by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 January 30, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
(286)Thesis:"Seeing" Law correctly is crucial to being able to live effectively.
Introduction:As we have said over and over of late, it is critically important for us to know how to relate to the Law of God if we are to walk in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of letter. The first step in relating to the Law of God properly is, as Paul said in 6:14, and in 7:4, and in 7:6, to clearly understand that we are "dead to it". But, this is problematical. Even if we say that we are dead to the Law (as a force of condemnation), we know that there is no escape from the reality of "Law" (as a force of constraint). If God exists, moral boundaries exist. We are not, and will never be, "free from God" and the inevitable impact He makes upon His own creation.
Therefore the second step is to clearlyunderstand the true essence of the Law. Because this is the second step, Paul brings it into focus by raising the question of 7:7.
I. Understanding His Question.
A. Requires that we understand that we have to "say" something in regard to 7:1-6 ("What shall we say then?").
1. In 7:1-6 Paul claimed that "sinful passions were through the Law".
2. This claim is at the very heart of Paul's doctrine that we are "dead to the Law" (7:4).
a. There is no need to be dead to the Law unless the Law is somehow destructive to us.
b. Given the present reality of only partial regeneration, Sin is still present in us and our only protection from its power to produce fruit is the distance we keep from the Law.
3. But this claim lends itself to a false conclusion.
a. That we must conclude something is obvious from the first question.
b. That we are highlylikely to conclude the wrong thing is obvious from the second question.
B. Requires that we understand what "sin" is ("Is the law sin?").
1. This question boils down to the question of whether there is something essentially wrong with the Law.
2. But, to call the Law "Sin" is to go beyond some kind of essential flaw and to posit an evil aggression to it.
a. "Sin" is not some "absence" of the qualities of deity.
1) Creation, of its own nature, assumes the "absence" of certain qualities of deity.
2) "Absence" is not "evil"; it is merely a benign inferiority.
b. "Sin" is an aggression against the qualities of deity and an antagonism toward His methodologies of Life.
1) The presumption of personal sovereignty in aggression against divine sovereignty is evil.
2) The rejection of self-restraining love as the fundamental method of Life in favor of calling self-assertion "love" is a great evil.
3. The Law is, in some ways, deficient as a statement of the truth about God; it is not an expression of omniscience: but, it is not an aggression against love (Galatians 5:23).
II. Understanding the real purpose of the Law ("I had not known Sin except through the Law").
A. The true purpose of Law is revelation.
1. We live in an upside down world in which Law is seen as regulatory.
a. In our upside down world, we have those who think that the Spirit is fundamentally the medium of revelation and the Law is fundamentally the medium of regulation.
b. In God's world, Law is fundamentally revelatory and the Spirit is fundamentally regulatory.
2. Even in the expression of Law, there is no "imperative".
a. Linguistically, "Thou shalt not covet" is described as a "volative future".
1) This means that the linguists recognize that the form of the verb is a pure future tense, but they cannot shake the sense that it is demanding something from the recipient that he must give.
2) The fact is that the future tense describes a future reality and, as such, is the purest form of promise.
3) It is the turning of promise into demand that is at the heart of the deception of Sin.
b. Realistically, "Thou shalt not covet" is only Promise because Paul insists that just as soon as it is turned, by deception, into Demand, it produces coveting of all kinds.
1) This fact means that God alone can produce non-covetous creatures out of the reality of post-fall humanity.
2) This means that God's revelation of His commitment to produce such creatures in "Law" is the essential nature of "Law" ... it is revelation, not regulation.
3. However, we must still deal with the fact that the existence of God draws real boundaries which carry some sense of imperative.
a. Law is the expression of the character of God.
b. God, then, is the root of every sense of "imperative".
c. The Justice/Grace balance, as revealed in the Gospel, is how the imperative of the essential character of God is met by the essential provision of God so that promise is real.