Banner

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Contributors

  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

    top250.jpg

    Community Websites

    Monergism Books on Facebook

    Blogroll

    Latest Posts

    Categories

    Archives

    Ministry Links

  • « Operative Principle in the Covenant of Works and Grace | Main | Don't know much about Islam? »

    An “Interview” with the Apostle Paul on the Law, Life, and Death

    At his blog, Justin Taylor outlines an imaginary interview with the Apostle Paul based entirely on his words in Romans 7. Its brilliant.. and goes something like this:

    Paul, thanks for taking some time to help me think through what you’re getting at in Romans 7:1-13. Let’s start with your intended audience here. Who are you talking to?

    Those who know the law.

    Is the law still binding on them?

    The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.

    Well, since they’re alive it sounds like they are still bound to the law. But maybe I’m misunderstanding. Can you give an example of this principle from everyday life?

    Sure. A married woman is bound to her husband while he lives.

    You gave the initial principle as “the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives,” which had one person and a law. But now you’ve introduced two persons, bound to each other by a common law. I think I’m tracking with you. So when does that “binding” cease to exist?

    If her husband dies, then she is released from the law of marriage.

    And what happens if she is unfaithful while she is bound to her husband and under the law of marriage?

    If she lives with another man while her husband is still alive, she will be called an adulteress.

    But she’s not bound if she becomes a widow?

    If her husband dies, then she is free from the law of marriage.

    And if she is free from the marriage law, then she is free to join to a new man?

    If her husband is dead and she remarries, then she is not an adulteress.

    This marriage-law-divorce-remarriage stuff is helpful in illustrating your point: “The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.” So what’s the upshot with regard to Christians and the law?

    We have died to the law.

    How did we die to the law?

    We died to the law through the body of Christ.

    For what purpose did we die to the law?

    We died to the law so that we would belong to another—to him who has been raised from the dead.

    Why did God join us to Christ?

    So that we could bear fruit for God.

    What kind of fruit will we bear if we are under the law and not united to Christ?

    While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

    So we’re not under law?

    We are released from the law.

    You’re saying we’re dead to the law?

    We died to that which held us captive.

    What are the results of our death to law?

    We now serve in the new way of the Spirit . . .

    As opposed to?

    . . . the old way of the letter.

    I’m tracking with you now. The old way of the letter—the Mosaic law-covenant before Christ—held us captive, aroused our sinful passions, and produced deadly fruit. So we have to die to it and in a sense get remarried to a new person, the resurrected Christ. So the law is now sinful?

    The law is sin?! By no means!

    Ok, sorry. Does the law do anything good with regard to sin?

    If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin!

    Can you give an example?

    I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

    So the law gives knowledge of sin, in this case coveting. But what led to the actual act of coveting?

    Sin.

    How so?

    Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.

    But wouldn’t I still sin even if there were no commandments in the written code?

    Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

    Another death metaphor! Let me try to restate: Sin was dead, then the law came and sin came to life. Sin killed me through the law. But Christ’s death made me die to the law. So before the law came, were you dead or alive?

    I was once alive apart from the law.

    But then God revealed his law-covenant and what happened?

    When the commandment came, (a) sin came alive and (b) I died.

    So something that promised you spiritual life led to your spiritual death?

    The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me!

    And you said it wasn’t that commandment that killed you but sin using the commandment?

    Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

    Let me try to put all this in chart form. (I work better when I doodle sometimes.)


    No law - Sin is dead; I’m alive

    Law arrives - Sin is alive; I’m dead

    Christ dies - Sin is dead; I’m alive

    Let’s go back to the law again. To reiterate: you think the law itself is a good thing?

    The law is holy.

    The commandment is holy, too?

    The commandment is holy and righteous and good.

    But this good law-covenant—the commandment—it killed you?

    By no means!

    Sorry! So what killed you spiritually?

    It was sin, producing death in me through what is good.

    Why would God do this?

    In order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment sin might become sinful beyond measure.


    Romans 1:7-13

    Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

    4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

    7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

    13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

    Posted by John Samson on August 19, 2010 10:03 PM

    Comments

    In what sense was Paul "alive" apart from the Law? Is it that he thought he was (spiritually) alive - and in good standing - before God (prior to his conversion)?

    In the same vein: in what sense was sin "dead" apart from the Law, for Paul? Is it that he didn't think he was a sinner, or that he had mastery over it, prior to his conversion?

    Michael,

    I think you will find the notes of John Piper helpful regarding the questions you ask at the following link: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/BySeries/2/54_The_Deadly_Team_of_Sin_and_Law/

    Does this make any sense as a summation? The law causes the sinful nature to rebel the more he/she tries to obey the law to control their behavior. The more one tries to obey the law in this manner the more they break the law.

    One who is no longer under the law through the death and resurrection of Christ receives the Holy Spirit's life altering transformation into a desire to fulfill God's law out of love.

    It is the difference of having to obey as a means of controlling your sinful nature from that of wanting to obey because you love your neighbor so much that to entertain lustful thoughts about his wife would be furtherest from your mind.

    Mike

    First of all, this is referring to a specific "law": the "law of Moses." Thus, it is speaking only of the Jew. It has no bearing on you gentiles. Paul is arguing against Psalm 1, Psalm 119 and the Proverbs that say that the Jewish law produces good fruit.

    Ps 1:
    2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
    3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

    For Paul, the law is the "power of sin":

    1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength [DUNAMIS] of sin is the law.

    What the Jews esteem as a fount of every good thing he sees as a curse:

    Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

    But again, he is not saying that the gentiles were ever beholden to the law, or "under" the law, but rather that they should not seek to be under the law, because to be beholden to the law is to empower sin and bring a curse upon oneself.

    Post a comment

    Please enter the letter "l" in the field below: