“Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.”
Romans 7:11-13 NLT
Paul found himself in a situation in which he was perplexed. Once he was exposed to the demands of the Law, he discovered that his thoughts and deeds, some habitually committed since his earliest days, were actually sinful. The Law was a standard against which he found himself falling short. However, he found that if it wasn’t for the Law, he would never have known that what he thought or did was wrong.
As an example from society today. The expression “Oh my god” is ubiquitous, even being abbreviated to OMG in messaging, but do the users of this expression know that they are violating the second commandment from Exodus 20, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20:7)? Without the benefit of the Law perhaps they would never have known. Of course, people, even Christians, claim that, because of Jesus, the Law no longer has any jurisdiction over them. But that isn’t really the case. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:17-19, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven”.
So Paul lamented the fact that because of the Law, he found out that he was a sinner. He recognised that the Law was good, even holy, but because of it, it had effectively an evil purpose.
Of course, we need laws to set boundaries on our lives and prevent society from falling apart. Without the Highway Code, drivers would have no idea of what constitutes a safe journey. Imagine the chaos if no-one knew what side of the road to drive on? But should we veer into the wrong lane, even by accident, we know that we have committed a dangerous act and put ourselves in danger.
The Law acts as a constant reminder, a perfect standard, against which we pilgrims can gauge our progress in the Christian life. But thankfully, falling short need not be fatal, if we cover ourselves with Christ’s redeeming power, and listen to the Holy Spirit whispering within us. The old Apostle John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). What is He saying to us today? Many activities and thoughts will drown Him out if we are not careful and allow Him space. He is always more willing to speak than we are to listen.
Dear Father God. We thank You for Your grace and mercy. Your care for us knows no limits. Thank You. Amen.