The Problem Is Indwelling Sin
For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 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.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 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. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:5-12)
Prior to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle was a Pharisee. That means that he had been a strict adherent of the law as it was generally understood and applied in his day.
Yet Romans chapter 7 begins with the startling statement that believers in Christ died to the law. That could lead some to believe that Paul was down on the law. Nothing could be further from the truth! Paul was not down on the law at all … he just understood its role and proper place in people’s lives.
For instance, the law energized sinful desires. That happened when we were in the flesh … that is, when we were not yet converted. We all know how it goes: tell someone they can’t do something, and they want to do it even more! Paul’s personal testimony was his experience with the commandment which forbade greed and evil desires for things we do not have. The law not only showed Paul his own greed, but it also increased it within his heart.
Thankfully we have been delivered from the law to serve Christ by the Holy Spirit. Again, the believer does not have a legal relationship with God, but a personal, dependent one.
No, there is no problem at all with the law; it is holy, just and good. The problem is with indwelling sin.
For Further Review
1. If the law can arouse our passion to sin, then why is the law (of itself) not sinful?
2. How are we to serve the Lord now? By what power? In your own life right now, by which power would you say are you operating?
3. Cite examples from your own experience wherein the law seemed to incite sinful passions in your life. When this happens, what can our correct response be? How can we remedy this unhealthy pattern?
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