“For when we were in the flesh , the motions of sin, but by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”
In this verse Paul shows that believers are free from the condemnation of the Law and that the result of being under the Law is that we “bore fruit for death.”  Paul describes the pre-conversion days of the believers at Rome, when they were, “controlled by the sinful nature.”

            “For when we were in the flesh”– It was a time of agitation and conflict in a man’s own life. 

When the Law was applied to the corrupt mind of man it  produced this conflict and agitation and conflict.  Even in the Christian’s mind the Law produces this agitation.  This is the reason that so many Christians are in turmoil—mainly because of their mixing Law with Grace.  As Dr. M.R. Dehaan, Sr. often said, “To add anything to grace      (including the Law) is a disgrace.”  AMEN and AMEN Doctor!

          FOR WHEN:  (Grk.–hote gar)–The illustration in this verse, and the following, is to show at length the effect of the Law, whenever it is applied, whether in a state of nature or of grace. 

         “we were in the flesh”–That is,  In our unregenerate state; when we were carnally minded; that is, in a state of nature; before we believed in Christ.

          FLESH:  (Grk.–sarki)-In their natural state, with no ground for justification except obedience to the Law, and under the necessity of perfectly obeying it or suffering its curse.  This same sense as in verses 18, 25 and  in 6:19.     

The “flesh” is not inherently sinful, but it is subject to sin. This is what Paul means by being “under the law.”  His use of this term may have been determined by its O.T. use as it is used in the LXX (Septuagint).  Do not forget that the LXX was the Greek copy of the Law and O.T. used by the Jews in Paul’s day  The Greek word “sarx” is used  in various senses in the N.T. and LXX O.T.:
1.      To denote the physical sense:  The literal flesh.
2.      To denote kindred; natural or physical relationship
3.      To denote a tendency and appetite to sin, by which all men are affected.
4.      To denote the body itself.  To denote living beings generally: Including their mental nature,    and weakness.
However, “flesh” (sarx) was used by the classical Greek writers only in the physical sense. Homer commonly uses it in the plural sense, denoting all the flesh, or muscles of the body.

“the motions of sins
Better translated as: “The passions of sins.”–The KJV does not really not five a good translation of the Greek wording. The expression “motions of sins” does not convey a clear idea of what is really said.

         MOTIONS OF SIN:  (Grk.–pathēmata tōn hamartiōn)Literally:  passions of sins.” The expression, “passions of sins,” is a Hebraism, meaning “sinful passions; sinful desires,” and here refers to the corrupt desires and inclinations of the unregenerated heart. These “pathēmata” (desires; tendencies) constitute the fallen nature. 

The Greek word (pathēmata) means, “the passions; the evil affections; the corrupt desires.”   Notice that Paul uses the plural number, (the PASSIONS) or desires and tendencies of SINS being not more various than their tendencies in the unregenerate heart. 

“which were by the Law”
Literally: “Through the Law.”–Not that they were originated or created by the Law; for a law does not originate evil desires; and a holy Law would not cause sinful passions; but they were excited, called up, inflamed by the Law, which forbids their indulgence. 

            “did work in our members”
            Literally: “Working in our members.” Working in our body; that is, in us; spreading themselves all over the whole man.

Those sinful desires and tendencies made use of our members as instruments to secure gratification (comp. verse 23).  They seized the control of our bodily organs, and made us sin so as to be subject to the penalty of death (see 6:21; also James 1:15).

“to bring forth fruit unto death”
Literally:  “For the bearing of fruit unto death.”  To produce crime, agitation, conflict, distress, and to lead to
death. We were brought under the dominion of death; and the working for
death. .

         BRING FORTH FRUIT UNTO DEATH:  (Grk.–karpophorēsai tōi thantōi)–Literally:“bearing of fruit to death”–By this Paul is referring to the condemnation that comes as a result of sin (see 6:23).

The Jewish view regarding the Law was that it helps to prevent people from sinning; but Paul says that the contrary is true; that the Law did in fact aid and abet sin. The strict requirements of the Law and its awful threatening, instead of leading them to love and it, these requirements were the real cause of exciting greater hatred against it and more violent rebellion.  In the language of the Holy Spirit,  they were “bringing forth fruit unto death.”

“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.”
In this verse Paul begins to restate and elaborate on his discussion of verses 3-5; he does this by  hammering home to them the idea that believers have died to sin.

            “But now”–In your new condition. Paul is speaking of the consequences of the gospel, as it contrasts with the effects of the Law.

           BUT NOW:  (Grk.–nuni de)—In our new condition. Now we are under the Gospel  This verse states the consequences of the gospel, in distinction from the effects of the Law.

            “we are delivered from the Law”
            Literally:  “We have been freed from the Law.”–The KJV translation here is faulty. 

            DELIVERED:  (Grk.–katergethemen)–This Greek word that is here translated as “delivered/freed” is the same word that is rendered as “loosed” in v. 2.  We were freed so as “to” (not “should”) do service in “newness of {the} Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

            Not as a just measure of obligation, but as a Ground of Justification, and from liability to suffer its curse. That being dead. “being dead to that,” is much to be the preferred rendering. It is a repetition of the idea that they are dead to the Law, as Paul tells in verse 4; that we should serve in newness of spirit; serve God not in external form merely, or from slavish fear, but in spirit and in truth, from love to God and His laws.
            Christians, who have seen that by the works of the Law we cannot be justified, have given up dependence on obedience to it, and are trusting in the atonement and righteousness of
Christ for salvation. We have been delivered from it as a Means of Justification, as a source of sanctification, as a bondage to which we were subjected, and which tended to produce pain and
death. .  It does not mean that Christians are freed from it as a rule of duty.
           We, who have believed in Christ Jesus, are delivered from that yoke by which we were bound, which sentenced every transgressor to perdition, but provided no pardon even for the penitent, and no sanctification for those who are weary of their inbred corruptions.

“that being dead”
Literally:  “Having died {to that}”–We are dead to the Law, is expressed in v. 4. The bond which bound us is
dead, and has disappeared, in as much that the sin which held us does not have anything to hold us with now.

            “wherein we were held”
            Literally: “in which we were held–Have been held as
captives, or as slaves. Held down.

We were held in bondage to it (v. 1). To our “old husband;” the Law. To us believers in Christ this commandment has been cancelled.  We are transferred to another constitution; that law which kills ceases to bind us. It is dead to us who have believed in Christ Jesus, who is the End (purpose) of the Law for justification and salvation to everyone that believes.         

“that we should serve”–Literally:  “So as to serve” or obey God We are now brought unde a spiritual dispensation so that now we know the spiritual import of all the Mosaic precepts. We can now see that the Law referred to the Gospel, and can only be fulfilled by the Gospel.

Here are wonderful paradoxes of the Gospel:  in v. 4, having died, they bring fruit; and here, having been discharged, they serve to (bring forth fruit).

“in newness of spirit”–In a new spirit; or in a new and Spiritual manner. This is a form of expression implying:
1.     That their service under the Gospel was to be of a new kind, differing from that under the former dispensation.
2.     That it was to be of a spiritual nature, as distinguished from that practiced by the Jews (comp. II Cor. 3:6).

This service of Christ is the new service of those living new lives. It is a spiritual service: “God must be worshiped in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  God’s law under the New Covenant is “written in the hearts” (Heb. 8:10); hence it is not a bondage, but a free, willing service. 

             NEWNESS:  (Grk.–kainos)–The Greeks had two words for “new:” 
1.     neos, which means, “that which is new in regard to the time in which it has been in existence;” and,
2.     kainos, which means, “that which is new as to quality, as set over against that which has seen service. Or marred through age.”  
Paul uses the second word  (kainos)  here to show that God’s new plan is better and replaces the old Mosaic Law.

            “and not in the oldness of the letter”
            Literally:   “And not {in} oldness of letter.”  Serve God, but not in the letter of the Law.

             OLDNESS:  (Grk.–palaois)–The Greeks had two words for “old:”
1.      archaois, which means, “that which is old in point of time,” and,
palaois, which means, “that which is old in point of use, worn out, useless.”
Paul uses the second word,
(palaois) to show that the old Law that was repealed at the Cross was looked upon as worn out and useless so it needed to be set aside and replaced by something better.

          LETTER:  (Grk.–gramma)–This Greek word was used of a bond, document, or a letter one writes.  Here it refers to the written Law of God as found in the O.T. (TANAKH).

The merely literal rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices are now done away; and the newness of the spirit, the true intent and meaning of all are now fully disclosed; so that we have gone from an imperfect state into a state of perfection and excellence.  We formerly sought justification and sanctification, pardon and holiness, by the Law, and have found that the Law could not give them.   Now we have sought these in the Gospel scheme, and we have found them.  We serve God now, not according to the old literal sense, but in the true spiritual meaning.

“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, they shalt not covet.”
Before beginning the study of his great struggle, Paul let us get it firmly settled in our minds that he is not so much concerned about pardon, as he is about deliverance.  This entire question is centered around indwelling sin as a power; and not committed sins as a danger.

            “What shall we say then?”–The objection brought out is one that would naturally rise, and which we may suppose would be urged with no slight indignation.

The Jew might ask, “Are we now to think that the holy law of God is not only insufficient to sanctify us, but that it is the mere occasion of increased sin? Or is its tendency to produce sinful passions, and to make men worse than they were before?”  In answering this objection Paul shows that the evil was not in the Law, but in man  himself and that though these effects often followed, yet the Law of itself was good and pure.

            “Is the law sin?”
            Literally:  {is} the Law sin?”
Is it sinful?  “Are you telling us that Law is evil? “

          This might be the argument that Paul’s enemies would come up with. For if, as it is said in verse 5, the sinful passions were by the law, it might naturally be asked whether the Law itself was an evil thing?  In verse 5 Paul intimates that the Law was the occasion of sin. Does he mean that the Law was in itself sinful? This thought he indignantly repels.
          Another way Paul’s detractors might ask: “Is the Law answerable for sin because no one can be justified by it, and because it is made the occasion of increasing the wickedness of those who would break it.” This is an important question in view of what Paul has just taught.  Some people today oppose all inhibitions and prohibitions because they stimulate violations, but that is simply half-baked thinking; or rather, a lack of thinking.

“God forbid”
Literally:  “Let this not be.” May it not be.”–That is, “Let it not be; by no means; far from it; let not such a thing be mentioned!”  Here is that Greek phrase again. This is really an  expression of horror (see notes on 3:4).

Law is only the means of exposing our sinful tendencies, not of producing it, just as a bright beam of the sun shining into a room shows millions of motes which appear to be dancing in the air in all directions; but these were not introduced by the light: they were there before the light came, only there was not light enough to expose them; so our evil desires and tendencies were there before, but there was no light (the Law) to point it out.

            Nay, I had not known sin,”
            Literally:  “but I did not know sin”– Or as we might say it,  “I was not conscious of sin.”

            Therefore, at the same time, the Law must be admitted to be the instrument of exciting sinful feelings, by crossing the inclinations of the mind, yet the fault was not to be traced to the Law itself.. Paul in these verses refers, doubtless, to the state of his mind before he found that peace which the gospel furnishes by the pardon of sin.

            Paul is saying that, evil desire. things  “I had not known it to be sin; nay, perhaps I would not have known that any such desire was in me: it did not appear mattering to me, till it was stirred up by the prohibition brought on by the Law.  I had not known desire (lust or covetousness), except the Law had said, “Thou shalt not desire.”  But the moment that command came, the sin that was already in my heart took the command as an instrument to stir up within me every kind of desire.  I then thought of a thousand things which I wanted and I longed for them now that they were forbidden.  The heart is nothing but a nest of selfish desires, and against every one of these the command says “NO!”

             NAY: (Grk.–alla)—This Greek word translated as “nay” would have better been translated as “but.”  This would have more correctly expressed the sense, “I deny that the law is sin. My doctrine does not lead to that; nor do I affirm that it is evil. I strongly repel the charge; BUT, I still maintain that it had an effect in exciting sins, yet so as that I perceived that the law itself was good,” (vv. 8-12).

            “but by the Law”
            Literally: “Except through Law.” The restraints of the Law brought to his knowledge his own sinful nature.

            Paul is describing his own experiences (before his salvation) when seeking the righteousness of the Law, and he describes those of his own human nature. The experiences here given are his own, but what he says about himself is also applicable to all men. The experiences are those of Saul of Tarsus, not those of Paul the apostle.   He was not merely abstractly acquainted with the nature and existence of sin, with what constituted crime because it was forbidden, but he was conscious of a certain effect on his own mind resulting from this knowledge, and from the effect of strong, raging desires when thus restrained (vv. 8-9).        
            By the Law here, Paul has evidently in mind every law of God however made known (see 3:20). He means to say that the effect which he describes attends all law, and this effect he illustrates by a single instance drawn from the Tenth Commandment.

“For I had not known lust”
Literally: “For also I did not know lust.”–Meaning the greedy desire for the possessions of others. . When he says that he should not have known sin, he evidently means that he had not understood that certain things were sinful until they had been forbidden; and having stated this, he goes on  to show the effect on his mind of their being forbidden

            Paul is saying that he really did not become acquainted with the nature of the sin of covetousness, or even that covetousness of itself was a sin until the Law pointed it out to be such.  The desire might have existed, but he did not known it to be sinful, and he would not have experienced that raging, impetuous, and ungoverned desires which he did when he found it to be forbidden.
            Man without law might have the strong feelings of desire. He might covet that which others possessed. He might take property, or be disobedient to parents; but he would not know it to be evil with Law telling him it is wrong.. The Law imposes bounds to man’s desires, and teaches him what is right and what is wrong, and teaches him where lawful indulgence ends, and where sin begins.

             LUST:  (Grk.–epithumia)—Literally:  “coveting.”  This word  is not as limited in the Greek as it is with us. It refers to all covetous desires; to all wishes for that which is forbidden us.

            Here the same Greek word  (epithumia)  is unfortunately rendered by three different English ones—“lust; covet; concupiscence” (v. 8) –which really obscure its real meaning. By using the word “lust” only, in the wide sense of all “irregular desire,” or every outgoing of the heart towards anything forbidden, the sense will best be brought out; thus, “For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust; But sin, taking (‘having taken’) occasion by the commandment (that one which forbids it), wrought in me all manner of lusting.” This gives a deeper view of the Tenth Commandment–“Thou shalt not covet…” than the mere word suggests.
            Paul saw in it the prohibition not only of desire after certain things there specified, but of “desire after everything divinely forbidden”; in other words, all “lusting” or "irregular desire." It was this which he had not known but by the Law. The Law forbidding all such desire so stirred his corruption that it brought out in him “all manner of lusting”–desire of every sort after what was forbidden.
            The Law, of itself
is neither sin, nor the cause of sin. It is that men, with their sinful natures, turn law into an occasion for sinful acts. Paul is saying that he had not known evil desires to be a sin; or perhaps he should not have known that any such desire was in him.  These did not appear till it was stirred up by the prohibition.

“except the law had said”–Meaning, in the Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17. “Thou shalt not covet”--This is the beginning of the command, and all the rest is implied.

Paul knew that it would be understood without repeating the whole. This particular commandment he selected because it was more pertinent than the others to his purpose because the others referred mainly to external actions. But his main object was to show the effect of sin on the mind and conscience so he chose the  one that referred particularly to the desires of the heart.