The Meaning of Romans 7:5 Explained

Romans 7:5

KJV: For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

YLT: for when we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, that are through the law, were working in our members, to bear fruit to the death;

Darby: For when we were in the flesh the passions of sins, which were by the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit to death;

ASV: For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

What does Romans 7:5 Mean?

Verse Meaning

This is the first use of the term "the flesh" (NASB) in the ethical sense in Romans. As mentioned previously, it refers to our human nature, which is sinful. The NIV translators interpreted it properly as "sinful nature." The description itself does not indicate whether the people in view are saved or unsaved since both have the flesh and operate by employing it. Here the context suggests that Paul had pre-conversion days in mind in this verse. Just as union with Christ can result in fruit ( Romans 7:4), so did life in the flesh. The works of the sinful nature eventually produce death. The Law aroused sinful passions by prohibiting them. Forbidden fruit is the sweetest kind in the mouth, but it often produces a stomachache (cf. Genesis 3).

Context Summary

Romans 7:1-13 - The Law Makes Sin Known
To make his meaning clear the Apostle now enters upon a parable drawn from domestic life. He says that we are married to the Law as our first husband, and seek, through union with it, to bring forth fruit unto God. Every convert earnestly endeavors, in the first impulse of the new life, to be good and to form, by incessant effort, a life that is pleasing to God. Like Cain we bring the fruit of the ground, extorted from the soil by the sweat of the brow.
But we are soon disappointed in the result. Our laborious care ends in failure. Sinful desires are too masterful. As Luther said, "The old Adam is too strong for the young Melanchthon." Then we see that the Cross has put death between us and our painful effort. We learn that the marriage contract which bound us to our first husband, the Law, has been dissolved. We are set free to enter into marriage union with the blessed Lord, and He, by His indwelling Spirit, effects in us what our own energies have failed to produce. We are joined to Him that was raised up from the dead, and bring forth fruit unto 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 7:5

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]
Sinful passions [τα πατηματα των αμαρτιων]
“Passions of sins” or marked by sins. Wrought (ενεργειτο — energeito). Imperfect middle of ενεργεω — energeō “were active.” To bring forth fruit unto death Purpose clause again. Vivid picture of the seeds of sin working for death. [source]
Wrought [ενεργειτο]
Imperfect middle of ενεργεω — energeō “were active.” [source]
To bring forth fruit unto death [εις το καρποπορησαι τωι τανατωι]
Purpose clause again. Vivid picture of the seeds of sin working for death. [source]
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. [source]
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]

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]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:5

Romans 6:6 The body of sin [τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας]
Σῶμα in earlier classical usage signifies a corpse. So always in Homer and often in later Greek. So in the New Testament, Matthew 6:25; Mark 5:29; Mark 14:8; Mark 15:43. It is used of men as slaves, Revelation 18:13. Also in classical Greek of the sum-total. So Plato: τὸ τοῦ κόσμου σῶμα thesum-total of the world (“Timaeus,” 31). The meaning is tinged in some cases by the fact of the vital union of the body with the immaterial nature, as being animated by the ψυξή soulthe principle of individual life. Thus Matthew 6:25, where the two are conceived as forming one organism, so that the material ministries which are predicated of the one are predicated of the other, and the meanings of the two merge into one another. -DIVIDER-
In Paul it can scarcely be said to be used of a dead body, except in a figurative sense, as Romans 8:10, or by inference, 2 Corinthians 5:8. Commonly of a living body. It occurs with ψυχή soulonly 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and there its distinction from ψυχή rather than its union with it is implied. So in Matthew 10:28, though even there the distinction includes the two as one personality. It is used by Paul:-DIVIDER-
1. Of the living human body, Romans 4:19; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. -DIVIDER-
2. Of the Church as the body of Christ, Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:18, etc. Σάρξ fleshnever in this sense. -DIVIDER-
3. Of plants and heavenly bodies, 1 Corinthians 15:37, 1 Corinthians 15:40. -DIVIDER-
4. Of the glorified body of Christ, Philemon 3:21. -DIVIDER-
5. Of the spiritual body of risen believers, 1 Corinthians 15:44. -DIVIDER-
It is distinguished from σάρξ fleshas not being limited to the organism of an earthly, living body, 1 Corinthians 15:37, 1 Corinthians 15:38. It is the material organism apart from any definite matter. It is however sometimes used as practically synonymous with σάρξ , 1 Corinthians 7:16, 1 Corinthians 7:17; Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:31; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11. Compare 1 Corinthians 5:3with Colossians 2:5. An ethical conception attaches to it. It is alternated with μέλη membersand the two are associated with sin (Romans 1:24; Romans 6:6; Romans 7:5, Romans 7:24; Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), and with sanctification (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19sq.; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is represented as mortal, Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 10:10; and as capable of life, 1 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 4:10. -DIVIDER-
In common with μέλη membersit is the instrument of feeling and willing rather than σάρξ , because the object in such cases is to designate the body not definitely as earthly, but generally as organic, Romans 6:12, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10. Hence, wherever it is viewed with reference to sin or sanctification, it is the outward organ for the execution of the good or bad resolves of the will. -DIVIDER-
The phrase body of sin denotes the body belonging to, or ruled by, the power of sin, in which the members are instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13). Not the body as containing the principle of evil in our humanity, since Paul does not regard sin as inherent in, and inseparable from, the body (see Romans 6:13; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12; 2 Corinthians 7:1. Compare Matthew 15:19), nor as precisely identical with the old man, an organism or system of evil dispositions, which does not harmonize with Romans 6:12, Romans 6:13, where Paul uses body in the strict sense. “Sin is conceived as the master, to whom the body as slave belongs and is obedient to execute its will. As the slave must perform his definite functions, not because he in himself can perform no others, but because of His actually subsistent relationship of service he may perform no others, while of himself he might belong as well to another master and render other services; so the earthly σῶμα bodybelongs not of itself to the ἁμαρτία sinbut may just as well belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:13), and doubtless it is de facto enslaved to sin, so long as a redemption from this state has not set in by virtue of the divine Spirit” (Romans 7:24: Dickson).DestroyedSee on Romans 3:3.He that is dead ( ὁ ἀποθανὼν )Rev., literally, he that hath died. In a physical sense. Death and its consequences are used as the general illustration of the spiritual truth. It is a habit of Paul to throw in such general illustrations. See Romans 7:2. [source]

Romans 12:1 Bodies []
Literally, but regarded as the outward organ of the will. So, expressly, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10. Compare Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23. Hence the exhortation to glorify God in the body (1 Corinthians 6:20; compare Philemon 1:20; 2 Corinthians 4:10). So the body is called the body of sin (Romans 6:6; compare Colossians 2:11). In later Greek usage slaves were called σώματα bodiesSee Revelation 18:13. [source]
Romans 1:13 Have some fruit [τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ]
For the phrase, compare Romans 6:22. A metaphorical statement of what is stated literally in Romans 1:11. Not equivalent to bear fruit, but to gather as a harvest. Compare John 4:36; Philemon 1:22; Colossians 1:6. Fruit is a favorite metaphor with Paul. He uses it in both a good and a bad sense. See Romans 7:4, Romans 7:5; Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:22. [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 15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh []
Still arguing that it is conceivable that the resurrection-body should be organized differently from the earthly body, and in a way which cannot be inferred from the shape of the earthly body. There is a great variety of organization among bodies which we know: it may fairly be inferred that there may be a new and different organization in those which we do not know. Flesh is the body of the earthly, living being, including the bodily form. See on Romans 7:5, sec. 3. [source]
2 Corinthians 10:4 Carnal []
Rev., better, of the flesh, thus preserving the play on the words. The idea of weakness attaches to that of fleshliness. See on σάρξ fleshsec. 4, Romans 7:5. [source]
Galatians 5:6 Which worketh [ἐνεργουμένη]
See on 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Middle voice, comp. Romans 7:5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Ephesians 3:20. Not passive, as by many Roman Catholic expositors, faith which is wrought by love. [source]
Galatians 5:24 Affections [παθήμασιν]
Better, passions. Often sufferings, as Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 1:7; Philemon 3:10; Hebrews 2:9. Often of Christ's sufferings. Comp. passions of sins, Romans 7:5(see on motions ). olxx, where we find πάθος in both senses, but mostly sufferings. Πάθος also in N.T., but rarely and PoSee Romans 1:26; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5: always of evil desires. [source]
Galatians 5:13 To the flesh [τῃ σαρκί]
See on Romans 7:5. The flesh here represents lovelessness and selfishness. Christian freedom is not to be abused for selfish ends. Paul treats this subject at length in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:25, 1 Corinthians 12:26. Individual liberty is subject to the law of love and mutual service. Comp. 1 Peter 2:16. [source]
Galatians 2:16 Flesh [σάρξ]
See on Romans 7:5. For no flesh see on Romans 3:20. [source]
Colossians 2:11 The body of the sins of the flesh [τοῦ σώματος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τῆς σαρκὸς]
Omit of the sins. The body of the flesh (compare on Colossians 1:22) is the body which consists of the flesh, flesh having its moral sense of that material part which is the seat and organ of sin, “the flesh with its passions and lusts” (Galatians 5:24; compare 1 John 2:16). See on Colossians 1:24. For the distinction between σῶμα bodyand σάρξ fleshsee on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3. [source]
Colossians 1:24 For His body's sake, which is the Church []
Σάρξ fleshis never used of a metaphorical organism like the Church, but σῶμα bodySee on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3. In Colossians 1:22, flesh was used with body in order to define the reference of body to the fleshly human organism of Christ. Compare John 1:14. Here σῶμα bodyonly, defined by Church. [source]
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Spirit, soul, body [πνεῦμα, ψυχὴ σῶμα]
It is useless to attempt to draw from these words a technical, psychological statement of a threefold division of the human personality. If Paul recognized any such technical division, it was more probably twofold; the body or material part, and the immaterial part with its higher and lower sides - πνεῦμα and ψυχὴ . See on Romans 6:6; see on Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23; see on Romans 8:4; see on Romans 11:3and footnote. [source]
2 Timothy 3:11 Persecutions, afflictions [διωγμοῖς, παθήμασιν]
Διωγμός persecutiononly here in Pastorals. Occasionally in Paul. Πάθημα , only here in Pastorals. Often in Paul, usually in the sense of sufferings, but twice of sinful passions, Romans 7:5; Galatians 5:24. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 7:5 mean?

While for we were in the flesh the passions - of sins that [were] through the law were at work the members of us to the bringing forth of fruit - to death
ὅτε γὰρ ἦμεν ἐν τῇ σαρκί τὰ παθήματα τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τὰ διὰ τοῦ νόμου ἐνηργεῖτο τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν εἰς τὸ καρποφορῆσαι τῷ θανάτῳ

ὅτε  While 
Parse: Adverb
Root: ὅτε  
Sense: when whenever, while, as long as.
ἦμεν  we  were 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: εἰμί  
Sense: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
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.
παθήματα  passions 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: πάθημα  
Sense: that which one suffers or has suffered.
τῶν  - 
Parse: Article, Genitive Feminine Plural
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἁμαρτιῶν  of  sins 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Plural
Root: ἁμαρτία  
Sense: equivalent to 264.
τὰ  that  [were] 
Parse: Article, Nominative Neuter Plural
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
διὰ  through 
Parse: Preposition
Root: διά  
Sense: through.
νόμου  law 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
ἐνηργεῖτο  were  at  work 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Middle, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἐνεργέω  
Sense: to be operative, be at work, put forth power.
μέλεσιν  members 
Parse: Noun, Dative Neuter Plural
Root: μέλος  
Sense: a member, limb: a member of the human body.
ἡμῶν  of  us 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive 1st Person Plural
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
καρποφορῆσαι  bringing  forth  of  fruit 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Infinitive Active
Root: καρποφορέω  
Sense: to bear fruit.
τῷ  - 
Parse: Article, Dative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
θανάτῳ  to  death 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: θάνατος 
Sense: the death of the body.