Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
January 30, 2007
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.
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:
NOTE: Sin, as the opponent of God, waits only to find out what it is that God "intends" before springing into objectionable action. If there is no revelation of what God intends, Sin is impotent. Apart from Law, Sin is "dead" (incapable of action). So why does God "reveal" His intentions? To bring "Sin" out into the open in all of its "adversarial filthiness". It is true that Sin cannot produce offspring without any presence of "Law", but God is not satisfied with cutting off its ability to produce -- He seeks to destroy it altogether.
- I. The Law As Revelation.
- A. Paul is addressing the chief function of "Law". It is not "regulation" -- that is the domain of 'spirit' -- but "revelation".
- 1. In our day, when people are attempting to make the Spirit the medium of "revelation" and the Law the medium of "regulation", everything is upside down.
- 2. In Paul's theology, the Law is extremely important as "revelation", but it is hopeless as a "Regulator".
- B. Paul is addressing the chief question that 7:1-6 raised: If Sin is "through the Law", does that not mean that the Law is insignificantly differentiated from Sin?
- 1. That Paul declared and taught that "Law" was the intermediate agent of Sin's ability to produce "fruit" through the body of a person is the inescapable conclusion of 7:5.
- 2. How can that mean anything but that Law is in cahoots with Sin?
- 3. Paul's explanation.
- a. There is a significant difference between "Law" as a revealer of Sin and "Law" as a co-laborer with Sin.
- b. Paul's contention is that he would not have known that "lust" was "of Sin" if the Law had not said, "Thou shalt not lust."
- 1) Paul uses the future indicative instead of the present imperative. This may be a minor grammatical point (Robertson treats it as a "volative future" which "is not a less potent form of the imperative", but this may be the result of a highly legalistic theology that guides the understanding of language rather than permitting the language to develop the theology). Paul clearly uses the "future" as "instructive" not "regulatory".
- 2) The very heart of Paul's theology is that when the Law is taken to be regulatory, and man is seen as capable of that regulation, enormous error has occurred. As soon as promise is turned into demand Sin has taken control.
- 3) It is true that Paul calls the "Law" the "commandment" (7:8), but he does that in the light of the reality that "divine expression" is the equivalent of "moral imperative". What I mean is this: God cannot reveal anything about Himself that does not draw express moral boundaries even if the revelation is not in the form of commandment. The problem is not that God exists as He is and that His existence draws express moral boundaries, nor is the problem that God speaks from Himself as He is and that speech reveals those express moral boundaries; the problem is the arrogance of the creature who believes itself to be capable of matching those moral boundaries without the essence that establishes them. When a command from God is turned into the arrogant assumption of independent capacity to meet its demand, deception has occurred. God commands in order to both reveal and confront. Anyone who receives His commandment as revelation and appeals to Him for the ability to adequately respond will find His grace sufficient to provide for that response. Anyone who receives His commandment as regulation and assumes the personal ability to meet it is deceived and will find himself embroiled in a complete failure to meet the demand.
- c. The knowledge of Sin is the beginning of its demise, not the exaltation of the will over its power.
- 1) If men approach "Law" as a dominator of Sin, they will discover that it is a paper sword.
- 2) If, however, men approach "Law" as an oracle of God -- declaring what will be rather than what must be -- they will discover that it is a potent ally in the walk by the Spirit.