Sermon: The Dirty Work of God’s Law, Taking Us From I See to That’s Me Romans 7:7-13

The Dirty Work of God’s Law, Taking Us From I See to That’s Me

Romans 7:7-13

Truth Taught- God’s Law does the dirty work of not only showing us what sin is but also showing us that we are the sinners

 

Introduction

We have seen over the past few weeks that there is a direct connection between our sin and God’s Law. They are very much connected together. So connected, in fact, that some might conclude that the Law is sin. So, Paul takes a few verses and explains why that’s not the case.

Let’s look together at some points that have been made so far about God’s Law and connecting it to sin…

The Law shows us our sin but it cannot save us. It shows us sin but has no answer to our sin problem…

Romans 3:20 (ESV)
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Law makes us even more guilty than we would have been without it because it shows us the standard that we deliberately rebel against…

Romans 4:15 (ESV)

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

Before the Law came there were many sinners but only one trespasser (Adam). When the Law came sinners became trespassers also.

Romans 5:20 (ESV)

20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

The best thing that can happen to us is to be released from the Law and its eternal consequences.

Romans 6:14 (ESV)

14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Being under the Law actually stirs up more sin due to our rebellious nature…

Romans 7:5 (ESV)

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

An important introductory point for us is that just because the Law of God stirs up more sin and more guilt within sinners does not mean it is bad. It is very good and it has come to us from God.

What the Law does is it, first, exposes what sin is and then it stirs up sin within us as further proof of guilt. We might be able to say, well I understand God does not like that we covet someone’s stuff…ok I get it. What actually happens when we understand that is we begin to not just understand that God doesn’t like it but we begin to see that we actually do it. God’s Law stirs up sin within us because we do the very things God tells us not to do. So, we go from I see to that’s me…

We go from an understanding of God’s requirements to seeing our self deliberately transgressing His perfect standards.

Romans 7:7–13 (ESV)

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.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

  1. The Law Does the Dirty Work of Teaching Me What Sin Is (Romans 7:7)

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.”

Notice that the Apostle Paul makes this personal. He learned God’s demands from the Law of God. He says that he would not have learned these things without the Law.

The law is so closely connected to sin that people were making comments that the Law caused them to sin or that somehow the law itself was evil. The fact is, the Law of God is good and holy it doesn’t cause us to sin but it exposes our sin.

To steal is sinful whether God’s Law tells us not to steal or not. When we see the prohibition in the Law of God, Do not steal, then to steal makes us transgressors as well as sinners.
On the contrary, Paul says, just the opposite is true. It is outrageous and blasphemous even to suggest that anything God commands could be deficient in the least way, much less sinful.
By being perfect itself, however, God’s law does reveal man’s imperfection. I would not have come to know sin, Paul goes on to explain, except through the Law. In other words, because God has disclosed His divine standards of righteousness, men are able more accurately to identify sin, which is failure to meet those standards.[1]

Case study in temptation and sin…

This should work well with Paul’s example of covetousness. To covet is to allow a desire to grow to an obsession…

James 1:13–15 (ESV)

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Prior to this passage in James, we are told that God Himself brings about external trials. These are even called tests. They come from God to make us more and more like Christ. The second type of trial or as they are called here, temptation do not come from God but from us. James wants to clarify where they come from and where they don’t.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

So, they don’t come from God but from us. So, how does it work?

He tells us that every person is controlled by his or her desires. These desires are very strong and they have been called lusts or the power that controls the soul. Since the fall of Adam came about through desires this part of us which should be directed Godward is directed inward. Thomas Manton, the famous Puritan tells us that these desires are like a sponge that is looking for something to fill it.

So, we have this inner desire toward self and things, which will deceive us. They lure and entice us toward sin and away from God.

Desire is at work in temptation but the desire just being there is still not sin. Sin is conceived when desire tricks us and we act on it. When desire lures and entices us its like bait that we cant resist. We want something so badly its all we think about until we get it. Once sin is conceived and then born it produces death. It does not produce the life we thought it would it never does.

It’s these desires at work in us that people who produce commercials concentrate on. Ever notice how the product always promises happiness and fulfillment. Those driving in the new car are always smiling. It’s the fact that someone else has it and we don’t that makes us want it even more.

This is the slinky principle…you might ask what the slinky principle is? When I was a kid every time I turned the TV on there it was the slinky commercial. I stood in awe of all the guy could do with his slinky. It would go from one hand to another down stairs like it was alive I had to have one. My desires were getting the best of me. Once I bought the slinky and brought it home, it didn’t do any of the stuff in real life. Did I get a lemon? Was my slinky defective? Wouldn’t go from hand-to-hand or down the stairs, nothing. What I wanted so badly proved to be a burden to me. Slinkys are not sinful but the principle is the same. Sometimes our desires draw us into sinful things. Once there they too become sin that leads to death.

  1. The Law Does the Dirty Work of Teaching Me That I’m the Sinner (Romans 7:8-11)

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

Here we see two bookends. Notice the phrase, seizing the opportunity.   It’s used in v 8 and v 11. Here’s the picture Paul wants us to see. The Law of God is good and sin kidnaps it and holds it hostage. Sin sees an opportunity and takes it.

Here he uses the word commandment for the word Law. The Law of God has really one focus or one commandment…to be devoted to God not to ourselves.   When God commands to worship Him alone then our desires to be worshipped and loved begin to take over. We rebel against God’s command and our desires bring forth sin and sin brings forth death.

In Paul’s example the command to love God was overpowered by his sin and rebellion and took him hostage to basically love other things rather than God.

10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

To love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and strength will result in life. But we take the command and focus inwardly to love ourselves with all our heart, mind, and strength.

So, the Law of God is held hostage at gunpoint by our sin. It is gagged and blindfolded and what promised life actually will produce death.

Then, when God works in our lives the Law becomes the thing that highlights our sin. God has taken the gun from the kidnapper’s hand and given it to the Law and now the Law holds our sin captive. It shows us that sin is really mine. It’s not someone else’s sin. It’s not God’s fault. It’s me and my sin. This is exactly what Paul discovered when God began to work in his own heart.

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness

Now we can see just how clear and blatant our sin is. For Paul when he learned God forbids coveting and God was working in Paul’s heart, he discovered that there was covetousness everywhere in his life. This particular sin was made visible because of God’s Law.
In his book Principles of Conduct, John Murray observes that the more the light of God’s law shines into our depraved hearts, the more the enmity of our minds is aroused to opposition, proving that the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God ([Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957], p. 185). When a person is confronted by God’s law, the forbidden thing becomes all the more attractive, not so much for its own sake as for its furnishing a channel for the assertion of self-will.
In his rich allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan paints a vivid word picture of sin’s arousal by the law. A large, dust-covered room in Interpreter’s house symbolizes the human heart. When a man with a broom, representing God’s law, begins to sweep, the dust swirls up and all but suffocates Christian. That is what the law does to sin. It so agitates sin that it becomes stifling. And just as a broom cannot clean a room of dust but only stir it up, so the law cannot cleanse the heart of sin but only make the sin more evident and unpleasant.[2]

  1. The Law Does the Dirty Work of Exposing the Enormity of My Sin (Romans 7:12-13)

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

The correct conclusion to the question is the Law sin is given to us here. The reality is that the exact opposite is true. It is not sin but rather holy, righteous and good.

God’s work in our hearts now takes another step forward…painfully forward. Not only to we see the quantity of sin or the collected mass of sin in our hearts and lives but the Law allows us to see something else that is vital to salvation. It shows us the magnitude of sin. In other words, it shows us the enormity and power of our sin.

sinful beyond measure

So the Law works to show us our many sins and the magnitude of our many sins. We are left with nothing to say to try to justify ourselves. No words, we can’t blame anyone else, we are left standing utterly guilty in silence before a righteous God whom we have gravely sinned against. When that happens we are exactly where God wants us.

This is exactly where Paul once stood. He strived as a Pharisee to earn God’s favor by working to keep the Law. He thought that God’s Law was something to achieve in order to earn salvation. The exact opposite occurred when God began to work in Paul’s life.

Philippians 3:7–9 (ESV)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Although Robert Murray McCheyne died in 1843 at the age of thirty, he left God’s people a great treasure is his memoirs and other writings. In the poem “Jehovah Tsidkenu,” which means, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” he testifies:

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,

I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;

Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,

Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,

Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;

But even when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree,

Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,

I wept when the waters went over His soul,

Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree

Jehovah Tsidkenu-‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me by light from on high,

Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;

No refuge, no safety in self could I see-

Jehovah Tsidkenu my Savior must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;

My guilty fear banished, with boldness I came

To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free-

Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,

Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;

In Thee shall I conquer by flood and by field-

My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,

This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;

For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,

Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

McCheyne experienced the same conviction of sin as did the apostle Paul. When he saw himself in the full light of God’s law, he realized he was ruined and dead and had no hope but in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.[3]

Beloved we must not dread being made to stand up against the perfect standard of God’s righteous Law but when we do stand there and see our utter and complete depravity then we must look completely to Christ who is our righteousness.

When we see our sin then we can truly see our Savior who is also Jehovah Tsidkenu…our righteousness. When we do see our sin then the Law of God has done its work.

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 368). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 371–372). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 375–376). Chicago: Moody Press.

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