Consequences for our Salvation by Faith – The Law Cannot Save Us ROMANS 7 – Part 5
Romans 7:9-12 (NKJV)
9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
Conversely, in verse 9, Paul says he was “alive” apart from the Law. He means he was ignorant of his own sin. Alive means being self-righteous, thinking yourself approved before God because you are too foolish and ignorant to know how much sin you really have. But then as the Law is made known in his heart, Paul says two things happened to him. First, he said sin became alive him. It was awakened to the possibilities of opposing God, like a sleeping lion aroused by an intruder. Once your flesh understands what God wants or doesn’t want you suddenly have a plan of action against Him. And secondly,
Paul’s conscience came to understand how vulnerable he was before God. And that is why he says he died. Like Adam and Woman in the Garden, Paul suddenly felt guilt and condemnation for coveting. Notice he didn’t say he stopped coveting. He said he recognized he was in trouble for all of his coveting.
That feeling is our spirit instinctively letting us know we are doing the wrong thing and we will be held accountable at some point because of God’s holiness. But that doesn’t give us the power in of itself to stop. So the Law was a commandment(s) explaining the way to holiness, but its effect in a fallen person’s nature is to bring you to death. Not to bring you to holiness. It excites the part of us that brings about our own condemnation. That fallen part of our nature, it becomes a roadmap for how to sin more.
Paul says in verse 11 that sin (he’s speaking of your flesh here because your spirit is perfect) took opportunity through the knowledge of the covenant to bring us all the more of the same. It deceived us in that it causes our heart to move in a direction that is inherently hurtful to our own best interests. Like the original sin in the Garden, our sinful nature tells us that what is evil is good and what is good is evil. The effect of that deception is to bring us into death, both spiritual and physical for those who don’t know Christ. Paul summarizes his explanation of the Law in verse 12: he says the Law is holy and it’s instructions to us are holy and righteous and good, etc. The problem isn’t the Law. The problem is how our sinful flesh responds to the Law.
That is the background for the next consequence. The first consequence was in coming to Christ you died to the Law. The Law is no longer your guide in life for serving God. And if you are Gentile, it never was. So don’t back up into it now. Meanwhile, if you think that suggests the Law is somehow unhealthy for us or bad for us because it prompts sin responses out of humanity. You need to understand it’s not the Law responsible for that it is the nature of humanity to oppose God. That’s the problem. The Law just gives people a roadmap for how to do that opposition. Now with that background, he goes to the second major consequence for the salvation of the body, the physical body and that starts in verse 13…
Romans 7:13-14 (NKJV)
Law Cannot Save from Sin
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Let’s stop here because this is a complex sentence Paul just wrote and we will take a moment to unravel it. Paul is moving his line of reasoning just one step further…he asks is the Law sin. No, it does not sin, it is holy. It is us who sin. Then he asks the next question. How can we say that the Law is good, being good how is it still to blame for causing our death? Paul says the cause of death was not the Law, but rather it was our sin itself. Here is what Paul is saying . Paul says we die because of sin not because the Law exists that we are violating. The Law is there to give us the opportunity to know how truly sinful we are. In other words, if God never gave anyone His Law you would still be just as sinful as you are now and you would still be just as condemned for it when you die. All that would be missing is you would not know how to measure your sinfulness. You would go to the grave unaware of just how sinful you are. God gave the Law so it could affect me in such a way that I could see how utterly sinful I am. We could say the Law is a light, but if so it’s like the light of an open flame. And our sinful nature is like a pool of gasoline in our heart. So that as the light of that Law comes to us, it ignites our passions to oppose God and sin all the more. We don’t blame the Law, we blame the response of our heart.
Now all this talk of the Law and it’s strange power to excite our flesh into rebellion introduces a new and important theological principle which is the second issue for the chapter. This principle is a corollary to the one we learned in chapter 6. We learned that by faith in Jesus we get a new spirit, one that is sinless and perfect. So that as we experience sin in our lives as Christians, we know that sin isn’t originating from our spirit. It’s originating from some other place. Now we’re learning that the source of our sin is our flesh. Paul says in verse 14 that the Law is spiritual. Meaning it has a spiritual source from God and it describes the perfect nature of the divine, as Jesus said only God is good. So the Law is like a description of God’s goodness. In that sense, it is a spiritual thing. To keep the Law is to share in the nature of God.
But then Paul says we are not that way. We are of flesh, meaning our spirit which is perfect and sinless like God is not limited to being a spirit like God is. We being spiritual and physical which he calls fleshly, it means we have both this spiritual nature coexisting with a fallen sinful body. These two together, this union of perfect spirit and sinful flesh results in ever-present warfare. It’s spiritual schizophrenia. You have two opposite personalities, spiritually speaking working inside you from the moment you believe. You have Christ’s spirit and Adam’s body. It’s like sharing the back seat on a long road trip with your older sibling. It’s like Donald Trump taking Hillary Clinton to the prom. It’s like brushing your teeth and drinking orange juice. They are at odds with one another.
So the consequence of your salvation by faith is a spirit that is reborn, but for a time it lives in a body that remains unchanged and that leads to spiritual conflict. So what Paul has done is moved us from the first part of chapter 7 and understanding we are no longer bound by a law that only has the power to excite sin, not because it’s wrong but because we are. Then he has moved now into saying, but that thing in us that guides us is all spiritual like God is all spiritual. The Law being all spiritual, but we are not all spiritual. We have this flesh to contend with.
NEXT: Conclusion of Romans 7. Paul starts talking about the consequences of being saved and yet in this fleshly body.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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