Romans 7:7-8 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 7:7
  • Romans 7:8

The law is not sin, but it shows us our sin. More rules always means more lawlessness, not more morality. The law gives our sin nature more opportunities to rebel.

Paul is writing Romans as a defense of his gospel message against competing Jewish “authorities” in Rome at that time. These “authorities” accused Paul (3:8) of saying that, if God’s grace increases if we sin, then sinning is a good thing. In verse 7, Paul is suggesting that these “authorities” might also accuse him of saying that the law is sin, because Paul just told his audience that sin is aroused by the law (verse 5).

He quickly explains that the law is not sin, but that it shows us our sin. He points this out by explaining that he would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET” (Deuteronomy 5:12)—which means it is a sin to desire what doesn’t belong to us and that we should not do it—then Paul would have never known that craving something that belonged to someone else was wrong. Paul explains that he would not have come to know sin except through the Law. He goes on to explain that the law gives sin the opportunity to do what we were told not to do, and that sin desiring to break the law is the reason Paul experiences cravings of every type. Sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. 

So, without the law telling us what to do, sin does not have the chance to do something outside of the law, apart from the Law sin is dead. If a child was never told that they could not take cookies from the jar, then taking those cookies would not be wrong. However, if the child was told not to take those cookies then each time they took a cookie it would be wrong. This is why Paul tells the audience that apart from the law, sin is dead.

Biblical text

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 

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