The Meaning of Romans 7:18 Explained

Romans 7:18

KJV: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

YLT: for I have known that there doth not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh, good: for to will is present with me, and to work that which is right I do not find,

Darby: For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell: for to will is there with me, but to do right I find not.

ASV: For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not.

What does Romans 7:18 Mean?

Verse Meaning

"In general, we may say that in Romans 7:14-17, the emphasis is upon the practicing what is hated,-that Isaiah , the inability to overcome evil in the flesh; while in Romans 7:18-21, the emphasis is upon the failure to do the desired good,-the inability, on account of the flesh, to do right.
"Thus the double failure of a quickened man either to overcome evil or to accomplish good-is set forth. There must come in help from outside, beyond himself!" [1]
Paul meant that sin had thoroughly corrupted his nature ("flesh"). Even though he was a Christian he was still a totally depraved sinner ( Romans 3:10-18; Romans 3:23). He knew what he should do, but he did not always do it. "Total depravity" refers to the fact that sin has affected every aspect of our person. It does not mean that we are necessarily as bad as we could be.

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 7:18

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]
No good thing [ουκαγατον]
“Not absolutely good.” This is not a complete view of man even in his unregenerate state as Paul at once shows. For to will is present with me (το γαρ τελειν παρακειται μοι — to gar thelein parakeitai moi). Present middle indicative of παρακειμαι — parakeimai old verb, to lie beside, at hand, with dative μοι — moi Only here in N.T. The wishing is the better self, the doing not the lower self. [source]
For to will is present with me [το γαρ τελειν παρακειται μοι]
Present middle indicative of παρακειμαι — parakeimai old verb, to lie beside, at hand, with dative μοι — moi Only here in N.T. [source]
The wishing []
is the better self, the doing not the lower self. [source]
the doing not []
the lower self. [source]
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]
Is present [παράκειται]
Lit., lies beside or before. [source]
Perform [κατεργάζεσθαι]
Carry the desire into effect. [source]
I find not [οὐχ εὑρίσκω]
The best texts omit find, and read simply οὐ notSo Rev., “To do that which is good is not (present).” [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:18

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 7:5 In the flesh [εν τηι σαρκι]
Same sense as in Romans 6:19 and Romans 7:18, Romans 7:25. The “flesh” is not inherently sinful, but is subject to sin. It is what Paul means by being “under the law.” He uses σαρχ — sarx in a good many senses. [source]
Romans 7:21 The law [τον νομον]
The principle already set forth (αρα — ara accordingly) in Romans 7:18, Romans 7:19. This is the way it works, but there is no surcease for the stings of conscience. [source]
Romans 7:5 In the flesh [ἐν τῇ σαρκί]
Σάρξ fleshoccurs in the classics in the physical sense only. Homer commonly uses it in the plural as denoting all the flesh or muscles of the body. Later the singular occurs in the same sense. Paul's use of this and other psychological terms must be determined largely by the Old-Testament usage as it appears in the Septuagint. 1. In the physical sense. The literal flesh. In the Septuagint τὰ κρέα flesh(plural) is used where the reference is to the parts of animals slain, and αἱ σάρκες , flesh (plural) where the reference is to flesh as the covering of the living body. Hence Paul uses κρέα in Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:13, of the flesh of sacrificed animals. Compare also the adjective σάρκιμος fleshy 2 Corinthians 3:3; and Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26, Sept. -DIVIDER-
2. Kindred. Denoting natural or physical relationship, Romans 1:3; Romans 9:3-8; Romans 11:14; Galatians 4:23, Galatians 4:29; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Philemon 1:16. This usage forms a transition to the following sense: the whole human body. Flesh is the medium in and through which the natural relationship of man manifests itself. Kindred is conceived as based on community of bodily substance. Therefore:-DIVIDER-
3. The body itself. The whole being designated by the part, as being its main substance and characteristic, 1 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 7:28; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 10:3; 2 Corinthians 12:7. Romans 2:28; Galatians 6:13, etc. Paul follows the Septuagint in sometimes using σῶμα bodyand sometimes σάρξ fleshin this sense, so that the terms occasionally seem to be practically synonymous. Thus 1 Corinthians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 6:17, where the phrase one body is illustrated and confirmed by one flesh. See Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:31, where the two are apparently interchanged. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 5:3, and Colossians 2:5. Σάρξ , however, differs from σῶμα in that it can only signify the organism of an earthly, living being consisting of flesh and bones, and cannot denote “either an earthly organism that is not living, or a living organism that is not earthly” (Wendt, in Dickson). Σῶμα not thus limited. Thus it may denote the organism of the plant (1 Corinthians 15:37, 1 Corinthians 15:38) or the celestial bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40). Hence the two conceptions are related as general and special: σῶμα bodybeing the material organism apart from any definite matter (not from any sort of matter), σάρξ , flesh, the definite, earthly, animal organism. The two are synonymons when σῶμα is used, from the context, of an earthly, animal body. Compare Philemon 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. -DIVIDER-
Σῶμα bodyand not σάρξ fleshis used when the reference is to a metaphorical organism, as the church, Romans 12:4sqq.; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:18, etc. -DIVIDER-
The σάρξ is described as mortal (2 Corinthians 4:11); subject to infirmity (Galatians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7); locally limited (Colossians 2:15); an object of fostering care (Ephesians 5:29). -DIVIDER-
4. Living beings generally, including their mental nature, and with a correlated notion of weakness and perishableness. Thus the phrase πᾶσα σάρξ allflesh (Genesis 6:12; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 49:23). This accessory notion of weakness stands in contrast with God. In Paul the phrase all flesh is cited from the Old Testament (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16) and is used independently (1 Corinthians 1:29). In all these instances before God is added. So in Galatians 1:16, flesh and blood implies a contrast of human with divine wisdom. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 6:12. This leads up to-DIVIDER-
5. Man “either as a creature in his natural state apart from Christ, or the creaturely side or aspect of the man in Christ.” Hence it is correlated with ἄνθρωπος man 1 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17. Compare Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9; Galatians 5:24. Thus the flesh would seem to be interchangeable with the old man. -DIVIDER-
It has affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24); willings (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 8:6, Romans 8:7); a mind (Colossians 2:18); a body (Colossians 2:11). -DIVIDER-
It is in sharp contrast with πνεῦμα spirit(Galatians 3:3, Galatians 3:19; Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:17, Galatians 5:19-24; Galatians 6:8; Romans 8:4). The flesh and the spirit are thus antagonistic. Σάρξ fleshbefore or in contrast with his reception of the divine element whereby he becomes a new creature in Christ: the whole being of man as it exists and acts apart from the influence of the Spirit. It properly characterizes, therefore, not merely the lower forms of sensual gratification, but all - the highest developments of the life estranged from God, whether physical, intellectual, or aesthetic. -DIVIDER-
It must be carefully noted:-DIVIDER-
1. That Paul does not identify flesh and sin. Compare, flesh of sin, Romans 8:3. See Romans 7:17, Romans 7:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 2:20. -DIVIDER-
2. That Paul does not identify σάρξ withthe material body nor associate sin exclusively and predominantly with the body. The flesh is the flesh of the living man animated by the soul ( ψυχή ) as its principle of life, and is distinctly used as coordinate with ἄνθρωπος manAs in the Old Testament, “it embraces in an emphatic manner the nature of man, mental and corporeal, with its internal distinctions.” The spirit as well as the flesh is capable of defilement (2 Corinthians 7:1; compare 1 Corinthians 7:34). Christian life is to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2; compare Ephesians 4:23). -DIVIDER-
3. That Paul does not identify the material side of man with evil. The flesh is not the native seat and source of sin. It is only its organ, and the seat of sin's manifestation. Matter is not essentially evil. The logical consequence of this would be that no service of God is possible while the material organism remains. See Romans 12:1. The flesh is not necessarily sinful in itself; but as it has existed from the time of the introduction of sin through Adam, it is recognized by Paul as tainted with sin. Jesus appeared in the flesh, and yet was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21).The motions of sins ( τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν )Motions used in earlier English for emotions or impulses. Thus Bacon: “He that standeth at a stay where others rise, can hardly avoid motions of envy” (“Essay” xiv.). The word is nearly synonymous with πάθος passion(Romans 1:26, note). From πάθειν tosuffer; a feeling which the mind undergoes, a passion, desire. Rev., sinful passions: which led to sins.Did work ( ἐνηργεῖτο )Rev., wrought. See 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; Ephesians 3:20; Galatians 5:6; Philemon 2:13; Colossians 1:29. Compare Mark 6:14, and see on power, John 1:12. [source]

1 Thessalonians 5:15 That which is good [τὸ ἀγαθὸν]
Not to be limited to profitable, beneficent (as Lightfoot, Lünemann), although ἀγαθός commonly includes a corresponding beneficent relation of its subject to another subject, which is emphasized here by to all men. See on Romans 5:7. It may also include what is absolutely, morally good, as Romans 2:10. So Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 3:11; Romans 7:18. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 7:18 mean?

I know for that nothing there dwells in me that is the flesh of me good - to will is present with me but to do the good not
Οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι οὐκ οἰκεῖ ἐν ἐμοί τοῦτ’ ἔστιν τῇ σαρκί μου ἀγαθόν τὸ θέλειν παράκειταί μοι δὲ κατεργάζεσθαι τὸ καλὸν οὔ

Οἶδα  I  know 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: οἶδα  
Sense: to see.
ὅτι  that 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅτι  
Sense: that, because, since.
οὐκ  nothing 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὐ  
Sense: no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer.
οἰκεῖ  there  dwells 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: οἰκέω  
Sense: to dwell in.
ἐμοί  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
τοῦτ’  that 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
σαρκί  flesh 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: σάρξ  
Sense: flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts.
μου  of  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
ἀγαθόν  good 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root: ἀγαθός 
Sense: of good constitution or nature.
τὸ  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Neuter Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
θέλειν  to  will 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Active
Root: θέλω  
Sense: to will, have in mind, intend.
παράκειταί  is  present  with 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: παράκειμαι  
Sense: to lie beside, to be near.
μοι  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
κατεργάζεσθαι  to  do 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Middle or Passive
Root: κατεργάζομαι  
Sense: to perform, accomplish, achieve.
καλὸν  good 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: καλός  
Sense: beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable.