Romans 7:7-14

Thursday Evening Bible Study

August 28, 2008


Paul has been talking about the believer’s relationship to the Law.

He used the illustration of marriage – when one partner in the marriage dies, the other partner is free to remarry.  Since we’ve “died” with Christ, we are now severed from our obligation to the Law.

Now Paul deals with the nature of the Law itself.  Is the Law bad?  Is it evil?

:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."

covetousnessepithumia – desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust

you shall not covetepithumeo – to have a desire for, long for, to desire; to lust after, covet; of those who seek things forbidden

A.T. Robertson:  The law is not itself sin nor the cause of sin. Men with their sinful natures turn law into an occasion for sinful acts.

The law is the thing that reveals sin to us as being sinful.  We were already doing it and were guilty, but we didn’t know it was wrong before the Law.

It’s like turning on a flashlight in a dark room.  The things in the room were already there, but you didn’t see them until the flashlight was turned on.

The Law isn’t sin.  It is the thing that exposes sin.

Some people want to do away with certain laws because they claim that they only cause people to want to break them.

If we did made marijuana legal, then we’d eliminate the crime involved, right?

If we lowered the drinking age, then college kids wouldn’t have so many keg parties.  Right?


Don’t blame the wrong things

I find this whole subject to be a great picture of how we blame the wrong things.
We tend to find all sorts of excuses for our sin.
A guy gets mad at his wife and uses it for an excuse to look at pornography.
As you are looking you tell yourself, “well she deserves it…”, or “I know I’m doing something bad, but I don’t have a choice, it’s her fault”.
Some people get violent when they get angry.
If you ask them why they are violent, they will probably tend to blame it on the person that made them angry.
The Bible says,

(Eph 4:26-27 NKJV)  "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, {27} nor give place to the devil.

You may not always have control over the things that provoke you to anger, but you do have responsibility for what you do with your anger.

The real problem is me.
(1 John 1:6-10 NKJV)  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. {7} But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. {8} If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. {9} If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. {10} If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Help comes from admitting my fault.

Help comes when I stop blaming others for my own sin.

I am the sinner.

:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.

opportunityaphorme (“from” + “to set in rapid motion”) – a place from which a movement or attack is made, a base of operations; metaph. that by which endeavor is excited and from which it goes forth; that which gives occasion and supplies matter for an undertaking, the incentive; the resources we avail ourselves of in attempting or performing anything

It’s kind of like a runner’s starting blocks.  Sin uses the law as the thing that gives it a boost, makes it run faster.  Look at these starting blocks, they represent the Law.  Sin is like the runner’s feet that will push off the blocks.  The gun sounds and off it goes, with a better start because of the blocks.


One of my favorite computer games is called “Age of Empires”.  My wife says I like it because I like to hear the people in my nation say “Yes M’Lord”. You start out in an early stage of a civilization and you advance your nation through various stages of civilization.  The goal is to conquer the map you’re sitting on.  When you start a game, you start with a “town center”.  That’s where you make people, who make farms, markets, stuff like that.  It’s also where you start to build your weapons, armies, and launch your attack to conquer the world.  When my kids were small, my youngest ones used their town centers to launch out and explore the world.  David and I were different.  Our town centers were where we launched our scorched earth practices and wiped out our enemies.
The “Law” is like your town center.  It can be used for good or for evil.  Does it bring destruction or does it help you explore life? It all depends on how it’s being used and who’s using it.  When sin takes advantage of the Law, it springs up all kinds of trouble in us.  But the Law itself is good.

producedkatergazomai – to perform, accomplish, achieve; to work out i.e. to do that from which something results

all manner – the Greek is just the word for “all”

evil desireepithumia – desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust; we could have left off the word “evil”.

When sin was put together with the commandment, the result was “all lust”.

It’s kind of like putting together two chemicals that are harmless by themselves, but when you combine them...

Putting nitrogen into a sugar alcohol, or glycerol, produces nitroglycerin

Or putting a Mentos candy into Diet Coke…

:8 For apart from the law sin was dead.

was deadnekros – one that has breathed his last, lifeless; destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative

:9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

What is Paul talking about, being “alive once without the law”?

Robertson:  Apparently, "the lost paradise in the infancy of men" (Denney), before the conscience awoke and moral responsibility came, "a seeming life" (Shedd).

The thought is that before a person becomes old enough or rational enough to understand the law, they experienced a measure of “life”.

This is a seed of what we call the “age of accountability”.  The Jews have a ritual that a child goes through when they are old enough to become accountable to the Law.  It is a “bar mitzvah” (or, for girls, a “bat mitzvah”), when a boy becomes a “son of the covenant”.

sin revivedanazao (“again” + “to live”) – live again, recover life

It’s not that it was ever really dead, but the Law gave it new life…

“It’s alive”…

Look at how Paul is combining living and dead things, and what results.

Take a dead thing (sin).

Take a living thing (me).

Add the commandment.

The dead thing comes to life.  The living thing dies.

:10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

The commandment was supposed to bring life, but for sinners like me, it ends up bringing death.

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

opportunityaphorme (“from” + “to set in rapid motion”) – a place from which a movement or attack is made; the same word translated “opportunity” inverse 8, the “starting blocks”.

deceivedexapatao – to deceive; from apatao – to cheat, beguile, deceive, literally “to not walk” (a + pateo) or “walk away”.

Adding the “ek” makes it more intense, to “deceive completely”.

I know the Law is good and from God, but sin deceives me into thinking that I can meet those standards, and all that happens is that I break the commandments and get caught in sin.

:12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

Our section began with the question:

(Rom 7:7 NKJV)  What shall we say then? Is the law sin?

Paul now goes back to that question.

holyhagios – characteristic of God, separated to God; in the moral sense of sharing God’s purity

justdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws

goodagathos – of good constitution or nature; useful; good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy

You have to be careful with all that we’ve said about legalism.  Legalism is deadly in that we are deceived into thinking that we can please God and meet His standards for heaven by keeping the Law.

But the Law itself is perfect.


Read the whole book!

There are some folks who take such a stance against the “Law” that they just don’t read the Old Testament.  They say that we aren’t saved through the Law, so they don’t read the Law.

Look what Jesus said about the Law:

(Mat 5:17-19 NKJV)  "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Jesus doesn’t remove the Law.  He uses the Law and fulfilled all of it’s requirements.  He never sinned.  He also used the Law concerning sacrifices in dying on a cross, taking our place, taking our judgment.
{18} "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
The Law doesn’t pass away with the New Testament.  It doesn’t pass away until the heaven and earth does.
{19} "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(Psa 19:7-11 NKJV)  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; {8} The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; {9} The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. {10} More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. {11} Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
Read all of God’s Word, not just the New Testament.

It’s a great picture of what God’s standards are all about.  It’s the very basis for the New Testament.  I can’t see how anyone could understand half of what’s in the New Testament without understanding what has happened in the Old Testament.

There’s a difference between loving and appreciating the Old Testament and the Law, and expecting that I’m going to please God and enter heaven by making it my sole focus to obey every commandment.

I understand very clearly from the Law that I fall very short of it.  I also understand in the Law that God has made provision for my sins, by allowing me to offer up a substitutionary sacrifice, another person or animal who takes my place by dying and paying for my sins.  I understand now that Jesus has done that for me, dying once and for all for all of my sins.  I now know that I can only meet God’s awesome, holy requirements by accepting with faith that Jesus has paid for my sins.

:13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

sinhamartia – to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin

exceedinglyhuperbole (“hyperbole”) – a throwing beyond; beyond measure, exceedingly, preeminently

“So”, Paul would say, “Are you saying that this good thing, the law, has been the thing that has brought me death?” “Has this good thing been bad for me?”

It would be like saying, “Do you mean that eating all this broccoli is going to kill me?”

Who is the bad guy here?  The law or sin?

Sin is what has killed me, not the Law.  The Law only exposed the sin.

When sin is mixed with the commandments of God, we see just how sinful sin really is.  There’s a kind of “death” that happens in us, a strong conviction that we’ve utterly failed.  The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more aware we are of how sinful sin really is.


It’s kind of like natural gas.  I understand that in it’s natural state, natural gas is odorless.  You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but light a match and ka-BOOM!  So the gas company mixes in an ingredient that gives it a certain smell.  Now if there’s a gas leak, we can smell it and get away from it.  The Law is like that ingredient that produces the smell.  It’s really for our good that we smell it, it warns us of the danger.

The commandment made sin out for what it was, bad, evil, wicked, sinful.


Yeah, it’s that bad

God’s Word shows me just how bad sin is.
This is one reason why some people avoid church and avoid reading their Bible.  They’ve had a little taste of the conviction, and they don’t want to feel that again!  What they ignore is that they’re still carrying around the very stuff that made the conviction feel so bad in the first place, their sin.  Just because you don’t smell the natural gas doesn’t mean that the unadulterated kind isn’t around.
For example, the world is just now coming around to the fact that a man and a woman living together without being married is wrong:


From USA Today, [ENEWS] Feb. 01, 1999 6:00 a.m. ET

Cohabitation bad for marriages

Couples who live together before marriage are about 48% more likely to divorce than those who don't, says the author of a new review of research on cohabitation. Despite what some couples may think, the overwhelming implication is that "living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce," says study co-author David Popenoe, a Rutgers University sociologist. The report comes as the trend of living together soars. By 1998, the number of unmarried U.S. couples topped 4,236,000 up from 439,000 in 1960, according to the Census Bureau.

Yet if you would expose yourself to the Bible, you would have found this out a long time ago and saved yourself mountains of pain by staying away from the sin.

(1 Th 4:3 NKJV)  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

Quick translation – God’s will is that you don’t have sex before the commitment of marriage.

:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

spiritualpneumatikos – belonging to the Holy Spirit; having the nature of Spirit

carnalsarkikos – fleshly, carnal; having the nature of flesh, i.e. under the control of the animal appetites

It’s funny that Paul is calling himself carnal.  This was his rebuke of the Corinthian church:

(1 Cor 3:1 NKJV)  And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

We all have a sin nature.

sold underpiprasko – to sell; sold under sin, entirely under the control of the love of sinning.  Perfect tense. “Sin has closed the mortgage and owns its slave” – Robertson.


The problem is in me

There are some who view this next section as Paul’s description of life as a non-Christian.  They say this based on the phrase “sold under sin”.  They think that this can’t be applicable to a born-again believer.  Yet I believe that this is a kind of deception itself.  There’s a sense in which my physical body is going to be still under slavery to sin, even after being born again.  My sin nature is still attached.  It isn’t going away until my physical death.  The person who has a hard time with this being a description of a believer is a person who has a hard time with seeing the truth in their own life.
I believe this is very much the experience of Christians, but it’s not where we are to stay.  We shouldn’t be satisfied because we feel this way, we should allow God to move us on to experience the freedom and victory He has for us in Jesus.
Even though we end our study here, keep in mind that this isn’t where Paul ends the book of Romans.
(Rom 8:1 NKJV)  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
There is a life after the flesh.  There is also a life after the Spirit.