The Epistle to the Romans

By David Brown



1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin,

2 that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are

3 dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized

4 into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should

5 walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of

6 his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that

7 henceforth we should not serve sin; for he that is dead is

8 freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe

9 that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more

10 dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin

11 once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye

13 should obey it in the lusts thereof; neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and

14 your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the

15 law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we

16 are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto

17 death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was

18 delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became

19 the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to

20 righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants

21 of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the

22 end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto

23 holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As the closing words of chap. v. left the believer "reigning in life through Jesus Christ our Lord," the apostle is naturally led on to treat of the nature of that life, as one not only of a right to live, so to speak—condemnation to death being swept away and justification secured in Christ Jesus—but of a holy character. To this fruitful topic the apostle devotes two whole chapters, this and the next one. The present chapter treats of the Union of believers to Christ, as the Source of the new life; and the following one continues this subject, but follows it up with some profound considerations on the great principles of sin and holiness in fallen men, both under law and under grace.

The general bearing of gratuitous justification on a holy life (i, 2). 1. What shall we say then? On this phrase see on iv. 1. Shall we ('Are we to') continue in sin, that grace may abound?—acting on the detestable principle, ' The more sin, the more glory to the grace that pardons it; 'an objection that might be drawn from what had just before been said about "grace abounding above the abundance of sin." This further confirms the remark made before, that had the apostle taught that justification is grounded in any degree on our good works, no such pretext could have been raised; whereas against a justification purely gratuitous the objection has a certain plausibility in it, and has in fact been urged against it in every age. That it was urged from the first, we see from chap. iii. 8; and from Gal. v. 13, 1 Pet. ii. 16, and Jude 4, we cannot fail to gather that some who were called Christians actually gave occasion to the charge. But that it was a total perversion of the true doctrine of grace the apostle proceeds now to shew. 2. God forbid—'That be far from us: 'the instincts of the new nature revolt at the thought. We who died to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? This, the original order of the words, gives a fine sharpness to the appeal, whether in such persons the thought of continuing in sin could be endured. 'It is not (says Grotius very well here) the entire impossibility but rather the shamefulness [or better, the shameful inconsistency] of the thing which is 'here expressed, as in Matt. vi. 28, and Gal. iv. 9. For shameful it is, after we have been washed, to roll again into the mire.'

3-11. How union to Christ effects the believer's death to sin and resurrection to new life.—3. What? On this exclamation see on iii. 29. Are ye ignorant that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus1 were baptized into his death: Our whole sinful case and condition having been taken up into Christ's Person, when He was "made sin for us," it has been brought to an end in His death; and therefore the baptism of believers is a public proclamation on their part, that they have surrendered the whole state and life of sin, as in Christ now a dead thing. They have sealed themselves to be not only "the righteousness of God in Him," but to be "a new creature; "and as they cannot be in Christ to the one effect and not to the other—for the two things are one and inseparable, they have, by their "baptism into Christ's death," bidden solemn and public farewell to all connexion with sin. How, then, can they live any longer therein? Of all this the apostle asks, Are ye strangers to it? Not that, quite as put here, it may ever have been brought before the Roman Christians; nor is it likely that any of the churches, save those who were favoured with Pauline teaching, were much better off. But it was of that nature that it needed only to be presented to intelligent and teachable Christians, to be instinctively recognised and acquiesced in, as the very truths they had been rudimentally instructed in from the first. (Compare the similar question of our Lord to His disciples at the supper table, John xiv. 5. )

4. We were buried therefore with him: the thing being viewed as a past act, on their reception of the Gospel, and baptismally expressed in their public profession of this, through baptism into death. The same baptism which proclaimed our participation in His death proclaimed also our part in His burial. To leave a dead body to lie unburied is represented in heathen authors and in Scripture alike as the greatest indignity (Rev. xi. 8, 9). It was fitting, therefore, that Christ, after "dying for our sins," should be "buried "(1 Cor. xv. 4). As this was the last and lowest step of His humiliation, so it was the honourable dissolution of His last link of connexion with that whole sinful condition and life which His death brought to an end. that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father—by "the glory of His power" (2 Thess. i. 9), "the exceeding greatness of His power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead "(Eph. i. 19, 20), proclaiming by that majestic act His judicial satisfaction with and acceptance of His whole work (compare I Cor. vi. 14; 2 Cor. xiii. 4). so we also (risen with Him) might walk in newness of life.

Note.—Whether the mode of baptism—by immersion—is here alluded to, as a kind of symbolical burial and resurrection, as many think, is not at all clear. Indeed it is by no means certain that baptism by immersion was practised in apostolic times. In the case of the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, it would have been impossible. In the case of our Lord and of the Ethiopian eunuch, it was certainly by affusion, not immersion; and as "sprinkling" and "washing" are quite indifferently used in the New Testament to express the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus, there can be no doubt that if baptism in any form be a designed symbol of this, the mode of "sprinkling," or "washing" in anyway, must be valid baptism. And just as the woman with the issue of blood got virtue out of Christ by simply touching Him, so the essence of baptism must lie in the simple contact of the element with the body, symbolizing living contact with the crucified Saviour—the mode and extent of the suffusion being perfectly indifferent—to be regulated by the climate and the circumstances of each particular case.

5. For if we have become united with him2 by the likeness of his death—so identified with Him in His death, we shall be also by the likeness of his resurrection—if the one is a living reality, the other will certainly be so also. 6. knowing this. The apostle grows more definite and vivid in expressing the sin-destroying efficacy of our union with the crucified and risen One, and the Roman Christians are supposed to "know" what is now to be expressed (though only in the sense explained on ver. 2). that our old man was crucified with him—'our old selves,' all that we were in our old unregenerate state before this union with Christ (compare such passages as Col. iii. 9, 10; Eph. vii. 22-24 5 Gal. ii. 20; v. 24; vi. 14; John iii. 3; Tit. iii. 5). that the body of sin might be destroyed ('annulled,' 'abolished'). The word here used is a favourite one with our apostle, used only once by any other New Testament writer but 25 times by him, besides once in Hebrews (ii. 14). that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin. It is of no small importance to fix the precise sense of "the body of sin" here. A great many expositors take it figuratively, for 'the mass of sin.' But the marked allusions to the actual body which we find in nearly all the corresponding passages forbid our expounding it in this loose way. Thus, a few verses below, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body," etc. (ver. 12), "Neither yield ye your numbers as instruments of unrighteousness "(ver. 13). "As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness," etc. In ch. vii. 23,, "the law of sin "is said to be "in the members: "and in ch. viii. 13, "living after the flesh "is spoken of as doing "the deeds of the body." These passages put it, we think, beyond doubt that by "the body of sin," some connection of sin with our corporeal nature is intended. But neither must we go to the opposite extreme, of concluding that the body is here spoken of as the proper seat or principle of sin; for the seat of sin, as such, certainly does not lie in the animal nature, but in the will. When all the passages in which such phraseology is used are weighed together, we think it will appear clearly that whatever may be the reason for the body being so expressly named, the whole principle of sin in our fallen nature is here meant—its most intellectual and spiritual, equally with its lower and more corporeal, features. It only remains to inquire why this is called "the body of sin." The more immediate occasion of it was undoubtedly the mention of Christ's crucifixion and burial; and as the crucifixion and burial of our old man with him (the nailing of us, so to say, as the doomed children of Adam, to the accursed tree, and thereafter laying us in His grave) was to be emphatically put before the reader, nothing could be more natural than to represent this as bringing to an end "the body of sin." Taken in this sense, the expression denotes 'sin as it dwells in us, in our present embodied condition, under the law of the fall.' This sense will be seen to come out clearly in ver. 12, and in ch. xii. 1.

7. for he that hath died is justified ('has got his discharge') from sin. This remarkable expression was at one time in current use of murderers, who when executed at a certain spot in Edinburgh were said to be 'justified at the Grass market.' 8. But if we died with Christ—the act is regarded as past and done once for all, we believe that we shall also live with him. The future here is the same as in ver, 5, expressing not what is to happen here-after, but to what is the certain consequence of our past death with Christ to sin. 9. knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him. Though Christ's death was in the most absolute sense a voluntary act (John x. 17, 18; Acts ii. 24), that voluntary surrender gave death a rightful "dominion over Him." But this once past, "death," even in that sense, "no more hath dominion over Him." 10. For the death that he died, he died unto (that is, 'in obedience to the claims of') sin onceGr. 'once for all,' as Heb. vii. 27; ix. 17; x. 10. but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God—no longer as in the days of His flesh, under the burden of the "sin "which He "was made for us," which—though "He knew no sin "and so enjoyed the peace of an untroubled conscience—made Him a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," offering up "prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears;" but now that He hath put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, He liveth the acquitted and accepted Surety, unchallenged and unclouded by the claims of sin. 11. Even so, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.3

Not content with shewing that his doctrine had no tendency to relax the obligations to a holy life, the apostle now summons believers to manifest the sanctifying tendency of their new standing in the dead and risen Christ.

N.B.—As in this and the succeeding verses the five following words—"Sin," "Obedience," "Righteousness," "Uncleanness," and "Iniquity"—are figuratively used to represent a master, to make this manifest to the eye, and so save explanations, we shall print them in capitals.

How believers, so dead and risen with Christ, should henceforth conduct themselves (vers. 12-23). 12 - Let not SIN therefore (as though it were still your master) reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof4—the lusts of the body, as the Greek makes evident; but only as the instrument by which the sins of the heart become facts of the outward life, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites; and it is called "our mortal body"—not so much to cheer us with the thought of how soon we shall have done with it, still less to warn us how short-lived are the pleasures of sin, but probably to remind us how unsuitable is the reign of sin in those who are "alive from the dead." But the reign here meant is the unchecked dominion of sin within us. Its outward acts are next referred to. 13. Neither present your members unto SIN as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves. Observe how grandly the thought rises here. Not only does it rise from a negative exhortation in the first clause to a postive in the second, but it rises from the members in the one clause to our whole renewed selves in the other. Being alive now unto God from the dead, he bids us, instead of yielding our members to the obedience of their old Master, first yield our whole new selves unto GOD (as our new and rightful Master) as alive from the dead—Do this in the capacity of men risen with Christ, and (as the natural fruit of this) your members (till now prostituted to sin) as instruments (for the practice) of righteousness unto God. A significant transition also has been noticed here from one tense to another. In the first clause—" Neither yield ye your members instruments of unrighteousness"—the present tense is used, denoting the habitual practice of men in their old unregenerate state; in the next clause, "but yield yourselves unto God," it is the aorist —suggesting the one act for all, of self-surrender, which the renewed believer performs immediately on his passing from death to life, and to which he only sets his continuous seal in all his after life.

But what if indwelling sin should prove too strong for us? The reply of the next verse is, But it will not. 14. For SIN shall not have dominion over you (as the slaves of a tyrant lord): for ye are not under the law, but under grace. The sense and force of this profound and precious assurance all depends on what is meant by being "under the law" and being "under grace." Mere philological criticism will do nothing to help us here. We must go to the heart of all Pauline teaching to discover this. To be "UNDER THE law," then, is, first, to be 'under its claim to entire obedience on pain of death; 'and so, secondly, to underlie the curse of the law as having violated its righteous demands (Gal. iii. 10). And since any power to fulfil the law can reach the sinner only through Grace—of which the law knows nothing—it follows, lastly, that to be "under the law" is to be shut up under an inability to keep it, and consequently to be the helpless slave of sin. On the other hand, to be "UNDER GRACE," is to be under the glorious canopy and saving effects of that "Grace which bringeth salvation" and "reigns through righteousness unto eternal life." Whereas, when "under the law" Sin could not but have dominion over them, now that they are "under Grace" Sin cannot have dominion over them, cannot but be subdued under them, and Grace is more than conqueror. (This last view is richly unfolded in the first part of chap, viii.) 15. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Resuming the question of ver. 1, under a somewhat new form, the inconsistency and ingratitude of such a return is indignantly held up and repudiated, as abhorrent to the renewed mind. 16. Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants ('bond-servants ') unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey—a dictate of common sense (see John viii. 44), whether of SIN unto (issuing in) death, or of OBEDIENCE unto (resulting in) righteousness?—as an enduring character and condition (compare Matt. vi. 24; 2 Pet. ii. 19; 1 John ii. 27). 17. But thanks he to God, that whereas ye were (bond) servants of SIN, ye became obedient from the heart to that form ('type,' 'pattern,' or 'mould ') of teaching whereunto ye were delivered—that conception of Christian truth which, when ye received it from your teachers, stamped its own impress upon you, ensuring your severance from the whole life of sin. 18. and being made free from (your old master) SIN, ye became (bond) servants of RIGHTEOUSNESS:—' Ye were emancipated from one master only to become the willing bondsmen of Another.' There is, in fact, no middle state of personal independence: for that we were never made; for that we are not adapted; to that we have no claim. When we would not that God should reign over us, we were in righteous judgment "sold under Sin." But now, emancipated into subjection to RIGHTEOUSNESS, we experience our true freedom and attain to the normal condition of our nature as originally constituted. 19. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh—I descend to the level of human experience in respect of master and servant, because of the weakness of your spiritual apprehension, for as ye presented your members as servants to "UNCLEANNESS and to INIQUITY unto (the practice of) iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to RIGHTEOUSNESS unto (the attainment of) sanctification:—' With what heartiness ye served Sin, and to what lengths ye went in that service, so be ye now stimulated to serve a better Master.' 20. For, when ye were servants of SIN, ye were free in regard of RIGHTEOUSNESS. Since no servant can serve two masters, and much less two whose interests are in deadly collision, and each of whom demands the whole man, so ye, while in the service of Sin, could be in no real sense the servants of Righteousness, and never did it one act of willing obedience. Whatever might be your sense of its claims, your service was all and always given to SIN. Ye had thus your full experience of the nature and benefits of SIN'S service. 21. What fruit then had ye ('what satisfaction, what advantage ') at that time, in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? This "shame "is not that disgust at themselves and remorse of conscience by which even those most hopelessly "sold under sin "are often stung to the quick. It is that ingenuous self-reproach which pierces the hearts of the children of God as they look back on their past life in the service of sin, and upon the dishonour it did to God, the violence it did to their better feelings, its deadening and degrading effects, and the "second death" to which it was dragging them down, when Grace arrested them, for the end of those things is death—'abiding Satisfaction,' did I ask? They have left only shame: permanent 'advantage'? "The end of them is death" (On the sense of "death," as here understood, see on chap v., concluding Notes, No. 3.) 22. But now—as if it were unspeakable relief to get away from such a subject, being made free from (bondage to) SIN, and become (bond) servants to GOD, ye have your fruit unto sanctification—as in ver. 19, meaning that permanently holy state and character which is built gradually up out of "the fruits of righteousness." They have their "fruit "unto this, in contrast with what (wretched) "fruit" they had in the things they were now ashamed of, and—in contrast with the "death" in which those things "end," the end of this better service is eternal life—in the sense of the "life "spoken of at the close of chap. v. 23. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. In this closing verse, as pointed as it is brief, we have the marrow, the most fine gold of the Gospel. On the one hand, just as the labourer is worthy of his hire, feels it to be his due, and claims it as his right, so is "death" the due of sin, the wages the sinner has well wrought for—his own. But "eternal life" is in no sense or degree the wages of our righteousness; we do nothing whatever to earn or become entitled to it, and never can: it is therefore, in the most absolute sense, "THE GIFT OF GOD." Grace reigns in the bestowal of it in every case, and that "in Jesus Christ our Lord," as the righteous Channel of it. In view of this, no one that hath tasted that the Lord is gracious can choose but exclaim, from first to last, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever "(Rev. i. 5, 6).

Note.—The fundamental principle of Gospel-obedience is as original as it is divinely rational: that 'we are set free from the law in order to keep it, and are brought graciously under servitude to the law, in order to be free.' So long as we know no principle of obedience but the terrors of the law, which condemns all the breakers of it, and knows nothing whatever of grace either to pardon the guilty or to purify the polluted, we are shut up under a moral impossibility of genuine and acceptable obedience; whereas when Grace lifts us out of this state, and, through union to a righteous Surety, brings us into a state of conscious reconciliation and loving surrender of heart to a God of salvation, we immediately feel the glorious liberty to be holy; and the assurance that "Sin shall not have dominion over us" is as sweet to our renewed tastes and aspirations as the ground of it is felt to be firm, "because we are not under the Law, but under Grace."5

Chapter VII

1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as

2 long as he liveth? 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 free from that law; so that she is no

4 adulteress, though she be married to another man. 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

5 forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our

6 members to bring forth fruit unto death. 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.

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

8 covet: but sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without

9 the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and

10 I died; and the commandment, which was ordained to

11 life, I found to be unto death: for sin, taking occasion by

12 the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just,

13 and good. 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.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold

15 under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would,

16 that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in

18 me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to

19 perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but

21 sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I

22 would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in

23 the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my

24 members. wretched man that I am! who shall deliver

25 me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.


The new life in Christ is here presented in some fresh lights and some of its sterner aspects, going to the depths of action in our spiritual nature both before and after conversion.

1-6. The believer's severance from the law, through union to Christ, illustrated from the law of marriage.

In the preceding chapter the apostle had given his believing readers the cheering assurance that '' sin should not have dominion over them, because they were not under the law but under grace." But how they came to be no longer under the law, he had not particularly shewn. Generally, it had been made clear enough throughout the whole preceding argument; but here the apostle goes into the profound principles involved in the change.

1. Know ye not,6 brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)—the law of Moses is particularly in view—with which, though not themselves Jews (see on chap. i. 13), these Roman Christians were sufficiently acquainted; but the thing here stated is true of any good marriage law, being founded in nature: how that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth?—so long, and no longer. Most of those who think that the apostle is here teaching the death of the law, suppose the law to be here meant, and not the married person; and they translate accordingly,' so long as it (the law) liveth. 'But this is plainly wrong; for as the apostle is stating a well-known fact regarding the marriage law, it would have been absurd to say that it has dominion so long as it lives or has dominion. Clearly the thing meant is, that the law's dominion over a man ceases with a man's life. 4. Wherefore. . . ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ (" broken for you "), that ye should he married to anotherGr. 'that ye should become another's'—even to him who was raised from the dead, (to the intent) that we might bring forth fruit unto God—the fruit of holy living here viewed as the offspring of this union with the Risen One.

It has been thought by a number of excellent critics that the apostle has here expressed the opposite of what his argument required—has said that we died to the law, whereas his argument is, that the law died to us—and that he purposely inverted the figure to avoid the harshness to Jewish ears of such an idea as the death of the law. But if this idea would sound harsh to Jewish ears, it would not be softened by insinuating without expressing, it, much less by saying just the reverse of what was meant. But they mistake the apostle's design in employing this figure, which was merely to illustrate the general principle, that 'death dissolves legal obligation.' 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 confusion, then, is in the expositors, not the text; and it has arisen from not observing that, like Jesus Himself, believers are here viewed as having a double life—the old sin-condemned life, which they lay down with Christ, and the new life of acceptance and holiness to which they rise with their Surety and Head; and all the issues of this new life, in Christian obedience, are regarded as the "fruit "of this blessed marriage union to the Risen One.

But another thing must be observed in this profound verse. It seems to ascribe to the believer not only a double marriage (first to the law and then to Christ), but a double marriage to Christ Himself—first to the Crucified and then to the Risen Christ. But this is only apparent. The spiritual reality, rightly apprehended, dissipates the seeming incongruity. When the apostle says that we become dead to the law by the body of Christ (or, that our marriage relation to the law ceased with our union to the Crucified One), and then adds that this was in order to our being united to the Risen One, the meaning is not that the union to Christ crucified was dissolved, in order to our union to Christ risen. It is the necessities of the figure that occasion this manner of speech. And what is meant is plainly this, that the expiatory death of Christ, to whom they have been united by faith, dissolved the claims of the law on believers as thoroughly as the husband's death sets his wife at liberty; and now that Christ is risen from the dead, that same union to Him is in reality their new marriage to the Living One—in virtue of which the requirements of the law are so far from being disregarded, or more feebly met than when we were in bondage to it, that the "fruit "of our marriage union to the Risen One is an obedience to God such as we never did nor could yield before. See John xv. 8, where the "fruit" of Union to Christ is quite similarly set forth—only there under the figure of a vegetable, as here of a conjugal union.

How such holy fruitfulness was impossible while we were under the law, and before our union to Christ, is now declared. 5. For when we were in the flesh. Here, for the first time in this Epistle, is introduced that remarkable and expressive phraseology of which so much use is made in the next chapter and in the Epistle to the Galatians, which all Christendom (earnest and enlightened Christendom, at least) has ever since regarded as a precious heritage, has incorporated with its vocabulary, and will never dispense with in expressing some of the deepest truths and principles of spiritual religion. What is meant by the "flesh" in such statements is first clearly seen in John iii. 6, where we have the proper matrix—the rudimentary germ—of such phraseology; though it pervades the ethical portions of the Old Testament. It means our fallen nature, all that we bring into the world by birth, humanity under the entire law of the fall, the law of sin and death, our nature as corrupted, depraved, and under the curse. To "be in the flesh," then, must mean to be in our unregenerate state, under the unbroken, unsubdued dominion of our corrupt principles and affections. But the full import of this pregnant expression will open upon us as we advance in the exposition of this chapter and the following one. the sinful passions (Gr. 'passions of sins')—feelings prompting to the commission of sins, which were by (or 'through ') the law—that is, which by occasion of the law forbidding those sins only the more fretted or irritated our corruptions towards the commission of them, as will more fully appear under vers. 7-9, did work in our members—as the instruments by which such inward stirrings find vent in action, and become facts of the life (as has been remarked on chap. vi. 6) to bring forth fruit unto death—death in the sense of vi. 26. Thus hopeless is all holy fruit before union to Christ.

6. But now (see on this expression on chap. vi. 22) we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden. The reading of the A. V. here—"that being dead wherein we were held," meaning the law—is a surprising mistake, for not only has it absolutely no textual authority, but it is not even the reading of the received text (as printed in 1550), and is only found in the reprint of it by the Elzevirs, who took it from Beza. But the worst of this reading is, that it is inconsistent with the whole strain of the argument. For the apostle never says that the law is dead, but that we have died to it through union to Him who received its penalty against the breach of it in His death, so that we serve in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter—not in mere literal, mechanical, heartless compliance with a set of external rules of conduct, but in a "new "way—from new motives, with new tastes, to new ends, as emancipated servants of a new and loved Master (compare chap. ii. 29; 2 Cor. iii. 6).

7-13. Helplessness under the law no fault of the haw itself. 7. What shall we say then? (see on this expression in vi. 1). Is the law sin? God forbid—' Is the law to blame for stirring our. corruptions to break it? Away with such a thought.' Nay (on the contrary), I had not known sin except through the law.

The reader should mark here the change of person. From these words downwards to the end of this chapter the apostle speaks no longer in the first and second persons plural—"we," "ye"—but exclusively in the first person singular—I. In this he is representing neither the Jewish nation nor mankind in general (as is often erroneously conceived), but depicting his own views and feelings, his own state and character, at different periods of his religious history. But another thing of even more importance should be noted. From ver. 7 to the end of ver. 13 he speaks entirely in the past tense; whereas from ver. 14 to the end of the chapter he speaks exclusively in the present tense. And as the words of ver. 9, "I was alive without the law once," clearly refer to his unconverted state, so (as we shall see when we come to expound them) all from ver. 14 to the end of the chapter is a description of what he experienced in his converted state, and can only be thus properly understood.

When the apostle says in this ver. 7, "I had not known sin but through the law," it is indispensable to fix precisely what he here means by "sin." It certainly is not sin in the act. Nor is it 'sin in general; 'for though true enough in itself, this will not suit what is said in the following verses, where the sense of the word is the same as here. The only meaning which suits all that is said of it in this place is 'the principle of sin in the heart of fallen man. 'The sense, then, is this: 'It was by means of the law that I came to know what a virulence and strength of sinful propensity I had within me.' The existence of this it did not need the law to reveal to him; for even the heathens recognised and wrote of it: but the dreadful nature and desperate power of it the law alone discovered—in the way now to be described. for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust. 8. But sin (i.e. my indwelling corruption), taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of lusting. Here the same Greek word is, in the Authorised Version, unfortunately rendered by three different English ones—"lust," "covet," "concupiscence"—which obscures the meaning. The Revised Version avoids this by using "covet "throughout: "I had not known coveting (margin, or lust) except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet: but sin. . . wrought in me all manner of coveting." But, with the Authorised Version, we think the apostle had in his eye that form of "coveting" which is expressed by "concupiscence." We have used the word which seems to us best to suit the whole sense. Using the word "lust" only—in the wide sense of all 'irregular desire,' or every outgoing of the heart towards anything forbidden—the sense will come out thus: 'For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment (that commandment which expressly forbids it), wrought in me all manner of lusting.' See Prov. ix. 17, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." Compare also the well-known saying of Horace: Nitimur in vetitnm nefas, cupimnsque negata. This gives a deeper view of the tenth commandment than the mere words suggest. The apostle saw in it the prohibition not only of desire after certain things there specified, but of 'desire after everything divinely forbidden;' in other words, all 'lusting' or 'irregular desire.' It was this which "he had not known but by the law." The law forbidding all such desire so stirred his corruption that it wrought in him "all manner of lusting"—desire of every sort after what was forbidden.

for without (Gr. 'apart from') the law sin is (not was) dead—'before its extensive demands and prohibitions (see Ps. cxix. 96) come to stir our corrupt nature, the sinful principle lies so dormant, so torpid, that its virulence and power are unknown, and to our own feeling it is as good as "dead." '9. And (accordingly) I "was alive without (Gr. 'apart from') the law once—formerly: 'in the days of my ignorance, when (in this sense) a stranger to the law, I deemed myself all right, in good standing before God.' but when the commandment came—prohibiting all that my sinful nature was prone to—sin revived—' came to life; 'shewing plainly that what the apostle alone here means by "sin" is an inward principle: this revived in its malignity and strength; it unexpectedly revealed itself, as if sprung from the dead. and I died—'I saw myself, in the eye of a law never kept, and not to be kept, a dead man.' 10. and (thus) the commandment which was unto life—designed to give life through the keeping of it—I found to be unto death—through the breaking of it. 11. for sin ('my sinful nature'), taking occasion through the commandment, beguiled me—drawing me aside into the very thing which it forbade, and through it slew me—discovered me to myself to be a condemned and undone man (compare Isa. vi. 5: "Then said I, Woe is roe, for I am undone"). 12. So that the law is holy, and the commandment—that one in particular so often referred to, which forbids all lusting, and on which some reflection might seem to have been cast in the preceding verses—even that commandment is holy, and righteous, and good. 13. Did then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid.—4 Does then the blame of my death lie with the law? Away with the thought.' But sin became death unto me, to the end that it might be shewn to be sin—a rare and pregnant expression, meaning, that it might be shewn in its naked deformity, as by working death to me through that which is good: that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful (a singular phrase, suggested, one would think, by the difficulty of finding any word adequate to the case); 'that its enormous turpitude might stand out to view, through its turning God's holy, just, and good law into a provocative to the very thing which it forbids.'

So much for the law in relation to the unregenerate, of whom the apostle takes himself as the example—first, in his ignorant, self-satisfied condition; next, under humbling discoveries of his inability to keep the law, through inward contrariety to it; finally, as self-condemned, and already, in law, a dead man. Some inquire to what period of his recorded history these circumstances relate. But there is no reason to think they were wrought into such conscious and explicit discovery at any period of his history before he "saw the Lord in the way;" and though, "amidst the multitude of his thoughts within him "during his memorable three days' blindness immediately after that, such views of the law and of himself would doubtless be tossed up and down till they took shape much as they are here described (see Acts ix. 9), we regard this whole description of his inward struggles and progress rather as the finished result of all his past recollections and subsequent reflections on his unregenerate state—which he throws into historical form only for greater vividness.

14. As indwelling sin was too powerful for the laze to control while we were under it, so our subjection to the law even in our regenerate state is due, not to the law itself, but wholly to the gracious renovation of our inner man (14-25).

We have observed that while the apostle speaks in his own person from ver. 7 to the end of the chapter, he speaks in the past tense down to the end of ver. 13, and thereafter, from ver. 14 to the end of the chapter, in the present tense. We believe that this forms the key to the true sense of those two much controverted divisions of the chapter respectively; vers. 7-13 depicting his unregenerate state and experience, while in ver. 14 to the end we have a vivid picture of what he felt and how he acted in his renewed character. The best evidence of this will be found, not in any single verse or isolated statement in this portion, but in the whole strain of it, to which we request very careful attention.

14. For we know—that is, it is a recognised principle. But this manner of speaking is sometimes employed to express, not what is actually and consciously recognised, but what cannot be denied, and will commend itself on reflection to every thoughtful reader, that the law is spiritual—in its nature and demands. Just as a "spiritual man" is a man transformed—animated and led by the Holy Spirit, so the law—which is "holy, just, and good "(ver. 12), embodying the demands of Him who is a Spirit—cannot but breathe spirituality in its nature and intent, but I am carnal.7 The meaning is made perfectly plain by the opposition of "carnal "to "spiritual "—'The law being spiritual, demands spiritual obedience; but that is just what I, being carnal, am incapable of yielding.' But the meaning is rendered still more evident by the explanatory clause which follows: sold under sin—enslaved to it as my tyrant master. The "I "here is of course not the regenerate man, of whom this is certainly not true; but (as will presently appear) neither is it the unregenerate man—from whose case the apostle has passed away. It remains, then, that it is the sinful principle in the renewed man, as is expressly stated in ver. 18. 15. For that which I do I know not; I recognise it not, approve it not (Ps. i. 6, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous"). 'In obeying the impulses of my carnal nature I act rather as the slave of another will than my own as a renewed man. 'for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do. 16. But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good —the judgment of my inner man goes along with the law, to my own condemnation. 17. So now it is no more I (my renewed self) that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me—that principle of sin that still has its abode in me.

Note.—To explain this and the following statements, as very many expositors do, of the sins of unrenewed men against their better convictions, is to do painful violence to the apostle's language, and to affirm of the unregenerate what is untrue. That co-existence and mutual hostility of "flesh" and "spirit" in the same renewed man, which is so clearly taught in chap. viii. 4, etc., and Gal. v. 16, etc., is the true and only key to the language of this and the following verses. It is hardly necessary to say that the apostle means not to disown the blame of yielding to his corruptions, by saying, 'It is not I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 'Early heretics thus abused his language; but the whole strain of the passage shews that his sole object in thus expressing himself was to bring more vividly before his readers the conflict of two opposite principles, and how entirely, as a new man—honouring from his inmost soul the law of God—he condemned and renounced his corrupt nature, with its affections and lusts, its stirrings and its outgoings, root and branch. The acts of a slave (it has been well observed) are indeed his own acts; but not being performed with the full assent and consent of his soul, they are not fair tests of the real state of his feelings. 18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not (or 'not so').8 Here again we have the double self of the renewed man—'In me dwelleth no good; but this corrupt self is not my true self; it is that hateful self that still dwells in my real, renewed, recognised, realised self.' 19. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do ('practise'). Expositors, in quoting as they do from heathen authors in illustration of what is here stated, make too little of the vast difference between what they mean and what the apostle means. The language used by both is much the same, but the feelings in view in the one are as different from those in view of the other as the difference between flesh and spirit. 'Sorrow for sin 'may express the regret for doing wrong of those who nevertheless have no intention of giving it up; but the cry "out of the depths "of a contrite heart, under the piercing sense of that indwelling sin which it hates and wrestles (with too partial success) to subdue, is unspeakably different. Seneca, it has been noted, calls the gods to witness that what he wills he does not will (quod volo me nolle). This is striking; but while not a few noble spirits would be ready to say the same of themselves, the spiritual mind is alive to the presence of sin in a far deeper sense. 20. But if what I would not, that I do, etc. This is but an emphatic repetition of ver. 17. 21. I find then the law (this principle, in me), that to me who would do good, evil is present—presents itself, soliciting me to prefer its desires to those of the other principle. 22. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man—' from the bottom of my heart.' The word here used (and here only in the N. T.) is well rendered 'I delight;' and, as followed up by the emphatic words "after the inward man," expresses the deep joy of whole spiritual and emotional nature in the law of God, and conveys (as does the weaker word of ver. 16, rendered "consent") a state of mind and heart to which the unregenerate man is certainly a stranger. 23. But I see a different law in my members (see on ver. 5), warring against the law of my mind, bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. In this most pregnant verse, three things are to be observed: First, That the word "law" means an inward principle of action, good or evil, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law. The apostle found two such laws within him: the one, "the law of sin in his members," called (in Gal. v. 17-24) "the flesh which lusteth against the spirit," "the flesh with the affections and lusts," i.e. the sinful principle in the regenerate; the other, "the law of the mind," or the holy principle of the renewed nature. Second, When the apostle says he "sees" the one of these principles "warring against "the other, and "bringing him into captivity "to itself, he is not referring to any actual rebellion going on within him while he was writing, or to any captivity to his own lusts then existing. He is simply describing the two conflicting principles, and pointing out what it was the inherent property of each to aim at bringing about. It is "THE LAW OF THE MIND"—renewed by grace—to set its seal to God's law, approving of it and delighting in it, sighing to reflect it, and rejoicing in every step of its progress towards the complete embodiment of it: It is "the law of sin in the members "to dislike and seduce us out of all spirituality, to carnalize the entire man, to enslave us wholly to our own corruptions. Such is the unchanging character of these two principles in all believers; but the relative strength of each is different in different Christians. While some come so low, through "iniquities prevailing against them "(Ps. lxv. 3), that " the law of the mind "can at times be scarce felt at all, and they "forget that they have been purged from their old sins "(2 Pet. i. 9); others, habitually "walking in the Spirit," so "crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts," that "the law of sin" is practically dead. But it is with the unchanging character of the two principles—not the varying strength of them—that this verse has to do. Third, When the apostle describes himself as "brought into captivity'' by the triumph of the sinful principle of his nature, he clearly speaks in the person of a renewed man. Men do not feel themselves to be in captivity in the territories of their own sovereign and associated with their own friends—while breathing a congenial atmosphere, and acting quite spontaneously. But here the apostle describes himself when drawn under the power of his sinful nature, as forcibly seized and reluctantly dragged to his enemy's camp, from which he would gladly make his escape. This ought to settle the question, whether he is here speaking as a regenerate man or the reverse. 24. wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The apostle speaks of the "body" here with reference to "the law of sin "which he had said was "in his members," but merely as the instrument by which the sin of the heart finds vent in action, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites (see on chap. vi. 6, and on ver. 5 of this chapter); and he calls it "the body of this death," as feeling, at the moment when he wrote, the horrors of that death into which it dragged him down (chap. vi. 21, and again on ver. 5 of this chapter). But the language is not that of a sinner newly awakened to the sight of his lost state: it is the cry of a living but agonized believer, weighed down under a burden which, though not his renewed self, is yet so dreadfully himself—as being responsible for it—that he cannot choose but long to shake it off from his renewed self. Nor does the question imply ignorance of the way of relief at the time referred to. It was designed only to prepare the way for that outburst of thankfulness for the divinely provided remedy which immediately follows. 25. I thank God the glorious Source, through Jesus Christ—the blessed Channel of deliverance. So then (to sum up the whole matter) with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sinq.d., 'Such then is the unchanging character of these two principles within me: God's holy law is dear to my renewed mind, and has the willing service of my new man, although that corrupt nature which still remains in me listens to the dictates of sin.'

It is hoped that the foregoing exposition of this profound and much controverted section will commend itself to the thoughtful, exercised reader. Every other view of it will be found equally at variance with the apostle's language, when taken as a whole, and with Christian experience. Certain it is that those who have most successfully sounded the depths of the heart, both under sin and under grace, are the least able to conceive how any Christian can understand it of the unregenerate, and instinctively perceive in it a precious expression of their own experience as the struggling children of God. The great Augnstin found no rest but in this view of it; and he was followed by those noble reformers, Luther and Melanchthon, Calvin and Beza. Of the moderns, Olshausen and Philippi, Alford and Hodge, take the same view, though it is to be regretted that weighty names are ranged on the other side. See a fine treatise on this whole subject, full of acute though modest criticism and Christian experience, by Fraser of Pitcalzian (and minister of Alness), edited after his death by Dr. John Erskine (1774), under the title of 'The Scripture Doctrine of Sanctification, being a Critical Explication and Paraphrase of Rom. vi.-viii. 4, against the false interpretations of Grotius, Hammond, Locke, Whitby, Taylor, etc'

In view of the great importance of this chapter, it may not be without use to append the following remarks:—(1) This whole chapter was of essential service to the Reformers in their contendings with the Church of Rome. When the divines of that Church, in a Pelagian spirit, denied that the sinful principle in our fallen nature—which they called 'Concupiscence,' and which is commonly called 'Original Sin '—had the nature of sin at all, they were triumphantly answered from this chapter, where—both in the first part of it, which speaks of it in the unregenerate, and in the second, which treats of its presence and actings in believers—it is explicitly, emphatically, and repeatedly called "sin." As such, they held it to be damnable. (See the 'Confessions 'both of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches. ) In the following century, the orthodox in Holland had the same controversy to wage with 'the Remonstrants '(the followers of Arminius), and they waged it on the field of this chapter. (2) There is a tendency in those who hold what is called the tripartite theory of the human constitution—body, soul, and spirit, considered as three distinct subjects or substances—to regard the first of these—the body—as the proper seat of sin, while the third—the spirit—is regarded as either unaffected by the fall, or only weakened as to its inherent power to act out its real character. In this view of our present condition, the spiritual struggle of believers consists in an effort of the reason to regain its proper ascendancy over the bodily appetites—the higher powers of our nature to conquer the lower. But according to the Bible, the whole of our nature—the higher equally with the lower faculties—has been brought under bondage to sin (see for example Eph. ii. 3); and as the renovating work of the Holy Ghost extends to the whole man, so the indwelling of the Spirit in believers causes them to "delight in the law of God after the inward man" which now "sees the kingdom of God "with a clarified vision that makes all things new. (3) If the first sight of the Cross by the eye of faith kindles feelings never to be forgotten, and in one sense never to be repeated—like the first view of an enchanting landscape—the experimental discovery, in the later stages of the Christian life, of its power to beat down and mortify inveterate corruption, to cleanse and heal from long-continued backslidings and frightful inconsistencies, and so to triumph over all that threatens to destroy those for whom Christ died as to bring them safe over the tempestuous seas of this life into the haven of eternal rest—this experimental discovery is attended with yet more heart-affecting wonder, draws forth deeper thankfulness, and issues in more exalted adoration of Him whose work Salvation is from first to last. (4) It is sad when such topics as those of this character are handled as mere questions of biblical interpretation or of systematic theology. Our great apostle could not treat of them apart from personal experience, of which the facts of his own life and the feelings of his own soul furnished him with illustrations as lively as they were apposite. When one is unable to go far into the investigation of indwelling sin, without breaking out into an "O wretched man that I am! "and cannot enter on the way of relief without exclaiming, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," he will find his meditations rich in fruit to his own soul, not to speak of the emotions he may enkindle in his readers.



1) Such is the right order of these two words here, as all the authorities without exception testify.

2) The word signifies properly 'connate' or 'born with,' then 'cognate,' 'akin to.'

3) "Christ Jesus "is the order even of the received text, and the following words are not well attested.

4) Such is the true reading here.

5) See an exquisite illustration of this in a letter of Luther to his friend Staupitz, who first opened his eyes, as the God-sent instrument, to this principle of new and joyous obedience (Luther's Briefe, De Wette, vol. i. No. lxvii.).

6) We leave the disjunctive particle here untranslated, as in the Authorised Version. The Revised Version, as usual, translates it—"Or know ye not," as they do in Matt. xxvi. 53, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, which we think is contrary to the genius of the English language where no sharp contrast to what immediately precedes is intended. If expressed at all, the proper word would be, "What?" as even the Revised Version renders it in 1 Cor. xiv. 36. But even this seems more than is required here. It answers exactly to an in Latin, when it begins an interrogative sentence.

7) The true reading here, if external evidence alone is to decide, is, not 'fleshly' but 'fleshy' (expressing the material of which a thing is made). But either the copyists did not distinguish the two forms—differing in Greek as in English only by one letter—or the best attested reading is an error.

8) Such seems the correct reading—without the words "I find."