by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 March 20, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
(298)Thesis:The Law was given to expose Sin.
Introduction:Last week I failed in my efforts to produce a CD for our first study of the paragraph before us this evening. I make this comment for the sake of those who are studying Romans with us by way of CDs.
Also last week I attempted to explain how Paul could argue so strongly for the believer's refusal to be subject to the Law without undercutting the national structure of Israel as a theocracy. The laws which hold a culture together and enable a society to survive the evil of men are distinct from the Law of God even when those laws are given by God. In Romans 6-7 Paul argues that we are not to be entangled in subjection to the Law and in Romans 13 Paul deliberately demands that we are to be in subjection to governmental law as it is an extension of the power of God. For him to be able to do this without contradiction, there must be a difference between what he calls "Law" in Romans 1-7 and what he calls the "ordinances" of the rulers of this world. The point I was attempting to make is this: the laws that hold a society together have to do with enabling men to survive in some form of relationship with other men on the basis of an externalized conformity, but the Law of God cannot be used to provide a basis for a relationship between God and men because God will not allow a relationship with Himself at only an externalized conformity level. With men, conformity is enough regardless of motivation, but with God, motivation is most important. The state will not execute one who hates his brother but does not kill him. God will not accept the dichotomy: he that hates his brother is a murderer in the knowledge of God and will be treated as such by God.
Now, this evening we are going to proceed into Paul's actual argument in the text before us. In this paragraph, Paul addresses the third of his "questions" in this chapter. It is this: "Did that which is good become a cause of death for me?" This is no small matter because it launches Paul into a long and extended presentation of the true cause of death for us.
I. The "Logic" of the Question.
A. At the end of his answer to his second question, he made this claim: the Law is holy, just, and good.
B. Yet, this "holy, just, and good" Law was "found" by Paul to be "unto death" (7:10).
C. So, it is most reasonable that someone is going to "jump" to the conclusion that the problem, then, is with the Law and that the Law is actually responsible for my death.
1. Paul's question literally reads, "Therefore did that which is good become death for me?"
2. His denial is abrupt and potent.
II. The "Problems" that the Question Addresses.
A. On the lesser level of "What is important?", it seems that Paul does not want anyone to develop a significantly negative attitude toward the Law because of the damage that will do in respect to its function as "revelation".
1. If a person begins to see the Law in a significantly negative light, where will the motivation come from to enter into the blessedness of Psalm One, or the good of Psalm 119:97-104?
2. Though there is enormous profit for those who use the Law lawfully, who will do that if they see the Law as a destroyer?
B. On the greater level of "What is important?", it must also be true that Paul is aware that it is only one small step from "blaming the Law" and "blaming the Law-Giver".
1. Man is born with a strong antagonism toward God and he hardly needs any "proof" that his attitude is legitimate.
2. Because the Law cannot be separated from the Law-Giver, the danger is significant. [It is no accident that even the vast majority of those who claim to be saved have no real appetite for the study of the Word of God.]
III. The Answer to the Question.
A. First, "Sin" is identified as the real culprit.
1. It is true that the Law is identified as Sin's instrument of death.
2. But it is no more legitimate to blame the Law for the death that results from Sin's use of it than it is to blame a hammer that is used as a murder weapon.
B. Second, the true function of the Law is explained.
1. The Law was deliberately designed to expose the presence of Sin in God's creation.
a. By this revelation, Sin is unmasked.
b. Without clarity, deceit flourishes because it can.
c. Once clarity is given, deceit no longer has the ability to remain deceitful.
2. The Law went further in that it creates an intense sense of the "sinfulness" of Sin.
a. That there is such a thing as a deceiver in God's universe is an enormous travesty: by the unveiling, it is seen to be exceedingly sinful.
1) What "excuse" can a creature render for rebellion against its Creator? The entire notion is beyond wicked.
2) It is not just foolish for a creature, lacking the qualities and balance of God in every respect , to rebel against its Maker, it is evil.
a) What "creature" has omnipotence? What exercise of lesser power is legitimate if that exercise is applied to vanity?
b) What "creature" has omniscience? What exercise of lesser knowledge is legitimate if that exercise is actually guided by foolishness?
c) What "creature" has omni-wisdom? What exercise of lesser wisdom is legitimate if that exercise results in death?
b. Perhaps the greatest deception of all time is the notion that knowledge is the key to the effective use of power.
1) Every legalist under the sun believes this: just teach me and I will be able to act properly.
2) The "tree" in the Garden was called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil": the problem was to be the knowledge.
3) The promise of the New Covenant was not a new "brain", but a new "heart": the point being that if "love" is unsettled, knowledge will run amuck. Knowledge legitimately serves Love, but Love never legitimately serves knowledge.