“What 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.”
King James Version (KJV)
7:7 What shall we say then - This is a kind of a digression, to the beginning of the next chapter, wherein the apostle, in order to show in the most lively manner the weakness and inefficacy of the law, changes the person and speaks as of himself, concerning the misery of one under the law. This St. Paul frequently does, when he is not speaking of his own person, but only assuming another character, #Rom 3:5|, 1Cor 10:30, 1Cor 4:6. The character here assumed is that of a man, first ignorant of the law, then under it and sincerely, but ineffectually, striving to serve God. To have spoken this of himself, or any true believer, would have been foreign to the whole scope of his discourse; nay, utterly contrary thereto, as well as to what is expressly asserted, #Rom 8:2|. Is the law sin - Sinful in itself, or a promoter of sin. I had not known lust - That is, evil desire. I had not known it to be a sin; nay, perhaps I should not have known that any such desire was in me: it did not appear, till it was stirred up by the prohibition.
Ro 7:7 [Is] the law sin? Paul intimates that the law was the occasion of sin (Ro 7:5). Does he mean that the law in itself sinful? This thought he indignantly repels. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law. The restraints of the law brought to his knowledge his own sinful nature. Paul describes his own experiences when seeking the righteousness of the law, and thus describes those of human nature. The experiences here given are his own, but what he says is applicable to all men. The experiences are those of Saul of Tarsus, not those of Paul the apostle. For I had not known lust. Greedy desire for the possessions of others. All evil desire is embraced.