Lesson 22

The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

7:7 What will we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! However, I wouldn’t have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn’t have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 7:8 But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. 7:9 I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 7:10 The commandment, which was to life, this I found to be to death; 7:11 for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 7:12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. 7:13 Did then that which is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful. 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin.

 Today's Lesson 

Paul begins to deal even more directly with the law in Today's Scripture. He has stated that those that are in Christ are not under law but under grace. He has stated that we died to the law with Christ and were raised to a new existence that is beyond the scope of the law. In Today's Scripture he wants to make clear that the problems that he has related between man and the law are the fault of sinful man, not that the law was in some way deficient or corrupted.


He begins with another rhetorical question, "What will we say then? Is the law sin?" Some of Paul's critics have accused him of anti-Semitism. But Paul is proud of his Jewish heritage and grateful for his upbringing. Moreover he knows the value of the law. But, Paul has also now come to understand the limits of the law. The law was not given to justify man before a holy and righteous God. Paul explains in this passage that one of the reasons the law was given was in order to define sin and to show that it is pervasive in the lives of men.


Paul states, "I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law." Then he gives an example of what he is speaking about. He chooses the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet." He believes that he would not have known what coveting was except that the law defined it and gave it a power in his life. His own sinful nature, "finding the occasion through the commandment, produces in me all kinds of coveting." When the law instructed him to not covet he found that his sinful nature created covetous desires because that nature was opposed to the law.


Apart from the law, sin is without life or power. But when the law comes to sinful man, sin is revived. The law that should have brought righteousness and life instead brings death. It does so because it revives sin and sin is the slayer and murderer. The wages of sin is death and in sinful man the law brings out a wealth of payment.


Paul wants to be emphatic. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good." The law came to man through Moses who delivered it from the hand of God. The law is holy because God who gave the law is holy. But God's purpose through the law was not to make man holy and righteous through it. Rather, God has always declared that "the righteous will live by faith."


Through the law sin became "exceeding sinful." Man became "exceeding sinful." Sin flourished under the law as weeds flourish on the hillsides. God's purpose through the law was to give a standard by which man may know the weeds from the cultivated plants.


Paul concludes this passage with another striking statement. "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin." Paul had considered himself a Jew among Jews. He was of the strictest sect of Judaism. If Paul, a man who earnestly strove to live an upright life under the law of Moses had come to realize that he was sold as a slave to sin, what chance do you or I have in this day and age?


Thanks be to God! for Paul realized that the law was not God's last word on righteousness and life. What the law could not do God sent His Son to accomplish. God's purpose was never to redeem man through the law. That was the role of the Son.


Have you realized the futility of attempting to achieve righteousness through the law? Do the rules and regulations you put on yourself drive you farther and farther from God? Do you long for another way to come before God than in the righteousness of your own behavior?


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