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Romans 7:7-8 (NASB) says,

7 "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart [i]from the Law sin is dead

Most of Romans 7 deals with this concept of the "Law" and I have traditionally interpreted that as the law laid out in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Tanakh/OT). Going with this interpretation that Paul is referring to the law in the Pentateuch, is Paul speaking of the 10 Commandments given to him in Exodus 20:1-7, or is Paul's intention of the "Law" to include both the 10 Commandments and the sacraments/rituals & observances laid out in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy?

  • Be studious and careful, St. Paul uses the word "law" 4 separate ways in just these two verses! Romans 7:22-23. – Sola Gratia Sep 12 '17 at 17:13
  • @SolaGratia - Indeed, what are these four separate ways may I ask? – Logan Baxter Sep 12 '17 at 17:43
  • I meant 3, but I gave my thoughts on chapter 7 of Romans in the form of an answer. To summarize, St. Paul appears to use 'law' as a general obligation to do right things, especially explicit laws. He emphasizes the inability of the fallen nature to keep any laws, and they are all hateful to the fallen man, no matter how good. I don't believe he has in mind the Law of Moses in mind specifically anywhere in the chapter, except perhaps verses 7-12. – Sola Gratia Sep 12 '17 at 19:43
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One can only offer their opinion and own interpretation, as this Epistle is a tricky one, as are St. Paul's others, as attested to even by St. Peter himself!

2 Peter 3:16

As also in all [Paul's v. 15] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

St. Paul uses the word "law" three different ways in Romans 7:22-23 alone! (God's rules in general, perhaps the Law of Moses; what my fallen nature or concupiscence entices me to do; what my inner man or spirit wants me to do, but is held captive by this concupiscence)


So here is how I read St. Paul's argument (using Romans 7):

1 Know you not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) that the law hath dominion over a man, as long as it liveth? 2 For the woman that hath an husband, whilst her husband liveth is bound to the law. But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 Therefore, whilst her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man: but if her husband be dead, she is delivered from the law of her husband; so that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man.

For I speak to them that know the law. That is, to Roman citizens who are well acquainted with laws in general, and living under them, as a highly regulated society. That the law hath dominion over a man, as long as it liveth. That is, where there is law, there is a subjugation by the law to live according to its rules. Where there is none, by implication, one is neither bound to any law, nor guilty of any crime (whether they ought to be held guilty is a separate question—moral law). For the woman that hath an husband, whilst her husband liveth is bound to the law. That is, by the bond or 'law' of a marital union. (St. Paul is stretching the term law deliberately to anything which regulates how we act or conduct ourselves or judge, in order to make his arguments relatable). But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. If there is no law (the Greek word for law being in the masculine gender, making this first example fitting), there is no crime: but if her husband be dead, she is delivered from the law of her husband; so that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ; that you may belong to another, who is risen again from the dead, that we may bring forth fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are loosed from the law of death, wherein we were detained; so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

You also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ. The law has no power over someone no longer living in its domain. That you may belong to another, who is risen again from the dead, that we may bring forth fruit to God. That is, being "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." (Eph 2:10; John 15:5; 12:24) For when we were in the flesh. When we "[lived] according to the flesh." (Rom 8:13) The passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death. By the 'law of sin,' or the concupiscence proper to the human nature born in original sin—the percieved near-obligation to obey the sinful desires of the flesh or "earthly members" or 'earthly nature'. (Col 3:5) "When concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death." (James 1:15)

But now we are loosed from the law of death, wherein we were detained; so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. For to be born again in baptism is to "put off...the old man" (Eph 4:22). "For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ." (Gal 3:27; John 3:5-6; 1 Pet 3:18-21). The law of death is a being doomed to a mere 'animal' life or nature, taken by original sin, not inspired and vivified by the life of grace which was lost after the Fall, which is now nonetheless offered and to be regained in New Testament redemption. The fallen human nature prone to sin (Rom 5:12).

In contrast to the oldness of the letter, which means adherence to 'the letter of the Law' as opposed to 'the spirit of the Law,' (2 Cor 3:6) which is grace administered by obedience thereto, now being offered via other means, namely the sacraments, which don't require works for recieving the grace administered therein; and the knowledge and relationship with the One who merited it for us, expounded upon and manifested in the New Covenant. (Eph 1:6-7) Which is the knowledge of what it is to follow God's laws for His sake, and not for sheer obedience to a legal system. (Mt 5:20-44). Serving God with a more mature and intimate knowledge of His desires and righteosness.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. But I do not know sin, but by the law; for I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 And I lived some time without the law. But when the commandment came, sin revived, 10 And I died. And the commandment that was ordained to life, the same was found to be unto death to me. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, seduced me, and by it killed me. 12 Wherefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. A law is not insufficient or broken because no one can keep it easily. It may rather imply the brokenness of those who can't keep it. This could refer to the Law of Moses, or even simply 'law' or 'legitimate or good laws.' But I do not know sin, but by the law; for I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet. I don't feel the guilt, or I don't feel the compulsion to obey, or I don't feel I am trespassing any known law that has been sufficiently been made known to me: as any good law ought to be. If there was no law saying explicitly Thou shalt not covet, I might not have been so guilty for coveting; or I might not have been so tortured by conscience for having done it as often as I have.

But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. Taking occasion by the knowledge (having the law) that something truly is sinful, it makes what may otherwise have been a venial offense (not having full knowledge of the thing's sinfulness) a mortal sin. (1 John 5:16-17).

And I lived some time without the law. But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, seduced me, and by it killed me. When the commandments were made known to me, or when I was forced to be reminded of it, and I was aware of what was sin explicitly, the reality of sin revived, and I died spiritually; by its effects on my life, and under the weight of the guilt. And the commandment that was ordained to life, the same was found to be unto death to me. The commandment created for us to live by, and for us to obtain life by obedience thereto, became, as it were, my death, since I was forced to realize more and more that I had been doing was sinful and worthy of punishment. It is overwhelming to be aware that so many things are sinful to one degree or another. Wherefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. It is holy and right, and was given by none other than God. It was for our correction and life. And is good therefore. Good that it rightly convicts me of sin, which I deserve according to God's perfect justice.

13 Was that then which is good, made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it may appear sin, by that which is good, wrought death in me; that sin, by the commandment, might become sinful above measure.

Was that then which is good, made death unto me? God forbid. No, to call something good and just and holy, like the law of God, is to call good evil (Isa 5:20). But sin, that it may appear sin, by that which is good, wrought death in me; that sin, by the commandment, might become sinful above measure. That I may have the knowledge I ought to have according to justice, that that which is not right and offends God is sin, the law was put forth. That by the commadment I know what is sin, and that sin is real, and that I have sinned exceedingly. Which I ought to know, because I can therefore seek a way not to offend God further, and so severely, or often.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I work, I understand not. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do.

For we know that the law is spiritual. The law is to do with morality and that which God expects of me as someone created in "His image," (Gen 1:27) to be moral like He is. (Eccl 7:29; Wis 2:23-24). But I am carnal, sold under sin. Captive to sin, I am a fallen man, with concupiscence. For that which I work, I understand not. "For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things. And hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon earth: and with labour do we find the things that are before us. But the things that are in heaven, who shall search out?" (Wis 9:15-16) Thus, we need new spiritual strength, to restore the spirit's control over the body, which ought to be the servant of the spirit. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do. I can't do what I ought, and I do what I ought not and will not with my inner man, because of this 'law of sin in my members' or concupiscence. "This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin...the...Church has never understood to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin."1

16 If then I do that which I will not, I consent to the law, that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that which is good. For to will, is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good, I find not. 19 For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.

If then I do that which I will not, I consent to the law, that it is good. By going against my conscience, I concede that the law justly convicts me, and is just. To pretend I don't know it's wrong now is foolishness. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. Not that I'm not the one guilty of sin, but if I will to obey my conscience with my inner man, it is my fallen nature and flesh that has a real part in me sinning. For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that which is good. For to will, is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good, I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. The flesh lets down and drags my spirit into that which I will not. (Mt 26:41).

20 Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me.

I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me. And this is concupiscence. Like this, I am never able to please God and not sin!

22 For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members.

For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man. I take pleasure in knowing the just decrees and laws of God, because they are objectively good. And thus, were I unhindered by any contrary desire, I would keep them. But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. My members—my fallen flesh, my corporeal component. It influences my desires, ever tempting me that keeping any law is difficult or contrary to me and what 'I' want. This hinders me from doing that which I want to do because it is just, and makes me want what I don't utlimately want!

24 Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin.

Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? This is tragic: I'm a broken man, and am unable to keep the just law of God, which I ought. I need a radical solution—a nature-changing solution! What is it? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore we have learnt that there is an inner desire to do the right thing (in those who dispose themselves to always at least seeking the right thing) but there is a disease which is the concupiscence and weakness of the fallen fleshly nature: Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin.

These need to be ultimately harmonized. This is the Christian life. To bring the body into subjection to the spirit by chastizing it and brining it to heel. (1 Cor 9:27). Empowered by the grace of God. Restoring the original order, whereby a man is a spirit who has flesh, and not flesh which has a spirit, which it controls.


1 Council of Trent, Decree On Original Sin, 5.

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Paul repeatedly spoke of the "law" as that portion added by man that weighted man down and held him bondage. In other letters, he called the law good as it pointed man to the cross because he had sen his sin because before the 'law' (of Moses) man was not held in account of sin, but when the law was revealed, man instantly became accountable. So, as usual, you need to use Context to determine whether Paul was speaking of the 613 laws that held men in bondage or the Law of Moses that was necessary and planned by Yahweh to convict men and "break" them from thinking they can please God by keeping the law. I can load you down with verses if you request. Blessins.

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    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! The answer here seems ambiguous; I take it that this is your specific answer to the question: "So, as usual, you need to use Context to determine whether Paul was speaking of the 613 laws that held men in bondage or the Law of Moses that was necessary and planned by Yahweh to convict men and "break" them from thinking they can please God by keeping the law" How does this make a conclusive answer as to which is the specific "Law" Paul was referring to in Romans 7-7:8? It seems to simply reconsider the question. – Logan Baxter Aug 11 '17 at 17:17
  • Logan, I mention at the end of my explanation that I could load you down with versus if you requested which would help explain it in detail. Are you now requesting the verses or just questioning my explanation? I thought I was giving you a basic, superficial answer to a basic, superficial question. If you would like a more detailed answer, all you need to do is ask for more information, which I was willing to provide. – TJ Smith Jun 22 '19 at 15:10
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In Romans 5:12-20 Paul does a comparison and a contrast:

  • in 5:12-19 Paul shows how a single man's [Adam's] disobedience to God resulted in many people being condemned and in a similar way a single man's [Jesus'] obedience to God resulted in many becoming justified;

  • in 5:20-21 Paul shows that in a contrasting way when the law was given many transgressed the law and yet the grace of God was still through a single man Jesus Christ;

So Adam was one sinner and Jesus was one obedient. The Jews under the law were many transgressors but still, the grace was through one man. In the latter case grace through one man "super-abounds" in that it out-performs the transgressions of many Jews (only the Jews were under the law).

So the law that is in view is the law given to the Jews at Sinai, as he makes clearer in a parallel passage in Galatians:

NIV Gal 3:15Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”i meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

So one might say that the "event" to which he refers is the giving of the Torah at Sinai but the commands he's using in his examples are the commandments.

And when he asks "Is the law sin" he's addressing what he thinks some might misunderstand him to be saying, that the law was given to turn sins into transgressions, so obeying the law must be sin. He clarifies that the law does not produce transgressions because people obey it but because the impulses of the body compel them to disobey it.

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The Law of love is being referred to of course.

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NET Bible)
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.

Jesus said that all the law and prophets depend or hang upon the concept of Love.

Paul said that any and all law is summed up within the concept of Love.

Love is defined as patience and kindness and must be directed towards both God and neighbor.

Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Every one of the situational (and possibly allegorical) increments is therefore either rewarding the action of Love or penalizing its violation.

Romans 13:9 (ASV) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Violating the Law of Love results in a person being "under the authority" of the Law's discipline. Paul illustrates this concept using the concise phrase "under the Law". In such a case the Law leads the person to Christ where confession should be made to obtain forgiveness and subsequent cleansing, so that the sin is less frequent and eventually non-existent.

1 John 1:9 (KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The individual who complies with the Law illustrates that they have died to the Law's disciplinary aspects and are in accord with God's grace, their compliance illustrating that they are "under the authority" of God's grace (having learned to deny ungodly activity).

Galatians 2:19 (ASV) Ga 2:19 For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God.

Titus 2:11 (KJV)
11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

  • Can you please provide a scriptural reference to, "Jesus said that when added together (summed up) all law results in Love (patience and kindness) towards God and man." ? – Logan Baxter Sep 12 '17 at 16:47

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