"For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death" (Romans 7:11)
We always want what we can't have. That is the rebellious nature of mankind. We see something that is just out of our reach and then the desire to have it comes alive on the inside of us. We can see evidences of this in children. As soon as you tell them not to touch something, then the command produces within them the desire to touch it. Chances are before you spoke to the situation the child was only mildly interested in the object. However, afterwards the child strives to disobey and take hold of that object. The same thing happened with humankind when the law was introduced.
When the commandment came then sin sprang alive on the inside of us. Sin had been alive in us since birth, but it was revived when we realized God's standards for the first time. When the commandment came, we desired to do the very things God commanded us not to do. This may seem like a double edged sword, but Paul stresses that this a necessary byproduct of those commandments? Sin, which was always alive on the inside of us, used the law to beguile, entrap and bring death. It used the commandments as a weapon to kill us. Why was this allowed to happen to us?
It happened fulfill the true purpose of the Law. The true purpose of the law was to point us to Christ Jesus as our savior. The law was to show us our shortcomings and thus held us accountable before God ( Romans 3:19-20, Galatians 3:10-14 ). Before the law was given, God did not hold men's sin's against them ( Romans 5:13 ), so without understanding what sin was, it would be easy to misinterpret it and believe that we were good enough on our own accord. The truth is that sin had already defeated us and made us slaves, but until the law gave us the perfect representation of God's requirements, we were blinded to it. When the law came, the realization that we were defeated came with it. The harder we tried, the farther we fell. Sin used the very things that God spoke to condemn us to death before him. In order that we could come to him and find mercy.
Paul is using this passage in Romans 7 to build the case for grace. He is showing us that when we were bound to the law we were bound to sin. The law strengthen that bond by awakening and feeding the desire to continue in sin. It was a vicious cycle. The result is that we would never be able to break free of sin by adhering to the law. Fortunately for us, Paul explained that Jesus freed us from both the sin nature and the law so we could live in the new way of the spirit ( Romans 6:6-7; Romans 7:6 ). This was accomplished upon the cross. What we were powerless to do, Jesus did by offering himself in our place ( Romans 5:6 ). He was condemned for our sins and was sacrificed for us to pay the price of reconciliation ( Romans 5:9-11 ). Since he broke the cycle that held us in bondage, we are totally free by trusting him as our savior. Doing this fulfils the true purpose of the law, and once the law is fulfilled in our lives then we are no longer under its control.
Today, I am thankful that God used the commandments to show us our need for Jesus. He did not leave us unaware. Rather he showed us the truth that we were previously blinded to in order that we would eagerly except his unconditional offer of grace. Today I pray that you also experience this gift and are forever changed. Amen!
Original article published November 9, 2009.