounced punishment, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This knowledge of sin is not a mere speculative knowledge, or an imagination which the mind may paint out to itself; but a true sensation, a real experience, and a most heavy conflict of heart. — Martin Luther (1483-1546).
The Law reveals the character of our God, and thus it breaks the sinner and drives him to Christ. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ … knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” Gal. 3:24 and 2:16. “For by the law (which reveals the will of a Holy God) is the knowledge of sin” Rom. 3:20b. And right there is where a sinner is broken down before the Lord. If you think the Holy Law of God is some little trifling something, and you think you are living up to the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, then you just have another thought coming! Because I hasten to whisper in your ear that “it just ain’t so!” No man has ever truly seen all that is contained in that Holy Law, and certainly when the Law has come home to his heart in the spiritual reality of it, he knows better than to proclaim any satisfaction in his own works. You don’t know a thing in the world about the Law of God if you have not come before Him guilty and pleading for cleansing by His grace and the blood shed on Calvary! Then, my friends, when the blood is applied you can say, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ” Gal. 2:19-20. Then you have truly seen “the vision of God,” for “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” 2 Cor. 4:6. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Verse 8. So the great characteristic of an age like this, which does not believe in God, is lawlessness, dislike of discipline and order in any shape or form. People today have a rooted dislike of Law and of sanctions and of punishment. We have almost reached the state in which they do not believe in punishing anyone; a murderer almost becomes a hero who engages public sympathy. The prisoner gets more sympathy than his victim. Thus the whole idea of right and wrong is rapidly disappearing from the human mind. — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).
Education and culture may result in a refined exterior; family training and other influences may lead to an espousal of religion, as in the case with the great majority of the heathen; selfish considerations may even issue in voluntarily undergoing great austerities and deprivations, as the Buddhist to attain unto Nirvana, the Mohammedan to gain paradise, the Romanist to merit Heaven — but the love of God prompts none of them, nor is His glory their aim. Though the Christian be “not in the flesh” as to his status and state, yet the flesh as an evil principle (unchanged) is still in him, and it “listeth” against the spirit (Gal. 5:17) or new nature, and therefore are we exhorted, “Let not sin (i.e. the flesh) therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
The Law of God is not sin; it is purity itself. But it reveals to us the nature of sin; it helps us to see that coveting is sin. What has happened then? Oh, the terrible truth about man by nature is that this powerful thing called sin is able even to use that pure Law of God as a fulcrum to produce all evil in me. It provides it with a base of operations, the enemy ‘comes in like a flood’, and I end up being worse than I was before. This is the explanation, says the Apostle. — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).
Verse 9. We can never be thankful enough if the Holy Ghost has made us sensible of the condemned, dead, and miserable state we are born in — if He has laid open to our view God’s Holy Law. His righteous and terrible anger against us for our sins — if He has thereby stopped our mouths and made us justify Him in our everlasting condemnation in the Law. It is heavy work for a sinner to labor under such misery, to find the Law allows no room for hope, shows no place of repentance, makes no sort of composition with sinful debtors. It is, however, salutary work. Legal despair, self despair and Gospel hope are nearer neighbors than sinners under a law-work can believe or imagine possible. Besides, how can we see and love the glory of God in salvation before we have seen and exceedingly feared and quaked at the terrible sight of it in the Law? We cannot bless Him for saving us before we justify Him in condemning us. — J. K. Popham (1847-1937).
Would you read the best experience of a true believer in Christ that ever was wrote, here it is in this chapter. Try your own; judge of others by this. Commend me to holy, humble Paul’s experience. If we are taught by the same Spirit, ours will answer to his, as face does to face in a glass, in the following particulars: (1) A sense of sin will be revived in the conscience, which no human palliatives, or lulling opiates, can keep in a swoon any longer. You will so see, feel, and be sensible of its dread and terror, that you will confess yourself to be totally destroyed by it, and your case to be quite desperate under it. (2) This is effected by the Law; “For by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Rom. 3:20. “When the commandment came;” that is, when the purity and spirituality of the holy and perfect Law of God comes into your heart and conscience, then you see that it requires truth and perfection of obedience in the inward parts as well as in the outward walk: you see you have it not, you find it as much impossible for you a sinner to fulfil God’s Holy Law, as it is for you to create a world. (3) You die: you become as a dead man: seeing the exceeding sinfulness of sin in you, and the dreadful curse of the Law hanging over you, all hopes of life forsake you. Sin and Law live within you, they pierce your soul to the quick; the Law adds strength to sin; you can no longer flatter yourself that your state is good, that you can do any thing to bring yourself upon good terms with God; you have now done with all works of righteousness to that end; you can have no more hope from your obedience to the Law, than from your transgressions against it: you see yourself sin in all that you are, and in all that you do. But, (4) The hand of the Comforter is in all this: His loving design is to bring you to live by faith of the Son of God: instead of looking to and living by your own righteousness, you are to live wholly and solely upon His life and by His righteousness. But while alive without the Law, and striving to fulfill the Law, you overlook Christ, slight His righteousness, think your own better to trust to than His. Now the Spirit keeps alive sin and the Law in you for this very purpose, to make you wretched in self and happy in Christ: all experiences that do not effect this are not worth a straw. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Rom. 10:4. — William Mason (1719-1791).
So long as men are strangers to the spiritual nature of God’s Law, and to the woeful depravity of the human heart, they entertain a meager notion of religion, and a lofty thought of their own ability. If Christian faith be nothing but a mere assent to the Gospel history, every man may make himself a true believer when he pleases. And if Christian duty only consists in Sunday service, with a pittance of sobriety, and honesty, and charity, we might expect that men would vaunt of will and power to make themselves religious. — John Berridge (1716-1793).
Verse 10. He who is insensible that there is that in him which is inclined to take occasion to sin from the commandment of the Law, as well as from the promise of the Gospel, is a stranger to the plague of his heart. — John Brine (1703-1765).
The soul that has been thus killed by the Law, to the things it formerly delighted in, now, O now, it cannot be contented with the slender groundless faith and hope that it once contended itself withal. No, no; but now it must be brought into the right saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; now it must have Him discovered to the soul by the Spirit; now it cannot be satisfied, because such and such do tell it so. No; but now it will cry out, “Lord, show me continually in the light of Thy Spirit, through Thy Word, that Jesus that was born in the days of Caesar Augustus (when Mary, a daughter of Judah, went with Joseph to be taxed at Bethlehem) that He is the very Christ.” Lord, let me see it in the light of Thy Spirit, and in the operation thereof; and let me not be contented without such a faith that is so wrought even by the discovery of His birth, crucifixion, death, blood, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and second (which is His personal) coming again, that the very faith of it may fill my soul with comfort and holiness. And O how afraid the soul is lest it fall short of this faith, and of the hope that is begotten by such discoveries as these are. For the soul knoweth that if it hath not this it will not be able to stand in death or judgment, and therefore saith the soul, “Lord, whatever other poor souls content themselves withal, let me have that which will stand me instead, and carry me through a dangerous world, that may help me resist a cunning devil; that may help me to suck true soul-satisfying consolation from Jesus Christ through Thy promises, by the might and power of Thy Spirit.” And now, when the poor soul hath any discovery of the love of God through a bleeding, dying, risen Jesus, because it is not willing to be deceived, O how wary it is of closing with it, for fear it should not be right, for fear it should not come from God. — John Bunyan (1628-1688).
Not until the condemning sentence of the Law has been applied by the Spirit to the conscience does the guilty soul cry “Lost, lost!” Not until there is a personal apprehension of the requirements of God’s Law, a feeling sense of our total inability to perform its righteous demands, and an honest realization that God would be just in banishing us from His presence forever, is the necessity for a precious Christ perceived by the soul. — A. W. Pink (186-1952).
Verse 11. It is truly by the Law that a knowledge of sin is sent home to the conviction of quickened souls; but if a knowledge of the mere letter or reading of the precepts of the Old Testament could effect that conviction, why was Saul of Tarsus without such conviction until he undertook his journey or mission to the city of Damascus? And why are not American sinners, who abound in Bibles, convinced of sin? That very Bible of which we speak declares the reason: because that it should be the peculiar work, not of the Bible simply, but of that Spirit which Jesus should send, to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. And when the Spirit executes this work, He employs the Law, and brings the commandment home to the sinner’s heart in its spirituality, and sin revives, and the sinner is slain. — Gilbert Beebe (1800-1881).
There is only one explanation of the moral state of society; it is this terrible power which the Bible calls ‘sin’. Men in their cleverness and sophistication no longer believe in sin. They have been trying to explain it away in terms of psychology, saying that it is non-existent. They have confidently claimed that they can easily train and teach people how to behave in a decent manner, and that they can deliver delinquents. And yet they are failing — failing so badly that their own servants are saying so in public. No, there is only one explanation; sin ‘taking occasion’, using even the Law of God, leave alone men’s moral teaching, as a vantage point, as a military base of operations, as a fulcrum, is the cause of all the trouble. ‘Sin, taking occasion’ — Paul repeats the phrase he has already used in verse 6. — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).
Verse 12. The Law being written on stones denotes the duration of it, which continued not only during the times of the Old Testament dispensation, and to the times of John, and had its fulfillment in Christ, but still continues; for though Christ has redeemed His people from the curse and condemnation of it, yet it is in His hands as a rule of direction to them, as to their walk and conversation. Nor is it made void by any doctrine of the Gospel, and nothing more strongly enforces obedience to it than the Gospel. The moral Law is immutable, invariable, and eternal in its nature, and it is in the matter of it. — John Gill (1697-1771).
Yet, notwithstanding we neither are, nor can be, justified by the Law; still the uses of the Law are numerous and important: whence the apostle takes care to add, that the Law is good, or answers several valuable purposes, if a man use it lawfully. Nothing can be more evident than that, by the Law, in this place, is meant the moral Law. The ceremonial could not possibly be intended; because it is not now to be adhered to, and is no longer in force: whereas the apostle speaks of a Law which is, to this very day, unrepealed, and of standing use; the Law is good, if a man use it lawfully. Of this Law there is a two-fold use: or rather, an use and an abuse. The use of the Law is, among other things, first, to convince us of our utter sinfulness; and then, secondly, to lead us to Christ, as the great and only fulfiller of all righteousness. Now the Law does not answer these important ends directly, and of itself; but in a subserviency to the Holy Spirit’s influence; when that adorable Person is pleased to make the Law instrumental to the conversion of a sinner. In which case, having shaken us out of our self-righteousness, and reduced us to happy necessity of closing with the righteousness of Christ; the Law has still another and a farther use, no less momentous: for, thirdly, it from that moment forward stands as the great rule of our practical walk and conversation: seeing a true believer is not without Law, (a lawless person) towards God, but is within the bond of the Law to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21); not exempted from its control, as the standard of moral action; though delivered from its power and execration as a covenant of works. — Augustus Toplady (1740-1778).
Verse 13. There is nothing of more certainty to the souls of any than what they have real spiritual experience of. When the things about which men are conversant lie only in notion, and are rationally discoursed or debated, much deceit may lie under all; but when the things between God and the soul come to be realized by practical experience, they give a never-failing certainty of themselves. — John Owen (1616-1683).
It is a mercy to be made sensible of our besetting sins and lusts, that we may feel our need of the atoning blood of Christ, and to be fully satisfied that if we depend on anything short of the blood and righteousness of Christ we must perish eternally, for all other hopes are cut off. Such a sense of sin and vileness cuts up Arminianism by the roots, and prepares us to hear the Gospel, and to know that it brings glad tidings to the poor, lost, and helpless sinners. — William Tiptaft (1803-1864).
Conviction of sin, it is evident, is the first mark of Divine teaching. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).
Thursday, November 3, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 7: 1-6
(1) Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (2) For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. (3) So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is freed from that law; so that she is no longer adulteress, though she be married to another man. (4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. (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 oldness of the letter.
Paul begins to illustrate the principle laid down in chapter 6, verse 14, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” i. e., you are the subjects of God’s justifying grace, “for ye are not under the law, but under grace,” commences with this 1st verse of our 7th chapter and continues through the 4th verse of chapter 8. He illustrates “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law” in verses 1 through 24. Then “sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are under grace” from 7:25 through 8:4. The first six verses of this chapter of Romans deal with the relation of believers to the Law and to Christ.
This chapter has been used by many in a false way and there has been much controversy over its proper interpretation. We must ever be “comparing spiritual things with spiritual’ (1 Cor. 2:13) and follow the Scriptures as they interpret themselves. We shall find much to dispute from those who teach that Romans 7 is not the normal experience of every true Christian. A. W. Pink pointed out: “The controversy which has raged over Romans 7 is largely the fruitage of the Perfectionism of Wesley and his followers. That brethren, whom we have cause to respect, should have adopted this error in a modified form, only shows how widespread today is the spirit of Laodiceanism. To talk of ‘getting out of Romans 7 into Romans 8 is excuseless folly. Romans 7 and 8 both apply with undiminished force and pertinence to every believer on earth today. The second half of Romans 7 describes the conflict of the two natures in the child of God: it simply sets forth in detail what is summarized in Gal. 5:17. Romans 7:14, 15, 18, 19, 21 are now true of every believer on earth. Every Christian falls far, far short of the standard set before him — we mean God’s standard, not that of the so-called ‘victorious life’ teachers.”
Regeneration does not eradicate the Old Nature in the children of God. We remain what we always were except for the new principle of life implanted by the Holy Ghost, which “wars” against the old nature, to overcome and subdue it. Likewise the old nature “wars” against the new nature (principal of holiness), seeking to overcome and suppress it. This conflict is graphically described in complete detail by the apostle in Romans 7 and 8 and Galatians 5:16-26).
Verse 1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? God’s method of justifying sinners delivers the elect from the Law (Acts 15:1-29). In this chapter Paul shows what is not and what is the Law’s relation to the believer. Judicially, believing sinners are emancipated from the curse or penalty of the Law (vs. 1-6), and morally under bounds to obey the Law (vs. 22-25). Paul says that he speaks to “brethren,” his spiritual brethren, that he “speaks to them that know the law.” He speaks to all believers “called to be saints” (1:7), who are familiar with the “holy scriptures” (1:2). Paul had been used of the Holy Ghost to prove in the preceding chapters that we are not under the Law for our justification. In this chapter he shows that by the deeds of the law no man shall be sanctified. If we are “in Christ” we are not only free from the condemning power of God’s Holy Law, but also from the power and dominion of sin. The Law has authority and lords it over the sinner. Law, all law, law in general binds a man as long as he lives, no longer. There is certainly no question here about the repealing of law. The law remains in force — death frees a man from the obligation of a law to which he is rightfully subject; nothing else can. Law binds the living, not the dead. Law, as the principal of justification, has dominion over a man, till, by union to Christ, the propitiatory victim for sin, he becomes as a dead man in reference to the Law.
We are not under the Law for sanctification. The Law is not the motive for our sanctification. We do not obey the Law for our justification, salvation, and sanctification (Acts 13:38-39), but we love the commands of God because we have been saved, justified, and sanctified. And now we are not under the curse of the Law. The Law cannot demand of us payment as it was fully satisfied in our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not dead to the Law of God as a rule of life, but as a means of justification. Too, Scriptural holiness, no less than Christian comfort, requires of us that we insist upon the truth (and never fail, on a fit occasion to vindicate it), that believers are dead to the Law, or that it is dead to them, as a means, or as a motive to holy living, no less than as a means of justification before God.
Henry Mahan states, “The Law to which Paul refers in this chapter is not the ceremonial law but the moral Law of God — the whole will of God manifested to all mankind. (1) God gave to Adam a Law of universal obedience, by which He bound him and his posterity to obedience (death being the result of disobedience). All men were placed under that covenant and that Law (Gal. 3:10; Rom. 2:14-15). (2) This same Law written on the heart continues to be the perfect rule of righteousness and pronounces a curse upon all who fail in the smallest measure (James 2:10). This Law was also delivered by God upon Mt. Sinai in Ten Commandments. (3) It is only when the believer is united to Christ that he is freed from this covenant of Law . . . But remember, the Law not only reaches the acts of men but also the attitude — not only the manners of men but the motive (Gal. 4:21; Matt. 5:21, 22, 27, 28, 38, 39). We are bound to that Law, married to it and under it as a covenant until we are freed (from its curse and penalty) in Christ.” So the Law, as a covenant of works, ceases to bind us when death has loosed its bonds. It is not the Law that dies — throughout this passage it is said that we are dead to the Law (vs. 4), delivered from the Law (vs. 6), and not that the Law is dead.
Verse 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. Matthew Poole observes, “He here exemplifies and illustrates the foregoing assertion. ‘The woman is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth;’ see a parallel place 1 Cor. 7:39. This is the general rule, yet there is an exception in the case of fornication or desertion: see Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 7: 15. ‘From the law of her husband;’ from the obligation of the law of marriage.” The force of this illustration taken from married life is: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). The obligation of a wife to a husband, and their fidelity to each other, is a matter of law growing out of the relationship that holds us together. So long as a husband lives and a wife lives, neither one of them can be free to marry except in a certain case, and that exception is discussed elsewhere. Paul is just discussing the general principles here. The woman referred to becomes dead to the law of her husband, not by her own death, but by his death — is as completely removed from its power as if she herself had died. She is “loosed from the law of her husband” — that law has no more dominion over her, as to it she is as it were dead. The general law of a husband remains unrepealed — it has lost none of its power over its proper subjects, but it has no dominion over her; she is out of its limits. In applying this illustration we find that the law holds you to absolute fidelity in obedience just as the law holds the woman bound to her husband, and the husband to his wife. If the sinner died with Christ, he is dead to that law, and therefore can enter into another relationship. We are espoused to Christ and the law that binds us now is the law of that espousal to Christ, and that is the law of freedom; not like the other, it is a matter of grace.
This illustration clearly emphasizes the relationship of all men to the Law of God by nature, and before sinners are regenerate and brought under grace (Matt. 5:17-48). The woman is married to her husband, under subordination or under his authority — “bound by the law of her husband.” She is under the power and control of her husband. Paul is comparing this husband with the Law. The relationship of the unbeliever to the Law is identical with that of the wife to the husband. The Scripture says that the woman’s “desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). And the Apostle shows that the husband is the head of the wife, and the head of the family (Eph. 5:22-23). That is God’s ordinance. Paul shows in this epistle the Jews have the written Law but those who had not the written Law were not without Law for “all men had the works of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15). Thus the Scriptures establish that all mankind is under the Law. The Holy Ghost shows us in Chapter 5 that even from Adam to Moses, before the written Law was promulgated to the Jews through Moses; the Law of God was there. Every person is under the Law of God.
This illustration used from marriage brings out the binding character of the relationship. She is “bound by the law to her husband,” permanently. And in what God originally ordained as the ideal in marriage is that it is something that is not broken by anything but death. Our Lord teaches that divorce has come in as a concession. God allowed it, Christ said, “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matt. 19:8). But here what Paul is putting forth is that death does end the relationship and that opens the way for the surviving party to enter into a new relationship.
Verse 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
The principle avowed is that even the Law of marriage, sacred as it is, binds not after either party has departed this life. The application of this illustration regarding all that has happened to us in our new spiritual marriage to the Lord Jesus Christ does not contravene God’s Holy Law. It is not a setting aside or making void the Law, it is establishing or a “fulfilling the Law.” As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “The Apostle’s concern is to show the way in which we can pass from one spiritual relationship to God to another relationship — ‘Ye are not under the law, but under grace.’ The illustration shows us how this happens and it is a very wonderful illustration.”
Verse 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. All true believers are, according to the principles of God’s way of justifying sinners, as completely delivered from the Law, as a dead man is from the law he was subject to when he was alive, or as the woman whose husband is dead is from the law which bound her to her husband. It is not by the Law that we are to be justified, sanctified, or saved and we are taken off all hopes of such by it, and from confidence of gaining approval by obedience to it (Gal. 2:19). This freedom from the Law the elect obtain, not by their own death, but ours vicariously, or “through the body of Christ.” Our freedom from the Law is the result of what our Lord Christ did and suffered in our stead (Eph. 1:7; 2:13). It is because of His having been made sin for us, that we are made the righteousness of God in Him (Eph. 2:16). It is because of His having become a curse in our stead, that we are delivered from the curse of the Law Gal. 3:13). Our salvation is secured by His having brought in an everlasting righteousness. “The body of Christ” means the same as the phrase in Colossians 1:22, “reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.” We are “sanctified by the offering of this body of Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). He “abolished in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments” (Eph. 2:15). He “nailed the handwriting that was against us to the cross” (Col. 2:14). The death of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which all the elect are one with Him, was a death which answered all the Law’s demands. It killed Him, and killed us in Him. Although the Law continues evermore to bind us as rational creatures, it no longer prescribes the conditions of our salvation. So if we are in Him, the Law has, it can have, no demands on us as a method of justification. By the Law having had its full course so as to be glorified in the obedience to death of Him in whom the believer is, we are completely delivered from the Law. The Law has no more to do with us, and we have no more to do with it in the matter of justification (Rom. 8:1). And this freedom from the Law is at once necessary and effectual to our living a truly holy life — a life devoted to God.
Paul does not say that the Law had died, because the Law had not died. The Law is still alive. But through the death of Christ in our stead we are no longer “bound to the Law,” no longer “under the dominion of the Law;” we are free from the obligations of this former marriage.
The phrase “dead to the law” has been grievously misunderstood, misused and abused by the antinomianism that runs rampant in our pulpits and pews. They make the claim that the Christian has nothing to do with the Law at all, and they live their lives accordingly. God’s moral Law is His moral demands on all mankind. The Ten Commandments are a perfect summary of His Law. We are dead to the Law only in the sense that we are no longer under the Law. As regenerate children of God we are no longer under it as a covenant of works. By it we are no longer trying to save ourselves, justify ourselves, sanctify ourselves, or make ourselves fit to stand in the presence of God by keeping the Law. That is where all mankind stands and we stood there also before being regenerated by the Holy Ghost. That is what is meant by being “under the Law;” striving to use the Law as a means of saving ourselves, of being justified before God, of being sanctified in His presence. By the mercy of God the saints are now “under grace.” We no longer try to justify ourselves by works, or by conformity by the Law. “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). It is in that sense, and in that sense only, that we are dead to the Law. It does not mean that we have no interest in our Lord’s Law and its demands. That error is a deadly form of antinomianism, and it is utter contradiction of the Scripture.
In the new covenant God writes His Holy Law on the heart, in the will, and in the affections of all those born from above (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:10-12; 10:16-17). This is the great change God has made in sinners saved by grace. By nature we are at “enmity against God: not subject to the law of God” (Rom. 8:7). By grace the sinner has been changed from hatred of God and His Holy Law to a lover of Him and His commands (John 8:42). We are now “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21), loving Him and all His Word, commands and ways. This is clearly shown in the life of Paul in the last half of this chapter. Christ came into this world to do God’s will (Heb. 10:7), and in saving the sinner, He enables us to do it also. In Romans 8:3 Paul is saying that the object of salvation is to enable the redeemed to carry out the righteousness of the Law. In Romans 13:8-10 he is telling the Christian how we are to love. He preached the Ten Commandments which are a wonderful setting forth of the kind of life we are to live.
This freedom from the Law by union to Christ our Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection, was in order to our union with Him in His new life, procured by His death as a living, life-giving covenant Head, that we might be brought into a relation to Him similar to that in which we previously stood to the Law. All natural men are under the Law and they look, though they look in vain, for justification by its means. They hope to enter into life by keeping the commandments, expecting both a title to, and a fitness for, final happiness from their personal obedience. The Law is their hope and dependence. But the redeemed are Christ’s — married to Christ is to have our happiness identified with His; to place our dependence for all we need on Him; to expect to be justified by His righteousness, sanctified by His Spirit, saved in and by Him “with an everlasting salvation” (1 Cor. 1:30). We must be completely freed from the Law in order to our being thus married to Christ. Any and every man that is under the Law is condemned; all that are in Christ are justified. No man can be both. If we are under the Law, we are seeking for salvation by our own doings; if we are in Christ, we are ever saying and meaning, “Surely in the Lord have we righteousness and strength” (Isa. 45:24). No man can do both. We must be dead to — free from the Law, in order to our being united to Christ. This deliverance from the Law is not effected by setting the Law aside, or by disregarding its commands; but by those commands being satisfied in the person of Christ.The freedom from the Law here affirmed of believers, and our union with Christ in death and life, are most intimately connected. It is our union to Him as dying the victim for sin, that gives us freedom from the Law; it is our union with Him as raised from the dead by “the glory” — the expressed approbation, of His Father, that brings us into a state of grace.
The grand design and certain result of this freedom from the Law, in consequence of dying to it, dying by it, in Christ Jesus our Lord, and this marriage relation to Him, are that the children of God may and do bring forth fruit to God. As far as we are concerned, redemption is in order to holiness. David Brown points out, “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.”
The peculiar relation between believers and Christ, is here represented as intended to lead to practical results of a sanctifying kind. The Spirit is represented as producing fruits in holy dispositions and conduct. The wild olive grafted into the good olive tree partakes of its root and fatness, and produces corresponding fruit (John 15:4-5). The true believer married to Christ brings forth fruit to God — is formed to a character, and distinguished by a conduct, which Almighty God approves. To “bring forth fruit to God” is the same thing as to “live to God.” The design and the certain effect of the saint’s freedom from the Law, secured by God’s method of justifying sinners, is not that they may live for self or live in sin, but that they may live to God.
It was the pure, free, everlasting love in the heart of our Heavenly Bridegroom, which caused Him to betroth His Church unto Himself in loving kindness (Isa. 54:8). We were all vile, guilty sinners, in the most abject state, and despicable conditions, yet He loves His elect from all eternity, and openly espouses every member, in time of our conversion, one by one (Jer. 31:3; Psa. 102:13). The work of God in converting sinners works a principle of holiness in the soul that brings forth fruit of righteousness unto God (Ezek. 11:19-20). Union with Christ will not allow a continued life of sin. As a sure consequence of His grace and mercy working in heart and life of the redeemed, we have new love, desire, objective and life. Good fruit is such as is brought forth unto God; then we bring forth fruit to God, when what we think, and speak, and act, is all in reference to Him and His glory, out of loving obedience to His will, with an intent to serve Him only, out of a true desire to please Him only, with a design to honor Him. When the serving, and pleasing, and glorifying, and enjoying of God is the aim of all we do; a special goodness is hereby derived upon all our fruit, it is then brought forth to God. Fruit brought forth unto sin, unto the flesh, unto the world, is cursed fruit. Fruit brought forth to ourselves is no fruit in God’s account. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (Hosea 10:1). The fig-tree was cursed by our Lord for having no fruit (Matt. 21:19). Our fruit must be real fruit. The heart must be made good by the saving operation of the Holy Ghost before it can bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18), and in our being united to Christ our natures are changed, our hearts renewed, our souls taken from the old stock wherein we were born and engrafted into our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore we bring forth fruit unto God (John 15:4).
Verse 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. The apostle proceeds to show that this deliverance from the Law is absolutely necessary in order to sanctification. Deliverance does not just not encourage sin, but it is essential to holiness; for, in fallen man, a state of subjection to Law, as the principle of justification, is a state of subjection to sin; and, in order to our living to God, we must become dead to, freed from, the Law. Law cannot make a bad man good. The apostle shows from his own experience and that of the Roman Christians that it was indeed so (vs. 5 & 6).
“We” clearly refers to true believers — we who were in the flesh, but by Divine grace are so no longer — we who are now “in the Spirit.” “The flesh,” by its association with sin, is to be taken to mean that principle of sin “which works in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” Hence, “flesh” becomes synonymous with the old Adamic nature, ruined and depraved by the Fall and rising up is opposition against all that is spiritual. “The flesh” is equivalent to the state in which all men are born, and continue so unless they are born again (John 3:6-7). It is of similar import with “the old man” — a state in which fallen man is chiefly affected by things that are sensible and present, seen and temporal (Eph. 4:22). Before our conversion the elect were under the wrath of God and enemies to Him, with just as much hatred toward Him as the reprobates. We were controlled by the flesh, our old carnal depraved nature, and walked according to it (Eph. 2:2-3).
“When we were in the flesh” what was the effect of the Law on us, who were then under its power — did it make us holy? No; “the motions of sin which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” “The motions of sin” means passions, affections, “sinful affections and lusting” — sinful propensities of our fallen nature — its tendencies to evil, the bias to error, the disposition to sin, the forming design, the rising desire, of evil. These motions to sin are said to be “by the Law.” “The motions of sin,” or the sinful propensities, “which were” excited, or called forth into exercise, “by the law.” How these sinful passions are aroused by the Law is explained in verses 8, 11, and 13.
The Law does not excite sinful propensities in innocent, holy creatures. The apostle is not speaking of innocent, holy persons: he is speaking of men “in the flesh” — of unregenerate, depraved men; and there can be no doubt that in them sinful propensities are excited, called out to exercise, by the Law. Instead of subduing sinful affections in a depraved heart, the Law irritates them. Depraved sinners find themselves curbed and checked by the Law, and is filled with displeasure at the Holy Law of God and hatred of the Lawgiver Himself (Rom. 8:7). The strictness of the precepts of the Law, and the severity of its sanctions, make him fret against its Author, and form harsh thoughts of that inflexible justice and immaculate purity which are essential elements of the Divine character. Displeasure at the holiness of the Law is direct enmity against God; and enmity against God is at once the worst of “the motions of sin,” and the parent of all others.
These sinful propensities, called forth into exercise by means of the Law, “did work in the members,” or put forth their energy by the members — by the various functions of our nature; not the body only, but the whole of our faculties — mind, imagination, affections, and all the different capacities of thought and feeling and action through which we express ourselves and our personality.
These sinful, lustful feelings were working within us and working on our natural powers and ways of expression, in order to “bring forth fruit unto death.” This activity was not confined to outward actions for our Lord Christ said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). These motions, passions of sins were working in us and exerting our members to act. We sinned in mind, imagination, in heart, and in body. And thus exerting themselves, “they brought forth fruit unto death:” they led to practical consequences — to the external manifestation of themselves is a course of action, the end of which, under God’s government, could be nothing but death — everlasting destruction. Such was the influence of Law on the apostle, the Roman Christians, yea, all Christians everywhere, when we were “in the flesh.” The tendency and effect was anything but sanctifying. Now we are married to Christ in order that we should “bring forth fruit unto God;” but in our unsaved life, our life before we were regenerated, we spent all our time and activity in bringing forth “fruit unto death.” The life of sin is a life of death. All sinful actions lead always and only to death; the death of the soul.
Verse 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 oldness of the letter. “We” — that is, we now who have been regenerated, who were in the flesh, and under Law — we, now in the spirit, are delivered from the Law — i.e., we have been completely delivered from the condemning sentence of the Law, and we are “now” brought into a state in which our everlasting happiness is not suspended on our own personal obedience as its meritorious condition. This deliverance from the Law rises out of our death to it. The received text expresses these words as it reads in the marginal rendering — “We being dead to that by which we were held.” The reference is to what the apostle, in the 4th verse, calls our death to the Law “by the body of Christ.” Our freedom from the Law arises from Christ, as our representative, having settled our accounts with the Law on the Cross — in which settlement of accounts we obtain a personal interest by believing.
The apostle Paul looked upon the great principles of the Law as the rule of Christian living. When a person has not the writing of the Law upon the heart in regeneration grace (Jer. 31:33), his service toward God in the Law can only be a matter of letterism. It can never be from the heart, in the true spirit and intent of the Law. The Law in its cursing, condemning character being dead to us, since we are in Christ, we now serve God, not in the letter of the Law, under the threat of its cursing, condemning nature, but in the true spirit or intent of the Law. As shown in verses 2 and 3 above the Law has the power to curse or condemn a woman who is married to another man while she has a living husband, calling her an adulteress, but the Law no longer has this power to curse or condemn this woman if her husband is dead and she is lawfully married to another man.
In the death of the Husband of our soul, Jesus Christ our Lord, we are dead to the cursing power of the Law. The Law cannot curse us, calling us adulterers, though we are married to another, even our resurrected Lord Christ. The Law in its cursing power being dead to us, we now serve God, not in the letter of the Law, but in its great principles of holiness. “A man doth not partake of the Gospel blessing till he serve God in the spirit; that is, till he be made partaker of the regenerating grace and actual influence of the Holy Spirit. New life is the principle of evangelical obedience; and when we are renewed by the Holy Ghost, we walk in newness of conversation. The Gospel is a ministry of the Spirit, 2 Cor. 3:8. It not only requireth duty, but giveth power to perform it. The letter of the Law requireth, but giveth no principle or inclination to do it; that is from regenerating grace, or the Law written upon our hearts: John 3:6, ‘That which is born of Spirit, is spirit;’ that is, suited, inclined, disposed, fitted for a spiritual life.” (Thomas Manton).
The word “serve” does not signify to do an occasional act of obedience, but to be a bond-servant, a slave, the property of his Master, constantly and entirely subject to His will. Before his conversion Paul vainly attempted to serve God “in oldness of the letter,” but it was a service which he later, after being regenerated, described as “confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3-4). Spiritual service is inward for it proceeds from a renewed heart, whereas carnal service is external and is therefore destitute of holiness. Paul thus shows these two services to be diametrically opposed to each other (Rom. 2:29). As new men, Christians serve Christ in newness of life and love.
The work of the Lord Christ’s life and death was to justify sinners: so the teaching of His Spirit is to sanctify them. And as this is done inwardly in our soul, it is evidenced outwardly in our lives, in separating ourselves as a holy vessel meet for the Master’s use, from all sensuality and uncleanness; in “putting off the old man with his deeds,” and in serving our God and Saviour “in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” “Ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and Spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6: 19-20). RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 7: 1- 6.
Verse 1. O! What pains are taken to conjure up the ghost of the Law, and how many mistaken souls frighten themselves all their days with the ghastly apparition of it, instead of seeing it slain by Christ, and rejoicing over it as a dead enemy. (The Law is not dead. We are dead to it by the body of Christ as our Substitute and our death in Him – LVC). Reader, do not charge me with Antinomianism: I abhor the imputation: it is the desire of my soul to say with the Psalmist, “Lord, how love I thy law!” I believe it to be the rule of our duty, and that it will be the measure of our reward or condemnation. I believe, from my heart, that we are only miserable by transgressing it, and can never be happy but in conforming to it. But then I must learn from St. Paul the Spirit’s order of coming to the love of it. And I understand from him, that I can never look upon it with a friendly eye till I see the sting of death taken out of it, never be in a fruit -bearing state according to it, nor delight in it as a rule, till I am freed from it as a covenant. — Thomas Adams (1583-1652).
Things that don’t make sense to our ordinary reasoning can make sense to our spiritual understanding. — Vance Havner (1901-1986).
There is no such thing as genuine knowledge of God that does not show itself in obedience to His Word and will. — Sinclair Ferguson (b. 1948).
The Law of God is the royal Law of liberty, and liberty consists in being captive to the Word and Law of God. All other liberty is not liberty but the thraldom of servitude to sin. — John Murray (1898-1975).
I cannot find a syllable in [the Apostle’s] writings which teaches that any one of the Ten Commandments is done away . . . I believe that the coming of Christ’s Gospel did not alter the position of the Ten Commandments one hair’s breath. — J. C. Ryle (1816-1900).
Verse 2. In its nature marriage is of perpetual obligation, and can be dissolved in no way during the life of the parties, but by some crime, which wholly subverts its design. The Scriptures mention two such, adultery, and willful permanent desertion, Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mark 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:15. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
This is a plausible reason, derived from Theodoret and Chrysostom; but hardly necessary. Commentators have felt much embarrassed in applying the illustration given here. The woman is freed by the death of the husband; but the believer is represented as freed by dying himself. This does not correspond: and if we attend to what the Apostle says, we shall see that he did not contemplate such a correspondence. Let us notice how he introduces the illustration; “the Law,” he says in the first verse, “rules, or exercises authority, over a man while he lives;” and then let us observe the application in Romans 7:4, where he speaks of our dying to the Law. The main design of the illustration then was to show that there is no freedom from a law but by death; so that there is no necessity of a correspondence in the other parts, As in the case of man and wife, death destroys the bond of marriage; so in the case of man and the Law, that is, the Law as the condition of life, there must be a death; else there is no freedom. But there is one thing more in the illustration, which the Apostle adopts, the liberty to marry another, when death has given a release: The bond of connection being broken, a union with another is legitimate. So far only is the example adduced to be applied — death puts an end to the right and authority of Law; and then the party released may justly form another connection. It is the attempt to make all parts of the comparison to correspond that has occasioned all the difficulty. — Ed. (Taken from footnote of John Calvin’s commentary).
The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled on by him; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved. — Matthew Henry (1662-1714).
If the ‘grace’ you have received does not help you to keep the Law, you have not received grace. — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). (Amen! LVC).
Verse 3. A contract so lasting as that of marriage, and of which the consequences are so important, should not be entered into lightly, but in the fear of God. — Charles Hodge (1797-1878).
Successful marriage is always a triangle: a man, a woman and God. — Cecil Meyers.
The Apostle here proves his assertion by a particular reference to the law of marriage. And no doubt this law of marriage was purposely adapted by God to illustrate and shadow forth the subject to which it is here applied. Had it not been so, it might have been unlawful to become a second time a wife or a husband. But the Author of human nature and of the Law by which man is to be governed, has ordained the lawfulness of second marriages, for the purpose of shadowing forth the truth referred to, as marriage itself was from the first a shadow of the relation between Christ and His Church. Some apply the term Law in this place to the Roman law, with which those addressed must have been acquainted; but it is well known that it was unusual both for husbands and wives among the Romans to be married to other husbands and wives during the life of their former consorts, without being considered guilty of adultery. The reference is to the general law of marriage, as instituted at the beginning. — Robert Haldane (1764-1842).
Verse 4. Multitudes have made a confession, but they are not living holy lives. They all claim Jesus as Saviour, but you can’t see a mark of His rule in their lives. — Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969).
It is one thing to make a profession of religion, and another thing to experience real, vital union to and oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this union, there cannot be any real communion, for union is the foundation of communion; therefore, it is of the greatest moment to know our union to Christ. — William Gadsby (1773-1844).
He is not married to Christ who brings forth no fruit unto God. — Hardy.
We must be united to Christ, engrafted upon another stock, and partake of the power of His resurrection; for without this we may bring forth fruit, but not fruit to God. There is as utter an impossibility in a man to answer the end of his creation without righteousness as for a man to act without life, or act strongly without health and strength. It is a contradiction to think a man can act righteously without righteousness. For without it he hath not the being of a man; that is, man is such a capacity for those ends for which his creation intended them. — Stephen Charnock (1628-1680).
Verse 5. The Holy Spirit teaches us in Scripture that our mind is smitten with so much blindness, that the affections of our heart are so depraved and perverted, that our whole nature is vitiated, that we can do nothing but sin until he forms a new will within us. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
The “flesh” is the open, implacable, inveterate, irreconcilable enemy of holiness, yea, it is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7) — an “enemy” may be reconciled, not so “enmity” itself. Then what an evil and abominable thing is the flesh: at variance with the Holy One, a rebel against His Law! It is therefore our enemy, yea, it is far and away the worst one the believer has. The Devil and the world without do all their mischief to the souls of men by the flesh within them. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
MEN IN NATURE have most strenuously assailed the doctrine of total, innate, inherent depravity, and have long devised and proclaimed their lying, deceptive and seductive argument against it; but God will make His people know the truthfulness of it by a daily experience of their own sinfulness. A vital knowledge of sin puts to flight every traditional theory of human ability or Adamic purity, and fastens upon the conscience a pungent conviction that man is a sinner, from the cradle to the grave, with no part or capacity reserved. It is not the Christian’s burden that he only sins by word and deed, but his thoughts are unclean, and above all he discovers lurking like a serpent in the deep recesses of his heart the love of sinful things. This almost drives him to despair, and makes him hate his own life, and trust nothing but the blood and righteousness of the adorable Redeemer. — H. M. Curry.
“For when we were in the flesh [i.e., while Christians were in their unregenerate state], the motions of sins [literally, the affections of sin, or the beginning of our passions], which were [aggravated] by the Law, did work in our members [the faculties of the soul as well as of the body] to bring forth fruit unto death” (Rom. 7:5). Those “affections of sin” are the filthy streams which issue from the polluted fountain of our hearts. They are the first stirrings of our fallen nature which precede the overt acts of transgression. They are the unlawful movements of our desire prior to the studied and deliberate thoughts of the mind after sin. “But sin [indwelling corruption], taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” or “evil lustings” (Rom. 7:8). Note that word “wrought in me”: there was a polluted disposition or evil propensity at work, distinct from the deeds which it polluted. Indwelling sin is a powerful principle, constantly exercising a bad influence, stimulating unholy affections, stirring to avarice, enmity, malice and countless other evils . . . The popular idea which now prevails is that nothing is sinful except an open and outward transgression. Such a concept falls far short of the searching and humbling teaching of Holy Writ. It affirms that the source of all temptation lies within fallen man himself. The depravity of his own heart induces him to listen to the devil or be influenced by the profligacy of others. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 6. Till men have faith in Christ, their best services are but glorious sins. — Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).
Professor of Christianity: Your evidence is to bear fruit. — J. C. Ryle (1816-1900).
To my God, a heart of flame; to my fellow men, a heart of love; to myself, a heart of steel. — Augustine (354-430).
The child of God has only one dread — to offend his Father; only one desire — to please and delight in Him. — Charles Bridges (1794-1869).
Do we get out of condemnation by our not walking after the flesh? Certainly not; that is salvation by works, a turning things backwards. We escape condemnation if we are “in Christ” who died for us. Then the consequent and essential result of this death is “that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” He who is dead in trespasses and sins cannot please God because he is in the flesh and minds the things of the flesh. If one is seen always minding the things of the flesh (regardless of what he professes) it is very evident that he is still in the flesh. “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Can we not live after the flesh and still have Christ in us the hope of glory? — GOD FORBID! The Word of God says here not only that we cannot live after the flesh, but he who does so “is none of His.” This is an awful truth and hard saying to the carnal mind. Paul follows his statement with proof: “But if Christ be in you the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” What does he mean? — our outward body of flesh and bones? Certainly not, but the “body of sin”; it is dead, crucified, killed, mortified, put down, kept under, etc. (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 8:13, etc.). It is the carnal mind, the lust of the flesh, which in Paul’s words serves the “law of sin and death.” — W. J. Berry (1908-1986).
The motive for service and obedience is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who has given us new desires, principles, dispositions, and views. We serve out of love and not out of fear. We now delight to do the will of God, rather than the following of the letter in fear of its threats. We serve as sons. In Christ we are new creations! — Ferrell Griswold (1928-1982).