Does the Law Cause Death? (Romans 7:7-13)

Yet again Paul uses the literary device of posing a question in order to firmly restate his argument. The question “is the law sin?” (verse 7) suggests that we might be better off without the law. It is not hard to follow this simple but flawed logic: the law condemns our sin resulting in death therefore it is bad. Paul strongly denounces such conclusions, and points out that it is the law which made him aware of sin. He gives an example with the commandment “you shall not covet” of how sin, not the law, is to be blamed. As Chuck Swindoll explains:

In essence, Paul said, “I did not know that I was dying from the disease of sin until the Law revealed my terminal condition. Furthermore the Law showed me that I loved my disease and that I would do anything to keep it. I was like a living dead man! By pointing out my problem, the Law demonstrated that I was living under a death sentence.”

We were already dying from sin, and the law gave us an opportunity to see the problem. Paul notes, however, that sin “taking opportunity through the commandment” both increased (verse 8) his sinfulness and (verse 11) deceived him (much like the serpent in the garden with Eve). The Greek word “aphorme” translated opportunity or occasion refers to a base for military operations. Thus sin is able to use the commandment as a place from which to launch the destruction leading to death.

So then is the law responsible for our death? Paul answers (verse 12) that it is “holy and just and good.” Verse 13 describes how it exposes our sinfulness and calls us into account for sin. It is like the MRI that reveals the cancer which will kill us if left untreated.

next: Romans 7:14-20

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