Is the Law Sin?

In the first few verses of Romans 7 Paul shows us how the Law only applies to one who is alive and gives the illustration of marriage to teach us that we’ve died to Mr. Law so that we might be married to Mr. Grace.  With all of Paul’s instructions that we’ve died to the Law and are no longer under the Law you might get the impression the Law is bad or even sinful. Oh dear friends, no, no, no!  The problem is not God’s Law – the problem is us and our use of the Law.
 
1 Timothy 1:8–10 “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9understanding 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, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,” 
 
The problem isn’t the Law at all.  The Law is good for it’s designed purpose; to show us we are sinners in need of a Savior.  It reveals our true condition without a Savior.  The problem is when we attempt to use the Law to do what it wasn’t designed for – to bring about our sanctification.  Legalistic religion attempts to use the Law in the believer’s life.  Rather like trying to live with two husbands, Mr. Law and Mr. Grace, at the same time.  As a child of God you have died to Mr. Law.  You needed to die to Mr. Law, and all the guilt and condemnation that came with him.  If you attempt to live as a believer with both Mr. Law and Mr. Grace you are destined to conflicts and struggles.  Even though we are no longer married to the Law we are not a lawless people.  We live in and under the power of the Spirit who writes His Law on our hearts.  We live in a responsive relationship to Christ in us the hope of glory.
 
Romans 7:7–8 “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” 
 
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means!  So now that we’ve died to the law we serve Christ, not by the letter but, through the Spirit.  Then how do we view the law?  Is the law the problem?  The Law is not the problem, but we are.  The Law shows us the sinfulness of sin but is never the solution.  Never confuse it as the problem either.  It is only a problem if we attempt to use it for something other than it’s designed purpose and that is a problem in much of Christianity.
 
Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  The Law’s ministry is to convict us of sin.  The law reveals sin for just what it is, sin.  Honestly, we wouldn’t deal with our sin seriously without the law.  We would call it bad habits, mistakes, alternative lifestyles etc…  Left to ourselves, we don’t naturally think we’re sinners.  Did Paul see himself as a sinner when he was going around full of hatred killing Christians?  No, he thought he was righteous in all of his actions.  He thought he was a model of virtue.  It was only as a believer that the law really began to work in him.  The ministry of the law was to reveal our sin and drive us to Jesus.  By the New Testament time, Jewish rabbis had summed up scriptural law in 613 commandments, comprised of 248 mandates and 365 prohibitions.  Why did God give His chosen people a law that was impossible for them to keep?  His purpose was to reveal the depth of their sinfulness.  We misunderstand the laws ministry when we attempt to make it achievable.  The Pharisees had modified and externalized the law of God in order to make an acceptable lower level of obedience humanly attainable.  Jesus was in constant conflict with the Pharisees teaching them the true implications of the law.  He told them to hate their brother was murder and to look on a woman with lust was adultery. 
 
For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  It is significant that the apostle chose the most internal of the Ten Commandments to illustrate his personal experience in how the law reveals sin.  To covet is to desire and so the commandment prohibits our desiring anything of our neighbors.  The Holy Spirit quickened Paul’s conscience to understand the full meaning of covetousness.  He had been aware of it from the time he was small boy but not until the Spirit quickened him did it do its full work.  To covet is to allow the desire for things or people to take the place of God in our hearts.  He was not to desire after anything other than loving God with all his heart, soul and mind, and his neighbor as himself.  We think all of our coveting as normal and reasonable.  The real battle with sin is internal, in the heart and mind.  Counseling, therapy, or even strong will power often can modify a person’s behavior.  But only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can liberate us from the power and penalty of sin.  The law’s ministry in that transformation is to make a person aware of his sin and of his need for divine forgiveness and redemption. 
 
So try to remember the Law isn’t the problem at all – it serves a good purpose to drive us to Christ.  Once we are in Christ we aren’t called to live by an external code but in a responsive relationship with Jesus living in us through us.
 
Praying you had a fantastic Easter and see you Sunday.
 
You are loved!
 
Pastor Tim