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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

Romans Chapter 7

Romans 7:1

rom 7:1


All Christians, not only Jews but Gentiles who are assumed to be acquainted with the Old Testament.

Romans 7:2

rom 7:2

That hath a husband (ὕπανδρος)

Lit., under or subject to a husband. The illustration is selected to bring forward the union with Christ after the release from the law, as analogous to a new marriage (Rom 7:4).

Is loosed (κατήργηται)

Rev., discharged. See on Rom 3:3, Lit., she has been brought to nought as respects the law of the husband.

The law of the husband

Her legal connection with him She dies to that law with the husband's death. There is an apparent awkwardness in carrying out the figure. The law, in Rom 7:1, Rom 7:2, is represented by the husband who rules (hath dominion). On the death of the husband the woman is released. In Rom 7:4, the wife (figuratively) dies. "Ye are become dead to the law that ye should be married to another." But as the law is previously represented by the husband, and the woman is released by the husband's death, so, to make the figure consistent, the law should be represented as dying in order to effect the believer's release. The awkwardness is relieved by taking as the middle term of comparison the idea of dead in a marriage relation. When the husband dies the wife dies (is brought to nought) so far as the marriage relation is concerned. The husband is represented as the party who dies because the figure of a second marriage is introduced with its application to believers (Rom 7:4). Believers are made dead to the law as the wife is maritally dead - killed in respect of the marriage relation by her husband's death.

Romans 7:3

rom 7:3

She shall be called (χρηματίσει)

See on Act 11:26.

Romans 7:4

rom 7:4

Are become dead (ἐθανατώθητε)

Rev., more accurately, ye were made dead, put to death; because this ethical death is fellowship with Christ's death, which was by violence.

Who was raised

An important addition, because it refers to the newness of life which issues from the rising with Christ. See Rom 6:3, Rom 6:11, Rom 6:13, Rom 6:22.

Bring forth fruit

The figure of marriage is continued, but the reference is not to be pressed. The real point of analogy is the termination of relations to the old state.

Romans 7:5

rom 7:5

In the flesh (ἐν τῇ σαρκί)

Σάρξ flesh, occurs in the classics in the physical sense only. Homer commonly uses it in the plural as denoting all the flesh or muscles of the body. Later the singular occurs in the same sense. Paul's use of this and other psychological terms must be determined largely by the Old-Testament usage as it appears in the Septuagint.

1. In the physical sense. The literal flesh. In the Septuagint τὰ κρέα flesh (plural) is used where the reference is to the parts of animals slain, and αἱ σάρκες, flesh (plural) where the reference is to flesh as the covering of the living body. Hence Paul uses κρέα in Rom 14:21; Co1 8:13, of the flesh of sacrificed animals. Compare also the adjective σάρκιμος fleshy Co2 3:3; and Eze 11:19; Eze 36:26, Sept.

2. Kindred. Denoting natural or physical relationship, Rom 1:3; Rom 9:3-8; Rom 11:14; Gal 4:23, Gal 4:29; Co1 10:18; Plm 1:16. This usage forms a transition to the following sense: the whole human body. Flesh is the medium in and through which the natural relationship of man manifests itself. Kindred is conceived as based on community of bodily substance. Therefore:

3. The body itself. The whole being designated by the part, as being its main substance and characteristic, Co1 6:16; Co1 7:28; Co2 4:11; Co2 7:5; Co2 10:3; Co2 12:7. Rom 2:28; Gal 6:13, etc. Paul follows the Septuagint in sometimes using σῶμα body, and sometimes σάρξ flesh, in this sense, so that the terms occasionally seem to be practically synonymous. Thus Co1 6:16, Co1 6:17, where the phrase one body is illustrated and confirmed by one flesh. See Gen 2:24; Eph 5:28, Eph 5:31, where the two are apparently interchanged. Compare Co2 4:10, Co2 4:11; Co1 5:3, and Col 2:5. Σάρξ, however, differs from σῶμα in that it can only signify the organism of an earthly, living being consisting of flesh and bones, and cannot denote "either an earthly organism that is not living, or a living organism that is not earthly" (Wendt, in Dickson). Σῶμα not thus limited. Thus it may denote the organism of the plant (Co1 15:37, Co1 15:38) or the celestial bodies (Co1 15:40). Hence the two conceptions are related as general and special: σῶμα body, being the material organism apart from any definite matter (not from any sort of matter), σάρξ, flesh, the definite, earthly, animal organism. The two are synonymons when σῶμα is used, from the context, of an earthly, animal body. Compare Phi 1:22; Co2 5:1-8.

Σῶμα body, and not σάρξ flesh, is used when the reference is to a metaphorical organism, as the church, Rom 12:4 sqq.; Co1 10:16; 12:12-27; Eph 1:23; Eph 2:16; Col 1:18, etc.

The σάρξ is described as mortal (Co2 4:11); subject to infirmity (Gal 4:13; Co2 12:7); locally limited (Col 2:15); an object of fostering care (Eph 5:29).

4. Living beings generally, including their mental nature, and with a correlated notion of weakness and perishableness. Thus the phrase πᾶσα σάρξ all flesh (Gen 6:12; Isa 49:26; Isa 49:23). This accessory notion of weakness stands in contrast with God. In Paul the phrase all flesh is cited from the Old Testament (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16) and is used independently (Co1 1:29). In all these instances before God is added. So in Gal 1:16, flesh and blood implies a contrast of human with divine wisdom. Compare Co1 15:50; Eph 6:12. This leads up to

5. Man "either as a creature in his natural state apart from Christ, or the creaturely side or aspect of the man in Christ." Hence it is correlated with ἄνθρωπος man, Co1 3:3; Rom 6:19; Co2 5:17. Compare Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9; Gal 5:24. Thus the flesh would seem to be interchangeable with the old man.

It has affections and lusts (Gal 5:24); willings (Eph 2:3; Rom 8:6, Rom 8:7); a mind (Col 2:18); a body (Col 2:11).

It is in sharp contrast with πνεῦμα spirit (Gal 3:3, Gal 3:19; Gal 5:16, Gal 5:17, Gal 5:19-24; Gal 6:8; Rom 8:4). The flesh and the spirit are thus antagonistic. Σάρξ flesh, before or in contrast with his reception of the divine element whereby he becomes a new creature in Christ: the whole being of man as it exists and acts apart from the influence of the Spirit. It properly characterizes, therefore, not merely the lower forms of sensual gratification, but all - the highest developments of the life estranged from God, whether physical, intellectual, or aesthetic.

It must be carefully noted:

1. That Paul does not identify flesh and sin. Compare, flesh of sin, Rom 8:3. See Rom 7:17, Rom 7:18; Co2 7:1; Gal 2:20.

2. That Paul does not identify σάρξ with the material body nor associate sin exclusively and predominantly with the body. The flesh is the flesh of the living man animated by the soul (ψυχή) as its principle of life, and is distinctly used as coordinate with ἄνθρωπος man. As in the Old Testament, "it embraces in an emphatic manner the nature of man, mental and corporeal, with its internal distinctions." The spirit as well as the flesh is capable of defilement (Co2 7:1; compare Co1 7:34). Christian life is to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2; compare Eph 4:23).

3. That Paul does not identify the material side of man with evil. The flesh is not the native seat and source of sin. It is only its organ, and the seat of sin's manifestation. Matter is not essentially evil. The logical consequence of this would be that no service of God is possible while the material organism remains. See Rom 12:1. The flesh is not necessarily sinful in itself; but as it has existed from the time of the introduction of sin through Adam, it is recognized by Paul as tainted with sin. Jesus appeared in the flesh, and yet was sinless (Co2 5:21).

The motions of sins (τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν)

Motions used in earlier English for emotions or impulses. Thus Bacon: "He that standeth at a stay where others rise, can hardly avoid motions of envy" ("Essay" xiv.). The word is nearly synonymous with πάθος passion (Rom 1:26, note). From πάθειν to suffer; a feeling which the mind undergoes, a passion, desire. Rev., sinful passions: which led to sins.

Did work (ἐνηργεῖτο)

Rev., wrought. See Co2 1:6; Co2 4:12; Eph 3:20; Gal 5:6; Phi 2:13; Col 1:29. Compare Mar 6:14, and see on power, Joh 1:12.

Romans 7:6

rom 7:6

We are delivered (κατηργήθημεν)

Rev., have been discharged, as the woman, Rom 7:2. See on Rom 3:3.

We were held

Lit., held down. See on Rom 1:18.

Romans 7:7

rom 7:7

I had not known (οὐκ ἔγνων)

Rev., correctly, I did not know. See on Joh 2:24. The I refers to Paul himself. He speaks in the first person, declaring concerning himself what is meant to apply to every man placed under the Mosaic law, as respects his relation to that law, before and after the revolution in his inner life brought about through his connection with that law. His personal experience is not excluded, but represents the universal experience.

Lust (ἐπιθυμίαν)

Rev., coveting. See on Mar 4:19.

Romans 7:8

rom 7:8



Occasion (ἀφορμὴν)

Emphatic, expressing the relation of the law to sin. The law is not sin, but sin found occasion in the law. Used only by Paul. See Co2 5:12; Gal 5:13; Ti1 5:14. The verb ἀφορμάω means to make a start from a place. Ἁφορμή is therefore primarily a starting-point, a base of operations. The Lacedaemonians agreed that Peloponnesus would be ἀφορμὴν ἱκανὴν a good base of operations (Thucydides, i., 90). Thus, the origin, cause, occasion, or pretext of a thing; the means with which one begins. Generally, resources, as means of war, capital in business. Here the law is represented as furnishing sin with the material or ground of assault, "the fulcrum for the energy of the evil principle." Sin took the law as a base of operations.

Wrought (κατειργάσατο)

The compound verb with κατά down through always signifies the bringing to pass or accomplishment. See Ti1 2:9; Co1 5:3; Co2 7:10. It is used both of evil and good. See especially Rom 7:15, Rom 7:17, Rom 7:18, Rom 7:20. "To man everything forbidden appears as a desirable blessing; but yet, as it is forbidden, he feels that his freedom is limited, and now his lust rages more violently, like the waves against the dyke" (Tholuck).


Not active.

Romans 7:9

rom 7:9

I was alive - once (ἔζων ποτέ)

Referring to the time of childlike innocence previous to the stimulus imparted to the inactive principle of sin by the coming of the law; when the moral self-determination with respect to the law had not taken place, and the sin-principle was therefore practically dead.

The commandment (ἐντολῆς)

The specific injunction "thou shalt not covet." See on Jam 2:8; see Joh 13:34.

Revived (ἀνέζησεν)

Not came to life, but lived again. See Luk 15:24, Luk 15:32. The power of sin is originally and in its nature living; but before the coming of the commandment its life is not expressed. When the commandment comes, it becomes alive again. It lies dormant, like the beast at the door (Gen 4:7), until the law stirs it up.

The tendency of prohibitory law to provoke the will to resistance is frequently recognized in the classics. Thus, Horace: "The human race, presumptuous to endure all things, rushes on through forbidden wickedness" (Ode, i., 3, 25). Ovid: "The permitted is unpleasing; the forbidden consumes us fiercely" ("Amores," i., 19, 3). "We strive against the forbidden and ever desire what is denied" (Id., i., 4, 17). Seneca: "Parricides began with the law, and the punishment showed them the crime" ("De Clementia," i., 23). Cato, in his speech on the Oppian law; says: "It is safer that a wicked man should even never be accused than that he should be acquitted; and luxury, if it had never been meddled with, would he more tolerable than it will be now, like a wild beast, irritated by having been chained and then let loose" (Livy, xxxiv., 4).

I found to be unto death

The A.V. omits the significant αὕτη this. This very commandment, the aim of which was life, I found unto death. Meyer remarks: "It has tragic emphasis." So Rev., this I found. The surprise at such an unexpected result is expressed by I found, literally, was found (ἑυρέθη)

Romans 7:11

rom 7:11

Deceived (ἐξηπάτησεν)

Rev., beguiled Only in Paul. Compare Co2 11:3; Th2 2:3.

Romans 7:12

rom 7:12

Holy, just, good

Holy as God's revelation of Himself; just (Rev., righteous) in its requirements, which correspond to God's holiness; good, salutary, because of its end.

Romans 7:13

rom 7:13

Exceeding (καθ' ὑπερβολὴν)

An adverbial phrase. Lit., according to excess. The noun ὑπερβολή means a casting beyond. The English hyperbole is a transcription.

Romans 7:14

rom 7:14

We know (οἴδαμεν)

Denoting something generally conceded.

Spiritual (πνευματικός)

The expression of the Holy Spirit.

Carnal (σάρκινος)

Lit., made of flesh. A very strong expression. "This unspiritual, material, phenomenal nature" so dominates the unrenewed man that he is described as consisting of flesh. Others read σαρκικός having the nature of flesh.

Sold under sin

As a slave. The preposition ὑπό under, with the accusative, implies direction; so as to be under the power of.

Romans 7:15

rom 7:15

I do (κατεργάζομαι)

See on Rom 7:8. Accomplish, achieve. Here appropriately used of carrying out another's will. I do not perceive the outcome of my sinful life.

I allow not (οὐ γινώσκω)

Allow is used by A.V. in the earlier English sense of approve. Compare Luk 11:48; Rom 14:22; Th1 2:4. Shakespeare: "Thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras as I will allow of thy wits" ("Twelfth Night," iv., 2). But the meaning of γινώσκω is not approve, but recognize, come to know, perceive. Hence Rev., I know not. Paul says: "What I carry out I do not recognize in its true nature, as a slave who ignorantly performs his master's behest without knowing its tendency or result."

I would (θέλω)

See on Mat 1:19. Rather desire than will in the sense of full determination, as is shown by I consent (Rom 7:16), and I delight in (Rom 7:22).

Do I not (πράσσω)

See on Joh 3:21. Rev., correctly, practice: the daily doing which issues in accomplishment (κατεργάζομαι).

Do I (ποιῶ)

See on Joh 3:21. More nearly akin to κατεργάζομαι I accomplish, realize. "When I have acted (πράσσω) I find myself face to face with a result which my moral instinct condemns" (Godet). I do not practice what I would, and the outcome is what I hate.

Romans 7:16

rom 7:16

I consent (σύμφημι)

Lit., speak together with; concur with, since the law also does not desire what I do. Only here in the New Testament.

Good (καλός)

See on Joh 10:11, Joh 10:32; see on Mat 26:10; see on Jam 2:7. Morally excellent.

Romans 7:17

rom 7:17

Now - no more (νυνὶ - οὐκέτι)

Not temporal, pointing back to a time when it was otherwise, but logical, pointing to an inference. After this statement you can no more maintain that, etc.

I (ἐγὼ)

My personality proper; my moral self-consciousness which has approved the law (Rom 7:16) and has developed vague desires for something better.

Romans 7:18

rom 7:18

In me

The entire man in whom sin and righteousness struggle, in whose unregenerate condition sin is the victor, having its domain in the flesh. Hence in me considered as carnal (Rom 7:14). That another element is present appears from "to will is present with me;" but it is the flesh which determines his activity as an unregenerate man. There is good in the I, but not in the I considered as carnal. This is brought out in Rom 7:25, "With the flesh (I serve) the law of sin." Hence there is added that is, in my flesh.

Is present (παράκειται)

Lit., lies beside or before.

Perform (κατεργάζεσθαι)

Carry the desire into effect.

I find not (οὐχ εὑρίσκω)

The best texts omit find, and read simply οὐ not. So Rev., "To do that which is good is not (present)."

Romans 7:19

rom 7:19

Do not - do. (ποιῶ - πράσσω)

See on Rom 7:15.

Romans 7:21

rom 7:21

A law

With the article, the law. The constant rule of experience imposing itself on the will. Thus in the phrases law of faith, works, the spirit. Here the law of moral contradiction.

When I would (τῷ θέλοντι ἐμοὶ)

Lit., as Rev., to me who would, or to the wishing me, thus emphasizing the I whose characteristic it is to wish, but not to do.

Romans 7:22

rom 7:22

I delight in (συνήδομαι)

Lit., I rejoice with. Stronger than I consent unto (Rom 7:16). It is the agreement of moral sympathy.

The inward man (τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον)

The rational and moral I, the essence of the man which is conscious of itself as an ethical personality. Not to be confounded with the new man (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). It is substantially the same with the mind (Rom 7:23).

Romans 7:23

rom 7:23

I see (βλέπω)

See on Joh 1:29. Paul is a spectator of his own personality.

Another (ἕτερον)

See on Mat 6:24.

Warring against (ἀντιστρατευόμενον)

Only here in the New Testament. Taking the field against.

The law of my mind (τῷ νόμῳ τοῦ νοός μου)

Νοῦς mind, is a term distinctively characteristic of Paul, though not confined to him. See Luk 24:45; Rev 13:18; Rev 17:9.

Paul's usage of this term is not based, like that of spirit and flesh, on the Septuagint, though the word occurs six times as the rendering of lebh heart, and once of ruach spirit.

He uses it to throw into sharper relief the function of reflective intelligence and moral judgment which is expressed generally by καρδία heart.

The key to its Pauline usage is furnished by the contrast in Co1 14:14-19, between speaking with a tongue and with the understanding (τῷ νοΐ́), and between the spirit and the understanding (Co1 14:14). There it is the faculty of reflective intelligence which receives and is wrought upon by the Spirit. It is associated with γνωμή opinion, resulting from its exercise, in Co1 1:10; and with κρίνει judgeth in Rom 14:5.

Paul uses it mainly with an ethical reference - moral judgment as related to action. See Rom 12:2, where the renewing of the νοῦς mind is urged as a necessary preliminary to a right moral judgment ("that ye may prove," etc.,). The νοῦς which does not exercise this judgment is ἀδόκιμος not approved, reprobate. See note on reprobate, Rom 1:28, and compare note on Ti2 3:8; note on Tit 1:15, where the νοῦς is associated with the conscience. See also on Eph 4:23.

It stands related to πνεῦμα spirit, as the faculty to the efficient power. It is "the faculty of moral judgment which perceives and approves what is good, but has not the power of practically controlling the life in conformity with its theoretical requirements." In the portrayal of the struggle in this chapter there is no reference to the πνεῦμα spirit, which, on the other hand, distinctively characterizes the christian state in ch. 8. In this chapter Paul employs only terms pertaining to the natural faculties of the human mind, and of these νοῦς mind is in the foreground.

Bringing into captivity (αἰχμαλωτίζοντα)

Only here, Co2 10:5, and Luk 21:24. See on captives, Luk 4:18. The warlike figure is maintained. Lit., making me prisoner of war.

Law of sin

The regime of the sin-principle. sin is represented in the New Testament as an organized economy. See Ephesians 6.

The conflict between the worse and the better principle in human nature appears in numerous passages in the classics. Godet remarks that this is the passage in all Paul's epistles which presents the most points of contact with profane literature. Thus Ovid: "Desire counsels me in one direction, reason in another." "I see and approve the better, but I follow the worse." Epictetus: "He who sins does not what he would, and does what he would not." Seneca: "What, then, is it that, when we would go in one direction, drags us in the other?" See also the passage in Plato ("Phaedrus," 246), in which the human soul is represented as a chariot drawn by two horses, one drawing up and the other down.

Romans 7:24

rom 7:24

Wretched (ταλαίπωρος)

Originally, wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor.

Who (τίς)

Referring to a personal deliverer.

Body of this death (τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου)

The body serving as the seat of the death into which the soul is sunk through the power of sin. The body is the literal body, regarded as the principal instrument which sin uses to enslave and destroy the soul. In explaining this much-disputed phrase, it must be noted: 1. That Paul associates the dominion and energy of sin prominently with the body, though not as if sin were inherent in and inseparable from the body. 2. That he represents the service of sin through the body as associated with, identified with, tending to, resulting in, death. And therefore, 3. That he may properly speak of the literal body as a body of death - this death, which is the certain issue of the abject captivity to sin. 4. That Paul is not expressing a desire to escape from the body, and therefore for death. Meyer paraphrases correctly: "Who shall deliver me out of bondage under the law of sin into moral freedom, in which my body shall no longer serve as the seat of this shameful death?" Ignatius, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, speaks of one who denies Christ's humanity, as νεκροφόρος one who carries a corpse.

I myself

The man out of Christ. Looking back and summing up the unregenerate condition, preparatory to setting forth its opposite in ch. 8. Paul says therefore, that, so far as concerns his moral intelligence or reason, he approves and pays homage to God's law; but, being in bondage to sin, made of flesh, sold under sin, the flesh carries him its own way and commands his allegiance to the economy of sin.

Next: Romans Chapter 8