Romans 7:7-14 (NKJV) 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
We are looking at the book of Romans in light of salvation by grace. Let me remind all of us that Paul’s letters are not primarily evangelistic in nature. In other words, his main audience is not the unsaved person. There are many things in Paul’s writing that can be used to reach the lost, but Paul’s letters are to the church. The lessons in Romans are written for the church not the world. We need to interpret his writing with that in mind.
In Romans 7 we begin to see the practical outworking of grace in the life of the believer. Some would say that Romans 7 must be about a person who is not saved. I think if we are honest with ourselves we would have to say that all of us have been the person in this chapter.
In verses 7-12 Paul lets us know that the Law was not evil. We must be clear on that. God cannot give anything to man that is evil. Everything he has ever done towards man has been motivated by the pure love and goodness of God. That includes the law. Look at what Jesus said about it.
Matthew 5:18 (NKJV) 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
Jots and tittle are a little like periods and commas today. Jesus said not one punctuation mark of the law will ever pass away. All of it came from God and all of it is good.
Paul tells us that it was sin in man that is evil. Sin took advantage of the revelation of God’s goodness in the law and temptation came through the flesh. Temptation produced actions with bad fruit. I cannot improve on Paul’s example of how this works.
If there was no law I would not have known that covetingwas wrong. Once I understood that God’s law defined coveting as wrong, I began to want what was not mine. I envied what others had. I may have done so before, but once the law revealed it was wrong, something deeper went to work.
We might say, “Wouldn’t it have been better if God hadn’t told us these things were wrong?” It would not. We found in the first 3 chapters of Romans that we are all under the curse of sin. Romans 1 says that people are without excuse because they can see God all around them.
I have always seen verse 9 in a particular light. This is somewhat my opinion so you need to give it some though and study, but Paul says I was alive once without the law. When was he alive without the? I remember as a child knowing the presence of God in my life. My parents used to ask me to pray for things because they knew I got answers. I was under the age when children begin to understand the difference between right and wrong. I believe I was “alive” in the spirit at that point in my life.
I remember when that changed. I was in Junior high. I began to open myself to certain things. I began to be tempted in ways I was not before. I felt something change inside of me and for the first time I thought, “I don’t think I am going to heaven.” Before that day I never questioned that I was going to heaven. I was raised catholic so I was not taught the Bible like my children were, but I knew that Jesus died for my sins and I knew I was going to heaven.
What happened to me that day? Paul says it this way. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”
I believe that is what happened to me. In my case I was very aware something had changed. Most people probably are not. Nevertheless, everyone comes to the age when they understand right and wrong. They may not have the written Word of God in their life, but they know.
There is something else about this process. Paul says that the law has a purpose beyond being a tool sin uses to “kill us.” The Law makes sin “more sinful.” It reveals to us what God sees as wrong. It defines evil for us.
It almost seems that Romans seven is saying that if God never gave the law we would be better off. We would live in blissful ignorance. However, history and society tell us differently. Murder, thievery, lying, adultery all occur in every society whether they have the law of God or not. They are destructive and evil but those of us who do have the Law of God understand exactly what is evil about that kind of behavior. It is against the nature of God.
In the Old Testament the law was an avenue for limited relationship. Galatians in the New Testament calls it a schoolmaster that leads us to something better. Most children complain about school, but it is part of the process of becoming a responsible productive adult. Some in the church want to say that the law has no place in Christianity. That is wrong. It is not pleasant to see when or how we are wrong, but if we do not see it we will not correct it and death will find its way into our lives.
Unfortunately, even born-again people find that they are subject to temptation. If I am saved, I am a new creature. I am dead to sin. I am alive to God. I do not believe I have two natures. I am by nature a child of God. That said, I cannot honestly say I am never tempted. If I am totally honest, I know I still sin.
One of the mothers in our church was allowing her daughter to communicate with a man she met on the internet. This is very dangerous. You do not know these people. I said to her that she needed to protect her daughter. She said, “I let her call him when I am there because I know she will do it anyway and I would rather she not do it behind my back.” That is very foolish.
My children were not angels. We set standards in our home and I was aware that they did not always do what I thought they should. I did not give in and let them “sin in front of me.” I maintained the standards. I punished bad behavior. I know they did things they should not have behind my back. When they did, they knew it was something I believed was wrong and therefore bad for them. If I let them do wrong in my presence it would be confusing.
In the same way the law is there for us today. We may sin, but we know what God says is right and what he says is wrong. That provides us with the ability to always find our way back.