Summary: Paul, Pt. 1
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? (ROMANS 7:12-25)
A man one dreamed of passing into the world beyond. An angel met him and showed him a great golden book. “What is that?” he inquired. “It is the book of your life,” was the reply. Looking closer he saw that there were some writing on the first page. “What is there?”
The angel said, “These are your evil acts, and you see that they are many.” The angel turned the page, and the man saw that the next sheet was more closely written. The angel said, “These are your evil words, and you see that there are more of them than there are acts.” The poet trembled.
The next page was more closely written. “What are these?” asked the man. “These are your evil thoughts, and you see that there are many, for a man thinks more than he speaks or acts.”
With the trembling voice, the man asked what the fourth page contained. The angel turned it over, and lo! it was black as midnight. The angel said, “This represents your evil heart, for it is out if the blackness of the heart that all thoughts and words and acts come.”
The Chinese say, “Moving rivers and mountains is easy, changing a person’s nature is difficult” and “You can draw a tiger’s skin but not the bones; you can know a person’s mouth and face, but not his heart.”
Romans 7 is a classic passage on human nature, its origin and destiny, if you may. Four words gird Romans 7: law (23 times), sin (16 times), would/wish or “want to do” in NIV (7 times), and death (5 times).
Why does human nature behave as it does? Is man doomed to struggle or designed to succeed? Is there an end to the struggle? Where does it start and how does it stop?
Sin is the Villain
12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 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. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. (Rom 7:12-14)
Paul begins by asserting slavery to sin means death.
What is sin? Here are some suggestions:
“Sin is like a kidney stone. No one likes a kidney stone, nor should anyone like sin.”
“Sin is like a rotten egg we try to cover up with spices.”
“Sin is like a cancer with a 0% survival rate.”
“Sin is like weeds in a garden; if not rooted out, they will soon overrun it.”
“Sin is like having cataracts. It slowly adds a layer over our eyes, until sooner or later we can’t see too clearly anymore.”
“Sin is like a spider web. You get trapped in it.”
“Sin is like the bee, with honey in its month but a sting in its tail.”
“Sin is like gravity. It is an ever-present force. You can’t see it – only its effects.”
“Sin is like a snake, full of deadly poison. It is like a little spark that can burn up a great forest.”
“Sin is like an anesthetic; it has a numbing affect.”
“Sin is like a bullet in the body. There can be no strength and healing until the bullet is removed.”
“Sin is like the leak in the pipe; it will very likely cause you to fall every time.”
Sin is not child’s play. It must be exposed and admitted because it is “utterly sinful” (v 13). The word “utterly” is used five times in the Bible, the other four times translated as “most excellent” (1 Cor 12:31), “far beyond” (2 Cor 1:8), “far outweighs” (2 Cor 4:17) and “intensely” (Gal 1:13) and it produces death (v 13).
Everybody has an excuse and a scapegoat for sin. In this case, it is the law. Did the law bring death (v 13)? Is the law responsible for my death? Is it “wrongful death” and am I wrongly charged? Or is the law guilty as charged? The Greek for “by no means” (v 13, Rom 3:4, 3:31, 6:2, 6:15, 7:7, 9:14, 11:1, 11:11) is also translated elsewhere in the Bible as “certainly not” (Rom 3:6, Gal 2:17, 3:21), “never” (1 Cor 6:15) and “far be it” (Gal 6:14). No one enjoys laws, rules and codes, but Paul insists that death is the work of sin, not the work of the law. Remember, God’s law was given after man’s sin, not vice versa. The “law” is the Mosaic law and the “commandment” (v 12) is its authoritative moral and religious precepts.