January 23 - Romans 7:7-13

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Romans 7:7-13 – The Law and Sin

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Paul continues the discussion on the Law and sin by asking whether or not the Law is sin. Of course not, he responds. It was through the Law that we came to understand what sin really is.

The rhetoric that he uses gets a little confusing throughout this passage as he presents the case for sin, using the first person. Paul refers to himself (first person) ten times in the next verses and many have thought he is offering a spiritual biography. This isn't true at all, he is presenting a case in a very common manner, but it is one that makes us a little uncomfortable … and it should.

He tells us that without the law, he would never have known what coveting really was. Coveting still existed, but it wasn't called sin until the Law came into existence. Then … if the rule wasn't there telling us to not covet, there would be no rule to break, so there would be no sin. The rule then becomes a restriction and by our nature, humanity views that as something to rebel against.

Without the Law, sin is not defined. It doesn't exist … technically and therefore, Paul says that "apart from law, sin is dead" (Romans 7:8).

Paul then begins the process of explaining the importance of the Law in setting the bar for holiness. Because sin now exists as defined by the Law, we understand the difference between holiness and sin. The Law is holy, its commandments, Paul says are "holy, righteous and good" (Romans 7:12b). The Law is necessary to help us recognize what sin truly is.