Calvin On Romans 7: Paul Writes About The Believer’s Struggle With Sin

Paul begins now to make a closer comparison between the law and the nature of man, in order that the origin of the wickedness which leads to death may be more clearly understood. He then sets before us the example of a regenerate man, in whom the remains of the flesh dissent from the law of the Lord in such a way that the spirit would gladly obey it.

Sold under sin. By this expression Paul shows the strength which sin has in itself. By nature man is no less a slave to sin, then the bondmen whom their masters buy and ill-treat at will, as if they were oxen or asses. You are so completely driven by the power of sin, that our whole mind, our whole heart, and all our actions are inclined to sin. Compulsion I always exclude, for the sin of our own free will. It would not be sin if it were not voluntary. We are, however, so addicted to sin, that we can do nothing of our own accord but sin….

15. For that which I do I know not. And now comes to a more particular example of a man who has already been regenerated. In this man the two objects of Paul’s attention appear more clearly, viz. the great difference which exists between the law of God and the nature of man, and the impossibility of the law of its self producing death….

For the purpose, therefore, of understanding the whole of this argument with more certainty and fidelity, it should be noted that this conflict mentioned by the apostle does not exist in man until he has been sanctified by the spirit of God.

There is, therefore, this difference between them and believers. Believers are never so blinded and hardened in their minds as not to come down their crimes when they are reminded of them in the judgment of their own conscience….

Among the godly, on the other hand, the regeneration of God has been begun. They are so divided, however, that although they aspire to God with a special desire of their hearts, seek heavenly righteousness, and hate sin, they are drawn back again to the earth by the remnant of their flesh. Accordingly, in this state of distraction they fight against their own nature and feel their own nature fighting against them. They condemn their sins, not only because they are compelled by the judgment of reason, but because they abhor them with genuine feeling of the heart and detest their conduct in committing sin. This is the Christian warfare between flesh and spirit, of which Paul speaks in Gal. 5.17….

We may do dues from this what we stated previously, that Paul is here speaking of believers. Some grace of the Spirit exists in them, which illustrates the agreement between a sound mind and the righteousness of the law, because the flesh does not hate sin.

John Calvin | The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, trans. Ross MacKenzie, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), 146–47, 148, 149, 150.


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