Romans 7:5
(5) The new alliance ought not to be unproductive, for the old alliance was not unproductive. Before that mortification of the flesh which proceeds from our relation to the death of Christ, we bore a fruit generated through our carnal appetites by the Law, and the only being to whose honour and glory they contributed was Death.

The sins committed under the old dispensation are regarded as due to a two-fold agency--on the one hand to the Law (the operation of which is described more particularly in Romans 7:7-8), and on the other hand to the flesh, which was only too susceptible to any influence that would call out its sinful impulses. Those impulses have now been mortified, as if by a course of asceticism, through union with the death of Christ.

The "body" is regarded by St. Paul as a neutral principle, which is not in itself either good or bad. It is simply the material frame of men, which though itself "of the earth earthy" is capable of becoming a dwelling-place for the Spirit, and being put to holy uses. The "flesh" is the same material frame regarded as the seat of sinful appetites, and with a tendency to obey the lower rather than the higher self. The proper way to overcome this lower self is by that spiritual asceticism which the believer goes through by his appropriation of the death of Christ.

Motions of sins.--The same word which is translated in Galatians 5:24, "affections"--those emotions or passions which lead to sin.

Which were by the law.--Which the Law served to stimulate and quicken in the manner described below.

Did work.--Were active or astir, opposed to that state of torpor or mortification to which they were reduced in the Christian.

Unto death.--Death is here personified as the king of that region which sin serves to enrich.

Verse 5. - For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were through the Law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. In the flesh, to which might be opposed in the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9), denotes our state when under the power of sin, before we had risen to a new life in Christ; it is virtually the same as what is meant by being under the Law, as is shown by the opposed expression in ver. 6, κατηργήθημεν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου. What is signified by "the passions of sins" being "through the Law" will be considered under vers. 7 and 8.

7:1-6 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.For when we were in the flesh,.... This respects not their being under the legal dispensation, the Mosaic economy; which lay greatly in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, such as regarded the flesh chiefly; so their meats and drinks concerned the body; their ablutions and washings sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; their circumcision was outward in the flesh; the several rituals of the law consisted in outward things, though typical of internal and spiritual ones; hence those that trusted in them trusted in the flesh: but to be "in the flesh" stands opposed, Romans 7:8; to a being "in the spirit"; whereas there were many under that legal and carnal dispensation who were in the spirit, and had the Spirit of God, as David and others; besides, the apostle must be thought to use the phrase in such a sense, as to include all the persons he is speaking of and writing to, who were both Jews and Gentiles, for of such the church at Rome consisted; and the sense is this, "for when we", Jews and Gentiles, who are now believers in Christ, "were" formerly, before our conversion to, and faith in Christ, "in the flesh", that is, in a corrupt, carnal, and unregenerate state and condition; in which sense the word "flesh" is frequently used in the next chapter: now not all such who have flesh, sin, or corrupt nature in them, must be reckoned to be in the flesh, for there is a difference between flesh being in persons, from which none are free in this life, and their being in the flesh; nor all such who commit sin, or do carnal things at times, for there is not a just man that doth good and sinneth not; but such who are as they were born, without any alteration made in them by the Spirit and grace of God; who have nothing but flesh in them, no fear of God, nor love to and faith in Christ, nor any experience of the work of the Spirit of God upon their souls; no true sight and sense of sin, nor any spiritual knowledge of salvation by Christ; in whom flesh is the governing principle, whose minds and principles are carnal, and their conversation wholly so; yea, persons may be in the flesh, in an unregenerate state, who may abstain from the grosser immoralities of life, and even make a profession of religion: now such these had been the apostle is speaking of and to, and tells how it was with them when in this state;

the motions of sins which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death: by "the motions of sin" are meant, the evil passions and affections of the mind, the lusts of the heart, sinful desires, evil thoughts, the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart, the first motions of the mind to sin: these "were by the law"; not as the efficient cause of them, that neither produces nor encourages them; it is holy, just, and good, requires truth in the inward parts, and not only forbids the outward acts of sin, but even covetous desires, and lustful thoughts: no, these inward motions of sin arise from a corrupt heart and nature; are encouraged and cherished by the old man that dwells there; and men are enticed by Satan to a compliance with them. Some think that the meaning of the phrase is, that these secret lusts of the heart are made known by the law, as in Romans 7:7, so they are, but not whilst a man is in the flesh, or in an unregenerate state, but when he comes to be wrought upon powerfully by the Spirit of God, who makes use of the law to such a purpose: but the true sense of it is, that these motions of sin are irritated, provoked, and increased, through the law's prohibition of them; which is not to be charged as a fault on the law, but to be imputed to the depravity and corruption of man; who is like to one in a burning fever, very desirous of drink, who the more it is forbid, the more eager is he of it; or like a mighty torrent of water, which rises, rages, flows, and overflows, the more any methods are taken to stop its current; or like a filthy dunghill, which when the sun strikes powerfully on it, it exhales and draws out its filthy stench; which nauseous smell is not to be imputed to the pure rays of the sun, but to the filthiness of the dunghill: these motions of sin are said to "work in our members"; in the members of our bodies, which these sinful affections of the soul make use of to put them into action, and so they bring forth fruit; very evil fruit indeed, for nothing else can be expected from such an evil tree as the corrupt nature of man is: and this fruit is "unto death": deadly fruit, worthy of death, and would issue in eternal death, if grace did not prevent: the rise, beginning, motion, progress, and issue of sin, are most exactly and beautifully described, agreeably to this account here, by the Apostle James, James 1:13.

Romans 7:4
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