Summary: The Law is holy
September 19, 2010
One of the hot political topics of our day is gun control. There are those who say that easy access to guns creates violence, and then there are those who say the exact opposite, that guns actually prevent violence.
But whether you favor or oppose gun control, you have to admit that guns alone are neither good nor bad. A gun in the hand of a police officer is a weapon which is usually used for good, but the same gun in the hand of a murderer is used for evil. In both cases the nature of the gun is the same; everything depends on the hand which holds it.
Our study in Romans tonight brings us to a similar issue involving the Law of God, the flesh of man, and sin. Paul has argued that the Law is what gives sin its power because sin uses the Law to arouse sinful passions within us (7:5).
You might say that the Law is a “gun” in the hands of Sin.
And so, someone might ask, “since the Law gives sin its power, isn’t the Law actually bad?” Listen to Paul’s response:
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, 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."
Is the law sin? Actually it’s the exact opposite; “on the contrary”! We wouldn’t know sin as sin without the Law pointing it out. Eating from the tree of knowledge wouldn’t have been sinful if not for the command.
Covetousness wouldn’t be recognizable without the Law which said, “You shall not covet.” In this sense, the Law is like a dictionary in that it defines righteousness and sinfulness.
So actually the Law is quite good.
8But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Sin sees the Law and appeals to our flesh so that we’ll obey it and disobey God. Sin says, “See that fruit which God forbade? You should eat it!”
Where there’s no Law, there’s no opportunity for sin to get us to rebel, but as soon as there’s a commandment to break, sin uses it to tempt us.
Where there’s no speed sign, I’m not tempted to speed, but when the sign says 55 I want to go 60. The Law itself is good, but sin uses it to produce covetousness within my flesh.
9I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
What could Paul mean by saying that he was once alive? Does he mean that there was a time in his life (maybe before the “age of accountability”) that he was not yet dead because of sin?
I don’t think so.
In chapter five Paul showed us how we’re all dead “in Adam” because of his one trespass. That thought carries over here in chapter seven—“while Adam was alive, I was alive. As soon as Adam died in sin, I died in sin.”
This verse goes all the way back to original sin; the commandment (“do not eat from the one tree”, Gen. 2:16-17) was given to result in life, but in the end it resulted in death because of Adam’s sin.
You might say that gun manufacturers create guns for good purposes, but criminals misuse them for evil. That which is created for good is used for evil.
But in this case, the Law itself is “holy and righteous and good.”
So we ask another question:
13Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
Is the gun used in a crime the actual “cause” of death? No; the crime is committed by the gun-holder. And in this case, the Law is contrasted against sin to show just how bad it really is. Sin is so bad that it uses the holy Law of God to bring death.
14For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
When he says that the Law is spiritual he’s talking about the Law of God which reveals the righteousness of God. This isn’t just “law” in general, but God’s Law. His Law is spiritual, but our flesh is in bondage to sin. This is a hard concept to understand because on one hand we’re “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36), but on the other hand we’re in bondage.