The Meaning of Romans 7:15 Explained

Romans 7:15

KJV: For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

YLT: for that which I work, I do not acknowledge; for not what I will, this I practise, but what I hate, this I do.

Darby: For that which I do, I do not own: for not what I will, this I do; but what I hate, this I practise.

ASV: For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do.

What does Romans 7:15 Mean?

Study Notes

I do I allow not
The apostle personifies the strife of the two natures in the believer, the old or Adamic nature, and the divine nature received through the new birth 1 Peter 1:23 ; 2 Peter 1:4 ; Galatians 2:20 ; Colossians 1:27 . The "I" which is Saul of Tarsus, and the "I" which is Paul the apostle are at strife, and "Paul" is in defeat. In Chapter 8, this strife is effectually taken up on the believer's behalf by the Holy Spirit; Romans 8:2 ; Galatians 5:16 ; Galatians 5:17 and Paul is victorious.
Contra, Ephesians 6:12 where the conflict is not fleshly, but spiritual.

Verse Meaning

Paul"s sinful human nature influenced him to such an extent that he found himself volitionally doing (approving) the very things that he despised intellectually. This caused him to marvel. All Christians can identify with him in this.

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 7:15

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]
I do [κατεργάζομαι]
See on Romans 7:8. Accomplish, achieve. Here appropriately used of carrying out another's will. I do not perceive the outcome of my sinful life. [source]
I allow not [οὐ γινώσκω]
Allow is used by A.V. in the earlier English sense of approve. Compare Luke 11:48; Romans 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:4. Shakespeare: “Thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras as I will allow of thy wits” (“Twelfth Night,” iv., 2). But the meaning of γινώσκω is not approve, but recognize, come to know, perceive. Hence Rev., I know not. Paul says: “What I carry out I do not recognize in its true nature, as a slave who ignorantly performs his master's behest without knowing its tendency or result.” [source]
I would [θέλω]
See on Matthew 1:19. Rather desire than will in the sense of full determination, as is shown by I consent (Romans 7:16), and I delight in (Romans 7:22). [source]
Do I not [πράσσω]
See on John 3:21. Rev., correctly, practice: the daily doing which issues in accomplishment ( κατεργάζομαι ). [source]
Do I [ποιῶ]
See on John 3:21. More nearly akin to κατεργάζομαι Iaccomplish, realize. “When I have acted ( πράσσω ) I find myself face to face with a result which my moral instinct condemns” (Godet). I do not practice what I would, and the outcome is what I hate. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:15

Matthew 1:19 Not willing [ἐβουλήθη]
These two words, describing the working of Joseph's mind, and evidently intended to express different phases of thought, open the question of their distinctive meanings in the New Testament, where they frequently occur ( θέλω much oftener than βούλομαι ), and where the rendering, in so many eases by the same words, furnishes no clue to the distinction. The original words are often used synonymously in eases where no distinction is emphasized; but their use in other eases reveals a radical and recognized difference. An interchange is inadmissible when the greater force of the expression requires θέλειν . For instance, βαούλεσθαι , would be entirely inappropriate at Matthew 8:3, “I will, be thou cleansed;” or at Romans 7:15. The distinction, which is abundantly illustrated in Homer, is substantially maintained by the classical writers throughout, and in the New Testament. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
Θέλειν is the stronger word, and expresses a purpose or determination or decree, the execution of which is, or is believed to be, in the power of him who wills. Βούλεσθαι expresses wish, inclination, or disposition, whether one desires to do a thing himself or wants some one else to do it. Θέλειν , therefore, denotes the active resolution, the will urging on to action. Βούλεσθαι is to have a mind, to desire, sometimes a little stronger, running into the sense of purpose. Θέλειν indicates the impulse of the will; βούλεσθαι , its tendency. Βούλεσθαι can always be rendered by θέλειν , but θέλειν cannot always be expressed by βούλεσθαι . -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
Thus, Agamemnon says, “I would not ( οὐκ ἔθελον )-DIVIDER-
receive the ransom for the maid (i.e., Irefused to receive), because I greatly desire ( βούλομαι )-DIVIDER-
to have her at home” (Homer, “II.,” 1:112). So Demosthenes: “It is fitting that you should be willing ( ἐθέλειν ) to listen to those who wish ( βουλομένων ) to-DIVIDER-
advise” (“Olynth.,” 1:1). That is to say, It is in your power to determine whether or not you will listen to those who desire to advise you, but whose power to do so depends on your consent. Again: “If the gods will it ( θέλωσι ) and you wish it ( βούλησθε )”-DIVIDER-
(Demosth., “Olynth.,” 2:20). -DIVIDER-
In the New Testament, as observed above, though the words are often interchanged, the same distinction is recognized. Thus, Matthew 2:18, “Rachael would not ( ἤθελε ) be comforted;” obstinately and positively refused. Joseph, having the right and power under the (assumed) circumstances to make Mary a public example, resolved ( θέλων )-DIVIDER-
to spare her this exposure. Then the question arose - What should he do? On this he thought, and, having thought ( ἐνθυμηθέντος )his mind inclined (tendency), he was minded ( ἐβουλήθη )-DIVIDER-
to put her away secretly. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
Some instances of the interchanged use of the two words are the following: Mark 15:15, “Pilate willing ”-DIVIDER-
( βουλόμενος ); compare Luke 23:20, “Pilate willing ”-DIVIDER-
( θέλων ). Acts 27:43, “The centurion willing ”-DIVIDER-
( βουλόμενος ) Matthew 27:17, “Whom will ye that I release” ( θέλετε ); so Matthew 27:21. John 18:39, “Will ye that I release” ( βούλεσθε ); Matthew 14:5, “When he would have put him to death” ( θέλων ). Mark 6:48, “He would have passed by them” ( ἤθελε ); Acts 19:30, “Paul would have entered” ( βουλόμενος ). Acts 18:27, “He was disposed to pass” ( βουλόμενος ). Titus 3:8, “I will that thou affirm” ( βούλομαι ) Mark 6:25, “I will that thou give me” ( θέλω ), etc., etc. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
In the New Testament θέλω occurs in the following senses:1.A decree or determination of the will. (a ) Of God (Matthew 12:7; Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18; Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 15:38). (b ) Of Christ (Matthew 8:3; John 17:24; John 5:21; John 21:22). (c ) Of men (Acts 25:9). Festus, having the power to gratify the Jews, and determining to do so, says to Paul, who has the right to decide, “Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem?” John 6:67, Others of the disciples had decided to leave Jesus. Christ said to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Is that your determination? John 7:17, If any man sets his will, is determined to do God's will. John 8:44, The lusts of your father your will is set to do. Acts 24:6.2. A wish or desire. Very many of the passages, however, which are cited under this head (as by Grimm) may fairly be interpreted as implying something stronger than a wish; notably Mark 14:36, of Christ in Gethsemane. Our Lord would hardly have used what thou wilt in so feeble a sense as that of a desire or wish on God's part. Mark 10:43, “Whosoever will be great,” expresses more than the desire for greatness. It is the purpose of the life. Matthew 27:15, It was given to the Jews to decide what prisoner should be released. Luke 1:62, The name of the infant John was referred to Zacharias' decision. John 17:24, Surely Christ does more than desire that those whom the Father has given him shall be with him. Luke 9:54, It is for Jesus to command fire upon the Samaritan villages if he so wills. (See, also, John 15:7; 1 Corinthians 4:21; Matthew 16:25; Matthew 19:17; John 21:22; Matthew 13:28; Matthew 17:12.) In the sense of wish or desire may fairly be cited 2 Corinthians 11:12; Matthew 12:38; Luke 8:20; Luke 23:8; John 12:21; Galatians 4:20; Matthew 7:12; Mark 10:35.3. A liking (Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46; Matthew 27:43). (See note there.) Βούλομαι occurs in the following senses:1.Inclination or disposition (Acts 18:27; Acts 19:30; Acts 25:22; Acts 28:18; 2" translation="">2 Corinthians 1:15).2.Stronger, with the idea of purpose (1 Timothy 6:9; James 1:18; James 3:4; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Hebrews 6:17).In most, if not all of these cases, we might expect θέλειν ; but in this use of βούλομαι there is an implied emphasis on the element of free choice or self-determination, which imparts to the desire or inclination a decretory force. This element is in the human will by gift and consent. In the divine will it is inherent. At this point the Homeric usage may be compared in its occasional employment of βούλομαι to express determination, but only with reference to the gods, in whom to wish is to will. Thus, “Whether Apollo will ( βου.λεται ) ward off the plague” (“II.,” 1:67). “Apollo willed ( βούλετο ) victory to the Trojans” (“Il.,” 7:21).To make a public example ( δειγματίσαι )The word is kindred to δείκνυμι , to exhibit, display, point out. Here, therefore, to expose Mary to public shame (Wyc., publish her; Tynd., defame her). The word occurs in Colossians 2:15, of the victorious Saviour displaying the vanquished powers of evil as a general displays his trophies or captives in a triumphal procession. “He made a show of them openly.” A compound of the same word ( παραδειγματίζω ) appears in Hebrews 6:6, “They crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. ” [source]

John 3:21 Doeth the truth [ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν]
The phrase occurs only here and in 1 John 1:6. Note the contrasted phrase, doeth evil (John 3:20). There the plural is used: doeth evil things; evil being represented by a number of bad works. Here the singular, the truth, or truth; truth being regarded as one, and “including in a supreme unity all right deeds.” There is also to be noted the different words for doing in these two verses: doeth evil ( πράσσων ); doeth truth ( ποιῶν ). The latter verb contemplates the object and end of action; the former the means, with the idea of continuity and repetition. Πράσσων is the practice, while ποιῶν may be the doing once for all. Thus ποιεῖν is to conclude a peace: πράσσειν , to negotiate a peace. So Demosthenes: “He will do ( πράξει ) these things, and will accomplish them ( ποιήσει ).” In the New Testament a tendency is observable to use ποιεῖν in a good sense, and πράσσωιν in an evil sense. Compare the kindred word πρᾶξις , deed or work, which occurs six times, and in four out of the six of evil doing (Matthew 16:27; Luke 23:51; Acts 19:18; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:14; Colossians 3:9). With this passage compare especially John 5:29, where the two verbs are used with the two nouns as here. Also, Romans 7:15, Romans 7:19. Bengel says: “Evil is restless: it is busier than truth.” In Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3, both verbs are used of doing evil, but still with a distinction in that πράσσω is the more comprehensive term, designating the pursuit of evil as the aim of the activity. [source]
John 3:21 Doeth the truth [ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν]
The phrase occurs only here and in 1 John 1:6. Note the contrasted phrase, doeth evil (John 3:20). There the plural is used: doeth evil things; evil being represented by a number of bad works. Here the singular, the truth, or truth; truth being regarded as one, and “including in a supreme unity all right deeds.” There is also to be noted the different words for doing in these two verses: doeth evil ( πράσσων ); doeth truth ( ποιῶν ). The latter verb contemplates the object and end of action; the former the means, with the idea of continuity and repetition. Πράσσων is the practice, while ποιῶν may be the doing once for all. Thus ποιεῖν is to conclude a peace: πράσσειν , to negotiate a peace. So Demosthenes: “He will do ( πράξει ) these things, and will accomplish them ( ποιήσει ).” In the New Testament a tendency is observable to use ποιεῖν in a good sense, and πράσσωιν in an evil sense. Compare the kindred word πρᾶξις , deed or work, which occurs six times, and in four out of the six of evil doing (Matthew 16:27; Luke 23:51; Acts 19:18; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:14; Colossians 3:9). With this passage compare especially John 5:29, where the two verbs are used with the two nouns as here. Also, Romans 7:15, Romans 7:19. Bengel says: “Evil is restless: it is busier than truth.” In Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3, both verbs are used of doing evil, but still with a distinction in that πράσσω is the more comprehensive term, designating the pursuit of evil as the aim of the activity. [source]
Romans 7:8 Wrought [κατειργάσατο]
The compound verb with κατά downthrough always signifies the bringing to pass or accomplishment. See 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 7:10. It is used both of evil and good. See especially Romans 7:15, Romans 7:17, Romans 7:18, Romans 7:20. “To man everything forbidden appears as a desirable blessing; but yet, as it is forbidden, he feels that his freedom is limited, and now his lust rages more violently, like the waves against the dyke” (Tholuck). [source]
Romans 7:19 Do not - do. [ποιῶ - πράσσω]
See on Romans 7:15. [source]
Ephesians 2:3 Fulfilling [ποιοῦντες]
Rev., doing. The verb implies carrying out or accomplishing, so that the A.V. is more nearly correct. See on Romans 7:15; see on John 3:21. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 7:15 mean?

What for I do not I understand I want this I do but I hate I do
γὰρ κατεργάζομαι οὐ γινώσκω θέλω τοῦτο πράσσω ἀλλ’ μισῶ ποιῶ

κατεργάζομαι  I  do 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Middle or Passive, 1st Person Singular
Root: κατεργάζομαι  
Sense: to perform, accomplish, achieve.
γινώσκω  I  understand 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: γινώσκω  
Sense: to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel.
θέλω  I  want 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: θέλω  
Sense: to will, have in mind, intend.
τοῦτο  this 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
πράσσω  I  do 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: ἀναπράσσω 
Sense: to exercise, practise, to be busy with, carry on.
μισῶ  I  hate 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: μισέω  
Sense: to hate, pursue with hatred, detest.
ποιῶ  I  do 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.