Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
October 16, 2016
7 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.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin [was] dead.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which [was ordained] to life, I found [to be] unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew [me].
12 Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
1901 ASV Translation:
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:
8 but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting: for apart from the law sin [is] dead.
9 And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;
10 and the commandment, which [was] unto life, this I found [to be] unto death:
11 for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me.
12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.
- I. The Anticipated Question: Is The Law Sin(ful)?
- A. The reason for the question: Paul has declared that "Sin" gets its capacities from the presence of "law". This strongly suggests that there is a serious problem with "law" and, therefore, it may well be a genuine evil. The "What, therefore, shall we say?" is Paul's expression of his anticipation of his readers' conclusions.
- 1. Paul's first question: What shall we say?
- a. He is angling for a conclusion to his formerly given doctrine regarding Law's characteristic of being a "prod" in the production of sins.
- b. The issue is this: a conclusion is necessary.
- 2. This first question reveals the on-going, always necessary fact that conclusions are the only way to genuinely move to "understanding". Data is necessary to understanding, but does not automatically lead one to it. One absolutely must come to some kind of conclusion before he/ she can move on. Line upon line; precept upon precept. Facing data and drawing conclusions. This is the most dangerous game in town: one false conclusion along the way skews everything downline from it.
- B. The question itself needs to be understood: Is it automatic that anything that "Sin" can use is tainted by "Sin" itself? All through the previous context, "The Sin" has been presented as the problem and Paul's question uses that very word ("Sin") in his question. In other words, is "The Law" actually "sinful" since it is obvious that "Sin" uses it to produce "sins"? In a modern analogy, is the "gun" evil because an evil man uses it to kill human beings? Do tools take on the characteristics of their users? Does a backhoe become an ill-tempered thing just because the operator is quick to loose his "temper" upon other things and people? Alternatively, does that backhoe become a tenderly loving thing just because the one who takes his place in the operator's seat is tender in his love?
- II. The Inescapable Answer.
- A. Paul's "absolutely not", or the Authorized Version's "God forbid" is axiomatic.
- B. The reasoning behind this answer is without real dispute.
- 1. Paul says the "law" serves a function of illumination: "The Sin" remains invisible apart from the illumination provided by "law". It is only by the presence of "law" that contradictions of divine goodness are revealed. Who would have known the danger invested in the tree of the "knowledge" of good and evil if God had not banned its fruit from human consumption?
- 2. One may chase the rabbit trail of "why was a dangerous tree in the Garden in the first place?" if one wishes, but the fact that its fruit was deadly means a "law" needed to be put in place to expose that danger.
- a. The "danger" was in place before God ever created man: there had already been a rebellion in the heavenlies by potent angelic beings prior to man's existence.
- b. Thus, this "danger" had to be exposed because man is "lower than the angels" and subject to their deceptions and superior intellectual skills.
- c. Thus, the "illuminating exposure" was put in place. Nothing is more plain than "if you eat, you will die". That is "open and shut" clear. Thus, "law" makes it possible to "know" what is sinful. However, this clarity becomes clouded as soon as "faith" in the One giving warning fades, just as all "knowledge" is tentative as long as the source is untrustworthy.
- C. Paul's illustration of how he became aware of "lust" is clear: the Law said "Thou shalt not covet". But that Paul used "lust" rather than any of the other possibilities is highly suggestive. It suggests that Paul, as a former legalist, was well aware of how one could turn many of the commandments into "physical" restraints so that one did not have to consider the inner life of those commandments. "Adultery" can be defined only in terms of physical action so that if a man is restrained from the actual sexual action involved, he can claim to not be an "adulterer". But, lust is not an outward, physical thing. It is an internal motivational reality that can be masked, but not restrained. In other words, the command to forego "lust" revealed that "Sin" is as much about motivation as it is about action. Jesus Himself taught this in His famous "You have heard it was said...but I say unto you" statements wherein He moved "sins" into the realms of motive and declared "guilt" at that level.
- III. Conclusion.
- A. There is nothing inherently "sinful" about ripping the mask off and making "sin" visible.
- B. Thus, "The Law" is not sinful.