Why do I ask? Because some people take it to mean that we are permitted to continue in sin after we turn to Christ. But nothing could be further from the truth. Before we arrive at this Chapter, St. Paul has already said:
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Here’s what Romans 7:25 says:
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
You can see how people who follow Sola Scriptura can make this mistake. Without the guidance of the Church to tell them that there is a law of sin, called concupiscence, in every man’s nature. And that concupiscense is at war with our mind and soul, seeking to tempt us to commit sin, they fall into a literal reading and understanding which destroys the meaning of the Word of God. That is, again, why Scripture says:
2 Corinthians 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
So, without further ado, let’s proceed to break down the entire chapter and a bit of Romans 8, to boot, just to ensure we have enough context.
Romans 7 King James Version (KJV)
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Don’t you know, brothers, and I’m speaking to the Jews, because they know the Law, that the Law has power over a man, as long as that man lives?
St. Paul is talking about the Law of Moses.
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the Law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the Law of her husband.
Let’s look at it this way. A man is married to the Law as a woman is married to a man. As long as the man lives, she is bound to him. But when he dies, she is loosed from him.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
While he lives, she may not marry anyone else, or she commits sin. But if he dies, she is free to marry anyone else without committing sin.
So, as long as the Law was in force, the Jew was bound to it. He could not belong to another Faith or Religion. But when the Law passed away, the Jew was no longer bound to it.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Now then, my Jewish brothers, you are dead to the law through the Body of Christ.
Ok, what does that mean? Remember, the Jews were married to the law. But Christ fulfilled the law, in His Body, when He was sacrificed for their sins. (We’re talking about the Jews, right now. Christ died for all men’s sins. But lets focus on the Jews.)
When Christ fulfilled the law, the law passed away. It was no longer in force. So, the law had died. The Jew is now free to be bound to another Law. The Law of Christ.
So, why does St. Paul say that the Jew had died to the Law? Because, in order to become a Christian, we must be baptized. And being baptized, we die with Christ in order to be reborn in His image.
5 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.
Remember that St. Paul is speaking to former Jews. And he is also a former Jew. That is why he says, “we”.
Let’s break it down:
When we were in the flesh - meaning, before dying with Christ in Baptism.
The motions of sin - Concupiscence, temptations.
Which were by the law - according to the Law or which were revealed in the Law.
Did work in our members to bring for fruit unto death - were moving us to commit sin and thus to destroy our souls.
So, in other words, “Before we were Christians, while we were still under the Law, we were tempted to violate the Commandments of God. These temptations of the flesh, if we acted upon them, would cause us to sin and thus to lose our salvation.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
But now we are delivered from the law - For us, the Law is no longer valid.
that being dead wherein we were held; - when we were in the flesh, we were dead to the Spirit.
that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. - But now, we are alive in the Spirit because by the grace of God, we have overcome sin.
7 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.
Am I saying that the Law of Moses was sinful? By God, I would never say such a thing. Because without the Law, I would never have known that I was committing sins. Unless the Law had told me that coveting a woman was a sin, I would not know that lust was sinful.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
A man does not commit sins if he does not know that they are sins. But after I learned what was sin by the Commandments, I was still tempted to sin.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
When I was young, I did not know about the Law and I committed no sin. But when I learned the Commandments, I was no longer free to do all that I wanted.
He is speaking here, of the age of reason. Let me give you an example. My Father in Law, God rest his soul, was a wonderful man, but when he lived with us, he cussed all the time. My daughter’s first words were some of his choicest selections. And everyone thought it was cute.
But, if she had continued speaking like that when she was older, she would have had her mouth washed with soap.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
Therefore, although the Commandments were intended for my freedom, I felt constrained.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Because sin tempted me and lured me and I could not resist.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
So, the Commandment is good and holy and intended for our good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
So, then, did the Commandment cause me to sin? No! But, although the Commandment identified the sins and forbid them, I could not resist.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Because the Law is of God, but I am a man, a son of Adam, with original sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
The result is that I do things which I don’t want to do because they are sinful. And when I want to do good, I don’t. I wind up doing what I don’t want to do.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
And that is evidence that the Law is good. Because I want to keep the Law, but I can’t.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
So, when I sin, I don’t do it intentionally.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
But concupiscence and temptations dwell in my flesh and I don’t know how to overcome them.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
And therefore, I find myself committing sins, unintentionally.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
So, if I commit unintentional sins, it is because of my fallen nature.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
So, there is another law that is in my flesh, which prevents me from obeying God’s Law.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Because in my heart, I love God’s Law.
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
But the law of Original Sin keeps me captive to the temptations of my flesh.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
O poor me! How shall I be saved from these temptations to sin?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. - This is a word-play reference to the Eucharist. Eucharist means “thanksgiving” and is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. When one consumes the Eucharist in a worthy manner, he gives thanks to God through the Body of Christ.
So, I thank God, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, because even though I do my best to do good, I find myself committing unintended sins. But in His Sacraments, I receive the grace to do His will.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
It follows that there is no law against those who are one with Christ, who seek to avoid sin and do good in accordance with the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Because the requirements of the Law of Christ have freed me from the law of sin in my flesh.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
The Law of Moses could not remove sins from the flesh. But God sent His own Son, in the appearance of a sinful man, in order that He would destroy sin, in the flesh.
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Thus giving us the grace to overcome sin and obey God’s Laws.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Those that pine after the deeds of the flesh are dead. But those who live according to the Spirit are alive.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Those who seek to do the sins of the flesh will die. But those who seek to do the deeds of the Spirit, will live.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Because the flesh is against God and will not submit to His law.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
So, all who live according to the temptations of the flesh will be condemned.
Essentially then, this whole treatise is summarized in Rev 22:13-15:
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
In Romans 7:25, St. Paul is merely teaching us about the existence of the phenomenon of concupiscence. And emphasizing that it is only through Jesus Christ and He in the Holy Eucharist, that we can receive the strength to overcome these temptations.