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Sin, Law & I : The Law Slays (Part 29c of 83)

Sin, Law & I
The Law Slays

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 29c of 83


“…11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7-13).

[The apostle Paul is still dealing with how believers out to relate to the Law. This clarification is necessarily because the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone seems to negate the need for the Law. But the Law is truly important for the believer. We saw in the first instalment of this article, how the Law reveals sin. In the second part, we  considered how the Law convicts sinners. But now finally, we must consider how the Law slays the convicted sinner to shut Him up to Christ. For this Paul relates his own experience of how the Law slew him. —JJL]

3.  The Law Slays

Listen to Paul:

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

What is behind the slaying? It is sin, is it not?

The Law is like a sword. If a man uses a sword to kill another, the sword is not responsible. The man is.



The Law or the commandment is like a sword in the hand of sin. Sin slew Paul with the Law. It was sin that slew Paul. Sin deceived Paul into thinking that he can find eternal life and happiness by keeping the Law. But instead he found death and misery.

Moreover, Sin deceived Paul into thinking that he had kept the commandments. Instead he discovered that he had failed miserably. Therefore, by the commandment, sin slew him.

12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

The Law is holy, good and just. The Law was not designed to kill. We must never think that the Law is evil.

It is sin that makes the Law appear to be a murderer or a tyrant slave-master. But the Law is not a murderer or a slave-master by itself. The Law is good, holy and just. Sin is the culprit. But sin hates the Law. So sin seeks to make the Law the scapegoat so that we may throw out the Law.

It is like how the insurgents in Iraq were seeking to make the Americans look bad. And they succeeded to some extent because many of the Iraqis began blame the American forces for everything that happened. I read in the papers the other day about a suicide attack. One man was severely wounded. What did he say in hospital? “It must be the Americans who did it, because Iraqis do not target their own people.”

So it is amongst many professing believers today. When they hear the Law, they feel miserable. What do they do? They seek to exonerate themselves. The Law is no good, they say. We are under grace, we are not under the Law. The Law is too restrictive. It is the Law that make the Christian life miserable. The Law is bad. It is unfair to require Christians to keep the Law. Holiness has nothing to do with the Law. It is foolish to live strictly to the law.

What saith the Scripture?

12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Where do we get the idea that the Law is too restrictive? Where do we get the idea that the Law is useless for Christians? Where do we get the idea that holiness has nothing to do with the Law? Where do we get the idea that the law is bad and must be preached against?

The idea comes from indwelling sin! Sin hates the Law because the Law makes sin exceedingly sinful and leaves the sinner without excuse. Satan is the representative of sin. He hates the Law. He was the first to encourage man to turn away from God’s law.

Do not be fooled by Satan. When you hear the preaching of the Law, and you feel slain by it, do not blame the Law. Do not rise up in rebellion against the Law. The Law is good, just and holy. It does not slay. It is sin that slays! Turn from your sin! Do not turn away like the rich young ruler. Do not excuse yourself.

In my experience, whenever the Law is preached, there will be those who feel extremely uncomfortable.

When the preacher says: “It is sinful to do your marketing on the Lord’s Day,” then someone will say: “What right has he to say that?”

When the preacher says: “It is sin to use ‘Oh my God!’ as a cavalier expression of surprise. Then someone will say: “He is too legalistic.”

When the preacher says: “It is sin to shout at your children impatiently;” then someone will say: “Let him deal with my children.”

Why does the preaching of the Law stir such emotions? Because indwelling sin scapegoats the Law and slays the sinner!

Oh beloved friends and brethren, what do you do when that happens? The rich young ruler and the apostle Paul were both slain with the Law. But they responded very differently. The rich young ruler went away sorrowful. He did not want to hear the Lord any more. He would try to forget what he heard from the Lord so that his conscience would not continue to trouble him.

Paul, on the other hand, fled to Christ. The rich young ruler found death through the Law. Paul, on the other hand, found life through the Law. The Law drove the rich young ruler away from Christ. The Law drove Paul to Christ.

Conclusion

What about you? What is your attitude towards the Law? Let me put it this way: There are three wrong responses of professing Christians to the Law of God.

The first is: I don’t know much about it and I don’t care. If that is the case, you cannot be a true Christian. If you don’t know the Law, you don’t know you are a sinner. If you don’t know you are a sinner, you don’t know you need Christ. You simply could not be a converted person. You may have been fooled into believing you are a Christian or you are fooling yourself. If this is you: I would urge you to read again the Law of God and repent of your sin.

The second response to the Law is: It is such a burden and hindrance to my Christian life. It must be bad because it makes me feel miserable. But how can it be? Remember that the Law is good. It is sin that makes us feel miserable. How can a Christian not love the Law? What does the Psalmist say:

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2)

The Christian should be able to say with the Psalmist: “O how love I thy law!  It is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97). Why? Because the Law reveals his sinfulness so that he would flee to Christ for life.

The third wrong response to the Law of God is: I love the Law. I am glad I am keeping it well. I am glad I am not like the unreformed man who does not keep God’s law. I am glad to be a good Christian faithfully keeping God’s law.

But how can the law generate pride in your heart? Surely you do not really know the Law. If you know the Law as the Spirit of Christ would have you know it, then you will find that the more you try to keep the Law, the more you fail. You will find your sin slaying you by the Law. You will find yourself constantly driven to Christ for comfort and assurance.

What then is the right response to the Law: “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” says the apostle. The true believer loves God’s law. He is thankful to God that His Law reveals his spiritual deadness.  So he strives to keep the Law out of gratitude to God. But as he strives, he finds himself driven to Christ for forgiveness for his failures, and for strength to walk in love. The Law shuts up the true believe to Christ! It shuts him up to Christ at his conversion. It continues to shut him up to Christ whenever it is preached.

This, beloved and friends, must be the attitude whenever you hear the law preached. Never argue against the Law. Never blaspheme God by making the Law sin. Never try to dilute the Law of God. Let the Law of God expose your sin and drive you to Christ. Amen.

—JJ Lim

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