Matthew Henry's Commentary
elievers are united to Christ, that they may bring forth fruit unto God. (1-6) The use and excellence of the law. (7-13) The
spiritual conflicts between corruption and grace in a believer. (14-25)
So long as a man continues under the law as a covenant, and seeks justification by his own obedience, he continues the slave
of sin in some form. Nothing but the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, can make any sinner free from the law of sin and death.
Believers are delivered from that power of the law, which condemns for the sins committed by them. And they are delivered
from that power of the law which stirs up and provokes the sin that dwells in them. Understand this not of the law as a rule,
but as a covenant of works. In profession and privilege, we are under a covenant of grace, and not under a covenant of works;
under the gospel of Christ, not under the law of Moses. The difference is spoken of under the similitude or figure of being
married to a new husband. The second marriage is to Christ. By death we are freed from obligation to the law as a covenant,
as the wife is from her vows to her husband. In our believing powerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, and have
no more to do with it than the dead servant, who is freed from his master, has to do with his master's yoke. The day of our
believing, is the day of being united to the Lord Jesus. We enter upon a life of dependence on him, and duty to him. Good
works are from union with Christ; as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of its being united to its roots; there is
no fruit to God, till we are united to Christ. The law, and the greatest efforts of one under the law, still in the flesh,
under the power of corrupt principles, cannot set the heart right with regard to the love of God, overcome worldly lusts,
or give truth and sincerity in the inward parts, or any thing that comes by the special sanctifying influences of the Holy
Spirit. Nothing more than a formal obedience to the outward letter of any precept, can be performed by us, without the renewing,
new-creating grace of the new covenant.
Verses 7-13: There is no way
of coming to that knowledge of sin, which is necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon, but by trying our
hearts and lives by the law. In his own case the apostle would not have known the sinfulness of his thoughts, motives, and
actions, but by the law. That perfect standard showed how wrong his heart and life were, proving his sins to be more numerous
than he had before thought, but it did not contain any provision of mercy or grace for his relief. He is ignorant of human
nature and the perverseness of his own heart, who does not perceive in himself a readiness to fancy there is something desirable
in what is out of reach. We may perceive this in our children, though self-love makes us blind to it in ourselves. The more
humble and spiritual any Christian is, the more clearly will he perceive that the apostle describes the true believer, from
his first convictions of sin to his greatest progress in grace, during this present imperfect state. St. Paul was once a Pharisee,
ignorant of the spirituality of the law, having some correctness of character, without knowing his inward depravity. When
the commandment came to his conscience by the convictions of the Holy Spirit, and he saw what it demanded, he found his sinful
mind rise against it. He felt at the same time the evil of sin, his own sinful state, that he was unable to fulfil the law,
and was like a criminal when condemned. But though the evil principle in the human heart produces sinful motions, and the
more by taking occasion of the commandment; yet the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. It is not favourable
to sin, which it pursues into the heart, and discovers and reproves in the inward motions thereof. Nothing is so good but
a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert it. The same heat that softens wax, hardens clay. Food or medicine when taken wrong,
may cause death, though its nature is to nourish or to heal. The law may cause death through man's depravity, but sin is the
poison that brings death. Not the law, but sin discovered by the law, was made death to the apostle. The ruinous nature of
sin, and the sinfulness of the human heart, are here clearly shown.
Compared with the holy rule of conduct in the law of God, the apostle found himself so very far short of perfection, that
he seemed to be carnal; like a man who is sold against his will to a hated master, from whom he cannot set himself at liberty.
A real Christian unwillingly serves this hated master, yet cannot shake off the galling chain, till his powerful and gracious
Friend above, rescues him. The remaining evil of his heart is a real and humbling hinderance to his serving God as angels
do and the spirits of just made perfect. This strong language was the result of St. Paul's great advance in holiness, and
the depth of his self-abasement and hatred of sin. If we do not understand this language, it is because we are so far beneath
him in holiness, knowledge of the spirituality of God's law, and the evil of our own hearts, and hatred of moral evil. And
many believers have adopted the apostle's language, showing that it is suitable to their deep feelings of abhorrence of sin,
and self-abasement. The apostle enlarges on the conflict he daily maintained with the remainder of his original depravity.
He was frequently led into tempers, words, or actions, which he did not approve or allow in his renewed judgement and affections.
By distinguishing his real self, his spiritual part, from the self, or flesh, in which sin dwelt, and by observing that the
evil actions were done, not by him, but by sin dwelling in him, the apostle did not mean that men are not accountable for
their sins, but he teaches the evil of their sins, by showing that they are all done against reason and conscience. Sin dwelling
in a man, does not prove its ruling, or having dominion over him. If a man dwells in a city, or in a country, still he may
not rule there.
Verses 18-22: The more pure and holy the heart is, it
will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the
excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is
fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against
the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against
the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the
Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do. How different this case from that of those who make themselves
easy with regard to the inward motions of the flesh prompting them to evil; who, against the light and warning of conscience,
go on, even in outward practice, to do evil, and thus, with forethought, go on in the road to perdition! For as the believer
is under grace, and his will is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in the law of God, and in the holiness which
it demands, according to his inward man; that new man in him, which after God is created in true holiness.
Verses 23-25: This passage does not represent the apostle as one that walked after the flesh,
but as one that had it greatly at heart, not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage, as they also do the
other Scriptures, to their own destruction, yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thus provided for their
support and comfort. We are not, because of the abuse of such as are blinded by their own lusts, to find fault with the scripture,
or any just and well warranted interpretation of it. And no man who is not engaged in this conflict, can clearly understand
the meaning of these words, or rightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led the apostle to bemoan himself as
a wretched man, constrained to what he abhorred. He could not deliver himself; and this made him the more fervently thank
God for the way of salvation revealed through Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end, deliverance from this enemy. So
then, says he, I myself, with my mind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as a regenerate man, by Divine grace,
serve and obey the law of God; but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity, I serve the law of sin, which
wars against the law of my mind. Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but as unable to free himself from it,
even in his very best state, and needing to look for help and deliverance out of himself. It is evident that he thanks God
for Christ, as our deliverer, as our atonement and righteousness in himself, and not because of any holiness wrought in us.
He knew of no such salvation, and disowned any such title to it. He was willing to act in all points agreeable to the law,
in his mind and conscience, but was hindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfection the law requires. What can
be deliverance for a man always sinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus? The power of Divine grace,
and of the Holy Spirit, could root out sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom had not otherwise thought fit.
But it is suffered, that Christians might constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretched state from which Divine
grace saves them; might be kept from trusting in themselves; and might ever hold all their consolation and hope, from the
rich and free grace of God in Christ
David Burnette's Life Application
Wretched Man that I Am
Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making
an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue
in the book of Romans with Chapter 7 and in our text we see freedom we have from the law but how the law reveals our sin and
the struggle within. We see the truth that in me dwelleth no good thing but Christ-Jesus. How about you? Do you see who you
are and who you can be in Christ-Jesus? Let us learn from our text today the words of Paul that explains to us the inward
man and how there is nothing good within us, how our sin shows us who we really are, but God who is rich and mercy, can save
our soul and indwell us with His love, mercy, and grace.
ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2For 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.
3So 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 adulteress, though she be
married to another man.
4Wherefore, 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 forth fruit unto God.
when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6But 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.
7What 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 covet.
8But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.
For without the law sin was dead.
9For I was
alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment
holy, and just, and good.
13Was 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.
we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17Now then it is no more I that do it, but
sin that dwelleth in me.
18For I know that
in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good
I find not.
19For the good that I would I
do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23But 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 members.
24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25I 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.