Romans 7


A Chapter On ‘Law’

In Romans, Paul refers to ‘Law’ 52 times. First used in Romans 2:12.

1. The Church in Rome. Mainly made up of Jews, Romans, Greeks, Each race had its own ‘concept of Law’. Jews recognised only the Law of God as given through Moses.

A Religious view

Romans gave the world Civil Law. An ordered and disciplined society, as we might expect from a militarily disciplined Empire.

Greeks the people of philosophy, reason and argument for whom legal trials were an entertainment and a social event.

Given the reports reaching Rome, concerning Paul’s, teaching concerning ‘Law’, each party in the church would have its own questions about the things they had heard. E.G.,

Did Paul really despise the Law, telling the Gentiles that the Law was obsolete? Was he ‘Antinomian’? ‘Against Law’. Thus against the Roman Government?

In Romans 7, Paul presents to the Roman church an exposition of Law such as they most certainly had never heard before.

He has already dismissed the notion that salvation could be attained by keeping the Mosaic Law, or by Meritorious Works, i.e. good works, but only through the free Grace of God. He now proceeds to teach them something about Law which they have failed to understand.

In this chapter, the word ‘Law’ is used in seven different ways.

“Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?” Romans 7:1

1. Law as a general principle, (no article before ‘law’ in v.1), to which all mankind is subject, Galatians 4:4. Without this Law, there would be chaos. Only released from this Law by death. Verse 1.

2. The moral law, the code of conduct and rules of behaviour by which civilized society is governed. Without it, there would be anarchy.

In Romans 7:1-4, Paul was not teaching a lesson on marriage but was using that well-known relationship to show their relation to the law and to Christ.

“As long as he lives?” When a man dies, the law governs him no longer. The law is bound only to the living. His point is, as he will show, that they were not under the law because they were dead to it. Romans 7:4 / Romans 7:6.

“For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man”. Romans 7:2-3

3. The law of marriage. An example that operates within the Moral Law, from which, again, men are released only by death. Decreed by God and endorsed by Jesus, Mark 5:6-9.

The question of divorce is not discussed, the situation described in Romans 7:6 is normal marriage. This Law becomes invalid when one partner dies. Death makes possible a new marriage.

As it is a death that dissolves the marriage bond, so it is also a death that dissolves the legal bond, bondage to the law. Are we to understand Paul to say there is no reason at all for divorce? No, the exceptions are not considered here. It is intended that both parties be faithful to each other until the death of the one or the other.

It is easy to see why he refers to the wife rather than the husband. The law is depicted as being the first husband. Other descriptions of the Old Law are, ‘schoolmaster’ (Galatians 3:23-29), ‘childhood’ (Galatians 4:1-3), ‘bondage’ (Galatians 4:21-30), ‘shadow’ (Hebrews 10:1), ‘yoke’ (Acts 15:10).

“Released from the law of her husband”. The one that governs the relation of the wife to her husband. She thus no more has marital responsibilities to him and is free to marry another.

“Called an adulteress”, ‘Called’ is an unusual word in the New Testament, it is used nine times and appears from its other uses to refer to ‘divinely’ proclaim, warn, speak, Matthew 2:12 / Matthew 2:22 / Luke 2:26 / Acts 10:22 / Acts 11:26 / Hebrews 8:5 / Hebrews 11:7 / Hebrews 12:25.

And so, when she has a loving husband and is married to another, she is so proclaimed an adulteress by God. The death of the mate frees one to marry again. Paul is simply speaking of the normal course of life, e.g., when one in the marriage dies, the other is free to remarry.

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” Romans 7:4-10

4. The Law of Moses given to Israel, Deuteronomy 5:2.

‘Delivered from the Law’ Romans 7:6. As a Jew, Paul describes the Law which God had given to Israel as ‘against us’, but it has been ‘nailed to the Cross’, Colossians 2:14.

A New Covenant

 Note that the Old Covenant was entered by the Rite of Circumcision, a few days after physical birth and then needed to be taught! Jeremiah 31:31-34.

In Romans 7:4-10, he makes application of his illustration. He used his comparison of marriage to convince the Jews, as well as all, that in obeying Christ they died to the law.

“Through the body of Christ”. By the death of His body on the cross. The death of Christ brought an end to the law. Ephesians 2:13-17 / Colossians 2:14-17 / 2 Corinthians 3:5-18.

Two purposes

1. “That you may be married to another.” We are now under Christ and His headship. If we turn away from Him to another person or thing, it is spiritual adultery. Ezekiel 23:37 / Jeremiah 3:6-10.

2. “That we should bear fruit to God”. Galatians 2:19. The Gospel, God’s plan of justification, produces fruit (godly living, faithful service) in the lives of people. Hebrews 9:14 / 1 Peter 2:24.

In Romans 7:5-13, Paul shows the purpose of the law in relation to sin. The law made one aware and conscious of sin and showed that the end result was death.

“Were in the flesh”, he is not referring to the human body because he adds by contrast Romans 7:6. He means, ‘when we were governed by the flesh.’ Thus, he refers to their former unregenerate state.

“The sinful passions which were aroused by the law”. The thought here is probably that law revealed the nature of sinful passions, not that it produced them. By the law, they learned which desires were sinful. However, evil people often want to do the very thing that is forbidden, simply because it is forbidden.

“Were at work in our members”. Sinful passions express themselves through the members of the body. “To bear fruit to death”. The end result was death because the law was unable to deliver from death. Sabbatarians say that the law which was done away with did not include the Ten Commandments. The next verse shows them to be wrong.

“Newness of the Spirit”. In the new way of the Spirit. This will be described at length in Romans 8. The word ‘spirit’ here no doubt is referring to the Holy Spirit (because of the contrast made in context) and not man’s own spirit.

The NKJV uses a capital ‘S’ whereas the KJV uses a small ‘s.’ Nonetheless, we should serve both in the new way of the Spirit and in accord with the newness of our own spirit.

“Oldness of the letter”. The ‘letter’ refers to that which was written down, thus, the external writings of the Law of Moses. In 2 Corinthians 3:5-8, the Spirit that quickens is contrasted with the letter that kills.

He adds in 2 Corinthians 3:9-17 that the ministry of the Spirit is far more glorious than the letter which kills. Notice in the verse that he is telling us that we should ‘serve.’ Let us do that very thing.

Too many people say that Romans 7:7-25 are difficult to understand. I believe they have difficulty with it because they try to force the verses to teach something which is not revealed. It does not involve the internal conflict within the mind of a Christian, but rather with the state of mind of one under the law.

Under the law, one stands condemned by the very law he loves and desires to keep. He desired to do right, but because he had violated the law, he was condemned under it.

How could one be delivered from such a wretched conflict of mind? The answer is given in Romans 7:24-8:4. Christ delivers one from that inward conflict. Thus, he has now been freed from it.

“Is the law sin?” Did the law cause or create sin? “I would not have known sin”. The law defined and condemned sin. The phrase is not the same as, “would not have sinned” or “would not have experienced sin.” “Not have known covetousness”. He uses the 10th commandment as an example.

He would not have known covetousness if the law had not prohibited it. Sin is personified here. Sin, taking the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me coveting of every variety. The law furnished the opportunity for sin to take advantage of. It works up in me the very thing the law forbids, thus, it is sin that causes the unlawful desires, not the law.

“For apart from the law sin was dead”. Without the law, sin was dormant and powerless. Without the law, he would not have known what sin was.

The law did not cause the evil desires, but brought the light of truth upon them and thus revealed them as sin. This does not mean the ignorance of the law would have excused them, but only means that the law made that which is sinful vivid.

“I was alive once without the law”. This refers to his childhood. “When the commandment came”. For example, ‘when he learned of it.’ “Sin revived”. ‘Sin sprang to life’ (NIV). That is, sin woke up or sprang to life. “And I died”. He spiritually died.

When he was old enough to understand the law, he already saw that he was guilty of death. This would also be true of the convert to the law. Again, this shows that man is not born totally depraved or with ‘original sin.’

What was meant to lead him in the way of life, brought him under the curse and penalty of death? Life came by keeping the law (Romans 10:5 / Leviticus 18:5), but death came by violation of the law (Deuteronomy 11:26-28 / Galatians 3:10).

“For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:11-15

Sin is personified as an enemy who had destroyed him. Sin took advantage of the precept to deceive and kill. Consider the case of Eve. The devil used the commandment as an opportunity to deceive.

“And by it killed me”. The law showed him he was a condemned transgressor. The law did not justify those under it.

“Holy”. The law is pure in its nature, without the taint of sin. It is holy because it was given by God and therefore is part of His divine nature.

“Commandment is holy”. The 10th commandment, to which he had just referred. “Just”. It is righteous in its demands and penalties. “Good”. It is beneficial in itself for mankind. It was good for the end to which it was given.

This answers verse 7, “Is the law sin?” The problem is therefore with the sinner, not the law. This verse is a favourite of the 7th Day Adventist.

However, in context, it has nothing to do with the law as binding on us today. As a matter of fact, he goes on to show that he had been delivered as shown in Romans 7:24-8:4.

“Death to me?” This refers back to the “killed me” in Romans 7:11.

“But sin”. It was sin, not the law, that deceived and killed.

“Might become exceedingly sinful”. The law was excellent in revealing and condemning sin. It thus leads one to the Saviour who would take away all sin.

In context, he is referring to a condition under the law. Some take these verses to be referring to the inward struggle of the Christian. Of course, there is an inward struggle, but not this severe. “The law”. Thus, he is referring to his struggle under the law.

“Law is spiritual”. It was revealed by the Spirit, and it appeals to the inner man. Romans 7:22 / Romans 7:25 / Deuteronomy 6:5-6.

“But I am carnal, sold under sin”. Using the present tense, he is transposing himself back to the time when he was a sinner under the law. This was true of everyone under the law. They could not obtain justification. The Christian is not ‘sold under sin’ but has been redeemed by the blood of Christ.

He does not stand condemned (Romans 8:1) but is justified by faith (Romans 5:1), and has a continual opportunity for forgiveness as he complies with the conditions (1 John 1:7-9). The demands of the law of sin were obeyed in his life despite his good intentions.

“I do not understand”. He did not understand the full nature and consequences of what he was doing.

“For what I will to do, that I do not practice”. Thus, he did the opposite of his intentions. The conflict was so strong under the Law of Moses, that he could not overcome it.

He was under a yoke of bondage that he could not overcome. Acts 15:10. Christians are freed from all yokes of bondage. Romans 8:2 / Galatians 5:1.

“And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Romans 7:16-24

5. The law of my mind. The Law of God.

6. The law of sin (and death). Used in Romans 8:2 which conflicts with the Law of God. See the reality of sin, defined, and exposed.

Paul says that, although non-Jews did not have the Old Covenant law, they revealed, by their conduct, that what God demands is ‘written on their hearts’, that is, in their consciences. He knows that pagan philosophers and thinkers were not completely ignorant of, or in error about, this fact.

Socrates who lived at the same time as Paul spoke about ‘the Divine Sign’, the inner voice that he believed kept him from doing wrong.

The Stoics also, taught that Man is aware of a ‘universal divine law’ and some of them even spoke about ‘conscience’. The word literally means ‘with knowledge’.

You will remember that, in Athens, Paul quoted one of their own philosophers when speaking about God (Acts 17). Famous Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato believed that, in their thinking, they were ‘reaching out towards God’.

But Paul has stated in Romans 1:19ff, that the knowledge possessed by the Gentiles, and the logic of their philosophy, could not save them because their thinking became ‘futile’ (Romans 1:21) the word means ‘vain’, it did not accomplish anything so that it ended in futility.

7. The law of the spirit of ‘life in Christ’.

Was the Mosaic Law faulty or ineffective? Paul says that the Law was ‘holy’. The reason why it could not save was because Israel failed to keep the Law. The people did not reach the standard set by God.


On February 4th 2014, The Authorities responsible for the selection of British athletes representing the U.K. in the forthcoming Olympic Games announced that financial backing has been withdrawn from certain sports. The reason? The athletes involved have failed to reach the qualifying standard set by the International Olympic Committee. The standard has been declared. Failure to reach it results in disqualification.

The law demanded a decent, upright life. He wished to live it and so agreed that the law was good.

“No longer I who do it”. No more I alone who do it. This is a figure of speech often found in the Bible in which one part of a sentence is stated in the negative in order to emphasize the positive. For example, John 12:44.

“But sin that dwells in me”. This shows that he is referring to his condition under the law. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian. Paul is not saying that he is not responsible for his sins, but that he is not the slave of sin by choice. Under the law, sin had conquered him.

“In me…nothing good dwells”. As a condemned violator of the law, he was subject to sin. He was under its power and control.

“For to will is present”. The urge to do good was present.

“I do not find”. He had the desire, but could not find the way. Again, this cannot refer to when he was a Christian. The Christian has found the Way. Paul was making a distinction between his better self and that part of him that acted contrary to it.

Romans 7:19 is the same as Romans 7:15. What he wished to do (obey the law as his master with being condemned), he was unable to do. What he wished to not do (serve sin as his master), he did. He was unwilling to be a sinner but yet was condemned and sold under sin.

“Now if I do what I will not to do”. He willed to not serve sin, but sin was his master because he had become a transgressor under the law. He was a transgressor without the Gospel or the blood of Christ to take away his sins.

“It is no longer I who do it”. The contrast is between the part of him who longed to be justified and his state of sin, and not as to who was ultimately accountable for his sin.

He willed to do right but was sold under sin; thus, he was torn between two masters: the law (which he loved and wanted to serve) and sin (which he loathed and hated to serve). The law was his love, but sin was his master.

“Sin dwells in me”. Sin controlled his life. Sin is ever-present in those who have not died to sin.

“I find then a law”. Literally, ‘the law.’ The definite article ‘the’ is before law in the original Greek. The marginal reading of the ASV says, ‘I find then in regard to the law.’

“That evil is present with me”. Again, this refers to his condition as a condemned sinner under the law. He could never absent himself from the fact that he was a sinner and condemned violator of the law.

“The one who wills to do good”. His desires and intentions to do good were ever-present. He delighted in the law of God which appealed to the inner man. Romans 6:15. It could be translated, ‘For according to the inward man, I delight in the law of God.’

Thus, the inner man is pleased with the law of God. This is especially true under the New Testament law.

“But I see”. He depicts himself as an observer of the conflict that was going on within him. “Another law in my members”. He refers to another law besides the Law of Moses, the law of sin as shown in context. In his flesh or in the members of his body dwells the law of sin.

“Warring against the law of my mind”. The law addressed to his mind, or his constant inclination to do right. The law of sin was warring against (Literally ‘soldiering against’) the law of his mind; thus, he again refers to that inward conflict.

“Bring me into captivity”. It made him a prisoner. He had established in Romans 6 that Christians are not the servants of sin.

“The law of sin which is in my members”. The rule of sin in his members. Thus, again, he contrasts what he desired to be and what he was because of sin.

A sinner under the law (without the benefits of Christ’s death) is utterly hopeless, and this is precisely Paul’s point. He was showing the Jews (or anyone else concerned) their miserable state without the Gospel and how utterly impossible it was to be saved by the law.

Under the dominion of sin, he was helpless in his desire to free himself from the end result of death. Who shall deliver me from this hopeless, miserable, and hopeless condition?

Again, this whole text cannot be referring to the inward turmoil of a Christian. The Christian is freed from all sin by the blood of Christ, and should never be in such a hopeless state of despair.

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:25

He answers his own question. Deliverance from his wretched condemned state comes through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. Matthew 11:28-30.

“So then”. This refers to the foregoing.

“With the mind I myself serve”. Referring back to his condition under the law, with his mind he served the law of God. In his mind, he wanted to do what the law required.

“But with the flesh the law of sin”. For example, under the law in Romans 7:5. Under the law, “when we were in the flesh,” (Romans 7:5), we were slaves to the law of sin. Under the law, they were unwilling servants of sin, because sin controlled and condemned them.

He shows in Romans 8:1-2 that in Christ he has been freed from the law of sin and death. Thus, the flesh loses the battle under Christ. Thus, this whole section refers to his condition under the law.

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