The Meaning of Romans 7:7 Explained

Romans 7:7

KJV: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

YLT: What, then, shall we say? the law is sin? let it not be! but the sin I did not know except through law, for also the covetousness I had not known if the law had not said:

Darby: What shall we say then? is the law sin? Far be the thought. But I had not known sin, unless by law: for I had not had conscience also of lust unless the law had said, Thou shalt not lust;

ASV: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:

What does Romans 7:7 Mean?

Study Notes

Sin, Summary: The literal meanings of the Heb. and (Greek - ἀλεκτοροφωνία sin," "sinner," etc)., disclose the true nature of sin in its manifold manifestations. Sin is transgression, an overstepping of the law, the divine boundary between good and evil Psalms 51:1 ; Luke 15:29 , iniquity, an act inherently wrong, whether expressly forbidden or not; error, a departure from right; Psalms 51:9 ; Romans 3:23 , missing the mark, a failure to meet the divine standard; trespass, the intrusion of self-will into the sphere of divine authority Ephesians 2:1 , lawlessness, or spiritual anarchy 1 Timothy 1:9 , unbelief, or an insult to the divine veracity John 16:9 .
Sin originated with Satan Isaiah 14:12-14 , entered the world through Adam Romans 5:12 , was, and is, universal, Christ alone excepted; Romans 3:23 ; 1 Peter 2:22 , incurs the penalties of spiritual and physical death; Genesis 2:17 ; Genesis 3:19 ; Ezekiel 18:4 ; Ezekiel 18:20 ; Romans 6:23 and has no remedy but in the sacrificial death of Christ; Hebrews 9:26 ; Acts 4:12 availed of by faith Acts 13:38 ; Acts 13:39 . Sin may be summarized as threefold: An act, the violation of, or want of obedience to the revealed will of God; a state, absence of righteousness; a nature, enmity toward God.

Verse Meaning

Paul"s example of the Law, the tenth commandment, clarifies that by "the Law" he was not referring to the whole Old Testament. He meant the Mosaic Law and particularly the moral part of it, namely, the Ten Commandments. Reformed theologians like to distinguish the moral from the ceremonial parts of the Mosaic Law at this point. Many of them contend that God has only terminated the ceremonial part of the Law. [1] However here Paul, arguing that the Christian is dead to the Law, used one of the Ten Commandments as an example of the Law. He was not saying, however, that immoral behavior is all right for the Christian (cf. Romans 8:4).
Paul"s use of "sin" in this paragraph shows that he was thinking of sin as a force within everyone, our sinful human nature. He was not thinking of an act of sin. It is that force or sin principle that the Law"s prohibitions and requirements arouse. The basic meaning of the Greek word translated "sin" (hamartia) is "falling short." We see that we fall short of what God requires when we become aware of His laws.
"The Law is a mirror that reveals the inner man and shows us how dirty we are ( James 1:22-25)." [2]
The demands of the Law, in this case, "Thou shalt not covet," make us consciously aware of our sin. Probably Paul selected the tenth commandment for his illustration because it deals with desires (i.e, illicit desires of every kind). Our desires are the roots of our actions. The tenth commandment is also the most convicting commandment. Everyone who is honest would have to admit that he or she has broken it.

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 7:7

Is the law sin? [ο νομος αμαρτια]
A pertinent query in view of what he had said. Some people today oppose all inhibitions and prohibitions because they stimulate violations. That is half-baked thinking. [source]
I had not known sin [την αμαρτιαν ουκ εγνων]
Second aorist indicative of γινωσκω — ginōskō to know. It is a conclusion of a second class condition, determined as unfulfilled. Usually αν — an is used in the conclusion to make it plain that it is second class condition instead of first class, but occasionally it is not employed when it is plain enough without as here (John 16:22, John 16:24). See note on Galatians 4:15. So as to I had not known coveting (lust), epithumian ouk ēidein But all the same the law is not itself sin nor the cause of sin. Men with their sinful natures turn law into an occasion for sinful acts. [source]
I had not known coveting [lust)]
(lust), epithumian ouk ēidein But all the same the law is not itself sin nor the cause of sin. Men with their sinful natures turn law into an occasion for sinful acts. [source]
I had not known [οὐκ ἔγνων]
Rev., correctly, I did not know. See on John 2:24. The I refers to Paul himself. He speaks in the first person, declaring concerning himself what is meant to apply to every man placed under the Mosaic law, as respects his relation to that law, before and after the revolution in his inner life brought about through his connection with that law. His personal experience is not excluded, but represents the universal experience. [source]
Lust [ἐπιθυμίαν]
Rev., coveting. See on Mark 4:19. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 7:7

Romans 5:20 Might abound [πλεονάσῃ]
Not primarily of the greater consciousness and acknowledgment of sin, but of the increase of actual transgression. The other thought, however, may be included. See Romans 7:7, Romans 7:8, Romans 7:9, Romans 7:11. [source]
Romans 4:1 What shall we say? [τι ἐροῦμεν]
See Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7; Romans 8:31; Romans 9:14, Romans 9:30. The phrase anticipates an objection or proposes an inference. It is used by Paul only, and by him only in this Epistle and in its argumentative portions. It is not found in the last five chapters, which are hortatory. [source]
Romans 4:1 What then shall we say? [τι ουν ερουμεν]
Paul is fond of this rhetorical question (Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7; Romans 8:31; Romans 9:14, Romans 9:30). [source]
Romans 7:12 Holy, and righteous, and good [αγια και δικαια και αγατη]
This is the conclusion (wherefore, ωστε — hōste) to the query in Romans 7:7. The commandment is God‘s and so holy like Him, just in its requirements and designed for our good. The modern revolt against law needs these words. [source]
Romans 5:20 That the trespass might abound [ινα πλεονασηι το παραπτωμα]
It is usual to explain ινα — hina here as final, as God‘s ultimate purpose. So Denney who refers to Galatians 3:19.; Romans 7:7. But Chrysostom explains ινα — hina here as εκβασις — ekbasis (result). This is a proper use of ινα — hina in the Koiné{[28928]}š as we have seen. If we take it so here, the meaning is “so that the trespass abounded” (aorist active subjunctive of πλεονασω — pleonasō late verb, see note on 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 8:15). This was the actual effect of the Mosaic law for the Jews, the necessary result of all prohibitions. Did abound more exceedingly (υπερεπερισσευσεν — hupereperisseusen). First aorist active indicative of υπερπερισσευω — huperperisseuō Late verb, in N.T. only here and 2 Corinthians 7:4 which see. A strong word. If πλεοναζω — pleonazō is comparative (πλεον — pleon) περισσευω — perisseuō is superlative (Lightfoot) and then υπερπερισσευω — huperperisseuō goes the superlative one better. See υπερπλεοναζω — huperpleonazō in 1 Timothy 1:14. The flood of grace surpassed the flood of sin, great as that was (and is). [source]
2 Corinthians 3:9 Ministration of condemnation []
Because Moses was the minister of the law. For the relation of the law to sin and condemnation, see Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7-13. [source]
Galatians 4:15 Ye would have plucked out your eves and given them to me [τους οπταλμους υμων εχορυχαντες εδωκατε μοι]
This is the conclusion of a condition of the second class without αν — an expressed which would have made it clearer. But see John 16:22, John 16:24; Romans 7:7 for similar examples where the context makes it plain without αν — an It is strong language and is saved from hyperbole by “if possible” Did Paul not have at this time serious eye trouble? [source]
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in His flesh the enmity [τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ καταργήσας]
The enmity immediately follows the middle wall of partition, and should be rendered in apposition with and as defining it, and as dependent on brake down, not on abolished: the middle wall which was the enmity. It is used abstractly, as peace in Ephesians 2:14. The enmity was the result and working of the law regarded as a separative system; as it separated Jew from Gentile, and both from God. See Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7-11. For abolished, see on cumbereth, Luke 13:7, and make without effect, see on Romans 3:3. [source]
1 Thessalonians 4:5 Not in the lust of concupiscence [μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας]
Lit. in passion of desire. Not with avaricious greed. For ἐπιθυμία see on Mark 4:19. Its meaning is by no means limited to sensual lust; see, for instance, Luke 22:15. It is used as including all kinds of worldly desires, as Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24; 1 John 2:17. In Romans 7:7, especially of covetousness. [source]
Hebrews 1:6 And again, when he bringeth in, etc. [ὅταν δὲ πάλιν εἰσαγάγῃ]
Const. again with bringeth in. “When he a second time bringeth the first-begotten into the world.” Referring to the second coming of Christ. Others explain again as introducing a new citation as in Hebrews 1:5; but this would require the reading πάλιν δὲ ὅταν andagain, when. In Hebrews, πάλιν , when joined to a verb, always means a second time. See Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 6:1, Hebrews 6:2. It will be observed that in this verse, and in Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 5:8, God is conceived as spoken of rather than as speaking; the subject of λέγει saithbeing indefinite. This mode of introducing citations differs from that of Paul. The author's conception of the inspiration of Scripture leads him to regard all utterances of Scripture, without regard to their connection, as distinct utterances of God, or the Holy Spirit, or the Son of God; whereas, by Paul, they are designated either as utterances of Scripture in general, or of individual writers. Very common in this Epistle are the expressions, “God saith, said, spake, testifieth,” or the like. See Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 2:13; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 4:4, Hebrews 4:7; Hebrews 7:21; Hebrews 10:5, Hebrews 10:8, Hebrews 10:15, Hebrews 10:30. Comp. with these Romans 1:17; Romans 2:24; Romans 4:17; Romans 7:7; Romans 9:13; Romans 10:5, Romans 10:16, Romans 10:20, Romans 10:21; Romans 11:2. Ὅταν εἰσαγάγῃ wheneverhe shall have brought. The event is conceived as occurring at an indefinite time in the future, but is viewed as complete. Comp. John 16:4; Acts 24:22. This use of ὅταν with the aorist subjunctive never describes an event or series of events as completed in the past. [source]
James 1:14 When he is drawn away by his own lust [υπο της ιδιας επιτυμιας εχελκομενος]
Επιτυμια — Epithumia is old word for craving (from επιτυμεω — epithumeō to have a desire for) either good (Philemon 1:23) or evil (Romans 7:7) as here. Like a fish drawn out from his retreat. [source]
James 1:16 Be not deceived [μη πλαναστε]
Prohibition with μη — mē and the present passive imperative of πλαναω — planaō common verb to lead astray. This is the way of sin to deceive and to kill (Romans 7:7-14). The devil is a pastmaster at blinding men‘s eyes about sin (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 1:27; Ephesians 4:14; etc.). [source]
2 Peter 2:21 It were better [κρειττον ην]
Apodosis of a condition of second class without αν — an as is usual with clauses of possibility, propriety, obligation (Matthew 26:24; 1 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 7:7; Hebrews 9:26). [source]

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

What then shall we say [Is] the law sin Never may it be But - sin not I have known if not by law - then for covetousness I had been conscious of the had said you shall covet
Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν νόμος ἁμαρτία μὴ γένοιτο ἀλλὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔγνων εἰ μὴ διὰ νόμου τήν τε γὰρ ἐπιθυμίαν ᾔδειν ἔλεγεν ἐπιθυμήσεις

ἐροῦμεν  shall  we  say 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to utter, speak, say.
  [Is]  the 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
νόμος  law 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
ἁμαρτία  sin 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: ἁμαρτία  
Sense: equivalent to 264.
μὴ  Never 
Parse: Adverb
Root: μή 
Sense: no, not lest.
γένοιτο  may  it  be 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Optative Middle, 3rd Person Singular
Root: γίνομαι  
Sense: to become, i.
τὴν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Feminine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἁμαρτίαν  sin 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἁμαρτία  
Sense: equivalent to 264.
ἔγνων  I  have  known 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: γινώσκω  
Sense: to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel.
νόμου  law 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: νόμος  
Sense: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
τήν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Feminine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἐπιθυμίαν  covetousness 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἐπιθυμία  
Sense: desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.
ᾔδειν  I  had  been  conscious  of 
Parse: Verb, Pluperfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: οἶδα  
Sense: to see.
ἔλεγεν  had  said 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
ἐπιθυμήσεις  you  shall  covet 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: ἐπιθυμέω  
Sense: to turn upon a thing.