by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 5 March 6, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
1901 ASV Translation:
12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.
I. The Context's "So that's"...
A. The word is used in contexts where there is a logical connection/conclusion to be stated.
B. In 7:1-6 Paul attempted to establish his thesis that the Law has dominion over a man only as long as he lives (7:1).
1. The "problem" is that, as long as a man is alive, the "motions of sins, which were by the Law" were at work to produce sin and death (7:5).
2. The only solution for this is the death of the "vehicle" that Sin uses to produce the fruit of Death, so we were "put to death by the body of Christ" (7:4).
3. Then, Paul's "So that" conclusion: We should serve in newness of Spirit and not in the oldness of the Spirit-less 'letter' (Law).
a. Paul claimed that the "problem" was that there was no "law" that could "give life" (Galatians 3:21).
b. The issue, then, is, bottom line, "faith" -- i.e., dependence upon God (the Spirit) to produce in and through us what we cannot produce.
1) The absolute "bottom line" has to do with two fundamental issues: first, and foremost, is the "problem" of a lack of positive motivation (love as opposed to fear); and, second, and not lagging behind in importance, is the "problem" of actual "strength" to do. If a person "wants" to do something, and he/she has the "ability" to do it, there is no problem. The only problems that can arise are an antagonism toward the issue or an inability to actually act.
2) From this "bottom line" a host of lesser issues arise, most of which are involved in the difficulties of deciding how the "balance" is to be maintained in the face of evil actions. When, for instance, do you "nail" a fellow-believer for his sins against others ("Get thee behind Me, satan...") and when do you exercise "long-suffering" in the face of his/her sins? When do you become an obstacle in the path of others who wish to violate the Word of God, and when do you step aside and let them?
C. In 7:7-12 Paul attempted to head off a false conclusion: that the Law is sinful (7:7).
1. It is not the Law that is "sinful" (7:7), but the Law does provide an "opportunity" for Sin to "revive" by deception (7:9-11).
2. So, Paul's "So that" conclusion: the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good.
II. The Question: Why Does Paul Work So Diligently to Keep Us From Concluding That the Law is Sin?
A. It is as obvious as can be that Paul wants his readers to stay as far away from "Law" as they possibly can.
1. He makes it abundantly clear that there is no "freedom from Sin" where there is any entanglement with the "Law".
2. He labors to get his readers who "know the Law" (7:1) to understand that there is a real and necessary limitation to the jurisdiction of the Law.
B. But it is also as obvious as can be that Paul would feel that he had failed if his readers got "Law-shy" because they decided from what he had said that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Law.
1. He does want them "Law-shy" -- i.e., he wants them to maintain their distance from it.
2. But he does not want them that way for false reasons.
a. But, what difference does it really make why a person keeps his distance from "Law" as long as he keeps his distance?
b. We almost have to conclude that the reason for remaining free from the Law will be undercut if we maintain our freedom for the wrong reason(s).
1) There is a legitimate purpose for the Law as a way to bring man to complete hopelessness in terms of acceptance by God as the result of the man's behavior (3:19).
a) Paul says that the Law was made for the lawless (1 Timothy 1:9).
b) He says that the Law was inserted into the human milieu because there was a need for "sin" to "abound" (5:20).
c) He says that the Law "serves" in respect to "transgressions" (Galatians 3:19).
d) And he says that he would not have "known" Sin except by the Law (Romans 7:7).
e) Thus, we must conclude that one legitimate purpose of the Law has primarily to do with revealing how far distant fallen man is from God.
i. Once this purpose has been achieved, man stands at a crossroads at which the choice is between rage and repentance. If man takes the road of rage, it will be because he blames God for the distance and faults Him for the evil that spews from his life. On the other hand, if he takes the road of repentance, it will be because he has been properly humbled by his own failure to be a legitimate creature.
ii. This revelation occurs in the mix of the intellectual grasp of the meaning of the Law and the actual practices of the one who has that grasp. There are those who refuse to allow the Law to address them; they use it as a weapon against others so that they might be superior to them.
2) But, there is anotherlegitimate purpose for the Law: to serve as the foundation of God's final rejection of impenitent man -- the Law serves to condemn.
3) So, if we draw false conclusions regarding the Law, we will not be free from it: false conclusions are evidence of Sin's unbroken dominion.
III. Paul's Summary Conclusion.
A. The Law is holy. Maintained within its divine purposes, the Law is absolutely flawless. Permitted to be "twisted" into something that it was not generated to be, it becomes the foundation for Sin's power.