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Romans 7:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Was then that which is good made death unto me? - This is the question of the Jew, with whom the apostle appears to be disputing.

"Do you allow the law to be good, and yet say it is the cause of our death?" The apostle answers: - God forbid! μη γενοιτο, by no means: it is not the law that is the cause of your death, but sin; it was sin which subjected us to death by the law, justly threatening sin with death: which law was given that sin might appear - might be set forth in its own colors; when we saw it subjected us to death by a law perfectly holy, just, and good; that sin, by the law, might be represented what it really is: - καθ 'ὑπερβολην ἁμαρτωλος, an Exceeding Great and deadly evil.

Thus it appears that man cannot have a true notion of sin but by means of the law of God. For this I have already given sufficient reasons in the preceding notes. And it was one design of the law to show the abominable and destructive nature of sin, as well as to be a rule of life. It would be almost impossible for a man to have that just notion of the demerit of sin so as to produce repentance, or to see the nature and necessity of the death of Christ, if the law were not applied to his conscience by the light of the Holy Spirit; it is then alone that he sees himself to be carnal, and sold under sin; and that the law and the commandment are holy, just, and good. And let it be observed, that the law did not answer this end merely among the Jews in the days of the apostle; it is just as necessary to the Gentiles to the present hour. Nor do we find that true repentance takes place where the moral law is not preached and enforced. Those who preach only the Gospel to sinners, at best only heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly. The law, therefore, is the grand instrument in the hands of a faithful minister, to alarm and awaken sinners; and he may safely show that every sinner is under the law, and consequently under the curse, who has not fled for refuge to the hope held out by the Gospel: for, in this sense also, Jesus Christ is the End of the Law for justification to them that believe.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Was then that which is good … - This is another objection which the apostle proceeds to answer. The objection is this, “Can it be possible that what is admitted to be good and pure, should be changed into evil? Can what tends to life, be made death to a man?” In answer to this, the apostle repeats that the fault was not in the Law, but was in himself, and in his sinful propensities.

Made death - Romans 7:8, Romans 7:10.

God forbid - Note, Romans 3:4.

But sin - This is a personification of sin as in Romans 7:8.

That it might appear sin - That it might develope its true nature, and no longer be dormant in the mind. The Law of God is often applied to a man‘s conscience, that he may see how deep and desperate is his depravity. No man knows his own heart until the Law thus crosses his path, and shows him what he is.

By the commandment - Note, Romans 7:8.

Might become exceeding sinful - In the original this is a very strong expression, and is one of those used by Paul to express strong emphasis, or intensity καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν kath huperbolēnby hyperboles. In an excessive degree; to the utmost possible extent, 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:13. The phrase occurs in each of these places. The sense here is, that by the giving of the command, and its application to the mind, sin was completely developed; it was excited, inflamed, aggravated, and showed to be excessively malignant and deadly. It was not a dormant, slumbering principle; but it was awfully opposed to God and His Law. Calvin has well expressed the sense: “It was proper that the enormity of sin should be revealed by the Law; because unless sin should break forth by some dreadful and enormous excess (as they say,) it would not be known to be sin. This excess exhibits itself the more violently, while it turns life into death.” The sentiment of the whole is, that the tendency of the Law is to excite the dormant sin of the bosom into active existence, and to reveal its true nature. It is desirable that that should be done, and as that is all that the Law accomplishes, it is not adapted to sanctify the soul. To show that this was the design of the apostle, it is desirable that sin should be thus seen in its true nature, because,

(1)Man should be acquainted with his true character. He should not deceive himself.

(2)because it is one part of God‘s plan to develope the secret feelings of the heart, and to show to all creatures what they are.

(3)because only by knowing this, will the sinner be induced to take a remedy, and strive to be saved. So God often allows people to plunge into sin; to act out their nature, so that they may see themselves, and be alarmed at the consequences of their own crimes.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 249.1

High-handed, Deliberate Sinning—Never was this sin regarded by God as being so exceedingly sinful as at the present time. Why? Because God is purifying unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. It is at the very time when God is purifying this peculiar people unto Himself that [unsanctified] individuals step in among us. Notwithstanding the straight truths they have heard—the terrors of the Word of God set before them, and all the blazing truth for these last days calculated to arouse Israel—they sin with a high hand, give way to all the loose passions of the carnal heart, gratify their animal propensities, disgrace the cause of God, and then confess they have sinned and are sorry! TSB 249.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 141.2

If you desire to be a Christian, now is your time; now is the golden opportunity. You can walk in purity only by looking and beholding, praying and believing in Jesus moment by moment. You have been living in adultery so long that sin does not appear heinous to you. You love sin. If now you want to leave sin, you must forever renounce it. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. You must not hide or excuse your sins, but you must arise and make haste to confess your sins, and save your soul by seeking the forgiveness of your sins. TSB 141.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 137.5

Does Sin Appear Sinful?—He has so long been following the impulses of his own corrupt heart that sin does not appear to him exceedingly sinful. Now, as your thoughts have been awakened to the serious thoughts of the salvation of your soul, I hope you see the hatefulness of sin; I hope you will now confess your sins before it shall be forever too late. If Ira K dies as he is now, fastened in iniquity, what will you both have to meet in the judgment? Your course has been a sad and distressing course in this matter. Did you think that God did not see these things? ... TSB 137.5

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 246

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Here, again, our duty is plainly set before us. How can the professed followers of Christ so lightly regard these inspired injunctions? Not long since I received a letter describing a circumstance in which a brother had manifested indiscretion. Although it occurred years ago, and was a very small matter, hardly worthy of a second thought, the writer stated that it had forever destroyed her confidence in that brother. If that sister's life should show upon review no greater errors, it would be indeed a marvel, for human nature is very weak. I have been and am still fellowshiping as brethren and sisters those who have been guilty of grave sins and who even now do not see their sins as God sees them. But the Lord bears with these persons, and why should not I? He will yet cause His Spirit so to impress their hearts that sin will appear to them as it appeared to Paul, exceedingly sinful. 5T 246.1

We know but little of our own hearts and have but little sense of our own need of the mercy of God. This is why we cherish so little of that sweet compassion which Jesus manifests toward us and which we should manifest toward one another. We should remember that our brethren are weak, erring mortals like ourselves. Suppose that a brother has through unwatchfulness been overborne by temptation and contrary to his general conduct has committed some error, what course shall be pursued toward him? We learn from the Bible that men whom God had used to do a great and good work committed grave sins. The Lord did not pass these by unrebuked, neither did He cast off His servants. When they repented, He graciously forgave them and revealed to them His presence and wrought through them. Let poor, weak mortals consider how great is their own need of pity and forbearance from God and from their brethren. Let them beware how they judge and condemn others. We should give heed to the instruction of the apostle: “Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” We may fall under temptation and need all the forbearance which we are called to exercise toward the offender. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” 5T 246.2

The apostle adds a caution to the independent and self-confident: “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.... Every man shall bear his own burden.” He who considers himself superior in judgment and experience to his brethren and despises their counsel and admonition, evinces that he is in a dangerous delusion. The heart is deceitful. He should test his character and life by the Bible standard. God's word sheds an unerring light upon the pathway of man's life. Notwithstanding the many influences which arise to divert and distract the mind, those who honestly seek God for wisdom will be guided into the right course. Every man must at last stand or fall for himself, not according to the opinion of the party that sustains or opposes him, not according to the judgment of any man, but according to his real character in the sight of God. The church may warn, counsel, and admonish, but it cannot compel any to take a right course. Whoever persists in disregarding the word of God must bear his own burden, answer to God for himself, and suffer the consequences of his own course. 5T 247.1

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