Rom 7:7-9 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”
When we think of the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, we sometimes tend to feel that the law is somehow bad; that it is our enemy. The law is not our enemy, but we are often enemies of the law. God gave us His law for our benefit. Even the very first law that God gave to Adam was for Adam’s good.
God is not the author of sin. He did not force Adam to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s pronouncement of death upon Adam if he ate from the tree was not so much a condemnation as it was a statement of consequence. The fruit of this tree gave Adam the “knowledge” of good AND evil: that knowledge caused Adam to immediately die to the innocent state he was enjoying, having known only good.
God is good and His law is good. Humanity dislikes the law of God, not because the law is sin, but because the law proves to us that we are sinful. As long as we do not have knowledge of the law, then we do not feel any condemnation for sin. This is the state that Paul was in when he declared that he would not have known lust unless the law has said “Thou shalt not covet.”
We need to recognize an important distinction here. Paul did not say he would not have had lust without the law. Rather, he would not have recognized that covetousness was wrong without the law. The law does not make us sinners: it convicts us of the fact that we are sinners.
Before we were brought into an understanding of the law by the mercy of God, sin was dead. That does not mean that we were not sinful, simply that we did not have the tools to recognize our sin. Sin took advantage of the fact that there was a law, and filled us with all kinds of lust (for money, power, fornication, idolatry, etc.). We were having a high time living among things whose end was only death.
God, in His mercy, sent into our hearts the Holy Ghost. By revelation, we came to understand that not only was there a law, but that we were in violation of that law. Whereas we once lived life without any concern other than what we could do to please the flesh, now there was only death in those things. We say ourselves as the sinners we are, and understood that we were underserving of the love and mercy of God.
For a season, we were alive without the law. During this season, sin was dead to us. Then God revealed His holy law in our hearts. Sin became real to us, and we died to the joy we once found living after the flesh. Our live was never in the law, but rather in the One who came and fulfilled God’s holy law.
May God bless us to know the weight of our sin so that we can truly appreciate our liberty in Jesus Christ!