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Romans 7:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For, when we were in the flesh - When we were without the Gospel, in our carnal and unregenerated state, though believing in the law of Moses, and performing the rites and offices of our religion.

The motions of sins, which were by the law - Τα παθηματα των ἁμαρτιων, the passions of sins, the evil propensities to sins; to every particular sin there is a propensity: one propensity does not excite to all kinds of sinful acts; hence the apostle uses the plural number, the Passions or propensities of Sins; sins being not more various than their propensities in the unregenerate heart, which excite to them. These παθηματα, propensities, constitute the fallen nature; they are the disease of the heart, the pollution and corruption of the soul.

Did work in our members - The evil propensity acts εν τοις μελεσιν, in the whole nervous and muscular system, applying that stimulus to every part which is necessary to excite them to action.

To bring forth fruit unto death - To produce those acts of transgression which subject the sinner to death, temporal and eternal. When the apostle says, the motion of sin which were by the law, he points out a most striking and invariable characteristic of sin, viz. its rebellious nature; it ever acts against law, and the most powerfully against known law. Because the law requires obedience, therefore it will transgress. The law is equally against evil passions and evil actions, and both these exert themselves against it. So, these motions which were by the law, became roused into the most powerful activity by the prohibitions of the law. They were comparatively dormant till the law said, thou shalt Not do this, thou shalt Do that; then the rebellious principle in the evil propensity became roused, and acts of transgression and omissions of duty were the immediate consequences.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For when … - The illustration in this verse and the following is designed to show more at length the effect of the Law, whenever and whereever applied; whether in a state of nature or of grace. It was always the same. It was the occasion of agitation and conflict in a man‘s own mind. This was true when a sinner was under conviction; and it was true when a man was a Christian. In all circumstances where the Law was applied to the corrupt mind of man, it produced this agitation and conflict. Even in the Christian‘s mind it produced this agitation Romans 7:14-24, as it had done and would do in the mind of a sinner under conviction Romans 7:7-12, and consequently there was no hope of release but in the delivering and sanctifying power of the gospel Romans 7:25; Romans 8:1-3.

In the flesh - Unconverted; subject to the controlling passions and propensities of a corrupt nature; compare Romans 8:8-9. The connection shows that this must be the meaning here, and the design of this illustration is to show the effect of the Law before a man is converted, Romans 7:5-12. This is the obvious meaning, and all the laws of interpretation require us so to understand it.

The motions of sins - ( τα παθήματα ta pathēmataThis translation is unhappy. The expression “motions of sins” conveys no idea. The original means simply the passions, the evil affections, the corrupt desires; see the margin. The expression, passions of sins, is a Hebraism meaning sinful passions, and refers here to the corrupt propensities and inclinations of the unrenewed heart.

Which were by the law - Not that they were originated or created by the Law; for a law does not originate evil propensities, and a holy law would not cause sinful passions; but they were excited, called up, inflamed by the Law, which forbids their indulgence.

Did work in our members - In our body; that is, in us. Those sinful propensities made use of our members as instruments, to secure gratification; Note, Romans 6:12-13; compare Romans 6:23.

To bring forth fruit unto death - To produce crime, agitation, conflict, distress, and to lead to death. We were brought under the dominion of death; and the consequence of the indulgence of those passions would be fatal; compare the note at Romans 6:21.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 118.1

It was impossible for the sinner to keep the law of God, which was holy, just, and good; but this impossibility was removed by the impartation of the righteousness of Christ to the repenting, believing soul. The life and death of Christ in behalf of sinful man were for the purpose of restoring the sinner to God's favor, through imparting to him the righteousness that would meet the claims of the law and find acceptance with the Father. FW 118.1

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