Summary: The Bible teaches we are sinners by nature from when we are born, but we also become sinners by choice when we choose to break the rules and that's when we are held accountable.
Have you reached the age of accountability? As you are reading through Romans, and as we’re doing it verse after verse, sometimes it gets a little confusing because we forget that the apostle Paul is like a brilliant attorney and he’s developing an argument, and the argument develops over 3 or 4 chapters. Sometimes when you hear lawyers today, you must think they’re really smart because you can’t understand what they are saying! Sometimes it’s a little confusing to read what Paul is saying, unless you keep it in the entire context. In Chapter 7 he’s talking about the law. He uses the word ‘law’ 28 times–and when we’re using the word law, we’re talking about the Old Testament.
Last week we learned about how before a person becomes a Christian it’s like they are “married to the law.” Remember Mr. Law is a tough husband because he demands perfection–he never forgives. Christians have been released and delivered from the law and we have a wonderful union with Jesus that is like a marriage. Today we are going to talk about a person who is still dominated by the law, controlled by sin. This is the passage where Paul says, “The things I want to do I don’t do, and the things I don’t want to do, I find myself doing them.” So this whole chapter is how we relate to the law.
Let’s begin reading in Chapter 7, verse 7:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Well, certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what it was to covet if the law had not said, ‘do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me and put me to death. So then, the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”
The problem we have is not with God’s law. God’s law is perfect–there is no fault there–the problem is no one of us can live up to it. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “To an ugly man, every mirror is an enemy!” Now the problem is not with the mirror, it’s with the man! And the problem with the word of God is not with the word, it’s with us, because this Bible is like a mirror, and whenever we look into this mirror of the law of God, we see reflected every blemish, every stain, every blur upon our character, and we realize we cannot live up to God’s standards. That’s what Paul is talking about here. So in this passage, I think we can discover three spiritual conditions and everybody in this room is in one of these three spiritual conditions this morning.
Three spiritual conditions:
I. SAFE–A CHILD IS INNOCENT UNTIL HE RECOGNIZES THE LAW
A child is innocent until they recognize the law, meaning the difference between right and wrong. You say, “I’ve heard that term, ‘age of accountability’ before, where do you get that?” Well, we actually get it from Romans 7:9. Paul says, “there was a time when I was experiencing spiritual life because I was not aware of the law. But when the commandment (or the law) came (in other words when he received and understood it) sin sprang to life, and I died!”
Have you ever wondered what happens to a child when they die? What happens to newborns or 2 or 3-year-olds? I believe, and we as Baptists generally believe, that a little child like that who dies is safe. They don’t have to be saved because they’ve never been lost–they’re simply safe in the arms of Jesus and the soul and spirit of those children immediately goes to be with Jesus as if they were a born again Christian. You know why? Because they have not reached the age of accountability.
My sister is a Catholic Christian. She married a Catholic Christian and so she converted over to Catholicism and I remember several years ago she was pregnant and developed some complications late in her pregnancy and was rushed to the hospital. I drove over to where she was to be there with her and she delivered twins, but they were stillborn, they were dead when they were born. I just remember being there to comfort my sister, but her husband–true to their Catholic faith–left her to find a Catholic priest. He brought the priest back to the hospital and the Catholic priest christened (baptized) those children and then performed last rites. Because they believe that was something that needed to happen for the souls of those children to be in Heaven. I found myself saying I knew they were sincere and genuine in their faith, but I’m so glad I have a faith that’s different than that. I am so glad I’ve been able to tell parents through the years, who have experienced the death of a child, “Listen. Before your child reaches this age of accountability, when the law comes alive in their personality, they are safe with Jesus.”