The Book of ROMANS
James J. Barker
THE LAW REVEALS SIN
Text: ROMANS 7:7-14
- Back in Romans 5:20, the apostle Paul says, "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
- Then Paul asks, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (6:1).
- The answer: "God forbid" (6:2).
- The law is not sinful because it makes grace abound. First Timothy 1:8 says, "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully."
- People are not "using the law lawfully" if they teach a person can be saved or sanctified by keeping the law.
- Paul has stressed that the Christian is dead to sin (6:2, 11), and he has also stressed that we are dead to the law (7:4, 6).
- Therefore, some have concluded that there must be something wrong with the law. Some have even erroneously placed the law in the same category as sin.
- After all, we are not “bound by the law” (7:2). We are “loosed from the law” (7:2b). We are “free from the law” (7:3). We are “dead to the law” (7:4) and “delivered from the law” (7:6).
- Since the Christian is to break from the law as decisively as he broke from sin, some have implied that there must be something wrong with the law. Here in Romans 7, the apostle Paul anticipates these questions and replies, “God forbid” (7:7).
- Romans 7 shows us the relation of law to sin. W.H. Griffith Thomas says Paul "gives a picture of all men under law in order to show why death to law is a part of the gospel" (St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans).
- In his commentary on the book of Romans, Thomas quotes John Brown, "Legality is the great enemy to sanctification."
- But many Christians mistakenly believe they are saved by grace and sanctified by the law.
- The law does not save from the penalty of sin or the power of sin. The law reveals sin (7:7).
THE LAW REVEALS THE FACT OF SIN (7:7).
- The word "sin" is not a popular word today. You never hear it mentioned on television or on the radio or in newspapers, etc.
- Even most preachers avoid using the word "sin."
- There are some who say, “Let’s banish that word from our vocabulary!” In the early ‘70s, psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled Whatever Became of Sin?
- One preacher said, "If you do not like the word sin you have to find some word to describe the situation that exists. I don’t care what you call it, whether you call it sin, or whether you call it something else, but it must be called something that means the same thing as sin" (S. Lewis Johnson).
- President Calvin Coolidge was not a big talker. He said, “The words of the president have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately."
- Mr. Coolidge once visited a church and was asked what the preacher spoke on, and he simply said, “Sin.” What did he say about it, Mr. Coolidge was asked? “He was against it."
- Well, I'm against it too.
- The great evangelist Billy Sunday said, “Listen, I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot, I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist, I'll butt it as long as I've got a head, and I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.”
- Thomas Brooks said, "Sin is the only thing that God abhors. It brought Christ to the Cross. It damns souls. It shuts Heaven and it laid the foundations of Hell."
- Spurgeon said, "Sin is worse than the devil — since sin made the devil what he is. Satan is God's creature — and this, sin never was. Its origin and nature are altogether apart from God. Sin is even worse than Hell — for it is the sting of that dreadful punishment...Paul does not say, 'Sin, that it might appear madness.' Truly sin is moral insanity, but it is worse than that by far."
- The law reveals the fact of sin (7:7). The apostle Paul looks back and says, “I had not known sin, but by the law…” (7:7).
- Paul is definitely speaking of the Ten Commandments because he writes, “for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (7:7; cf. Exodus 20:17).
- It is very interesting that Paul refers here to the tenth commandment. The other nine commandments forbid sin in the act – do not kill, do not commit adultery, etc. But the tenth commandment condemns the very desire to act in a wrong way.
- The tenth commandment gives us strong proof that God wrote the Ten Commandments (and the rest of the Bible as well). I say this because no human court of law would be competent to judge this transgression. How could a human court cast sentence upon a sin that is essentially a sin within the heart?
- A judge can pass judgment on dishonesty and adultery and murder, etc. but not covetousness.
- However, what man cannot see and judge, God both sees and is able to pass sentence upon. God looks beyond the mere outward act of sin to the fountainhead of evil – the heart.
- Our Lord said, "out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness" (Mark 7:21, 22).
- This is the purpose of the law -- the law reveals what is in the heart of man.
- And here in Romans 7:7, the apostle Paul says that it was by this commandment that he recognized he was a sinner. Therefore, the law reveals the fact of sin.
- A wise soulwinner will talk about sin before he talks about the remedy for sin. I say this because many sinners do not recognize that they are indeed lost sinners.
- By the way, Paul’s reference to his own past tells us that this section (Rom. 7:7-25) is autobiographical. Note all the personal pronouns – “I, me, my,” etc. Paul is speaking in the past tense (7:7-11).
THE LAW REVEALS THE OCCASION OF SIN (7:8).
- The law reveals the fact of sin, and the law reveals the occasion of sin (7:8; cf. 7:5).
- The apostle Paul says in verse 7 that had it not been for the law, he would not have known sin. He would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “Thou shalt not covet."
- But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, ("seizing an opportunity through the commandment"), wrought in Paul all manner of concupiscence, that is covetousness.
- Verse 8 is similar to verse 5. These Scriptures are not suggesting that the law encourages sin, but that the law (when it was revealed to Paul) woke up the sin that was already existing in his heart.
- Therefore, law was not the cause of sin, but the occasion of sin.
- Notice Paul’s phrase – “without the law” (7:8, 9). "Without the law," sin could not make its presence known as sin. Without the law, sin often goes unrecognized.
- Without the law, a man may realize he has done something wrong (for example, he has a conscience). But the law is necessary to reveal the ugly presence of sin as well as the consequences of sin.
- Romans 4:15 says, "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression."
- It is the knowledge of the law that makes sin effective in the conscience of man. Many sinners have been convicted after reading the Bible.
- The law was intended to shows us our sins, and to stir up our sin so that we would see our guilt and our condemnation and would flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and for victory over sin.
THE LAW REVEALS THE POWER OF SIN (7:9).
- The law reveals the fact of sin. The law reveals the occasion of sin. The law also reveals the power of sin (7:9).
- That is, power to reveal sin, not power to remove sin.
- Paul refers to the power of the law in I Cor. 15:56, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
- The law also reveals the effects of sin (7:10, 11), particularly death (7:10, 11; cf. 6:21, 23).
- The sinner is unable to obey the law and is therefore condemned to die (7:10, 11). But it is sin, not the law that brought death (cf. Rom. 5:12). The sinner is deceived and destroyed by sin (7:11).
- “Whenever a commandment is unable to give life it necessarily brings about death” (W. Griffith Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans).
- The death penalty was attached to the first nine of the ten commandments. For example, the second commandment is, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (Exodus 20:4).
- In Exodus 32, we read that the Israelites made themselves a molten calf, and worshipped it. When Moses came down from the mount, he told the sons of Levi to slay all the idolaters, and the Bible says, "there fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (Exodus 32:28).
- That is Israel under the law. In the New Testament we read, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (I John 5:21).
- "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21).
- If the law cannot give life, what is its purpose? It reveals what is in the heart of man. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
- "The heart is deceitful" because of sin, and the law reveals the deceitfulness of sin (7:11).
- I quoted Spurgeon earlier. It is from a sermon he preached on February 9, 1873, entitled "The Monster Dragged to Light!"
- Spurgeon described sin as the horrible monster dragged to light by the law of God.
- He said that to many people, sin does not appear to be sin, and that because of spiritual blindness, there is an ignorance of what sin is.
- That would describe the majority of people in America today.
- We need to do our best to get the Gospel out.
- The Gospel is the theme of this epistle (cf. 1:1, 15, 16).
- The Gospel is "good news."
- But before someone can appreciate the good news, they must understand the "bad news," and that is sin and its consequences.