Romans 7:1-13 – Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law, for I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
The law is not sinful, sin is sinful. The law was put in place to show us our sin, with hopes that we’d repent (repentance → righteousness → obedience). But sin (Satan?), who knows what’s sinful, tempts us to disobey the Law with desires from within us. So when we give into the desires contrary to the Law, we sin. So the Law itself is not sinful, our disobedience to it is sinful.
Understand, as long as humans have been alive, sin was present. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve sinned, though, that it affected us. Remember, before the Law was given:
- God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sinfulness
- God banished Cain for murdering his brother (which was a sin)
- Lot recognized his daughters’ actions as sinful
- God destroyed the Earth with a flood because of the people’s sinfulness
- God brought down the Tower of Babel because of the people’s sinfulness
- In Abraham’s time, God showed him Canaan, which He’ll give to Abe’s descendants because of the natives’ sinfulness.
All these people were judged guilty to death for their sinfulness, even before the Law was given. Once the Law was given, people recognized that what they were doing was sinful. So both before and after the Law was given, sin led to death. It was only after the Law was given that they knew why.
So the Law is not sinful in itself because it showed us our sin. The Law is Holy because it acted as a mirror; it showed us how we look now (muddy, etc.), causing us to realize how muddy we were so that we’d go and clean up, and with the intention of us never going back into the mud, because the mud leads us to death. Jesus is the living water, so we no longer need the mirror to show us the dirt because as long as we remain in the “pool of Christ”, we remain clean, and any mud we come into contact with washes right off.