Arguments in support of the proposition, 1:18-11:36
3. The consequential blessings that flow to the righteous in Christ, 5:1-8:39
vi] b) The effects of the law
In 7:1-25, Paul examines the place of the law in the Christian life. First, in v1-6, he explains that a Christian is no longer "under the law", is "discharged from the law", has "died to the law." Then in v7-12 Paul "deals with a possible misunderstanding. He repudiates the suggestion that the law is sin and asserts that, far from being sin, it is that which makes him recognize sin", Cranfield. In v13-25 Paul goes on to answer the question, "did that which is good (the law) become death to me?" That is, is the law responsible for our death? The answer is, sin is responsible for our death, the law serves only to highlight our sinful state. Paul then illustrates this condition in v14ff.
At this point, Paul moves from the past tense to the present tense. It is often argued that Paul is now speaking of his life as a believer wrestling with indwelling sin (so Calvin, etc.), see 7:7-12. This line of interpretation has the believer seeking to obey the law of God, but constantly failing and burdened by the power of sin. In Second Blessing theology, believers, who have not yet received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, are often identified with this passage. The Spirit-filled believer is described in chapter 8.
Standhal and others reject the Christian piety of sinful self examination drawn from this passage. They argue that Paul represents an Israelite under the power of sin and held to it by the law until a solution is found. The solution is in "Jesus Christ" who rescues us "from this body of death."
Although it is more than likely that Paul's "I" is representative, that he is expressing a salvation-history perspective (Israel's experience under covenant law) rather than an autobiographical experience, it is, none-the-less, his experience. More importantly, it is the experience of those believers in Rome who have adopted the notion that submission to the Mosaic law progresses the Christian life (makes holy). Paul wants them to face the reality of their situation, namely, that submission to the law only ever makes a believer lawless.
Paul's argument is not that indwelling sin makes it difficult for a person to keep the law, rather that the law makes it difficult for a person not to sin. A life lived under the law becomes a struggle because the law's prime purpose is to expose our state of sin and make it "utterly sinful." Its purpose is not to improve our behavior. If a person uses the law to control evil and progress goodness, they will find it makes them "a prisoner of the law of sin at work within" their members. The point of chapter 7 is that a believer is free from the law. Chapter 8 explains how that freedom from the law is replaced by a slavery to the Spirit ("the law of the Spirit", ???), a slavery which shapes the divine image within apart from the law.
Having said this, it is important to restate the truth that freedom from the law's demands does not mean that we are free to sin. Nor does it mean that we are free from sin - "there is no sinless Christian", Luther. It just means we are free from the law's accentuation of sin. The law is no longer needed to drive us to God for mercy, and this because we have found mercy through faith in Christ. With the sinful nature no longer stirred to disobedience by the law, the believer is free to serve God in the new way of the Spirit.
alla "but" - Here used as a strong adversative.
fanh/ (fainw) "might be recognized" - appear. Seen for what it is. "Sin, at the touch of the law, was forced to express itself as sin", Phillips.
uJperbolhn aJmartwloV "utterly sinful" - exceedingly sinful. "Utterly evil", "superlatively sinful", Barrett. Grundmann says, that law unmasks sin "in its demonic character as utter enmity against God."
gar "-" - for. Expressing cause / reason. Paul now provides his reasoning for his statement in v13. "After all", Phillips
oJ nomoV (oV) "law" - Note the different possible meanings of "law" in our passage for study: i] Law in a general sense. "the will of God as a rule of duty, no matter how revealed", Hodge; ii] A rule or governing principle; iii] Anything which exercises power and authority over us; iv] The Mosaic Law, God's Law, the Commandments, the Torah; v] The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. In chapter 7, Paul primarily uses "law" in the sense of "Mosaic law", although extending this to "divine law in general" is not unreasonable. This, of course, may not apply to v21-25 where "law" seems to have multiple meanings. See v21.
pneumatikoV adj. "spiritual" - Probably in the sense of "divine origin and character", Murray.
sarkinoV adj. "unspiritual" - fleshly, of human nature. "Mortal man", TEV, although the stronger sense, "carnal", Phillips, is possible.
pepramenoV (pipraskw) perf. pas. part. "sold as a slave" - having been sold. Attendant circumstance participle, identifying action accompanying the verb to-be, "I am unspiritual". Sold and therefore possessed by, thus, a slave to. "I have been sold", Barrett.
uJpo "to [sin]" - under. "Under sin's control."
ou ginwskw pres. "I do not understand" - I do not know. Given that Paul does "understand" why he breaks the law, namely, through the power of sin, the word probably means "approve", possibly "recognize", Moffatt.
prassw pres. "I am doing" - practice. Paul now moves into the present tense and so prompts the debate covered above. From a syntactical angle we may say Paul is using a gnomic present, ie. he speaks as the universal Israelite.
all "but" - but. "On the contrary", Morris.
ei + ind. "if" - Conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true. "If, as is the case."
sumfhmi pres. "I agree" - I agree with, give assent to. The fact that Paul tries to uphold the law shows that he affirms it, even if he can't keep it. Note the interplay between doing and willing.
kaloV adj. "good" - good, beautiful. The word "suggests the moral beauty and nobility of the law", Denney.
nuni "as it is" - now. Another logical step in the argument. The law may be good, but when it confronts the evil that has possessed humanity, evil takes over and does its thing.
hJ oikousa (oikew) pres. part. "living" - the dwelling. The participle is adjectival, "sin which dwells in me". Sin is "the squatter" "which has its home in me", Barrett.
ouk ..... agaqon "nothing good" - not ..... good. "I know that the capacity to do good does not live in me", TH; "my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good", CEV; better, "I am corrupt."
oikei (oikew) pres. "lives" - dwells. Nothing good resides in the sinful nature (lit. "in the flesh" - fallen nature). "Nothing good has its home in me", Williams.
qelein parakeitai (parakeimai) "desire" - to will. "The ability to wish to do the fine thing I possess; the power to do it I do not possess", Barclay. Note that verses 18-20 repeat the argument of 14-17, although here the point is that Paul, the representative Israelite, can't do the positive directions, the "do's", of the law ("what is good"), whereas there he said he couldn't stop doing the negative directions, the "don'ts".
euJriskw pres. "I find" - "I prove to myself by experience" best carries the meaning of a conclusion reached after observation.
nomon (oV) "law" - In v21-25, Paul seems to have shifted in the way he uses the word "law". In v21 most commentators seem to think that "law" here means "a rule or governing principle", "principle", REB; "principle of life", Barrett. Moffatt and others take "law" to mean "the Law of Moses", or in a more general sense, "the will of God as a rule of duty, no matter how revealed", ie., Paul has not, at this point, changed what he means by the word "law". New perspective commentators lean toward the idea that Paul, in verses 21-25 and in 8:2, sets out to compare the function of "new covenant law", the law written on the heart by the Spirit, with that of "old covenant law", "the law of Moses", written on tablets of stone. This matter is anything but settled. "So, this is my experience of the Law; I desire to do what is right, but wrong is all that I can manage", Moffatt.
gar "for" - Expressing cause / reason. Introducing an explanation of v21b carried over in v22-23.
kata ton esw anqrwpon "in my inner being" - in the inner man. Often defined as "the regenerate self", as opposed to the former unregenerate self, but an unregenerate person is quite capable of a warm acceptance of a moral good - a conscience is not exclusive to believers. This "inner being" is the thoughtful considerate humane self (the "Godward immortal side" of the self, Jeremias) as opposed to the corrupted carnal self. "My conscious mind wholeheartedly endorses the Law", Phillips.
sunhdomai pres. "I delight" - I rejoice with. "I (a joyful acceptance of) agree with the law", BAGD. "I cordially agree with God's law, so far as my inner self is concerned, but ....."
eJteron nomon (oV) "another law" - different law. Possibly understood in a general sense of anything which exercises power and authority over us; "I see another power operating in my lower nature", Williams; cf. Moo and Cranfield. Morris and Dunn argue that this "different law" is "the law of sin", "something fighting against my mind", CEV. There is much to be said of the argument that Paul again uses "law" in v23 to mean the "Mosaic law", or "the will of God as a rule of duty, no matter how revealed." Verse 23 is then simply repeating a point already made. When "the good thing" (law) confronts us it prompts affirmation by my humane self ("my mind"), but this affirmation is overwhelmed by my corrupted self ("sin at work within my members"). The law is "different" in that we experience it in different ways; the law as it stirs my "mind" and the law as it stirs my sinful self.
antistrateuomenon (antistrateuomai) part. "waging war against" - warring against. Waging war against an enemy, the battle between good and evil.
talaipwroV ... anqrwpos - "wretched man" - miserable man. Nominative of address so not "I am a miserable man."
rJusetai (rJuomai) fut. "will rescue" - will rescue, deliver, someone from the hands of an enemy. In the NT of God saving his people, often in an eschatological sense, ie. in the last day.
swmatoV (a atoV) "body" - Possibly figuratively, "burden [of this death]", "clutches of my sinful nature", Phillips.
dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of. Instrumental. No person can deliver us from our bondage to sin and death, but God has acted to save us "through" Christ.
ara oun "so then" - therefore thus. Paul sums up his argument.
tw/ ... noi (nouV - nooV) dat. "in my mind" - with my mind. The article functioning here as a possessive pronoun. Dative of respect, "with respect to my mind."
douleuw pres. "[I] am a slave to" - I serve as a slave.
nomw/ qeou "God's law" - law of God. Sometimes viewed as a genitive of possession, but more likely a common genitive of description / adjectival - limiting. As noted above, the sense of "law" is disputed. Possibly "law of Moses", or in a more general sense, such that the genitives "of my mind", "of sin" and here "of God", as with "of [the Spirit of] life", 8:2, serve to qualify the noun "law", describing the different ways we experience God's law. So, the phrase, lit. "with the mind I serve the law of God" takes the same sense as serving "the law of my mind" (my experience of God's law as it interacts with the godward side of my nature), "God's law with which my mind agrees", Moo, v23. This is opposed to "the law of sin" (my experience of God's law as it interacts with the corrupt fallen side of my nature), "the law as it is twisted by sin", Moo, although Moo does not follow this interpretation. See v21 above.
th/ sarki "in the sinful nature" - in the flesh. The corrupted self.