The Meaning of Romans 7:14 Explained

Romans 7:14

KJV: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

YLT: for we have known that the law is spiritual, and I am fleshly, sold by the sin;

Darby: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am fleshly, sold under sin.

ASV: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

What does Romans 7:14 Mean?

Study Notes

carnal
Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1 ; 1 Corinthians 3:4 . "Carnal" = "fleshly" is Paul's word for the Adamic nature, and for the believer who "walks," i.e. lives, under the power of it. "Natural" is his characteristic word for the unrenewed man 1 Corinthians 2:14 as "spiritual" designates the renewed man who walks in the Spirit; 1 Corinthians 3:1 ; Galatians 6:1 .
sin Sin.
grace
Grace (in salvation). ( Romans 5:2 ); ( Romans 5:15-21 ); ( Romans 11:5-6 ); ( Romans 3:24 ).
( See Scofield John 1:17 ).
sin
"Sin" in Romans 6, 7 is the nature in distinction from "sins," which are manifestations of that nature.
Compare ( 1 John 1:8 ) with ( 1 John 1:10 ), where this distinction also appears.
grace
Grace (in salvation). ( Romans 5:2 ); ( Romans 5:15-21 ); ( Romans 11:5-6 ); ( Romans 3:24 ).
( See Scofield John 1:17 ).

Verse Meaning

As a foundation for what follows, the apostle reminded his readers that all the godly ("we") know that the Law is "spiritual" (Gr. pneumatikos; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1). It came from God (cf. Romans 7:22; Romans 7:25). Paul did not want his readers to understand what he was about to say about the Law as a criticism of God who gave it.
In contrast to the good Law, Paul was fleshly or unspiritual (Gr. sarkinos, made of flesh; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1). Man is essentially different from the Law because we have a sinful nature whereas the Law itself is sinless. Therefore there is a basic antagonism between people and the Law.
""Sold under sin" is exactly what the new convert does not know! Forgiven, justified, he knows himself to be: and he has the joy of it! But now to find an evil nature, of which he had never become really conscious, and of which he thought himself fully rid, when he first believed, is a "second lesson" which is often more bitter than the first-of guilt!" [1]
Paul"s statement that he was then as a Christian the slave of sin may seem to contradict what he wrote earlier in chapter6 about no longer being the slave of sin. The phrase "sold in bondage to sin" is proof to many interpreters that Paul was describing a non-Christian here. However in chapter6 Paul did not say that being dead to sin means that sin has lost its appeal for the Christian. It still has a strong appeal to the Christian whose human nature is still sinful ( Romans 6:15-23). He said that being dead to sin means that we no longer must follow sin"s dictates.
In one sense the Christian is not a slave of sin ( Romans 6:1-14). We have died to it, and it no longer dominates us. Nevertheless in another sense sin still has a strong attraction for us since our basic human nature is still sinful, and we retain that nature throughout our lifetime. For example, a criminal released from prison no longer has to live within the sphere of existence prescribed by prison walls. However he still has to live within the confines of his human limitations. God has liberated Christians from the prison house of sin ( Romans 6:1-14). Notwithstanding we still carry with us a sinful nature that will be a source of temptation for us as long as we live ( Romans 7:14-25).
To minimize the difficulty of grasping this distinction Paul used different expressions to describe the two relationships. In chapter6 he used "slaves," but in chapter7 he wrote "sold" ( Romans 7:14). In chapter6 he spoke of the relationship of the new man in Christ (the whole person, the Christian) to sin. In chapter7 he spoke of the relationship of the old nature (a part of every person, including the new man in Christ) to sin. Adam sold all human beings into bondage to sin when he sinned ( Romans 5:12; Romans 5:14).
"We take it then that Paul is here describing the Christian as carnal and implying that even in him there remains, so long as he continues to live this mortal life, that which is radically opposed to God (cf87), though chapter8 will make it abundantly clear that he does not regard the Christian as being carnal in the same unqualified way that the natural man is carnal." [2]

Context Summary

Romans 7:14-25 - The Conflict Within
The Apostle gives a further statement of his personal experience of the inability of the soul to realize the divine ideal which has been revealed to it as the norm and type of its attainment. Life does not run smoothly. There are effort, strain, failure, the consciousness of sin, the dazzling glory of sunlight on inaccessible peaks. Why is this? It is due to the lack of "power unto salvation." We are not strong enough to win any victory. We are weak through the flesh. There is a leakage through which our good desires vanish, as water through a cracked vessel.
Self is ever the difficulty. Before we find Christ, or are found of Him, we try to justify ourselves, and afterward to sanctify ourselves. Notice how full these verses are of I, and how little is said of the Holy Spirit. As the corpse of a criminal that was, in the old barbarous days, hung around the neck of a living man, so the flesh is to us, with all its evil promptings. But this background of dark experience, ending in vanity, vexation, disappointment, and misery leads to the following chapter, which is saturated with Pentecostal power. The distant anticipation of this revives us, like the scent of land to animals sick with a long voyage; and we thank our God. [source]

Chapter Summary: Romans 7

1  No law has power over a man longer than he lives
4  But we are dead to the law
7  Yet is not the law sin;
12  but holy, just and good;
16  as I acknowledge, who am grieved because I cannot keep it

Greek Commentary for Romans 7:14

Spiritual [πνευματικος]
Spirit-caused and spirit-given and like the Holy Spirit. See note on 1 Corinthians 10:3. [source]
But I am carnal [εγω δε σαρκινος ειμι]
“Fleshen” as in 1 Corinthians 3:1 which see, more emphatic even than σαρκικος — sarkikos a creature of flesh.” Sold under sin (πεπραμενος υπο την αμαρτιαν — pepramenos hupo tēn hamartian). Perfect passive participle of πιπρασκω — pipraskō old verb, to sell. See note on Matthew 13:46 and note on Acts 2:45, state of completion. Sin has closed the mortgage and owns its slave. [source]
Sold under sin [πεπραμενος υπο την αμαρτιαν]
Perfect passive participle of πιπρασκω — pipraskō old verb, to sell. See note on Matthew 13:46 and note on Acts 2:45, state of completion. Sin has closed the mortgage and owns its slave. [source]
We know [οἴδαμεν]
Denoting something generally conceded. [source]
Spiritual [πνευματικός]
The expression of the Holy Spirit. [source]
Carnal [σάρκινος]
Lit., made of flesh. A very strong expression. “This unspiritual, material, phenomenal nature” so dominates the unrenewed man that he is described as consisting of flesh. Others read σαρκικός havingthe nature of flesh. [source]
Sold under sin []
As a slave. The preposition ὑπό underwith the accusative, implies direction; so as to be under the power of. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:14

Romans 8:2 The law of the Spirit of life [ὁ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς]
The law, the regulative principle; the Spirit, the divine Spirit who inspires the law (compare Romans 7:14). Of life, proceeding from the life of Jesus and producing and imparting life. Compare John 16:15. [source]
Romans 7:18 In me []
The entire man in whom sin and righteousness struggle, in whose unregenerate condition sin is the victor, having its domain in the flesh. Hence in me considered as carnal (Romans 7:14). That another element is present appears from “to will is present with me;” but it is the flesh which determines his activity as an unregenerate man. There is good in the I, but not in the I considered as carnal. This is brought out in Romans 7:25, “With the flesh (I serve) the law of sin.” Hence there is added that is, in my flesh. [source]
Romans 3:9 Are we in worse case than they? [προεχομετα]
The American Revisers render it: “Are we in better case than they?” There is still no fresh light on this difficult and common word though it occurs alone in the N.T. In the active it means to have before, to excel. But here it is either middle or passive. Thayer takes it to be middle and to mean to excel to one‘s advantage and argues that the context demands this. But no example of the middle in this sense has been found. If it is taken as passive, Lightfoot takes it to mean, “Are we excelled” and finds that sense in Plutarch. Vaughan takes it as passive but meaning, “Are we preferred?” This suits the context, but no other example has been found. So the point remains unsettled. The papyri throw no light on it. No, in no wise (ου παντως — ou pantōs). “Not at all.” See note on 1 Corinthians 5:10. We before laid to the charge First aorist middle indicative of προαιτιαομαι — proaitiaomai to make a prior accusation, a word not yet found anywhere else. Paul refers to Romans 1:18-32 for the Greeks and 2:1-29 for the Jews. The infinitive ειναι — einai with the accusative παντας — pantas is in indirect discourse. Under sin (υπο αμαρτιαν — hupo hamartian). See note on Galatians 3:22; Romans 7:14. [source]
Romans 3:9 We before laid to the charge [προηιτιασαμετα]
First aorist middle indicative of προαιτιαομαι — proaitiaomai to make a prior accusation, a word not yet found anywhere else. Paul refers to Romans 1:18-32 for the Greeks and 2:1-29 for the Jews. The infinitive ειναι — einai with the accusative παντας — pantas is in indirect discourse. Under sin (υπο αμαρτιαν — hupo hamartian). See note on Galatians 3:22; Romans 7:14. [source]
Romans 3:9 Under sin [υπο αμαρτιαν]
See note on Galatians 3:22; Romans 7:14. [source]
Romans 7:18 In me [εν εμοι]
Paul explains this by “in my flesh” (εν τηι σαρκι μου — en tēi sarki mou), the unregenerate man “sold under sin” of Romans 7:14. [source]
Romans 7:23 Bringing me into captivity [αιχμαλωτιζοντα]
See note on this late and vivid verb for capture and slavery Luke 21:24; note on 2 Corinthians 10:5. Surely it is a tragic picture drawn by Paul with this outcome, “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14), “captivity to the law of sin” (Romans 7:23). The ancient writers (Plato, Ovid, Seneca, Epictetus) describe the same dual struggle in man between his conscience and his deeds. [source]
Romans 8:9 Not in the flesh [ουκ εν σαρκι]
Not sold under sin (Romans 7:14) any more. [source]
Romans 7:15 I know not [ου γινωσκω]
“I do not recognize” in its true nature. My spiritual perceptions are dulled, blinded by sin (2 Corinthians 4:4). The dual life pictured here by Paul finds an echo in us all, the struggle after the highest in us (“what I really wish,” ο τελω — ho thelō to practise it steadily, πρασσω — prassō) and the slipping into doing (ποιω — poiō) “what I really hate” (ο μισω — ho misō) and yet sometimes do. There is a deal of controversy as to whether Paul is describing his struggle with sin before conversion or after it. The words “sold under sin” in Romans 7:14 seem to turn the scale for the pre-conversion period. “It is the unregenerate man‘s experience, surviving at least in memory into regenerate days, and read with regenerate eyes” (Denney). [source]
Romans 7:23 Warring against [αντιστρατευομενον]
Rare verb (Xenophon) to carry on a campaign against. Only here in N.T. The law of my mind (τωι νομωι του νοος — tōi nomōi tou noos). The reflective intelligence Paul means by νοος — noos “the inward man” of Romans 7:22. It is this higher self that agrees that the law of God is good (Romans 7:12, Romans 7:16, Romans 7:22). Bringing me into captivity See note on this late and vivid verb for capture and slavery Luke 21:24; note on 2 Corinthians 10:5. Surely it is a tragic picture drawn by Paul with this outcome, “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14), “captivity to the law of sin” (Romans 7:23). The ancient writers (Plato, Ovid, Seneca, Epictetus) describe the same dual struggle in man between his conscience and his deeds. [source]
1 Corinthians 3:1 Carnal [σαρκίνοις]
Made of flesh. See on Romans 7:14, and see on flesh, Romans 7:5. [source]
1 Corinthians 3:1 But as unto carnal [αλλ ως σαρκινοις]
Latin carneus. “As men o‘flesh,” Braid Scots; “as worldlings,” Moffatt. This form in ινος — ̇inos like λιτινος — lithinos in 2 Corinthians 3:3 means the material of flesh, “not on tablets of stone, but on fleshen tablets on hearts.” So in Hebrews 7:16. But in Romans 7:14 Paul says, “I am fleshen It is not culpable to a babe in Christ It is one of the tragedies of the minister‘s life that he has to keep on speaking to the church members “as unto babes in Christ” (ως νηπιοις εν Χριστωι — hōs nēpiois en Christōi), who actually glory in their long babyhood whereas they ought to be teachers of the gospel instead of belonging to the cradle roll. Paul‘s goal was for all the babes to become adults (Colossians 1:28). [source]
2 Corinthians 3:3 Fleshy tables of the heart [πλαξὶν καρδίας σαρκίναις]
The best texts read καρδίαις the dative case in apposition with tables. Render, as Rev., tables which are hearts of flesh. Compare Ezekiel 11:19; Jeremiah 17:1; Jeremiah 31:33. For of flesh, see on Romans 7:14. [source]
2 Corinthians 3:3 Not with ink [ου μελανι]
Instrumental case of μελας — melas black. Plato uses το μελαν — to melan for ink as here. See also 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:13. Of stone (λιτιναις — lithinais). Composed of stone (λιτος — lithos and ending ινος — ̇inos). Of flesh “Fleshen” as in 1 Corinthians 3:1; Romans 7:14. [source]
2 Corinthians 3:3 Of flesh [σαρκιναις]
“Fleshen” as in 1 Corinthians 3:1; Romans 7:14. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 7:14 mean?

We know for that - [the] Law spiritual is I however fleshly am having been sold under - sin
Οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι νόμος πνευματικός ἐστιν ἐγὼ δὲ σάρκινός εἰμι πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν

Οἴδαμεν  We  know 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: οἶδα  
Sense: to see.
ὅτι  that 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅτι  
Sense: that, because, since.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
νόμος  [the]  Law 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
πνευματικός  spiritual 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: πνευματικός  
Sense: relating to the human spirit, or rational soul, as part of the man which is akin to God and serves as his instrument or organ.
δὲ  however 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
σάρκινός  fleshly 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: σάρκινος  
Sense: fleshly, consisting of flesh, composed of flesh.
πεπραμένος  having  been  sold 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Participle Middle or Passive, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: πιπράσκω  
Sense: to sell.
ὑπὸ  under 
Parse: Preposition
Root: ὑπό  
Sense: by, under.
τὴν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἁμαρτίαν  sin 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἁμαρτία  
Sense: equivalent to 264.