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.But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.(Romans 7:7-12)
There is no problem with law, certainly not with God’s law nor with law as a principle. Law is good, God’s law is perfect and beautiful. So why do we need to be saved from it also?
The answer is because of what sin has done to damage humanity.Sin is more than an act, it is as we have stated before, a state of being, a dark principle of lawlessness and rebellion, it is the world of iniquity within us. Jesus said,
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.(Mark 7:20-23)
If only it were just a matter of receiving the right teaching, of right or wrong or how to live! That is one of the functions of LAw, it is the Torah, the teaching of the way to live and to worship, the ultimate teaching.
But we are more complex than that, and so is our malady. Law shows us what the ‘right way’ is, indeed, by God’s law we are enlightened, enriched, we learn the way to live. But we also learn that knowledge of right and wrong is not adequate in our inward battle.
Paul makes this point with the Tenth Commandment, Thou Shalt not Covet. This is a spiritual commandment, it deal not with behaviours, but desires. You Shall not want what God hasn’t given you. That means your neighbor’s wife, farm, place in life, whatever , you shouldn’t want it!
Furthermore you shouldn’t hate your neighbor for what He does have, knowing God is the one who apportioned it to him and not to you.
Paul is saying that before he learned that commandment, and the teaching of it, he didn’t think that much about lusts, wrong desires, and the dis-contentment that goes with it. But the Sin that was already latent in him was aroused as he pondered the Holy Commandment. Being told not to lust caused him to lust.
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.(Romans 7:8)
The problem is never law, but ultimately neither is law the solution to our sin problem.The problem is my heart an law can only reveal the depth of the problem. “Sin took occasion by the commandment…”, the Divine revelation of covetousness became the occasion for covetousness!
“I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died”. In other words, there was a time when Paul could live with himself, he saw himself as an upright God-fearing man.
“Without the law sin was dead”, This doesn’t mean it was inactive, it means that sin is not as roused , until the true, deep knowledge of the law comes unto us.
But when the revelation of the full extent of the Law of God came to Him, it crushed him. The revelation of the spirituality of the law, the scrutiny of the law of God upon our thoughts and intentions, the judgment of even our desires, motives and secrets of the heart, were too much for him, he knew he was a hopeless sinner!
This despair actually heightened and aroused Paul’s sinfulness, for we see Him in Acts 8 and 9 “breathing out threatenings and slaughters”, against the nascent church, hating, arresting and murdering disciples of Jesus. He was absolutely consumed with hatred and self-righteousness.
Ironically, the Law promises life to the one who keeps it, but by its function of exposing sin in its true hideousness, Law actually kills, because it condemns us..Law can reveal sin, but not eradicate it.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I [am] the LORD (Leviticus 18:5)
The Man that doeth them shall live- But a true understanding of God’s Law reveals that we don’t do them, at least not perfectly. Who could ever say they haven’t coveted?
Sin awakens by the exposition of the law. It takes on an energised existence, alternately deceiving us that knowledge of the Law is the same as conformity with it, and slaying us in cycles of sin, regret, guilt, resolve and then sin again. “The strength of sin is the law” as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15.
But thanks be to God, there is victory in Christ Jesus the Lord!