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Romans by the Book Lesson 43
Thank you for taking the time to be here, and thank you for being involved in a Bible study. I intend to cover a lot of ground in this lesson so for the sake of time and to keep things moving forward I’m going to pick up right where we left off in the last lesson.
Please open your Bible to Romans chapter 7; we’ll drop in at verse 7.
Helpful Hint: it’s a good idea to review the previous lesson before starting the new one. For one: it refreshes the memory. A lot happened since the last time you were here. We all live busy lives. I know my memory isn’t what it used to be. Ask my wife…
Another reason for review is this; repetition - it’s the key to learning. The more you observe the material, read it, study it, etc. the more likely you’ll remember it.
Romans 7:7-8 – By the Law is the knowledge of sin
Romans 7:9-11 – But the Law gives no power over sin
Romans 7:12 – Yet, the Law is holy, just, and good
The Apostle Paul, in chapter 6, has shown the converted Gentiles the “obligations” they were under – to live a holy life. The word holy means: set apart for God’s purpose.
In chapter 7, Paul addresses the Jewish population of this congregation who might be hesitant to embrace the gospel “fully;” in fear that by doing so they would in turn renounce the Mosaic Law. In the eyes of a Jew, demonstrating allegiance to the gospel might appear to them to be an outright denial of their allegiance to God.
At one time, the Israelites rested in the Mosaic Law. They believed it to be sufficient for both justification and sanctification. Their contention was the Law came from the LORD God…how could it not be perfect…?
Paul is preaching that God never intended The Law to be a permanent solution to their sin problem (Genesis 3:15; Romans 10:4).
Paul proved that the Law was insufficient for their justification in chapters 3, 4, and 5; he now proves that it is insufficient for their sanctification in Romans 7.
(See Hebrews 7:19).
The Apostle Paul, addressing the Jews in Rome, wrote in the previous verse, “But now we (Jews) have been released from the Law (because we have believed in Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness), having died to that by which we were bound,”
Paul’s message: the Law is powerless to save or sanctify you. The Law can only condemn and kill. That legalistic system, which kills, has ceased to bind us; thanks be to God. Jesus Christ is the end of the Law. Selah
Having communicated this point to the Jewish segment of this church, Paul expected to hear an objection. This is why chapter 7 begins with a question.
7: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law (Romans 3:20); for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”
“I would not have come to know sin except through the Law;” – Paul wrote.
Paul admits that he became aware of his own sinful state by searching the Law and discovering that he “fell short” of the righteous standards of God. Both God and the Law required perfection (see Jesus Christ as a living example).
Apart from Jesus Christ and God’s grace mankind is incapable of such a holy standard.
Paul wrote at Romans 7:5 the Law isn’t sin. Due to our sinful nature the Law aroused our carnal passions; but this does not equate to the Law being sin! Allow me to explain.
When you were little, did your mother ever tell you that you could not have a cookie before supper? If so, your mother instituted this rule with love and for good reason. But what happened when you heard the “cookie command?” Your “desire” for that cookie didn’t go away. You still wanted the cookie and human nature being what it is the fact that you were told you couldn’t have it increased your desire for it. This doesn’t mean the cookie command was wrong or made you sin.
You snatched the cookie from the jar and ate it, hiding somewhere in the house, because of your sinful nature. The cookie command aroused (stimulated) your sinful nature.
The speed limit is another example. The law exists to protect personal property and lives. Every licensed driver is expected to observe the posted speed limit. It’s the law.
However, the majority of the motorists I’ve observed usually add 5 to 10 mph to the posted speed limit and they are breaking the law in doing so. But this doesn’t mean the law is sinful. This law simply “stimulated” or aroused their sinful nature. They are in effect “rebelling” against authority – no different than the child who snatched the cookie and ran. Are you still with me?
This leads me into the next teaching segment where the Apostle Paul cites, “I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”
Why did Paul choose the sin of coveting as his one and only example?
Before I answer this question I need to introduce you first to what is known as “The Biblical Law of First Mention.” In testing Scripture by Scripture, it is important to look for the place in the Bible that a subject, attitude, or principle is mentioned for the first time and see what it meant there. Usually, the place of first mention is in the book of Genesis but not always. At the place of first mention, Scripture gives the most complete and accurate meaning.
Paul focuses on the commandment of “coveting” so let’s return to the place of first mention and there I believe we will find the answer to the question at hand and learn an important lesson. Please turn to Genesis chapter 3.
1: Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” (Satan, the father of lies, has planted the seed of doubt in the woman’s mind. The deception process has begun.)
2: The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3: but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
4: The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!
5: For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6: (Read carefully) When the woman (did what) saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was (now watch this) desirable to make one wise (as God), she took from its fruit and ate;
What brought the woman to disobey God’s one and only command in the garden?
The woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). She succumbed to Satan’s lie and an overwhelming selfish desire to “be like God.”
This suggestion appealed to the woman and so she entertained the thought.
Why would she think about such an idea? Consider she had the ideal husband/wife relationship, lived in Eden, and she shared an abiding personal relationship with the Creator God, yet she desired something more…
The woman measured the serpent’s words, and the possibilities. And this book says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight for the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from it and ate.”
She acted on this covetous desire.
The point I’m making is this before she disobeyed God’s command (do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) she first coveted the idea that she would be like God. Are you still with me?
God knows we are weak and a covetous bunch - for we are all sinners.
We aren’t sinners because we break God’s commandments.
We break God’s Commandments because we’re sinners.
You probably learned about coveting from your parents, your Sunday school teacher, or via the Ten Commandments. But it is one of the Big Ten -- #10 to be exact.
Have you ever considered this truth: you can’t disobey one of God’s Commandments without first breaking this one - “YOU SHALL NOT COVET (Exodus 20:17).”
The sin of coveting is the first sin you disobey before you lie, steal, commit adultery, take someone’s life, dishonor your parents, or when you opt to destroy someone’s character by spreading gossip (bear false witness).
You can’t break any of God’s Ten Commandments with coveting first!
Every committed sin begins in your mind with a covetous desire.
When you consider all the facts, the sin of coveting is really about selfishness.
What does this book say?
3: (This is a command) Do nothing from selfishness (coveting) or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4: do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
In one word, what would you call a person who “desires” their neighbor’s wife, their home, their car, their property, or their big-screen T.V.? You’d call them selfish!
What word would you use to describe a person who was “delighted” to know their neighbor had achieved success, could afford a new home, a new car, married a beautiful woman, owned property, and a large T.V.? You would call this person unselfish.
Therefore, the tenth commandment forbids coveting (or selfishness) in all its forms: envy, covetousness, discontent, ingratitude, etc. When a person displays any form of selfishness, in effect that individual is breaking God’s command to “love one another.”
They are also revealing an unthankful heart to God who gave us His one and only Son.
Think about this. Can you name one sin that is not rooted in selfishness (coveting)?
Idolatry, fornication, lying, the love of money, theft, adultery, etc, every sin committed stems from loving yourself more than God or others.
You want to know another word for coveting? It’s greed.
Why is the world in such financial turmoil today? Can you say, “Greed?”
Why are there so many broken homes and destroyed marriages - Greed.
Why does America abort approximately 7000,000 unborn children yearly - Greed.
Why, after all these years, is the U.S. still unable to convince the PLO that they need to recognize the nation of Israel’s right to exist - Greed.
Why did Putin invade and annex the Crimean peninsula - Greed.
Why are Russian soldiers gathering on Ukraine’s border right now - Greed.
Why is the political system in America broken - Greed.
Why do the majority continue to walk in “darkness,” rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word outright – Greed.
Coveting and Greed are one and the same. Are you with me?
Let’s go to the next verse.
8: But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me (what) coveting of (what kind) every kind (we just looked at this concept); for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Paul, like everyone else, had covetous desires, and the law told him that his desires, although normal, were sinful. Paul, like many of his countrymen could keep the external rules of Judaism for the most part (i.e. he remembered to pray on schedule, remembered to fast, Paul remembered to honor the feast days, etc.), but he couldn’t prevent himself from coveting, and the Law taught him that this was sin.
Paul is saying that the law, by defining sin, told his sinful nature how to sin more.
Our sinful nature wants to violate laws. If you give it a rule, it wants to break it, to assert its authority and independence. So the law, by prohibiting certain things, made people desire to do those things even more, and this works because of our Adamic nature.
9: I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;
What does Paul mean when he says, “I was alive once apart from the Law”?
Remembering Paul’s teaching from Romans 5:13, from Adam to Moses people were not charged with breaking God’s Law. The reason for this is because during that time there was no law to break. Sin is not “imputed,” or sin is not charged to one’s account, when there is no law.
People sinned and died, of course they did. But this is due to sin and death being passed down to all people from Adam (Romans 5:14). The thing is, none of these people before Moses actually broke any commandment from God, for none had been given, so they did not sin in the manner that Adam did. Adam broke God’s command.
In short, people were sinning, but these people can’t be charged with breaking God’s commandments (laws) if there aren’t any on record or if they are unaware of them.
This is what Paul is saying.
Have you ever heard of anyone being charged with the crime of owning more than 10 books - probably not, because no such law exists. People can’t break a law that doesn’t exist, and if a law doesn’t exist, they cannot be charged with breaking it.
Are you still with me?
Let’s move on.
10: and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;
Paul said, “I discovered that the very commandment meant to bring life actually brought death.” (See Romans 4:15). However, God never intended for the Law to bring life or to rid humanity of their sin problem. Please turn to Galatians, chapter 3.
19: Why the law then? It was added because of the transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed (Genesis 3:15) would come to whom the promise had been made (See Abraham - Genesis 12; 15).
Paul says “the law” was “added because of the transgressions.”
The Mosaic Law was given some 430 years after the calling of Abram.
The word “added” implies that the law was not a central theme in God’s redemptive plan, which is what we have learned. It was an additional plan and secondary to the everlasting covenant God made with Abraham. How do we know this? Note the wording in the verse. As the word “added” marks the beginning of the Mosaic Law, the word “until” marks its end. Jesus Christ, the promised seed, is the end of the Law.
Paul said the law is related to transgressions. A transgression is a violation of a standard. God’s Law provides the standard by which violations are measured.
In order for sinners to know how sinful they really are, how far they deviate from God’s standards, God gave the Law. We know from Paul’s teaching at Romans 5:13 people sinned. But after the Law was given, sin could be measured and specified (see Romans 3:30, 4:15, 7:7).
Skip to verse 21.
21: Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
22: But the Scripture has shut up (silenced) everyone under sin (meaning all of us), so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
24: Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by (what) faith.
25: But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
26: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Let’s return to Romans.
11: for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
The Jews incorrectly assumed that the law, with their effort, would give them life.
But “Sin” deceived me…says Paul. The Law permitted sin to trick me, and I got death when I was striving for life. But this doesn’t mean that the Law is sin.
Paul follows up on this truth in the following verse.
12: So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
The Law and the commandment are holy but no matter how hard we try neither one of these can make us holy. There is nothing improper or imperfect in the Law (see Psalms 19:8; Psalms 112:1-2; Psalm 119; Proverbs 2:1-5).
“The Law,” meant to regulate the individual’s conduct is holy, and the “commandment,” THOU SHALL NOT COVET, meant to regulate the heart, it also is holy, righteous, and good. But neither pardons the sinner or purifies the heart.
“Through faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, making atonement for sin, we get a perfect standing before God. That is justification, and it puts us, in God's sight, back in Eden before sin entered. God looks upon us and treats us as if we had never sinned.” A.C. Dixon
(To be continued)
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