by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 February 27, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
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:
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 Discovery.
A. Concerned "the commandment".
1. This "commandment" was "unto life".
a. The "unto" phrase indicates intention. The built-in problem with seeing this as an "intention" statement is the question of how God could have "intended" life from the commandment.
b. As a "revelation", it had the potential to yield "life" because "Life", according to Jesus, is the result of "knowing God" (John 17:3).
c. As a "command", it had the potential to yield "life" because "Life" is the result of being guided well (Psalm 119:105).
d. In either case, "Life" is presented as an "end" and the commandment is presented as a "means".
2. This "commandment" actually produced "death".
a. This is where the issue of "intentionality" hits its greatest snag. How could God have "intended" something that ended up just the opposite?
b. The answer is to be found in the glory of God. There are many attributes of God that that are, at least in the minds of men, in direct tension with other attributes.
1) Justice is in tension with mercy.
2) Hate is in tension with love.
3) Omniscience is in tension with God's creation of personality.
c. If the commandment had an intention -- Life -- it did so as the outworking of an attribute of God, or a combination of attributes. But, since these attributes exist "in tension", it makes sense that the commandment could be used by a different attribute to accomplish a different objective. In other words, there are multiple intentions in the actions of God and defining them depends upon which of His attributes are in focus. It was the Justice of God that had the "intention" for the Law to be both a revealer of Sin and an executor of judgment against it.
d. The fact is that the Gospel teaches that men are "subject to" the attributes of God according to where they are in relation to Jesus Christ. If a man is "in Christ", he will not be subject to the Wrath of God. If a man is "outside of Christ", he will not be subject to the Grace of God.
e. The "death" that occurred was not the direct result of the "commandment", but, as 7:11 clearly says, of the deception by Sin.
B. Concerned this deception by Sin.
1. The nature of this deception is critical because this is where Sin's strength actually lies.
2. How does a commandment become an "occasion" for deception?
a. It cannot be a deception in what it reveals about God.
1) It is a possibility that a commandment can be twisted in meaning so that what the resultant twist claims is a deception about the nature of God, but that is not what Paul is addressing.
2) A legitimate interpretation of the meaning of a commandment always reveals an aspect of the character of God. This is not where the "deception" lies.
b. It cannot be a deception in what it reveals about the Life of God.
1) The Life of God is the outworking of the harmonious balance of the attributes of God.
2) Any legitimate commandment will give understanding about this Life of God.
c. It has to be a deception in what is implied about man.
1) Any time a revelation about the character of God is applied to man's situation, the potential for misunderstanding exists. This potential exists in the reality of man's lack of omniscient wisdom. Any "focus" upon the character of God is, of necessity", an "occasion" for a blindspot. If I am "focused" upon Justice, it is very possible that I will overlook Mercy.
2) In respect to "commandments", Paul says the "problem" is that there is no commandment given that can "make alive" (Galatians 3:21). Thus, any "commandment" becomes an occasion for deception if the commandment is taken to mean that the commanded are capable of obedience. In other words, any commandment that is taken to mean that man, as a fallen creature, can achieve such a level of approximation of the glory of God that is revealed by that commandment so as to be "like God" (sufficiently "like God" to be qualified to stand in His presence) has become an "occasion" of deception. Paul is clear that God dwells in a kind of light that "no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16).
3) In the initial delusion of the original sinner there was a stated aspiration to be able to go beyond the sovereignty of God (Isaiah 14:12-14) so as to take His place. The assumption behind the delusion was that a creature could transcend the character of his Creator...a kind of "spiritual" perpetual motion machine where more is received from the creation than is put into it by the Creator.