Romans Bible Study #23
The meaning of religion
7What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
8But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
9I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;
11for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. NASB
7But I can hear you say, "If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself." That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, "You shall not covet," I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it.
8-12Don't you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God's good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
13I can already hear your next question: "Does that mean I can't even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?" No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God's good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.
Covet - Genesis 3:6 - when studying a word most people say start with its first occurrence in the Bible
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
This is a difficult word, nechmad. From the verb, chamad, it means “delight, desire, craving.” This verb means “to covet, to lust after.” Not surprisingly, the tenth commandment deals directly with the mental sin of lustful desire. This is not about the action of picking and eating. This is about the inner wish to consume, even when I have not yet acted upon that wish. If the power to act is not harnessed at this point, the rest is inevitable.
You might think that as long as the door stays shut, you are safe. But this door has no handle. All that is required to open it is the desire to open it. Before Eve’s desire was kindled by the serpent, the Tree slept blissfully in the Garden. Now it is awake with anticipation. Now it is the object of coveting. And who made it so? Certainly not God. He made the Tree and planted it there, but the Tree He planted was just one among many; one whose purpose was to be a reminder. A casual glance in the direction of the Tree would have been sufficient to remember who God is. A mezuzah on the doorpost – that’s all the Tree was intended to be. A reminder that God determines what is good and what is evil. But no longer. Before she picked the fruit, before she felt its cool skin and smelled its aroma, before she took the first crisp bite, Eve had already thrown away its godly purpose. Now the Tree belonged to her.
In Twelve Step circles, this is called technical recovery. It means that I don’t act out my addiction, but my mind is still absorbed with addictive behavior. I am clean on the outside, but rotting on the inside. Eve hadn’t eaten anything yet, but she was already far from God. This aspect of the core of sin is the most difficult to confront because it has a hidden face. Only you and God know.
Sin is not really about grasping selfishness. It only deteriorates into that much later. It begins with discontent and the desire to be better than the way I was created.
"For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Romans 13:9).
The word for covet in Romans 13:9 is the same Greek word for lust or long for. There are many things a person might have a strong desire for but when it occupies one's mind so that one's pursuit to get something allows him to forget about the concerns and needs of others, then he is said to covet.
God does not allow any 'Christianizing' of lusts. We are not serving another when we give a lonely woman a little sexual attention. A person has committed abominable wickedness when he justifies his or her immorality by calling it serving or caring. Immorality always hurts and is always wrong. So is greed of any sort.
There are good desires and bad desires. What makes a desire a bad desire? If that desire arises because you are losing your contentment in God and all that He has for you in Jesus, it is a bad desire. Coveting; desire equals deserve. I want it, I deserve it, that is all there is to it.
Verse 7a Grace is the human impossibility, that is the divine possibility, it is contrasted with the highest human possibility, religion. There is no bridge between these two things. We do not get from law to grace by gradual, laborious human ascent. Religion compels us to the perception that God is not to be found in religion.
Your gospel is making the law into sin. It makes sin worse, stirs sin up, creates covetousness.
the lie comes in two ways, when it looks at the law
1) hopeless self-indulgence the law is impossible, just live the way you want and forget about even trying
2) Hopeful self-righteousness yeh you can do this law, buck-up, try harder, figure out a formula that works and stick with it
Jesus Christ performed perfect obedience and we connect with this righteousness through faith alone.
Verse 8 The commandment is good. Sin in dwells us we are bad. The commandment draws out the sin in us.
The flesh cannot submit to God’s law. The Law is God’s law, an extension of God. As such, men can not live up to it. Only His life can “do” His laws. Our life is simply shown to be utterly sinful when confronted with the command of God.
Men are not God. It is not our perogative to say a thing is right or wrong. It belongs to God to do that. In direct relationship with God, I depend on Him to show me the way. When I choose to be my own guide, find my own way, I break off dependence on Him and become independent. It is an independence that separates me from LIFE. So sin brings death.
The commandments are good, and obeyed and followed bring life, but in us, dwells the thing that refuses the commandments, sin. Sin, which could hide and be in the background before being confronted by the law, is exposed and seen for all its ugliness and pride.
The deception of sin is the illusion that such direct knowledge is life, whereas in fact it is death. If I can know what is right and wrong, then I can do it.
The commandment presents piety as a possible human achievement , it says “Yeh, you failed, but get up and try again, try harder.” Think of a better formula, get a better plan.
So the good of the command and the law is that it reveals there is no good in me. So even in the pursuing of God through religion is seen to be sin.
God comes to us through mercy and grace.
This is the lead in section for the most famous part of Romans 7 and Barth really opened my eyes to the foundation, that Paul is laying here. Simply put, religion, our attempts to follow the commands will ultimately prove two things. The command is good and I am bad.
And that is where Romans 7 is headed.