by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 February 13, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
1901 ASV Translation:
9 And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;
10 and the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death:
11 for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me.
I. Paul's Testimony.
A. His "life" before the "commandment".
1. Since it is Paul's position that all men are dead "in Adam" because "all sinned" (5:12) and there is no "redemption" or "life" outside of Jesus Christ, the claim that he was once "alive" has to mean that he is writing of a post-conversion experience. To argue that he was "born innocent" and, thus, "alive" until he personally sinned so as to die is a futile argument. It cannot answer the problem of universal sin. If all are born without sin, how is it then argued that all sin? What would be the point? If it is true that all sin, to attempt to create a doctrine of every man's fall as specifically individual is to what point? To make every man a sinner by his own free will? How "free" can a will be if it is inevitable that every one who exercises it, does so in the direction of rebellion against God? Where would there be any explanation for this? And why, then, was Jesus born of a virgin to become the only human being in the history of the world to not sin against God?
2. In "life" before the "commandment", there is one main factor: that "life" was not seen as the result of human performance issues. If Paul was "outside" of "Law" when he became alive, he had to have been outside of the "demand/performance" principles that are the essence of Law. "Life", then, must have been the result of divine performance issues. In this light, "life" can be presented as the result of a "birth from above" or a "new birth". In every kind of "birth" of which men are aware, the "born one" is never considered the cause of, or even a participant in, any of the issues leading up to conception, development, or birth. Yet "believers" insist that their "birth" was the result of the exercise of their own "free" will in "obedience" to certain divine requirements.
3. The crucial nature of "Life".
a. When Paul claims he was "alive", what does he actually mean? He cannot be referring to what we call physical life because he claims that he "died" when the Law came, yet his physical life continued. He cannot be referring to what we call "existence" because, again, he claims he "died", yet continued to "exist". In our context, the strongest hint as to his meaning exists in his earlier illustration of the woman who married the One raised from the dead after the "death" of her former husband. In 6:6 he identified that former husband as "our old man" (which has its most likely identity in the Romans 5 context where Adam is the former man who put us all in bondage to Sin -- since the death of the "old man" broke the bondage of "Sin", it makes sense to identify him with our Adam-man). Given that, the only "me" left is the "woman" me who was married to Christ, the risen One. Thus, he must be calling the "marriage of the woman to Christ" the beginning of "Life". And, as the beginning, it has all of the elements that are involved, the main one of which is the "unity" of the woman and her new Husband -- a unity that exists until/unless some kind of acrimony sets in. Thus "life" is "harmony" (i.e., "peace with God").
b. Now, this "harmony" is a two-way street in which each partner is "satisfied" with the other. This means "full acceptance" without acrimonious accusation.
c. So, we can call ourselves "alive" as long as we are completely accepted by God and He is completely accepted by us. "Death" sets in when someone gets dissatisfied.
B. His "death" by the commandment.
1. Not only was Paul not "made alive" by some kind of "free will obedience" to some specific, or set of specific, divine demands, when that/those demand(s) came on the scene, the immediate result was death to Paul.
2. There is no escape from the impact of this declaration: assoonas divine imperative arrived on the scene in the form of "Law", Paul died.
3. This is attributed to the "revival" of Sin. The word translated "revived" is used elsewhere to refer to "resurrection" -- i.e., a return to functional capacity from a condition in which there was no capacity.
a. To what is Paul referring in his "resurrection" terminology? He claims that Sin was resurrected. That has to mean that Sin was dead. But it also has to mean that "dead" does not mean "out of existence". To be "dead" is simply to be without the power to do. Resurrection power enables the resurrected to act.
b. This issue brings us face to face with the necessity to understand exactly what "Law" is as "commandment". We have already seen that Sin is significantly crippled if there is no revelation of the divine desire/intent. As long as Sin does not know what God wishes, or intends, it cannot oppose Him. It is effectually "dead" in that it does not know what to oppose. But, the knowledge of God's desires/intentions cannot bring sin to life again if it was, in fact, dead. Knowledge can be used by the living, but it does nothing for the dead. Thus, "Law" is not being used by Paul as revelation. The reason he calls it "the commandment" is that his meaning for "Law" is a demand for performance without a provision for that performance. As soon as man "attaches" his life to "his performance", he dies. It is an essential delusion: man has no ability to generate life. Life is an attribute of God that is only available to those with whom He shares it.
C. His discovery.
1. The "commandment" was divinely intended to be "unto life" as an expression of a principle of living -- the living can be guided by commandments.
2. But this "commandment" resulted for him in death.
b. He clearly explains: Sin took the occasion of the expression of the will of God to insert a "deception". The essence of this deception was the twisting of promise into demand. Instead of seeing the commandment as an expression of what God was going to accomplish for those who trusted Him, it was turned, by deception, into a demand by God for production by those who trusted Him. This turned grace into law.
c. In light of the above section on the essence of "Life" we now understand that "Law" kills when it is understood as an indication of divine dissatisfaction with His bride and it, thus, generates a "bridal" dissatisfaction with God. No "husband" demands fruit from his "bride"; he simply engages her in love so that fruit "happens".