Summary: The Law of Moses, no matter how good, holy, and righteous, cannot bring salvation to anyone!
Religiosity is marked with legalism.
One of the most serious problems facing many so-called Christians today is the problem of legalism. Legalism puts off the joy of the Lord in the life of those who believe. Nothing is left but fear and guilt that haunt a person all the days of his life.
Nowadays if you say you are a Christian some people equates it for a gloomy kill-joy religious. Though it should not be (for it is not!).
To tell you frankly, legalism is not only a problem of today’s church. In fact, it is one of the problems that plagued the early church in the New Testament.
That is why Paul had to deal with it in his epistles (Romans and Galatians) frequently. Especially, when it comes to the relationship of Christians with the law.
Going back to chapter 6 verse 14 of Romans, the Apostle Paul unequivocally declares that Christians are no longer under the law, that is, they are given freedom from the Law of Moses.
When the Apostle Paul used the word ‘law’ in that verse he was referring to those laws written in the five books of Moses plus a whole lots of man-made rules and regulations handed down through generations of scribes!
In other words, through the death of Jesus Christ the law of the Old Testament finds their perfect fulfillment. And because of believers’ union with Christ by faith they are no longer under the curse of the law because Christ himself took it and finished for us on the cross (Gal. 3:10)! That’s what it means to have freedom from the law.
Now in this section of Romans Paul explains why the law is totally incapable to provide salvation:
I. The Law is Binding
The binding characteristic of the Law is illustrated by Paul through the imagery of marriage. We all know that marriage is a life-long relationship. It means so long that you and your espouse are both alive, you are bound to each other (vv. 1-2). But once your espouse died, you are no longer bound to him/er. In other words, you are free.
In the like manner, one who is under the law is bound in the strongest possible obligation to keep the whole of it (cf. Gal. 3:10; James 2:10).
But in the case of Christians, we are set free from the bondage of the law (v. 4). But it does not end there, we are united with Christ.
II. The Law fails to Produce Righteousness in us
The Apostle Paul describes the law as holy, righteous and good (v. 12). Nevertheless, it is weak in itself. Because left to itself, it has no power to produce righteousness in a person. the law fails to produce the desire to pursue what is actually right in the sight of God.
Imagine yourself, with no formal training in aeronautics, being asked to fly an airplane. You are left to yourself. You are on your own. I think that is a scary picture of a person who tries to live in the standards of the law with no power or ability to do so. That’s tragic!
But notice what happens when we are free from the law; we receive a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live in godly ways (v. 6).
III. The Law only Reveals the Reality of Sin
In case his remarks about the law is misunderstood, the Apostle Paul goes on to indicate that the law itself is not evil, rather it is an instrument whereby a person becomes conscious of the reality of sin (v. 7). I like the comparison of the evangelist Fred Brown made to the law with the dentist little mirror, flashlight, and plumb line.
The dentist little mirror when put inside the mouth helps to locate cavities but it cannot by itself take away cavities. Suppose one evening the lights go out. You use the flashlight to guide you through the darkened way to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see which is burned out. After removing the bad fuse, you don’t try to replace it with the flashlight. Instead, you put a new fuse in it. And in the same way, the builder uses his plumb line to see if his work is true to the vertical. And when he finds that he made a mistake he does not use his plumb line to correct it!
That’s precisely illustrated what the law does: it points to sin but offers nothing to solve it!
IV. The Law Stimulates the Desire to Commit Sin
The fruit of revealing the reality of sin by the law is the ignition of the desire to commit sin (v. 8). According to Paul the very commandment ‘Do not covet’ provides a way for the arousal of all kinds of covetousness, which in the absence of the law would not be activated. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “…the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56).