The Meaning of Romans 7:21 Explained

Romans 7:21

KJV: I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

YLT: I find, then, the law, that when I desire to do what is right, with me the evil is present,

Darby: I find then the law upon me who will to practise what is right, that with me evil is there.

ASV: I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present.

What does Romans 7:21 Mean?

Study Notes

law
Six "laws" are to be distinguished in Romans: The law of Moses, which condemns Romans 3:19 "law" as a principle Romans 3:21 the law of faith, which excludes self-righteousness Romans 3:27 the law of sin in the members, which is victorious over the law of the mind Romans 7:21 ; Romans 7:23 ; Romans 7:25 the law of the mind, which consents to the law of Moses but cannot do it because of the law of sin in the members Romans 7:16 ; Romans 7:23 and the "law of the Spirit," having power to deliver the believer from the law of sin which is in his members, and his conscience from condemnation by the Mosaic law. Moreover the Spirit works in the yielded believer the very righteousness which Moses' law requires Romans 8:2 ; Romans 8:4 .

Verse Meaning

The statement of this "principle" or "law" summarizes Paul"s thought. [1]
Six "laws" are to be differentiated in Romans: (1) the law of Moses, which condemns ( Romans 3:19); (2) law as a principle ( Romans 3:21); (3) the law of faith, which excludes self-righteousness ( Romans 3:27); (4) the law of sin in the members, which is victorious over the law of the mind ( Romans 7:21; Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25); (5) the law of the mind, which consents to the law of Moses but cannot do it because of the law of sin in the members ( Romans 7:16; Romans 7:23); and (6) the law of the Spirit, having power to deliver the believer from the law of sin which is in his members, and his conscience from condemnation by the Mosaic law. Moreover the Spirit works in the yielded Christian the very righteousness which Moses" law requires ( Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4)." [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 7:21

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]
A law []
With the article, the law. The constant rule of experience imposing itself on the will. Thus in the phrases law of faith, works, the spirit. Here the law of moral contradiction. [source]
When I would [τῷ θέλοντι ἐμοὶ]
Lit., as Rev., to me who would, or to the wishing me, thus emphasizing the I whose characteristic it is to wish, but not to do. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:21

2 Thessalonians 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing [υμεις δε αδελποι μη ενκακησητε καλοποιουντες]
Emphatic position of εν κακος — humeis in contrast to these piddlers. καλοποιεω — Mē and the aorist subjunctive is a prohibition against beginning an act (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 851-4). It is a late verb and means to behave badly in, to be cowardly, to lose courage, to flag, to faint, It occurs in Polybius. The late verb αγατοποιεω — kalopoieō to do the fair (kalos) or honourable thing occurs nowhere else in the N.T., but is in the lxx and a late papyrus. Paul uses to kalon poiein in 2 Corinthians 13:7; Galatians 6:9; Romans 7:21 with the same idea. He has agathopoieō to do good, in 1 Timothy 6:18. [source]
Hebrews 7:16 The law of a carnal commandment [νόμον ἐντολῆς σαρκίνης]
The phrase N.T.o Νόμον thenorm or standard, as Romans 7:21, Romans 7:23. Εντολῆς, the specific precept of the Mosaic law regarding Levitical priests. Comp. Ephesians 2:15. Σαρκίνης fleshlyindicates that the conditions of the Levitical priesthood had reference to the body. Fitness for office was determined largely by physical considerations. The priest must be of proper descent, without bodily blemish, ceremonially pure. See Hebrews 9:1-5, Hebrews 9:10, and comp. Romans 8:3. Such a priesthood cannot be eternal. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 7:21 mean?

I find so the principle that desiring me to do - good that - evil is present with
Εὑρίσκω ἄρα τὸν νόμον τῷ θέλοντι ἐμοὶ ποιεῖν τὸ καλὸν ὅτι τὸ κακὸν παράκειται

Εὑρίσκω  I  find 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: εὑρίσκω  
Sense: to come upon, hit upon, to meet with.
ἄρα  so 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ἄρα  
Sense: therefore, so then, wherefore.
νόμον  principle 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
τῷ  that 
Parse: Article, Dative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
θέλοντι  desiring 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: θέλω  
Sense: to will, have in mind, intend.
ἐμοὶ  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
ποιεῖν  to  do 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Active
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.
τὸ  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
καλὸν  good 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: καλός  
Sense: beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable.
ὅτι  that 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅτι  
Sense: that, because, since.
τὸ  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
κακὸν  evil 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Singular
Root: κακός  
Sense: of a bad nature.
παράκειται  is  present  with 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: παράκειμαι  
Sense: to lie beside, to be near.