Romans 7:15 MEANING

Romans 7:15
(15) That which I do I allow not.--Rather, that which I perform I know not. I act blindly, and without any conscious direction of the will; that higher part of me which should preside over and direct my actions, is kept down by the lower physical nature.

Which I do.--St. Paul uses three words for "to do" in this passage, the distinction between which is hard to represent in English. That which is employed here and in Romans 7:17; Romans 7:20, is the strongest, "perform"--deliberate action, thoroughly carried out. The other two words differ, as "do" and "practise," the one referring to single, the other to habitual and repeated actions.

What I would.--If my will had free course I should act very differently.

Verses 15-25. - For that which I do (rather, work, or perform, or accomplish, κατεργάζομαι) I know not (rather than I allow not, as in the English Version, this being the proper meaning of the verb γινώσκω. The idea may be that, when under the delusion of sin I do wrong, I do not know what I am accomplishing): for not what I would, that I do (rather, practise; the verb here is πράσσω); but what I hate, that I do (ποιῶ). But if what I would not that I do, I consent unto the Law that it is good (καλός). Now then (νυνὶ δὲ, not in temporal sense, but meaning, as the case is) it is no more I that work (κατεργάζομαι, as before) it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth not good (ἀγαθόν): for to will is present with me; but to perform (κατεργάζεσθθαι) that which is good (τὸ καλὸν) is not (οὐ, rather than οὐχ αὐρίσκω ασ ιν the Textus Receptus, is the best-supported reading). For the good (ἀγαθόν) that I would I do not (οἰ ποιῶ): but the evil which I would not, that I practise (πράσσω). But if what I (ἐγὼ, emphatic) would not, that I do (ποιῶ), it is no longer I (ἐγὼ, again emphatic) that work (κατεργάζομαι) it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then the law, that to me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man. But I see a different law in my members (on what is meant by "members" (μέλεσι) see note under Romans 6:13) warring against the law of my mind, and brining me into captivity to (or, according to some readings, by) the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (probably in the same sense as "the body of sin" in Romans 6:6; see note thereon. Translate certainly as in the English Version; not this body of death, as if it meant this mortal body) Thanks be to 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. In the note introducing this whole section (vers. 7-25)its general drift has been intimated. The following additional comments may further explain the part of it which begins at ver. 15.

(1) The initial γὰρ introduces proof of the ἐγὼ being in the condition spoken of in the preceding clause, viz. "sold under sin." For (the meaning is) am I not a bond-slave, when, as I feel is the case with me, I am not my own master? But, observe, the state that goes on to be described is that of an unwilling bond-slave; not of one who likes his bondage, and has no desire to be free. The conscience is supposed already, through the operation of law, to protest against sin; to hate its thraldom; not willingly to acquiesce in it.

(2) The distinction between the verbs ποιῶ, πράσσω κατεργάζομαι, not observed in the English Version, but to which attention has been drawn in the above translation, has its meaning. Attention to the places where they occur will show their appropriateness in each case, denoting severally single acts, habitual practice, and general working, performance, or accomplishment.

(3) The English Version is wrong in rendering, in ver. 15, "What I would, that I do not," so as to make the idea the same as that in ver. 19. There are really two different statements in the two verses - the first, of our doing what we wish not to do; the second, of our not doing what we wish to do; and after each the same conclusion is drawn in the same words, viz. that sin is the real worker (κατεργάζομαι being here the word appropriately used).

(4) The conflicting principles, or energies, of human nature, between which the individual ἐγὼ, which wills and acts, is here regarded as being distracted, are the σάρξ in which sin dwells (which has been explained above; see note under ver. 14) on the one hand, and the νοῦς (ver. 23) of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος (ver. 22) on the other. The ἐγὼ is identified with the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, rather than regarded as an intermediate personality between the two. For it is spoken of throughout as willing what is good; and,. though in ver. 14 it is said to be σαρκινός, and though, in ver. 18, good dwells not in it, yet the first of these expressions only means that it is in the flesh at present, and therefore in bondage; and the latter is at once qualified by the addition, τουτέστιν ἐν τῆ σαρκί μου; it does not identify the ἐγὼ with the σάρξ. It is, we may remark in passing, this ἐγὼ - ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος - that is regarded as rising to a new life with Christ, so as to become a new man, delivered from bondage; this last expression, of course, involving a different idea from that of the inward man). It is to be observed, further, that throughout this section beginning at ver. 7, there is no distinction drawn (as elsewhere by St. Paul) between πνεῦμα and σάρξ; the idea of πνεῦμα, in fact, does not come in at all, except with regard to the Law, which is called πνευματικός. The reason is that the apostle is confining himself here to an examination of what man, even at his best, is in his mere human nature; of what thoughtful observers, though not theologians, may perceive him to be. It is a philosophical rather than a theological analysis. It is one that might commend itself to heathen philosophers, some of whom have, in fact, expressed themselves much to the same effect. Hence it is not till ch. 8, where man's regeneration by the Divine πνεῦμα is portrayed, that the spiritual principle in himself, through which he is capable of such regeneration, comes into view. And it will be seen that it is this very idea of πνεῦμα that pervades that whole chapter. This essential distinction between the two chapters is sufficient in itself to disprove the theory that the regenerate state is described in ch. 7.

(5) The senses in which the word νόμος is used in this chapter require to be perceived and distinguished, its usual sense (see under Romans 2:13) not being uniformly retained. There is, however, always some appended expression to indicate any new application of the word. We find it

(a) in its usual sense, with the usual significance of the absence or the presence of the article, in vers. 7, 9, 12, 14, 16; and in ver. 22, still in the same sense, we have "the Law of God." We find also,

(b) in ver. 23, "the law of my mind," whereby I delight in the "Law of God." Here "law" assumes a different sense from the other, but one in which the word is often used; as when we speak of the laws of nature, having in view, not so much a fiat external to nature which nature must obey, as the uniform rule according to which nature is found to work. The Latin word norma expresses the idea. Thus "the law of my mind" means the normal constitution of my higher and better self, whereby it cannot but assent to "the Law of God. Then

(c) we have "the law of sin in my members;" i.e., in a similar sense, an antagonistic rule or constitution dominant in my σάρξ. Lastly,

(d) in ver. 21, the general law (in like sense) of my complex human nature, which necessitates this antagonism: "the law, that when I would do good" (in accordance with the law of the mind), "evil is present with me" (in virtue of the other law). Ancient and other commentators have been much puzzled as to the meaning of ver. 21, from taking τὸν νόμον at the beginning to denote the Mosaic Law, as νόμος usually does when preceded by the article. But not so when there is something after it to denote a different meaning; as there is here in the ὅτι at the end of the verse, meaning that, not (as some have understood it) because.

(6) Difficulty has been found in the concluding clause of ver. 25, ἄρα οῦν, etc. It follows the expression of thanksgiving, "Thanks be to God," etc., which certainly introduced the thought of deliverance from the state that had been described; and hence it is supposed by some that this clause must be a continuance of that thought, and so to be taken as an introduction to ch. 8. rather than a summing up of the preceding argument. It is said also, in support of this view, that more entire association of the ἐγὼ with the Law of God than was before intimated is here expressed; αὐτὸς ἐγὼ being written instead of simply ἐγὼ, and δουλεύω being a stronger word than συνήδομαι (ver. 22). Thus the meaning would be, "Though in my flesh I still serve the law of sin (the φρόνημα σάρκος still remains in me, notwithstanding my regeneration), yet now in my very real self I not only approve, but am in subjection to, the Law of God." It is, however, at least a question whether these slight differences of expression come to much; and both the introductory ἄρα οῦν and the form of the clause suggest rather its being the summarized result of ch. 7. The additional emphasis added to ἐγὼ (which had, indeed, already been emphatic), and the substitution of δοελεύω for συνήδομαι, may serve only to bring out all the more strongly in the end what it had been the purpose of the whole passage to lead up to, viz. that man's real self, when conscience is fully aroused, yearns for and is ready for redemption. There is no difficulty in so understanding the clause (as we should surely understand it naturally but for the preceding thanksgiving), if we regard the thanksgiving as a parenthetical exclamation, anticipating for a moment the purport of ch. 8. Such an exclamation is characteristic of St. Paul, and it adds life to the passage.

7:14-17 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.For that which I do, I allow not,.... The apostle having cleared the law from the charge of being the cause either of sin or death, and taken the blame to himself, proceeds to give an account of the struggle and combat he found in himself between the flesh and spirit; "that which I do, I allow not". That which he did was evil, since he allowed not of it; but this is to be understood not of any notorious crime committed by him, and repeated again and again; nor of a sinful course of life, for before his conversion he was not a profane man, but externally moral; and after his conversion, had his conversation in the world by the grace of God in righteousness and holiness; a vicious course of life being contrary to the grace of God implanted in him, and the doctrines of grace professed by him; but of internal lusts, the workings of corruptions in his heart, and which are real actions of the mind, together with the various frailties and infirmities of life: when that apostle says that what he did, "I know not": his meaning is, not that he was utterly ignorant of them, of their nature and operations; that he was insensible of their motions, and unconcerned about them; for his sense of them, and concern for them, are expressed by him in the strongest terms, "I know", "I find", "I see", "O wretched man", &c. Romans 7:18; but either that the efforts and effects of sin in him were so sadden, and at an unawares, that he was sometimes overtaken and held captive, before he knew well where he was, or, what he was doing; or the sense is, that he had not a full knowledge of the evil of his heart, the corruptions of his nature, nor did he understand all his infirmities and the errors of his life; or else the meaning is, I own it not as right, but confess it to be wrong, I do not acknowledge these actions as the productions of the new man, they are alien to him, but as the deeds of the old man; or rather, "I do not approve" of them, I dislike, abhor, and detest them; I cannot excuse or palliate them, but must condemn them; so words of knowledge in the Hebrew language are expressive of love, liking, and approbation; see Psalm 1:6; on which last text, "I know him", says Jarchi, , "it is the language of love", or a phrase expressive of strong affection; and so here, I know not, I do not like, love, and approve of these things, or I do not "allow" of them, and indulge myself in them, I loathe them and myself for them; and is this talking like an unregenerate man? can it be thought that the apostle speaks of himself as unregenerate, or represents such a man?

for what I would, that do I not; what he desired and willed was good, though he did it not; and so the Vulgate Latin version reads, "for not the good which I would, I:do": and so the next clause, "but the evil which I hate, I:do": and what was that? he would have had his thoughts always employed about the best things; he would have had his affections continually and alone set on God, Christ, and the things of another world; he would he was desirous to keep the whole law of God, and do the whole will of God, and live without sin, and as the angels do in heaven: now such a will as this is never to be found in unregenerate persons; this is from God, and the power of his grace: when he says he did not what he willed, what he was desirous of, and bent upon, his sense is, not that he never did any good thing he willed; for he did many good things, as every good man does, but he did not always do the good he willed, and never perfectly, nor anything without grace and strength from Christ: he adds,

but what I hate, that do I; sin was what he hated; it being contrary to the pure and holy nature of God, to the good and righteous law of God, and was in itself, to his view, exceeding sinful: he hated vain thoughts, unclean desires, revengeful lusts, the secret motions of all sin in his heart, and the various evil actions of life; which can never be said of an unregenerate man; who loves sin, delights in iniquity, and takes pleasure in them that do it; and yet what the apostle hated he did; he wrought with his carnal I, his flesh, and through the power of it, and force of temptation, though not without reluctance, remorse, and repentance. The Karaite Jews, which were the better sort of them, say and hold some things, not much unlike to what is here delivered;

"though a man (say they (i)) should transgress some of the commandments, or the commandments in part, , "through the strength of lust, and not on account of, or with pleasure not delight", he shall be one of those that shall enter into paradise.''

(i) R. Eliahu in Addareth, c. 3. apud Triglaud de Sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 176.

Courtesy of Open Bible