Romans Chapter 7

1    Or are you ignorant, brothers – for to those knowing law I am speaking – that the law is mastering of the person on as much time as he lives!

1   η αγνοειτε αδελφοι γινωσκουσιν γαρ νομον λαλω οτι ο νομος κυριευει του ανθρωπου εφ οσον χρονον ζη

Paul has continued throughout this explanation, to address those members of his audience who are ‘under the Law’. As we read the comments and arguments he presents, we must read them in the context of what they would necessarily mean to a native Jew. It was the Jew who ‘knew’ the Law, not the Gentile. “We” were never under the Law – neither Gentiles, who were apart from Israel, and only by exercising their own free will in believing the only true God and desiring to participate in the life of God’s people, did any Gentile become as one ‘under law’. When the message of the Gospel was brought to the masses outside of national Israel, no one was called to begin to observe the Law; rather everyone was called specifically and exclusively to repent of their sin, and trust in the person of Jesus Christ and His death as the propitiation for their sin. The Gospel contains no mention of law; neither the Law of Moses, nor any other “law” to which any saint of God is bound.

Consequently, it is entirely wrong for the present church to appropriate the Law as though it was something that did apply to us, or was given specifically for us, as it is equally wrong to interpret Paul’s words addressed to the Jews, those under the Law, as though they had equal context to the Gentile believer as they had to the Jewish saint. Rather, we must take care to hear the message to the Jews as to the Jews, and to discover what elements of the message are universally applicable and from which others we may only extrapolate principles to appropriately apply to any hearers regardless of background.

At this point, Paul is continuing to speak to ‘those knowing law’; in other words, he is still addressing his Jewish audience. He is using a rhetorical question to emphasize the point he has been making regarding the obligation of the saint of Christ to the Law of Moses, and the role of that Law in the life of a Jewish believer, as well as how it may extend to a Gentile saint.

Paul’s point is that the Law only ‘owns’ a person while they are alive. Once one is dead, as he previously reminded them, that deceased is released from any Law on earth. In presenting what is necessarily a common-sense conclusion – no earthly law can bind someone who is not here – Paul is leading their thinking to follow a logical path to a reasonable understanding of what must be true pertaining to the Law in the life of a Christian.

2    for the married (hupandros) woman to the living man is bound to (by) law; yet if ever the man (husband) may die, she has been released of the man from the law.

η γαρ υπανδρος γυνη τω ζωντι ανδρι δεδεται νομω εαν δε αποθανη ο ανηρ κατηργηται απο του νομου του ανδρος

Again Paul uses a practical illustration that requires a sensible conclusion: that the legal obligation of a married woman extends only to a living husband; if the man dies, she is certainly not still his wife.

In order for Paul’s illustration to be meaningful, it is necessary that the illustration be based in fact and be correct. People have tried to redefine the terms various ways to make current affairs more convenient, but Christ’s words were very clear: anyone who divorces his wife, except if she had been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman who was dismissed is also guilty of adultery.[1] In other words, divorcing of a faithful spouse is in itself adultery, and marrying a divorcee is also adultery. Cheating on a spouse is adultery, and Jesus also told His disciples that even looking at a woman to lust for her is adultery. We can see from Christ’s answers to His disciples and to the Pharisees, that God considers any action that breaks or violates the marriage as being adultery.

We only understand this properly when we realize the privileged role that marriage has in reflecting the perfect union of the members of the triune God. Just as God is a single corporate entity made up of three unique and separate Individuals, equal in nature and importance, but differing in roles and responsibilities, Who are perfectly united in purpose, and complete in love and honour for one another, marriage is the uniting of two unique individuals into one new family. Equal to one another while differing in roles and responsibilities, a husband and wife are to love and honour one another before all others, sharing a common life in which they cherish and build up one another in unity. God refers to Himself as the husband to His bride, Israel, and to the church as the bride of Christ, the divine bridegroom.[2]

Back to Paul’s illustration, its power to explain what Paul wants them to understand, rests in the validity of the illustration, which while addressed to the Jews among the Roman saints, could still be appreciated by the Gentile believers. Only by understanding the illustration can the audience be certain to ‘get the point’ Paul wants them to receive regarding their condition before God in Christ and the role of the Law in that condition.

3    Consequently then, of the living man (husband) she shall be considered adulteress if she becomes (married) to a different man; yet if the man may die, she is free; from the law she is not adulteress becoming (marrying) to a different man.

αρα ουν ζωντος του ανδρος μοιχαλις χρηματισει εαν γενηται ανδρι ετερω εαν δε αποθανη ο ανηρ ελευθερα εστιν απο του νομου του μη ειναι αυτην μοιχαλιδα γενομενην ανδρι ετερω

A woman whose husband is alive is considered adulteress if she marries another man, because she has violated her marriage. As we know from Christ’s replies to His questioners, as recorded in Matthew’s gospel, divorce is not an excuse for remarriage, but is itself a of violation of the marriage. If a woman becomes married to a man other than her husband, she is guilty. But if he has died, the Law has no more jurisdiction over her as it relates to him, and she is not guilty to find a new husband.

Paul’s purpose in making this reference was not to teach regarding marriage and remarriage; rather he took an illustration which his audience would already understand, in order to bring his point home to his audience, that a law can only hold those subjected to it while they continue to live in its jurisdiction. As long as we live in the jurisdiction of a law, we are bound by it, but when we die, we are no longer held, because that law has no jurisdiction over a dead person.

4    so that, my brothers, also you were put to death to the Law through the body of Christ, that you become (are married) to a different (one): the One being raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

ωστε αδελφοι μου και υμεις εθανατωθητε τω νομω δια του σωματος του χριστου εις το γενεσθαι υμας ετερω τω εκ νεκρων εγερθεντι ινα καρποφορησωμεν τω θεω

Following his analogy to human marriage, Paul picks upon his previous statement that those in Christ are dead to sin, telling his Jewish audience that becoming a member of Christ takes them out of the jurisdiction of the Law; they have died to the Law by becoming born by the Spirit into Christ. Throughout the prophets, God used the analogy of marriage, referring to the nation of Israel as His wife or His bride. The New Testament imagery portrays the church as the bride of Christ the bridegroom. As it is impossible to be lawfully married to more than one husband, the Jew in Christ needed to understand that they could not live as both a member of Christ, living in and by the Spirit, and as a slave to the Law given by Moses, following rules in an attempt approve themselves to God. Their union with Christ must be completely monogamous, because Christ has freed them from bondage to the doings of the flesh.

God’s purpose even for Israel had never been to constrain men by rules and rituals. Rather God’s purpose for men was to live eternally in fellowship with God and led by His Spirit. Sin prevented man from fellowship with the perfect God, and no rules or following of rituals could ever repair the rift resulting from man’s rebellion. While God provided the Law to the Jews as that by which, if a man would do it, he would live, God desired then as now, a faithful heart toward Him. Christ fulfilled the Law, redeeming those Jews back to the God of their fathers, so that they could be released from the bondage – ownership – to a set of rules and rituals, and its concomitant condemnation, to be joined to God in faith, as was God’s original intention for His people.

5    For when we were in the flesh, the passions (emotions) of the sins, the ones through the Law, operated in our members to the bearing of fruit to the death,

οτε γαρ ημεν εν τη σαρκι τα παθηματα των αμαρτιων τα δια του νομου ενηργειτο εν τοις μελεσιν ημων εις το καρποφορησαι τω θανατω


6    yet now we were exempted (released; freed) from the Law, that (being) dead (in that) in which we were held, so that to be slaving (douleuein; pres.)  us in newness of spirit and not oldness of letter. (“us” rather than “we”; pp, accusative, therefore an object rather than subject, of the verb douleuein; literally reads: … we are exempted from the Law of dying(death) in which we were held, so that to be slaving us in newness of spirit …)

νυνι δε κατηργηθημεν απο του νομου αποθανοντες εν ω κατειχομεθα ωστε δουλευειν ημας εν καινοτητι πνευματος και ου παλαιοτητι γραμματος


7       What then shall we say? The Law (is) sin? It may not be! But the sin I knew not if not through Law, for besides (for instance) I had not perceived (edein – known; seen; recognized; comprehended) coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

τι ουν ερουμεν ο νομος αμαρτια μη γενοιτο αλλα την αμαρτιαν ουκ εγνων ει μη δια νομου την τε γαρ επιθυμιαν ουκ ηδειν ει μη ο νομος ελεγεν ουκ επιθυμησεις

If having this Law resulted in everyone becoming twice guilty, exposing the wickednesses of the hearts, and serving to stimulate the temptation to breaking of the Law, some might argue that the Law serves as the stumbling block, or impetus to sin, and is itself the problem. Using himself as the example, Paul explains that the Law is not the problem; the human heart that prefers to fulfill its own desires and satisfy its own longings is the problem. It is important throughout this illustration, to remember that Paul is describing himself as a man under Law. Many people misunderstand this passage to be Paul’s description of his on-going struggle with finding himself always unable to what he knows is right, but Paul is talking about his inability as a man under the Law, to consistently fulfill the Law, despite his acceptance and even approval of that Law; he is not describing the situation of any saint of Christ. When he says that he ‘does not know’ or he “does not understand”, the fact that he is meticulously explaining the problem, including the cause and the solution clearly demonstrates that he, as the apostle of Christ, absolutely does know and understand both the problem and the solution. He is speaking of his condition as a man under the Law apart from Christ, to illustrate the condition of all men who desire to follow a set of rules in order to be righteous; no matter how completely anyone may agree with the goodness or benefit of the Law or a law, ultimately no man will find himself able to consistently and perfectly fulfill the requirements of a set of rules, because apart from Christ, we are obligated to live in and by our flesh, and flesh will always press for self-satisfaction.

Law, whether the Law of Moses given to Israel, or any other law, is merely the expression of the requirements and expectations of someone in authority over those to whom the law is issued. While a particular law may be unjust or wicked, law itself is not sin. What law accomplishes is the identification for us of what is right and wrong, so that we are able to recognize it and make a decision regarding our conduct based on that knowledge. Paul confirms that he would not have recognized that any particular thing he did was wrong, apart from the communication of it through the law. Using the illustration of the last commandment – you shall not covet those things belonging to your neighbours – Paul explains that he would not have understood that his wants and desires – coveting – were wrong, if the Law had not pronounced that God’s people are not to covet.

In other words, by a law, the hearer becomes aware of what things are considered right and wrong according to the authority who issues the law. When God expressed the first ten precepts to the nation of Israel, He told them how they would live as God’s people. Living as God’s people would be characterized by those things which God told them they would do or would avoid doing. When God issued the Law to Moses, He prescribed how a man must live if he would live before God as an upright member of Israel.[3] By clearly communicating His expectations of this people, God showed them what behaviours and attitudes constituted right and wrong, what they were to do and what they were to avoid. Telling them these things was not sin nor did it cause them to sin, nor was their acquiring the knowledge of right and wrong the imputation of sin to them. Rather, sin itself gained strength through the Law because once they had knowledge of what was right or wrong, to do otherwise was doubly-wrong. Only when they would violate what they were commanded would they become guilty of sin, and it was not the communication of the Law – the expression of the requirements – that was the cause of the problem, but their refusal to observe the requirements they were given.

8      Yet the sin, getting (labousa) opportunity (aphormen – as in: a place of ambush) through the precept, produces in me all coveting. For apart from law, sin is dead.

αφορμην δε λαβουσα η αμαρτια δια της εντολης κατειργασατο εν εμοι πασαν επιθυμιαν χωρις γαρ νομου αμαρτια νεκρα

Anyone, once they possess knowledge of a law, becomes accountable to that law, and the Jew, having received the Law from God, became accountable to that Law. Continuing his example of coveting, once that Law communicated the prohibition against coveting, every coveting comes up for judgment under the Law that exposes it as sin.

While Paul’s purpose in discussing the Law to such extent was to clarify to the Jewish Christians that the Law given to Israel through Moses had no role in salvation, the principle applies in general to all of us. When a person goes along through life without knowledge of what is expected, they may do those things they should not, or fail to do those things they should, but they are merely interacting with experience; they are not maliciously rebelling against good. But once we possess knowledge of the requirement, and knowledge that it is a right requirement, we now recognize when our desires conflict with the righteous requirement. We no longer choose in ignorance of what is expected or what is right, but we choose in full knowledge to either adhere to the requirement or violate it.

The human tendency to prefer to satisfy our own desires leaves us vulnerable because now an open conflict now exists between what we know to be right and good because a law has informed us, and what we desire whether or not it is right or good.  Paul describes this as sin gaining a place of ambush, or an opportunity to overtake us. It is as though sin were lying in wait, and the Law provided its opportunity to bowl us over. The knowledge of what is right puts us in the position where, each time we desire otherwise, we are now guilty of wrong desires. If we had not known, we could not wilfully violate the precept, but now that we know the precept, we have only one choice to avoid sin, which is to adhere to the precept. Any other choice is sin, because we know what is right.

But more that this, now that Israel had that Law, the practices and prohibitions under the Law, bringing conscious awareness of the expectations of God, had the effect of keeping the desires under the attention of the people who were to conduct themselves by that law. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but it’s easier to avoid error if I lack knowledge of the expectation; I cannot wilfully break a law I do not know. So, knowing the Law produces the consciousness that keeps the desire in the forefront of my attention so that it can entice me more often and more strongly, while at the same time requires that I be found guilty if I behave contrary to the Law because at that time I have wilfully transgressed – broken – the Law and must therefore be justly condemned for doing so,[4] for “he who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin.”

9       Yet I was living apart from law, yet once the precept came, the sin revived, yet I died. (apethanon lit: from died; I died from it)

εγω δε εζων χωρις νομου ποτε ελθουσης δε της εντολης η αμαρτια ανεζησεν εγω δε απεθανον

Paul presents his teaching contrast: that without law, he was alive; only after the requirement was communicated did sin come to life, and he died because of it. Only after the expression of what was good and evil, was a human being held accountable to that standard. But as soon as the standard had been revealed, and accountability established, the human being became guilty of violating the standard, incurring the death penalty from the Sovereign of eternity.

10   And the precept (commandment) (which) was found by me to be into life, this was into death.

και ευρεθη μοι η εντολη η εις ζωην αυτη εις θανατον

The purpose of the commandment was to instruct men how to live. The Law was given to Israel to instruct them how to conduct themselves as the people of God before their Creator. Again, he who does those things shall live by them.

But in failing to meet the requirements, the effect of the commandment was to expose the faults and condemn the sinner as one having broken the law.

11      For the sin, gaining opportunity by the commandment, deceived (­seduces; deludes. Probably properly ‘seduces’, as it makes more sense) me, and by it, killed (me).

η γαρ αμαρτια αφορμην λαβουσα δια της εντολης εξηπατησεν με και δι αυτης απεκτεινεν


1537 εκ ek or εξ ex:   a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative);   prep

AV-of 366, from 181, out of 162, by 55, on 34, with 25, misc 98; 921

1) out of, from, by, away from

538 απαταω apatao:      of uncertain derivation; v      AV-deceive 4; 4

1) to cheat, beguile, deceive To beguile: to deceive by trickery

Paul repeats his statement that sin ‘gained an opportunity’, or acquired a place of ambush, by the commandment. The word translated in the KJV as “deceived” means to cheat, to beguile, to deceive, seduce or delude.  Paul’s illustration of sin ‘lying in wait’ to ‘ambush’ him, along with the fact that the presentation of the Law results in his knowledge of what is sinful, strongly points away from the likelihood of his intending the sense of ‘deceive’, and rather strongly indicates an understanding of ‘seduce’. Upon hearing that certain desires or inclinations are proscribed in the Law, those desires remain as a temptation in the mind and heart, drawing the loyalties of the individual, and luring him away from what is right and good. Just as an adulterer knows perfectly well that his vows of marriage prohibit his romantic engagement with any other woman, so that any affair is conducted in full knowledge that it is wrong, so also the sinner under the Law knows full well that his choice to violate the Law is wrong.

But the desire for satisfaction does entice or seduce him, urging and even pleading with him to come away from the right in order to satiate his desires that are contrary to the Law. When he succumbs to the desire, he comes under condemnation, and “the soul that sinneth, shall die.”[5]

12   So that the Law indeed is holy, and the precept holy and just and good

ωστε ο μεν νομος αγιος και η εντολη αγια και δικαια και αγαθη

The word “holy” means to be set apart. The requirements of the Law were intended to separate the nation of Israel from the pagan nations around them, and to separate them from sin in general. God incorporated the exercise of justice, as well as moral pronouncements, ritual observances designed to exalt only the one true God and to express the grace of His kindness toward a sinful people, and to foreshadow the coming atonement in the Messiah Prince. Paul is agreeing that the Law is good; the Law is not the problem.

Moreover, agreement with the Law is not the problem; Paul affirms the goodness, holiness, and justice of the Law. The problem lies elsewhere.

13      Then the good to me has become death? (not as a question in the Greek) May it not be! (Not at all!) But the sin, that it might appear sin, through the (what is) good to me produces death, that the sin might become sinful to extreme (huperbolen; n.acc. – over + thrown as in to exceed or to excess) through the precept.

το ουν αγαθον εμοι γεγονεν θανατος μη γενοιτο αλλα η αμαρτια ινα φανη αμαρτια δια του αγαθου μοι κατεργαζομενη θανατον ινα γενηται καθ υπερβολην αμαρτωλος η αμαρτια δια της εντολης

So, sin, taking occasion through the Law, seduced Paul and killed him, yet the Law itself was good. Anticipating another argument, Paul replies that the good Law did not become death to Paul.

Wrong is wrong whether we recognize it or not. But until we know what things are wrong, our culpability is different. As previously explained, in order to expose what is wrong, it is necessary to communicate wrong and right, which is what the Law did for Israel. In exposing sin, the Law condemns the sinner, ‘producing death’.

To wilfully violate a clearly-expressed requirement from a rightful authority is to rebel against the authority. When we rebel against God, we stand in opposition to the universal Sovereign of all creation. God despises all sin. Sin brings disorder and decay into God’s originally-perfect creation, and disfigures that member of creation that bears God’s image in creation. To oppose the Creator is to state that we consider Him unworthy of respect, that His jurisdiction over us is assumed rather than by right; it is to demonstrate that, as far as we are concerned, God’s ‘view’ of right or wrong is itself wrong. In other words, to rebel against God is equivalent to considering God to be something less than God, which takes us right back to Paul’s opening words in which he accounted that men knew God, but refused to acknowledge Him as God, and were unthankful. God condemns rebellion against His word as grievous as witchcraft – a capital offense under the Law to Israel.[6] The clear expression of that precept, then, compounds the sinfulness of wrong-doing, because now it becomes that deliberate and open rebellion against God that devalues God as God, and corrupts His good creation.

14   For we know (oidamen – perceive, recognize) that the Law is spiritual: but I am fleshly (sarkikos), having been sold under the sin.

οιδαμεν γαρ οτι ο νομος πνευματικος εστιν εγω δε σαρκικος ειμι πεπραμενος υπο την αμαρτιαν

We can see that the Law is spiritual: what does Paul mean by this statement? The Law is designed to instruct the Jew to righteousness before God, to set him apart from the ungodliness of the world around him in which God is rejected as God. It exposes sin, and convicts sin. When anyone lives as led by God, they are living ‘after the Spirit’, so in a manner, to the extent that the Law served to Israel as the leading by the Spirit of God, it was a spiritual gift of grace to Israel: God would instruct them how to live, and those who would do so, would live by it.

But Paul is an human being; he resides in flesh. Sarkikos means ‘fleshly’, or “of flesh”. While the Gnostics believed that the flesh, and the body were inherently evil by nature, Paul repudiated that teaching throughout his writing. Being made of flesh means that we have many urges and desires that vie for our attention. When we live to satisfy those urges rather than living to glorify God, we are giving ourselves into sin. Remember that Paul told his audience that they had sold themselves to sin; when we live by our fleshly desires, we become the slaves to sin – we permit sin to ‘own’ us. It’s that simple.

15      For which I do, not I know (ginosko; I don’t know / understand what I’m doing.), for not which I will (not what I want), I practise, but which I hate, this I do.

ο γαρ κατεργαζομαι ου γινωσκω ου γαρ ο θελω τουτο πρασσω αλλ ο μισω τουτο ποιω

Here Paul expresses distress: he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Having confirmed his acknowledgement of the goodness of the Law, he is perplexed because finds himself not following his desire to do what is right, but rather performing those unlawful things which he hates. When he wants to follow the Law and be righteous in it, he fails.

Again, Paul’s problem is not that he doesn’t know what to do, nor is his problem that he disagrees with what is good, nor that he doesn’t want to do what is right; rather he is distressed because, knowing and desiring to do what is right, he still finds himself doing otherwise. He doesn’t know why this is happening,

16       If then what I am not willing, this I do (If that which I do not want to do, I do do), I consent (agree, concede) to the Law that is good (kalos; ideal, proper, suitable, worthy, etc.).

ει δε ο ου θελω τουτο ποιω συμφημι τω νομω οτι καλος

Paul confirms that his desire conforms to the Law. Although his desires are consistent with “the Law that is good”, His actions are not consistent with his desires. Paul as a man under the Law had no problem agreeing with the Law; he only had a problem performing it.

17  Yet now no longer (not still) I am doing (katergazomai; performing) it but sin living in me.        OR

Now then it is no more I doing it, but sin dwelling in me.

νυνι δε ουκετι εγω κατεργαζομαι αυτο αλλ η οικουσα εν εμοι αμαρτια

It appears that Paul now protests that “it’s not my fault” that he failed to live according to the Law. Rather, he is proposing that there is a different root problem: lawlessness – which is what `sin” means – resides in his person. He is a lawless creature inclined to fulfill his own fleshly inclinations just as all men are. While the “who I am” of Paul wants to do what is right, the natural, fleshly creature that he is has a bent toward self-gratification, just as all creatures since the beginning of time.

18  For I see (oida – also: know, perceive) that not living in me – this is in my flesh – good (agathon); for the willingness (to be willing – vn pres.act; desiring) lies beside to me yet the to-be-doing (katergazesthai) the ideal (kalon – the best) I do not find.

For I see that good lives not in me – that is in my flesh – because the desire is by me, but I do not find the doing of (what is) ideal.

οιδα γαρ οτι ουκ οικει εν εμοι τουτεστιν εν τη σαρκι μου αγαθον το γαρ θελειν παρακειται μοι το δε κατεργαζεσθαι το καλον ουχ ευρισκω

“Good” does not live in Paul’s flesh – nor our own either – because the flesh is completely opposed to the spirit; the natural is like a contrast to the spiritual, and it is our spirit that may be bent toward God, whereas our flesh is bent toward itself. Paul repeated the fact that he truly wanted to do what was best, but the actual doing didn’t match the wanting. He was a man in conflict.

19  For not (the) good (agathon) which I am willing, am I doing, but evil which I am not willing, this I am practising.

ου γαρ ο θελω ποιω αγαθον αλλ ο ου θελω κακον τουτο πρασσω

Again Paul repeats that, rather than doing the good he desired – affirming that in fact his desires were good – he found himself performing the evil he didn’t want to do. His performance did not reflect his desire.

20  Yet if (that) which I am not willing, this I am doing, no longer I am doing it, but the sin living in me.

ει δε ο ου θελω εγω τουτο ποιω ουκετι εγω κατεργαζομαι αυτο αλλ η οικουσα εν εμοι αμαρτια

Again Paul states that sin in him is the motivator for his behaviour not matching his desires. He is unwilling to do those things which are wrong, yet he finds that he is doing them anyway, because the inclination to lawbreaking is stronger than his desire to ‘be good’.

21     Consequently, I find the Law: to the (while) I am willing (desire) to do what is ideal (kalon; best) that the evil is near me. (Literally: lying beside me”)

ευρισκω αρα τον νομον τω θελοντι εμοι ποιειν το καλον οτι εμοι το κακον παρακειται

Paul uses strong language to refer to the reality that, despite his desire to do what is best, evil resides right there with him: he refers to this also as “law”. Something rules his experience other than the expressed precepts of God, or Paul’s own conscience; rather the ruling principle is the presence of sin regardless of his desire for righteousness.

22  for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man:

συνηδομαι γαρ τω νομω του θεου κατα τον εσω ανθρωπον

23     But I observe a different law in my members, warring with the law of my mind, and capturing me, the law of the sin being in my members.

βλεπω δε ετερον νομον εν τοις μελεσιν μου αντιστρατευομενον τω νομω του νοος μου και αιχμαλωτιζοντα με τω νομω της αμαρτιας τω οντι εν τοις μελεσιν μου

To the many who have been deceived into thinking that an unregenerate man cannot see, seek, or desire what is good, Paul proclaims his ‘delight’ in the law of God despite his inability to perform it consistently. Paul was speaking of his condition before Christ, as a descriptive illustration of the point he had been making throughout the previous several chapters, that the Law of Moses had no power to create righteousness in a man, but had only the power to identify and compound sin in a man. The sin was already there, but Law brought it into focus, showing it for was it was, and eliminating the escape clause of ignorance by compelling man to know.

Consequently Paul had a conflict between his flesh and his mind or spirit; as much as he longed to follow God’s precepts, his ‘members’ – the actions of his flesh – were compelled by the inclinations of the flesh to fulfill its own urges contrary to his conscious preference to follow God.

24  Wretched (Lit: weight-calloused) man (anthropos) that I am! Who shall rescue me out of (from) the body of this death?

ταλαιπωρος εγω ανθρωπος τις με ρυσεται εκ του σωματος του θανατου τουτου

The agony of Paul’s cry must not be lost on the reader: a man who desired to live godly, but found himself compelled to do otherwise despite his personal preference and desire, knowing the significance of following God or disobeying Him, would be devastated by his hopeless condition. No matter how much wanting, or how deeply, he would always be bound apart from God by the moving of the flesh in its drive to self-fulfillment! Such a man was without hope, doomed to the separation from God demanded by justice for all who violate God’s righteous standards. He longed toward God, but was completely lost to God because of the power of his flesh over his mind. No mind-over-matter for this man! Rather mind was defeated by matter, and he was destined to destruction and powerless to save himself. A man with the Law was a man condemned. He could only hope for a saviour to release him from his certain condemnation, but who could possibly fulfill such a tremendous requirement: to rescue him from himself and restore him to life?

25     I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Consequently then I myself indeed with the mind am slaving (douleuo) to God’s law, yet with the flesh to sin’s law.

ευχαριστω τω θεω δια ιησου χριστου του κυριου ημων αρα ουν αυτος εγω τω μεν νοι δουλευω νομω θεου τη δε σαρκι νομω αμαρτιας

Praise be to God! Paul proclaims that through Jesus Christ our Lord he shall be “rescued from the body of this death”. What he cannot do for himself, Jesus Christ was able to do. Even though Paul says he himself was owned in his mind by God’s law, his flesh was owned by sin’s law. However Jesus Christ died to free us from sin’s law, which law is death: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”[7] Every man living in skin is bound to death through sin, but every man in Jesus Christ is freed from sin through Christ’s death on the cross, and raised to life by His resurrection. No matter now that the flesh is compelled to self-satisfaction; the saint of Christ is freed from the “body of this death”, gaining the power of God in Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, to resist temptation – the urgings of the flesh – and live godly in Christ Jesus.[8]

[1] Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; also Malachi 2

[2] Isaiah 54:5; 61:10; 62:4; Jer 3:20; 31:32; John 3:29; Rev 21:9

[3] Leviticus 1:5 and others

[4] James 4:17

[5] Ezekiel 18:4

[6] 1 Samuel 15:23; Exodus 22:18

[7] Ez 18:20

[8] 1 Corinthians 10:13; Titus 2:12