Romans 7:13-14 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 7:13
  • Romans 7:14

The perfection of the law makes our sin very clear, just as any dirt in a glass of clear water would be easy to see. But the water is not the problem, the dirt is. In this same way, sin is the problem, not the law. Our sin nature is shown more clearly because it is carnal, it leads the flesh into sin, whereas the law is perfect and of the spirit.

Paul is hammering the point home, that it is not the law that causes separation (death), but it is sin. For example, let’s say that two people decided to get married and make vows to each other, “Till death do us part.” If one of those people leaves the other person for another partner, it is not the vow (or the commandment) of their marriage that is to blame for the person separating. If someone leaves their married partner for another, their marriage vow makes that sin very clear and “utterly sinful.” Paul is explaining that it is not the law that causes separation (death), that which is good did not become a cause of death for [Paul] . But that the law, because we are sinful and cannot follow it, shows our sin more clearly. In the same way, if someone makes a promise and does not keep it, that promise shows their sin all the more clearly. Through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful, the truth of sin bringing death was revealed.

In verse 14, Paul restates that the law is spiritual, good, and righteous, and he is of flesh (carnal), sold into bondage to sin. His sin nature leads him to sin with his body. Because Paul is of the flesh (as everyone is) and the law is holy and righteous, Paul cannot follow the law. That doesn’t make the law bad, but it reveals Paul’s sin nature. The law shows that it is sin effecting (bringing) death. 

Biblical Text

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 

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