on Romans 7 :9
I was alive without the law once - Dr. Whitby paraphrases the verse thus: - "For the seed of Abraham was alive without the law once, before the law was given, I being not obnoxious to death for that to which the law had not threatened death; but when the commandment came, forbidding it under that penalty, sin revived, and I died; i.e. it got strength to draw me to sin, and to condemn me to death. Sin is, in Scripture, represented as an enemy that seeks our ruin and destruction; and takes all occasions to effect it. It is here said to war against the mind, Romans 7:23; elsewhere, to war against the soul, 1 Peter 2:11; to surround and beset us, Hebrews 12:1; to bring us into bondage and subjection, and get the dominion over us, Romans 6:12; to entice us, and so to work our death, James 1:14-16; and to do all that Satan, the grand enemy of mankind, doth, by tempting us to the commission of it. Whence Chrysostom, upon those words, Hebrews 12:4 : Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, προς την ἁμαρτιαν ανταγωνιζομενοι, striving against sin; represents sin as an armed and flagrant adversary. When, therefore, it finds a law which threatens death to the violator of it, it takes occasion thence more earnestly to tempt and allure to the violation of it, that so it may more effectually subject us to death and condemnation on that account; for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, condemning us to death for transgressing it. Thus, when God had forbidden, on pain of death, the eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Satan thence took occasion to tempt our first parents to transgress, and so slew them, or made them subject to death; εξηπατησε, he deceived them, Genesis 3:13; 1 Timothy 2:14; which is the word used Romans 7:11. The phrase, without the law, sin was dead, means, that sin was then (before the law was given) comparatively dead, as to its power of condemning to death; and this sense the antithesis requires; without the law, ἁμαρτια νεκρα, εγω δε εζων, sin was dead, but I was living; but when the commandment came, (i.e. the law), sin revived, and I died. How were men living before the law, but because then no law condemned them? Sin, therefore, must be then dead, as to its condemning power. How did they die when the law came but by the law condemning them to death? Sin therefore revived, then, as to its power of condemning, which it received first from the sin of Adam, which brought death into the world; and next, from the law of Moses, which entered that the offense might abound, and reign more unto death, Romans 5:20, Romans 5:21. For though sin was in the world from Adam to Moses, or until the law was given, yet it was not imputed unto death, when there was no law that did threaten death; so that death reigned from that interval by virtue of Adam's sin alone; even over them who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, i.e. against a positive law, forbidding it under the penalty of death; which law being delivered by Moses, sin revived; i.e. it had again its force to condemn men as before to death, by virtue of a law which threatened death. And in this sense the apostle seems to say, Galatians 3:19, the law was added because of transgressions, to convince us of the wrath and punishment due to them; and that the law, therefore, worketh wrath, because where no law is there is no transgression, Romans 4:15, subjecting us to wrath; or no such sense of the Divine wrath as where a plain Divine law, threatening death and condemnation, is violated." See Whitby, in loco.
on Romans 7 :9
For I-- There seems to be no doubt that the apostle here refers to his own past experience. Yet in this he speaks the sentiment of all who are unconverted, and who are depending on their own righteousness.
Was alive - This is opposed to what he immediately adds respecting another state, in which he was when he died. It must mean, therefore, that he had a certain kind of peace; he deemed himself secure; he was free from the convictions of conscience and the agitations of alarm. The state to which he refers here must be doubtless that to which he himself alludes elsewhere, when he deemed himself to be righteous, depending on his own works, and esteeming himself to be blameless, Philippians 3:4-6; Acts 23:1; Acts 26:4-5. It means that he was then free from those agitations and alarms which he afterward experienced when he was brought under conviction for sin. At that time, though he had the Law, and was attempting to obey it, yet he was unacquainted with its spiritual and holy nature. He aimed at external conformity. Its claims on the heart were unfelt. This is the condition of every self-confident sinner, and of everyone who is unawakened.
Without the law - Not that Paul was ever really without the Law, that is, without the Law of Moses; but he means before the Law was applied to his heart in its spiritual meaning, and with power.
But when the commandment came - When it was applied to the heart and conscience. This is the only intelligible sense of the expression; for it cannot refer to the time when the Law was given. When this was, the apostle does not say. But the expression denotes whenever it was so applied; when it was urged with power and efficacy on his conscience, to control, restrain, and threaten him, it produced this effect. We are unacquainted with the early operations of his mind, and with his struggles against conscience and duty. We know enough of him before conversion, however, to be assured that he was proud, impetuous, and unwilling to be restrained; see Acts 8; 9. In the state of his self-confident righteousness and impetuosity of feeling, we may easily suppose that the holy Law of God, which is designed to restrain the passions, to humble the heart, and to rebuke pride, would produce only irritation, and impatience of restraint, and revolt.
Sin revived - Lived again. This means that it was before dormant Romans 7:8, but was now quickened into new life. The word is usually applied to a renewal of life, Romans 14:19; Luke 15:24, Luke 15:32, but here it means substantially the same as the expression in Romans 7:8, "Sin ...wrought in me all manner of concupiscence." The power of sin, which was before dormant, became quickened and active.
I died - That is, I was by it involved in additional guilt and misery. It stands opposed to "I was alive," and must mean the opposite of that; and evidently denotes that the effect of the commandment was to bring him under what he calls death, (compare Romans 5:12, Romans 5:14-15;) that is, sin reigned, and raged, and produced its withering and condemning effects; it led to aggravated guilt and misery. It may also include this idea, that before, he was self-confident and secure, but that by the commandment he was stricken down and humbled, his self-confidence was blasted, and his hopes were prostrated in the dust. Perhaps no words would better express the humble, subdued, melancholy, and helpless state of a converted sinner than the expressive phrase "I died." The essential idea here is, that the Law did not answer the purpose which the Jew would claim for it, to sanctify the soul and to give comfort, but that all its influence on the heart was to produce aggravated, unpardoned guilt and woe.
on Romans 7 :9
7:9 And I was once alive without the law - Without the close application of it. I had much life, wisdom, virtue, strength: so I thought. But when the commandment - That is, the law, a part put for the whole; but this expression particularly intimates its compulsive force, which restrains, enjoins, urges, forbids, threatens. Came - In its spiritual meaning, to my heart, with the power of God. Sin revived, and I died - My inbred sin took fire, and all my virtue and strength died away; and I then saw myself to be dead in sin, and liable to death eternal.