“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment; produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. And I was once alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came; sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” (Romans 7:7-14)
Paul has talked a lot about the Law in the verses 1-6 and it could almost be contrived that He doesn’t care much for it. It’s not the Law itself that he is speaking of but the effect of the Law apart from Christ. In order to correct any misinterpretations as to how wonderful the Law is he writes verses 7-14 - the law is holy and righteous and good.
Matthew Henry breaks this section into three headings, and they are good headings. 1) The great excellency of the law in itself. 2) The great advantage that is found by the law. 3) The ill use that the corrupt nature made of the law.
1. The great excellency of the law in itself. So then, the Law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (vs 12)
“Laws are as the lawmakers are. God the great lawgiver, is holy, just and good, therefore His law must needs be so. The ways of the Lord are right. The laws design is good – it was given for the good of mankind. It makes the observers of it good. Wherever there is true grace there is an assent to this – that the law is holy, just and good.”
For we know that the Law is spiritual (vs 14). TheLaw is not man's words it is God's! Here Paul reminds us that the Law is spiritual words for men whose principle part is spiritual. It is a law for the soul. “Herein the law of God is above all other laws, that it is a spiritual law. The law of God takes notice of the iniquity regarded in the heart.”
2. The great advantage that is had found by the law.
a. It was discovering. I would not have come to know sin except through the Law, for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said ‘You shall not covet.’(vs 7)
The Law is like a level showing us what is not straight. It reveals our crookedness. “There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary to repentance, but by comparing our hearts and lives with the law. Particularly Paul came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of covetousness.”
Henry goes on to point out that “Paul had a very quick and piercing judgment, and yet never attained the right knowledge of indwelling sin till the Spirit by the law made it known to him. There is nothing about which the natural man is more blind than about original corruption.’ Therefore the Law had become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith (Gal 3:24). "
Through the light of the Law sin is exposed as sin. It is seen for what it really is. The beautiful rainbow of wonder and counterfeit light that sin attempts to deceive us with is revealed as the rotting, maggoty blackness that it truly is.
b. It was humbling.
Isn’t that the truth!! Paul thought himself alive (vs 9) but the Law showed him to truly be dead. We think we are OK. “I’m a good guy.” We are proud of our accomplishments and trust that, if there is a God, that He will reward us for our many good works. Sure we make mistakes from time to time, but on the grand scheme of things we are absolutely fine. “Not so!” says the Law. Paul had been a Pharisee. He was taught by Gamaliel. He was strict in his observances of what the Law said. The law was all over, in, around and about his head but it was far from his heart.
“But when the commandment came (not to his eyes only, but to his heart), sin revived, as the dust in a room rises when the sunshine is let into it. Paul then saw things in sin that he had never seen before. He saw sin in its consequences. He saw sin with death at its heels. He saw sin and the curse entailed upon it. The Spirit, by the commandment, convinced him that he was in a state of sin, and in a state of death because of sin.”
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It humbles us by showing us what path we are truly on.
3. The ill use that the corrupt nature made of the law. “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me coveting of every kind…”
Paul was enveloped in covetousness – literally in lust (not necessarily sexual lust, but lust in the general category). Outwardly he looked great. He did was he was told. Inwardly he was a covetous tomb! The law, apart from Christ, made him even more covetous. Our corrupt natures rage against this task master. We don’t like him and we want to lord over him. “You say I can’t do this – just watch me!!”
Henry reminds us that “ever since Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths.”
He goes on to say, “For apart from the Law sin is dead, as a snake in winter, which the sunbeams of the law quicken and irritate. It deceived me. Sin puts a cheat upon the sinner, and it is a fatal cheat. It deceived and slew him. It wrought death in me by that which is good (vs 13). Nothing so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert it, and make it an occasion to sin. Now in this sin we truly see sin. The worst thing that sin does is the perverting of the Law. Thus the commandment, which was ordained to life, proved unto death (vs 10). The same word which to some is an occasion of life unto life is to others an occasion of death unto death. The same sun that makes the garden of flowers more fragrant make the dunghill more noisome. The way to prevent this mischief is to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the Law of God.”
Lord – Please make me to bow under the authority of this Law, through Christ, more and more each day. O how I love Your Law – it is my meditation day and night. Make it a living lamp to my soul.
Loving His Law,