ROMANS 7 COMMENTARIES CRITIQUED [1777d]

A Michael Youssef update. See also post 1564a.

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Category 1 commentaries are those where the author predominately believes that Romans 7 is that of the Christian position. Category 2 commentaries are those where the author predominately believes that Romans 7 is that of the pre Christian position. The number of category 1 commentaries seem to far outweigh the category 2 ones, which is a pity because category 1 is the incorrect position and the consequences of this are far reaching, far beyond what one would expect them to be.

A.W. PINK. cat. 1. http://www.pbcofdecaturalabama.org/AWPink/Romans7.htm It is hard to imagine just what background Pink came from to enable such a poor understanding of this chapter. He says that morally we are bound to obey the law, which presupposes that the law is still relevant and not fulfilled or “abolished”. He splits the legal law from the moral law, for which there is no precedent, we have died to the law, which means as far as the law goes we cease to exist, and as far as we go, the whole law ceases to exist. Death frees us from both law and sin. Pink wants us to obey the law we are no longer under.

Then he says that believers are dead to the law, but then says that this experience from 7:7 on is a Christian one. But the ongoing description is actually that of one still under the law and very much alive to it, not dead to it at all. If he were dead to the law then there would be no further interaction with it, because the law only has jurisdiction over a man as long as he lives. Death dissolves the partnership, the marriage, the old covenant of law. We would not still be talking about the law at this point if he had indeed died to it.

Verse 7 on speaks of the past, since people make such an issue of verse 14 being present tense. So Paul’s experience is that the law killed him, and nowhere forward does this situation change, he is speaking as one who has been killed by the law. He is in a state of spiritual death under the law. He speaks as a dead man.

Then, failing to address the scripture itself, Pink launches into a whole heap of his opinions before jumping straight to the last two verses. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” So Paul has expressed the conclusion that he is controlled by his body of death, and needs a deliverer (from his bondage to sin and death). That deliverer whose name he has not known, is Jesus. So he now knows there is a deliverer who can deliver him from the situation he has just described, that being of one who is under the power and control of sin, which means that the situation he was in, was there because he had not had a deliverer up to this point. IE the problem he described which was now about to be solved by the application of the deliverer Jesus to that problem, meant that the solution (Jesus) was not present during the time of the problem, otherwise the problem would have ceased to exist. So Jesus was not present, but absent, and only law was present, which is why the problem existed. “Without me you can do nothing” Jesus said, and this is the example that Paul in Romans 7 could do nothing of himself, because it was ONLY “of himself” and Jesus or the Spirit were completely absent until chapter 8. Having expressed relief that there WAS a deliverer, he returns to his conclusion of the duality of man’s unredeemed nature under the law.

Pink presupposes that “the law” is eternal and this is what draws his error. When he concludes with the “two laws”, the law of Paul’s mind and the law of sin, he assumes that this is the final conclusion to the chapter, but it is not. The law of sin “in his members” is the very law Jesus died for to release us from, as you will find to be the final conclusion in Romans 8:2, where from that law of sin and death we are now freed by the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”, thus removing one of the “laws” from the “duality” of nature, and he and the “law of his mind” is then set free from the law of sin and death, which is what “the law” becomes to us when we transgress it. But which Christians are now dead to. If you are not dead to it then you have negated the conditions of the new covenant by not exercising faith in Jesus body of death FOR us to relieve us from the power of the law to induce sin in us. [“Having a form of religion, but denying the power thereof”].

Most sadly, he appears to believe that every day of our lives we should be experiencing the “wretched man” position. How many times does he want the question “who will deliver me…” answered?

[Pink’s position is one which maintains the power of the law over the flesh, excusing sin as being covered by Christ’s death instead of sin’s power being removed. “For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Christ”].

MATTHEW HENRY. cat.1. https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary/matthew-henry-concise/romans/7

Henry makes the statement “When the commandment came to his conscience* by the conviction of the Holy Spirit“. Now just a minute, we are talking about the law in the context of Romans 7:8 for example, “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law, sin is dead.” The life he just said that he had before the law came, was extinguished by the law when it prompted a sin reaction in him and he died. So the commandment caused his death, the law killed him, but yet he was supposed to have already DIED to the law if he supposedly contained the Spirit.

How can these expressions of LAW and COMMANDMENT be associated with the Holy Spirit, since the Spirit could only come once the matter of law had been dealt with by faith that the body of Jesus had allowed us to DIE TO THE LAW? And these matters cannot be reconciled with the old covenant, law, being separated from us through death so we could be “joined to another”. Since we have already in Paul’s explanation been made to die to the law, why then would further explanation ensue concerning that law that we died to, except as explanation and instruction as to why it had to go? Rom.7 explains it was the law which held us in the power of sin, but now we are no longer under the law. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost CREATED the new covenant within them, displacing the old. They then just needed explanation as to why this was so, which is what Paul is explaining in 7.

The commandment came to his conscience*’ when he received the law. 7:13. “…That through the commandment, sin might become utterly sinful”. 7:9 “And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came (as it did in Eden), sin became alive and I died”. Sin became alive to his conscience, and HE died. GUILT was the result, not by the Spirit, but by the LAW, which was the whole idea of the old covenant. 5:20 “And the law came in that the transgression might increase…” So if he is dead under the law, he is not alive in the Spirit. Can you be dead and alive at the same time? What makes the difference? The SPIRIT of 8:2. Rom.6:14 “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace”. They already knew they were not under law, and 7 revealed to them the how and why of the necessity for that. “Who will set me free from this body of death?” but this takes us straight back to 6:6,7 to ground already covered.

Matthew says “…serve and obey the law of God” And there you have the error. WE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW. Do we die to the law in order to keep the law? There is an oxymoron for you. But in effect, YES, only by dying to the law can we keep the law, but not by or as law, only by the SPIRIT is the INTENT (Rom.8:4) of the law kept, not the law as law, in written form or otherwise, but only in spirit, as spirit, by the Spirit.

JOHN WESLEY. cat.2. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/romans-7.html Appears to be essentially correct.

GODET (FREDERICK LOUIS). cat.2. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/romans-7.html correct.

SPURGEON. cat.1. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/romans-7.html incorrect. He claims Paul as Christian when he says “wretched man that I am” but this goes on to say “who will deliver me from this body of death”. It would be a strange Christian who did not already know that the one who had ALREADY “delivered him from this body of death”, was JESUS. And as a Christian, to claim you were a “wretched man” would hardly entice others to the faith if that were to be the experience. (Shades of A.W. PINK). Christ having delivered us from this body of death is the foundation of the faith. And then, without referencing scripture further, he goes off into some long winded huff and puff like some demented novelist determined to use as many words as possible.

JOHN PIPER. cat.1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/articles/romans-7-does-describe-your-christian-experience incorrect. John jumps around a fair bit here. He as well, cannot see the pause between 7:6 and 7:7, and ends up seeing “two great victories” being that of 7:6 and that of 7:24, 25, where he proclaims “thanks be to Jesus” and calls 7:25 “with the mind serving God but his flesh serving sin” as a victory?? He fails to see that the mind “serving God” is the same mind that WANTED to serve God but could not, because the law of the flesh causing sin was still in control. Paul’s thanks to Jesus can only come into effect AFTER 8:2 where this law of sin (in the flesh) has been disempowered by the cross, and by faith in which we are now set free from the very law of sin (and death) of 7:25. His initial “thanks be to Jesus” is only an interjection that there IS a deliver whose name he did not know until then, and who obviously was not with him in the whole of this chapter or he would already have had the victory he talks about. So he was not speaking as a believer.

COFFMAN. cat.2. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/romans-7.html While Coffman seems to be on top of the main issue, his difference with Hodge is interesting – he seems to be arguing over the difference between “he that believes and is baptised will be saved”, and “he that believes will be saved”. This is a diversion from the subject at hand.

HODGE. cat.1. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hdg/romans-7.html Even while he speaks of a “believer” he continues to speak about the law. This is after the person is supposed to have become a believer on the basis of Christ having died to the law for him. He does not realise that the continuing conflict being spoken of, exists because of its context under law, the same law that Christians are NOT under. He obviously cannot make the distinction between where Paul ends up in 7:6 using words of a believer in the Spirit, and where it starts afresh with the purpose of disclosing just why the law had to go in 7:7. He also creates this strange explanation which includes the fact that we die to the law, but then reintroduces it as being beneficial to the believers life. He continues with its use. “Paul, having shown that we must be delivered from the law, …that the law enlightens a believers conscience…comes to explain what are the use and effect of the law”.

BILL RANDLES. cat.1. https://billrandles.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/two-conflicting-laws-within-me-romans-7/ Bill jumps right in with his view that Romans 7 is the regenerated, Spirit filled person. He presents his case without any meaningful reference to scripture and blindly makes assertions that the scripture does not make. In common with much of this problem is the simple failure to see that the subject matter is LAW, not Spirit, and the reasons he gives to explain this are not credible. There is flat out failure to see that the two subjects of law and Spirit are direct opposites, so that if we are involved in a discussion about law, we are not able to simultaneously entertain a discussion about the Spirit. And to say it again, WE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW. He says “Why does the Christian have to be delivered from the law of God? Well no Bill, the Christian doesn’t have to be delivered from the law of God, the Christian has ALREADY been delivered from the law of God, that is what makes him a Christian. He was dead under the law, now he has been delivered from law sin and death. It is not the Christian who needs to be delivered from the law of God, but the non Christian. As Romans 7 shows. [Conversely it well may be that the very point of all this, is that it is indeed the Christian who needs deliverance from the law, or law(s). Because it seems that the “law of the Spirit of life” is always being opposed by laws which do NOT come from life, but which seek to install death. See Godet where he says that the gospel has become to, and accepted by, many who see it as a new modified form of law (other than the law of the Spirit of life).]

DOUGLAS MOO. cat.2. Though Moo is not correct in all his assertions, he does fall on the right side of the argument. But I am still looking for a decent commentary by which to confirm this.

DUNN. cat.1.

JOHN MURRAY. cat.1

TOM SCHREINER. cat.2

RUDOLPH BULTMANN. cat.

J.W. MACGORMAN. https://preachingsource.com/journal/romans-7-once-more/ One of the many discourses on this chapter, revealing the intricate delicacies of the subject matter, and how for various reasons people get hopelessly entangled in it like a spiders web, probably because of their faulty theology in other facets of the faith. I enclose it, not necessarily because it is a good example, but because it shows some of the arguments involved. The desire to place verse 25 after 23 is an interesting but desperate attempt to make scripture fit their thesis.

PS One of the wrong ideas commonly put forward by opponents of the truth is that only a believer could rejoice in the law. This is a flat out LIE. A believer in WHAT? There are many old testament old covenant examples of how in what high regard the law was held, after all, that was all they had. Even though now, the glory of the new far surpasses the old, at the time Moses still had to veil his face to conceal that glory. This “only a believer” is used because it is a weapon in their armoury they can use to try to discredit the Spirit’s power in delivering to us the absolute and complete victory of Christ.

DAVID GUZIK. cat.1. https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-7/ “The spiritual man knows he is carnal” David includes. Here we have one of those oxymorons where the so called ‘spiritual’ man is exhibiting only the characteristics of the carnal man. Paul says elsewhere “let those who are spiritual restore…” yet the man in seven is in need of severe restoration himself, he can hardly be called spiritual. “But I am carnal, sold as a slave…” Now immediately we know that Paul was NOT describable as carnal as a Christian, and he would definitely be described as spiritual. So he is NOT speaking here of his Christian self. AND he says “sold as a slave…” when we know Jesus BOUGHT us back from slavery to sin, and that this slavery to sin was because of the law, that is why law sin and death can no more have dominion over us. THAT is why we “die” to the law. THAT is why WE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW.

ADAM CLARKE. cat.2.

EU CHRISTIANS. cat. 2. Although this group are on the right side of things there are a couple of errors in their article. They say that 7:9 reveals Paul is not speaking of his personal experience when he writes, “I was once alive apart from the law”. This is wrong because this is the experience of all men, even of Adam and Eve in the garden, which was the first recorded case of this commandment coming and them consequently dying. Also he says of the law “It does not bring about sin…” but 7:8 says that sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the law sin is dead.” So the law certainly brings about sin. 7:5 “…sinful passions AROUSED BY THE LAW…”

M.J. THOMPSON cat.1.

MICHAEL YOUSSEF cat.1. Whilst Michael is very good in other directions, he has managed to get this wrong. He has not directly sought to interpret this chapter 7, but has bypassed any explanation by simply saying that it describes SELF EFFORT which is basically correct, but it should specifically be noted that this self effort comes about as a result of being under law, which he does not say, it is not part of the description of being a Christian, which is the very opposite, that of reliance on Christ as the answer to all problems pertaining to legalism. Michael’s falling on the wrong side of the divisive line here, is to be seen by his statement about Romans 7 being preceded by Romans 6 as being about sanctification, a clear reference that he considers chapter 7 to be a continuation of the subject of sanctification. Also that he then mentions how he had in the past had some great conversations with prominent “saints”, and he mentions this with regard to them openly admitting and embracing their failures, again, obviously referring to Romans 7 as being part of the sanctification process of a Christian. He has not directly addressed the scripture nor any of the issues involved. His talk on Romans 7 may be seen at “From valley to Victory Part 9” of March 11 2019.

DAVID RICE cat.1. David has chosen the category 1 side of the argument, which is his choice of course. He has a web site called “End Time Thinker”.

GODBEY cat.1. This is nothing but a load of complicated rubbish. The very reason for Paul writing chapter 7 was to show how and why the old covenant of law had to be replaced with a new covenant of grace. He shows how he was under the power of sin because of law and draws on his own experience in this regard to explain the process of the power that sin had over us because we were under law. His explanation is self contradictory on many points and his conclusion in verse 25 is the usual error of thinking that this is the duality of the Christian position, without the further influence of chapter 8.

CROSSROMAN cat. 2. I suppose I should include myself in this. Briefly, Paul has given us the gospel up to and including chapter 6, now he wants to ensure that those who came out of the Mosaic law system were fully in understanding of the situation, of why the covenant had to change, why grace had to supersede the law system. He explains that through faith in the sacrificial body of Christ we are released from servitude and slavery under the law. Then he goes back to explain how sin through the law killed him, and he remains in that death for the remainder of the chapter, including verse 25. From verse7 on he explains the (his) position as one under the law and captive to sin by it. In verse 14 he explains that though the law is spiritual, that he (and all mankind) was not, that we were all ‘of flesh’, even, and particularly so, Jesus. He is recalling the position of one of the flesh. He fell to sin’s temptation but Jesus did not. The argument that only a regenerate person would rejoice in the law is obviously false as not only does scripture say the opposite but it is easily understood that the law was all they had at the time and the glory of it (far surpassed now by the glory of the Spirit) was shown on Moses face when he came down from the mountain). Paul explains captivity to the law of sin under the law. Verse 24 expresses the utter hopelessness of one in this position, this “wretched man”. WHO WILL SET ME FREE FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH? In the final verse 25 he supplies the answer, that it is indeed JESUS who will set him free. (He speaks as one still under the law and in bondage to sin). It is an interjection, an exclamation of relief that the answer exists. He now sums up all that he has explained in the forgoing chapter, that his mind, which has been shown to be in servitude to the law of sin; even though it desires to do good can only do evil; is in itself willing to serve God’s law but is in slavery and bonded to, the law of sin with his flesh. Just because the name of Jesus has been mentioned does not mean that his bondage to the law of sin has been broken. The two laws sit there inside him ready to be provoked into action and the preceding has shown that the law of sin always takes over and defeats the law of his mind that ‘wishes’ to serve God. One would have to prove that the “prisoner” of verse 24 had been set free by or around the exclamation and revelation of verse 25 of “thanks to God”; in order to prove that verse 25 was the statement of a Christian. This is not so however, the duality of nature shown here is that of the two laws inherent in every man who has indeed any reasonable conscience regarding sin and his own part in it. It says he is serving the law of sin with his flesh, so nothing has changed from the whole of chapter 7 forwards, in which his servitude to the law of sin and death was proclaimed, even though his desire was otherwise, he was helpless against it. SIN was the result. [He is speaking AS one under law, this was not his actual experience here, he is drawing on past experience of his prior failures, showing that failure under law is inevitable.] He reveals the inner deficiencies of one not yet released from such bondage to sin by law.

It is not until chapter 8 that release from this law of sin is proclaimed and obtained. 8:2 agrees with 7:6. There is no mention of Spirit control from 7:7 onwards, it only emerges in 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (this is that same “law of sin” in v25). 7:6 said “But now we have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”. Of course that was the end of any mention of the Spirit, as he goes into his explanation of why the covenant of law had to go, because it in itself stimulated sin in men of flesh, which we all are, until we, although OF the flesh, get to be excluded from the description of being as those IN the flesh, being now IN the Spirit, in accordance with 8:9.

So chapter 7 is all LAW FLESH SIN DEATH completely. Paul is hypothetically IN DEATH until chapter 8. where liberation from this deathly position is now proclaimed.

In verse 25 there was one version of the N.I.V. that said “I, OF myself…”. This is confirming of where Jesus said “without me you can do nothing” as Paul in Romans 7 was certainly without Jesus in any form.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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