Romans 7, Part 2
Nov 10, 2010
To know the difference between sin and righteousness is necessary to those who are called as saints to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2). The ability to judge is the ability to discern, and it is tied directly to the spirit of discernment, or the ability to distinguish between right and wrong (Heb. 5:14).
Yet with this spirit of discernment comes responsibility, because the more we know God, the more we are held accountable. When we know and understand that something is a violation of the character of God, we are more accountable than one who is ignorant. Paul bases his argument on this principle in Romans 7:8-10, quoting from The Emphatic Diaglott,
(8) But sin having taken opportunity through the commandment, worked in me all strong desire. Apart from Law, however, sin is dead; (9) and I was formerly living apart from Law, but the commandment having come, sin lived again, and I died; (10) and that commandment intended for Life, the same was found by me for Death.
Paul had written earlier in Rom. 4:15, that "where there is no law, neither is there violation." It is self-evident that it takes a Law to break it. Sin is a violation of Law. If all laws were repealed, the crime rate would be zero. But no one would want to live in such a country.
Even so, Christian anarchists have taught that there is no sin in the world today, because God put away the Law at the cross. They find, then, that they must further blind themselves in order to ignore the reality of the world situation. They deny the world condition, thinking that their denial will produce the reality by means of multiple positive affirmations. Their fantasy world is broken only when a criminal kills their family, forcing them to face reality.
The Law will remain as long as there are people in the world who are not conformed to the image of Christ. Once all have been reconciled (two-way conciliation) to God, then and only then will the Law be unnecessary as legislation, because there will be no one to prosecute or hold accountable any longer. Yet even then, the character of God as expressed in the Law will continue as long as God remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
Paul tells us in Rom. 7:8-10 (above) that the Law was "intended for Life," but instead brought Death. Why? Because the Law could only justify the righteous, and because all have sinned, it was unable to do its intended job. Sin activates the Law (i.e., gives it life), because that is its purpose. Where there is no sin, the Law remains satisfied.
Paul makes the point that knowledge of the Law made him accountable to God, and thus the Law killed him. Paul seems to be speaking as if he were Adam himself. Adam could not have sinned apart from the command in Gen. 2:17, "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat."
If the Law were evil, then this original Law ought to be included in the list of evil laws. But the fact is that God established a GOOD Law, and Adam violated it. That violation gave life to the Law, activating its judgment, and Adam died. So also with Paul. We cannot blame the Law, for the Law is not sin. God has not held the Law accountable for any sin. He has only held men accountable for sin.
(11) for sin, having taken opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.
It was not the Law that "deceived me," but sin. Sin, however, had no opportunity to kill me except through the commandment. That is, it was the violation of the commandment that gave sin the opportunity to kill me.
Some have taught that the solution, then, is to get rid of the Law. If they could just abolish or repeal all laws, then they could be perfect and inherit Life. But this is not the biblical manner of salvation. Even if it were possible to abolish the Law, how can we be joined to God, whose very character is expressed in His Law, unless we are like Him? It is one thing to be imputed righteous, but in the end, we must actually BE like Him in order to be united to Him as one body.
(12) So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Not once does Paul disrespect the Law or abolish it. He affirms its righteous character as being an expression of the mind of Christ.
(13) Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather, it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Paul says that it was not the Law that caused my (Adam's) death. Sin caused my death. One cannot blame the Law for sin, even if sin does not exist apart from the Law. If we take out our theological wrath upon the Law, we are blaming the righteousness of God for our mortality. Without the Law, murder and theft would not be sin, and theoretically, we would live in perpetual disharmony with the character of God.
(14) Besides, we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin.[The Emphatic Diaglott]
Here again, speaking on behalf of Adam and all humanity, Paul confesses that he is the problem, not the Law. Adam's sin incurred a debt that could not be paid, and so he and his wife, his children, and his entire estate was sold to make payment (Matt. 18:25). Adam and his estate was originally sold to the ground, and the ground then became Adam's first lawful redeemer. According to the laws of redemption, the redeemer assumes the debt and liability of the one being redeemed. Hence, God says in Gen. 3:17, "Cursed be the ground for your sake."
God in His mercy shifted the responsibility for Adam's debt so that the ground itself would take the penalty. The downside of this, of course, was that Adam was then enslaved to the ground. Gen. 3:19 says,
(19) By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
The sentence was thus decreed, and then mankind entered into its first known grace period of 4 x 414 years. (This is explained in my book, Secrets of Time.) From the divine decree to the time that the sentence is executed is a grace period to give men opportunity to be redeemed by Christ. The sentence was carried out 1656 years later at the time of Noah's flood, when the ground was judged along with all those under its authority.
Only those with faith escaped the judgment, because they had found grace (Gen. 6:8) by covenanting with God (Gen. 6:18). Noah and his family were redeemed from slavery to the ground (earth) by Jesus Christ, who had been slain from the foundation of the world. Hence, they were no longer slaves to the ground, but bondslaves of Jesus Christ. The earth, with its thorns and thistles, no longer had authority over them. The law of authority worked in their favor, because Christ had become their new Authority. For this reason, they lived through the flood, whereas the others all died.
But in Romans 7, Paul was speaking hypothetically as if he were Adam and, by extension, all who remain under the authority of the earth. "I am fleshly, having been sold under sin."
At this point it became necessary for Paul to distinguish between the two "I's." Having first expressed his earthly identity with Adam, he now begins to explain his heavenly identity with the Last Adam. The interrelation between these two "I's" form the main topic of the rest of Romans 7.
This is the second part of a series titled "Romans 7." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones