Is The Law Sin?
Good morning saints. It is a joy to worship the Lord with you this morning and to minister the word to you.
Scripture Reading & Prayer
We are in the book of Romans again this morning. Last week we read chapter six and made it through the first six verses of chapter seven. This morning we will read chapter seven and, Lord willing, make it through verses 7-12.
So turn with me please to the seventh chapter of Romans, we will begin in verse one.
These are the words of God.
› Read Romans 7
Thus ends the reading of God’s Word. Let’s Pray.
Heavenly Father we come before You this morning and proclaim together that You are the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. But we proclaim along with Peter that though we have not seen You, we love You, we believe in You and we rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
Lord, may we this day, experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and may we be planted together in the likeness of it, that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life, seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Holy Father, as we turn to Your Word, we pray, that by Your Spirit, you would grant us understanding. That Your Word would take root in our hearts and that we would bear fruit for Your glory. In Jesus holy, precious name we pray.
We learned last week that we were once under the law, enslaved to sin, and under the curse of God’s wrath. Just about everyone has John 3:16 memorized, as they should, it is a glorious verse and should be memorized, but we also want to remember John 3:36 “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Notice, that verse does not say whoever does not believe has the wrath of God PLACED on him but rather it REMAINS on him, it abides. Our default condition is that we are under the wrath of God. But in Christ, we died to the law and entered into a new relationship with God in Christ. No longer under His wrath, no longer enslaved to sin, no longer under the law. We are under grace and we now live, serve, and bear fruit for God according to the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Paul will expand more upon life in the Spirit in chapter 8.
We also learned last week that the law, due to our fallenness, rather than keeping us from sin, arouses our sinful passions, which in turn encourages us to more sin. Paul will now spend the rest of chapter seven expanding upon the relationship between the law and sin and we will learn much about the nature of sin. And by the time we get to Romans 8, I pray that the glories taught in it, will shine that much brighter, and that we will have a richer, fuller understanding of how amazing God’s grace truly is and how much better life is in the Spirit, under grace rather than in the flesh, under the law.
Let’s read once again, the six verses we are looking at this morning. Starting in chapter seven verse seven.
› Read Romans 7:7-12
As his pattern has been throughout Romans, Paul begins our passage with a question. A question that could be a conclusion of someone after hearing verses five and six. “What then shall we say? That the law is sin?” If the law stirs up such desire for sin, does that mean that the law is itself sinful? He quickly answers, “By no means!”. Absolutely not.
As we go through this passage we are going to see five points about the law and five points about the nature sin. Here in verse one we have our first point in regard to the law.
1. The Law Reveals Sin
Again verse seven.
› Read Romans 7:7
The law reveals sin. It is the law that brings about the knowledge of sin. Notice the distinction, it is not the law that brings about SIN, it is the law that brings about the KNOWLEDGE of sin. Sin is already there but the law arouses it and therefore sin is exposed. He says “For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” Covetousness existed before the commandment however Paul says “I didn’t know what it was to covet.” But now with the commandment, covetousness is no longer just missing the mark but it is willful, knowledgeable, transgression against the law of God.
Therefore again it is the law that revealed sin. As it says in Galatians 3:24 “the law was our guardian until Christ came” other translations say it even better “the law was our schoolmaster, our tutor, our guide to lead us to Christ”. Because it is through the law that comes the knowledge of sin and therefore it is through the law that we see our desperately hopeless condition and need for a Savior. Therefore, Paul says at the end of verse eight “For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” As Leon Morris said “If there is no law, clearly there is no transgression of law. Without a commandment there can be no disobedience . . . (Paul is making the point that the law) is a means of establishing people’s guilt.” Again, the law is a means of establishing people’s guilt. It is our tutor which is there to lead us to Christ. This is why Paul could go on to say in verse nine “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”
But make no bones about it sin was already there.
This is easily proved by the fact that you YOU NEVER HAVE TO TEACH A CHILD HOW TO SIN . . .
You never have to teach a child to lie. You have to teach them to speak the truth. Etc.
I often share a story about Ezra, right before his first birthday. Tristan’s parents used to have a home in Arizona, and we were there for a vacation and to celebrate his birthday . . .
That brings us to our second point about the law and that is . . .
2. The Law Promises Life
› Read Romans 7:10
The Law promised life.
Deuteronomy 5:33 ESV
You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
Psalm 19:7–11 ESV
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
There are lots of promises throughout Scripture for keeping the law of God. However, God did not give the law with the intent of it being the means of our salvation. The scriptures are clear “by the works of the law no human being will be justified”. The Law was a tutor to lead us to Christ. For to be a means of salvation, it would have to be kept perfectly, which no man could do, save the one God-Man, Jesus Christ.
I was fascinated recently as I read Psalm 119, which is all about the Law of God, almost every verse contains some mention of the law of God, he says, Your Word, Your Precepts, Your Rules, Your Statutes, Your Commandments, Your Testimonies, Your Ways, Your Law. In it are many promises of blessing, and life and salvation connected with the keeping of the law of God. But over and over I kept reading things like this also . . .
Psalm 119:88 ESV
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
He says “give me life so that I can keep your law”
Psalm 119:25 ESV
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
Psalm 119:37 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Psalm 119:36 ESV
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
The Psalmist recognizes throughout the psalm that he has need of grace of God to rescue, give life, and incline his heart in order to be able to keep His word. So yes, there was a promise of life but because of the perversion of sin and our inability to keep it, Paul says “the commandment that promised life proved death to me.”
› Read Romans 7:11-12
In verse twelve Paul fully answers the question posed in verse seven. Is the law sin? Absolutely not, the law is holy, the commandment is holy, and righteous, and good. Which also brings us to our third point. I will be brief with these next three points so that we can look closer at verses eight and eleven as they give great insight to the nature of sin.
3. The Law is Holy
Paul does not call the law “holy” because of its demand for holiness, although the law certainly does do that. Leviticus 19:2 “You shall be holy for I the LORD your God am holy”. He calls the law holy because God is holy and it is God’s law therefore it reflects His character, it is Holy.
4. The Law is Righteous
Some translations read that the law is just. Now it certainly requires righteousness and just conduct and never requires or demands beyond what is right but due to the question he is answering, “Is the law sin?”, I believe the point Paul is making is that the Law of God cannot be charged with anything wrong. As a I just said the law is holy because it reflects its author. God. And God cannot be charged by anyone as doing or being anything other than perfectly righteous and just.
So the law reveals sin, promises life, is holy, is righteous, and lastly, it is good.
5. The Law is Good
You remember Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler’s beginning statement “Good Teacher” and Jesus responds, “No one is good except God alone”. Again just as the Law is Holy because God is Holy, and the Law is righteous because God is righteous, so also the law is good because God is good. It is good in what it prescribes and has our welfare in mind not our hurt.
Paul has fully answered this question in regard to whether or not the law of God is sin. And he has made it clear that he holds a high view of the goodness of the Law but as he says in 1 Timothy . . .
1 Timothy 1:8–9a ESV
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane
Again, the law is not given to make one justified, it was given because the law exposes sin and establishes the guilt of the sinner to guide them to Christ. As John Calvin wrote
“In the precepts of the law, God is but the rewarder of perfect righteousness, which all of us lack, and conversely, the severe judge of evil deeds. But in Christ His face shines, full of grace and gentleness, even upon us poor and unworthy sinners.” John Calvin
Now I want us to turn and look at a few points about the nature of sin. The more we understand about the nature of sin and the weakness of our flesh the more prepared we will be to fight against it. Because brothers and sisters we must be engaged in this fight and we need all the knowledge and resources that we can get.
Let’s read verses eight and eleven again.
› Read Romans 7:8, 11
Both verses 8 and 11 open with the same phrase “sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment”. In this simple phrase we have our first three of five points about the nature of sin.
1. Sin is Active
Notice the wording “sin, seizing an opportunity”. Sin is always active. There is a reason we are told to mortify the flesh, to put to death the deeds of the body. There is a reason why Jesus said to be violent in your fight against sin, if your right arm causes you to sin cut it off, if your right eye causes you to sin pluck it out. It is because as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11 ESV
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Your sinful passions are waging war! They are not sitting idly by. They are actively engaged in warfare.
God told Cain in Genesis 4:7 “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you”. Sin is always active, it never sleeps. I have said it before, in the Christian life there is are only two directions, moving forward or sliding backward. There is no in between. You are either pressing on to know and love Christ more or you are in a state of backsliding. And sin is always actively stalking us.
What happens so often is we get stuck in this cyclical pattern where we do good, we do good, we do good, and then, CRASH, we fail, we repent. Then we do good, we do good, we do good, and CRASH, we fail, we repent. And we do this over and over. Praise God for His amazing grace that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Praise God that his forgiveness is for past, present, and future sin. Praise God that our salvation does not depend upon my perfect but is founded upon the perfect obedience of Christ!
But so often the reason we fail is because we are doing good, we are doing good but then here, we’re just getting tired. Perhaps we have been in a tough season of trials. Maybe we are just feeling a bit discouraged or depressed and I just don’t feel like church today. I don’t feel like reading my bible today. I don’t feel like praying today. I just want to sit on the couch and veg, just for today. Be careful brothers and sisters, sin is active, sin is crouching, sin is stalking.
Or perhaps its, I’m doing good, I’m doing good, I’m just so busy right now, so much going on. I don’t have time for Church this weekend, I have to get stuff done, I just don’t have time to read my bible, I just don’t have time to pray. Be careful brothers and sisters, sin is active, sin is crouching, sin is stalking you.
Which leads us to our second point.
2. Sin is Opportunistic
I repeat, sin is actively stalking us, it is crouching at the door waiting for you to let your guard down, waiting for you to set down your shield of faith, and the moment you do, you like David don’t go to war when you should and instead you look upon that which you should not and sin comes upon you leaving misery and death in its wake.
Do not give sin opportunity. As it says in chapter 13 verse 14 of Romans “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Far too often we leave the door open for sin in our lives, we turn from it but not completely. We are not like Job who in Job 1:1 “shunned evil”. Sure, we throw it out of the house but we leave the door open, or we don’t ask for the key back. We try and keep it locked away in that box in the closet or under the bed where we think that nobody will see. Brothers and sisters, we must, in the words of the puritan William Gurnall, you must “Declare an irreconcilable ware against your bosom sins. Take those bosom sins, the sins that lie nearest your heart, and trample them underneath your feet.”
Do not leave the door open, do not hide it in the corner of your closet, you will never be able to keep it locked away, your only option is to kill it. Do not give sin opportunity.
3. Sin is Strategic
Notice, what does sin use? It uses that which is holy, righteous, and good. Sin is strategic. It has a goal and aim in mind and will even use the law to accomplish its evil end. Sin is much more calculating than we realize. The great puritan theologian John Owen in his wonderful book “The Mortification of Sin” made a statement that has stuck with me for several years. He said “Sin always aims to the utmost sin of its kind”. Again, sin always aims to the utmost sin of its kind. Sin knows that it can’t come in and lead off with the sin of adultery or murder but it can come in with a lingering look, it can come in with an undisciplined thought life, it can come in with frustration, irritability, and little flare ups of anger, or the countless other “respectable sins” as author Jerry Bridges calls them. But as sin works its strategy and presses for its goal, if it gains its end, every look of lust would turn to the grossest perversion and adultery, every moment of frustration and anger would turn to murder. This is the goal of all sin. There is no such thing as small sin. All sin has this aim in mind. Sin is strategic, do not just look for it in the open, do not just look for it in its grossest largest forms.
4. Sin is Deceptive
Again verse 11.
› Read Romans 7:11
Sin is deceptive. It does not come in and show what end it has in mind. Sin often comes in proclaiming to have your best in mind.
“God knows that in the day you eat of it you will become like Him, He is trying to keep you from something good. I am just trying to look out for you, eat the fruit.”
“Hey I know that woman, that man is not a believer but God wants you to be happy, I mean the Bible says “it is not good for man to dwell alone.”
“God wouldn’t want you to stay in an unhappy marriage, besides, that person might be your real ‘soul-mate’. You’ll never be happy unless your with them and God wants you to be happy.”
“Go ahead and just take that, no one will notice its missing, besides you could really use that and its just sitting here, they don’t need it as much as you do.”
“Hey, its just a little lie. If you told the truth there would be more trouble than its worth. A simple white lie never hurt anyone.”
There is a striking picture in Proverbs 9. Turn there with me. In Proverbs 9 we have two banquets that have been set one by Lady Wisdom and one by Dame Folly. In verses one through twelve we see Lady Wisdom building her house, slaughtering her beasts, mixing her wine, setting her table, and calling out to all the simple to drawn them in that they may become wise and fear Lord. However, this is not the only banquet in town and is immediately followed by a very different banquet. This one prepared by Dame Folly. We will pick it up in verse 13.
› Read Proverbs 9:13-18
I love what author and biblical counselor, Ed Welch calls this, he calls it a Banquet in the Grave. He does not know that the dead are there. Which leads us to our final point about sin. We have touched on this throughout because these are all so closely connected, that is, number five . . .
5. Sin is Murderous
Back to Romans 7:11
› Read Romans 7:11
Sin is murderous, it desires your death. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Remember the words I quoted from Peter, these passions are waging war against your soul. It wants to bring death. Death to your relationships, death to your marriage, death to your children, death to your worship, death to your prayer life, ultimately death in your relationship with God. That is sins desire and goal.
Brothers and sisters, we must stop negotiating with sin. You cannot make a truce with sin. You cannot say come here but no farther. Just stay in this area of my life but don’t come over here. Someone said to me recently “He who lets a camel stick his nose in his tent will soon find himself outside in the cold and a camel in his tent.”
Brothers and sisters, we must stop dialoguing with sin. Again, William Gurnall, we must declare an irreconcilable war against it. Do not look at temptations evidence. Temptation comes and says “look what I have to offer” and we say “oh wow, that does look good, I mean, I don’t want to do that but let me just think about what it would be like if I did”.
“Stolen water is sweet, bread eaten in secret is pleasant”. Flee temptation. No more looking at the enemy’s evidence. Or you will soon find yourself NOT just in the cold with a camel in your tent but rather with Dame Folly at her banquet with corpses.
Sin is active, sin is opportunistic, sin is strategic, sin is deceptive, and sin is murderous.
Beloved, Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.