Summary: Dead to law=dead to sin

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Romans 7:1-6

John Shearhart

August 15, 2010


When I was a boy there lived a man in our neighborhood who loved to keep his lawn. He loved it so much that he put a sign by the sidewalk: “KEEP OFF THE GRASS.” That sign might as well have said “KEEP OFF THE SIDEWALK” because I don’t know anyone who could resist the urge to step on his grass.

I doubt we’d have ever even thought about it if not for the command. But seeing those words produced rebellion of every kind within me, and I had to step on it.

God’s Law has been around since the beginning. Adam and Eve had one simple rule: don’t eat off the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:17). That’s it; one simple law.

But we know what happened; they couldn’t help themselves! They ate from the tree anyway, and by doing so they revealed an interesting principle: the Law cannot protect us from sin; in fact, the Law actually binds us to it.

What would have happened had no command been given? Nothing! They would have eaten from every tree and gone on in perfection. But God doesn’t want automatons, so He gave Adam a choice: eat from the tree and sin or don’t and live.

Paul describes what happened in me and in Adam by relating his own experience with the Law:

I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." 8But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead (Rom. 7:7-8).

The moment Adam had free will he was capable of disobedience. The command which instructed him to abstain from the fruit actually caused him to eat it.

Picture this: Adam and Eve are in the Garden. They’re enjoying the perfect weather in their perfect bodies and eating perfect food. Nothing can possibly go wrong! Then God says, “Do you see this tree here? Don’t eat from it.”

Now Adam and Eve still have perfect lives. They have every other tree in creation for food, they have companionship, there’s no need for clothing; they’ve got it made.


“There’s that one tree over there we can’t have.” And it’s like a beeping alarm going off in their heads. They can’t enjoy anything else because they’re so preoccupied with what they can’t have. In a sense, the Law (which was only meant to keep them from sinning) actually opened the door for sin. “Why can’t we eat from the tree? What are we missing if we don’t eat of it?”

Enter the crafty snake—“If you eat of that tree you’ll be just like God, and God knows that, so He’s keeping it from you” (Gen 3:4-5).

And so covetousness is born inside the man and woman that couldn’t have been born without the Law. Now, this doesn’t mean that the Law is sin any more than a speed limit sign is sin.

Where there is no speed limit sign, there is no speed limit, so you can go as fast as you want. But when the sign says 55, and your carnal nature says, “No, 65” then the sign has just provided the opportunity for sin.

The Law is good, but it cannot save the sinner. The Law reveals to sin every opportunity for disobedience.

The Law is good, but it cannot free the sinner. Actually, because of the Law, the sinner is bound to sin.

We saw last week that we’ve died to sin so that we can live in righteousness. This week we’re going to look at the same argument from a different angle—we’ve died to Law so that we’ve died to sin.

Dead to the Law=Dead to Sin

1. Principle: The law only applies to the living (:1)

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?

Note two facts: (1) Paul is speaking to the brethren. (2) Paul is speaking to “those who know the law.” It sounds like his target is Jewish Christians. They are brethren and they know the Law of Moses.

But the principle Paul lays down is that only those who are alive must obey the law. The dead are free from it.

They can stick your body in a car and drive around robbing banks, speeding, doing drugs, and every other evil, but when their caught, there’ll be no prosecution against you…you’re dead, so you’re free from the law.

2. Example: A woman is only bound to her husband as long as he lives (:2-3)

2For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

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