Summary: God's law is good because He is good; Sin is bad and deceives us into rebelling against God; The effects of sin are ugly, but God wants to forgive and restore us to Himself!
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Romans 7:7-13 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 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.
Intro: A couple of weeks ago we looked at the first 6 verses of Romans 7 and saw that Jesus wants us to be released from the law and the failure of self-effort. In ourselves we don’t have what it takes to be good enough or to do enough good to earn God’s favor. We cannot keep the perfect law of God! Paul made every effort to show that we were never intended to be bound to the cold hard law. The law cannot help us because we were built for relationship. Rules alone won’t work! So, instead of being bound to something that cannot help us, Jesus wants us to be free to love and to serve in the power of His Spirit. He wants us to be connected with Him and draw our identity and life from Him, not from how well we keep a code of rules.
-Now, in V.7 Paul anticipates a question from the believers in Rome: Is the law bad? Now we aren’t told who might be asking this question – Jews or Gentiles. The Jews might ask it defensively, saying, “Are you calling the Law evil?” The Gentiles might be asking it hopefully, thinking it will silence the Jews who honor the Law and value a deep knowledge of it. So Paul goes on to explain a little more about the law and describes its intended function. But he also talks more about sin, teaching that sin actually uses the law against us.
-So let’s talk about these things today in terms of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1. The Good
-God’s Law, His Ways, His Words on how to live – these are good! You don’t have to look very far in your Bibles to find that God’s laws and commands are good. They reflect His values and His character. The Law is good because God is good! And He is the One who gave the Law to the people of Israel.
-Here’s how Israel’s King David viewed the Law: NIV Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
-Yet the Law was limited in what it was able to do. It could not make us holy before God no matter how hard we tried to keep it. It could warn us, but it couldn’t change us or save us.
-The main function of the law is to identify sin. It reveals the moral boundaries so we can know where we stand in relation to a holy God. As The Message Bible says in v. 7, “Without [the Law’s] clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork.”
-So, the Law reveals, or illuminates, sin. Like a straightedge, when we compare ourselves to it, we see how crooked we are. Or, like a mirror, the Law shows us what we’re really like. James 1:23-24: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” An old Chinese proverb says: “To an ugly man, every mirror is an enemy.” The mirror is not the problem; it’s my ugly mug. The Law shows us how sinful we really are. Turn back to Romans 3:20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the Law; rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin.”