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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 118.1Read in context »