The Law and Deliverance
Romans 6 deals with freedom from sin. Roman 7 deals with freedom from the Law. In chapter 6 Paul has told us how we could nd we concluded that this was all that was w teaches that deliverance from sin is not enough, but that we also need to know deliverance from the Law. If we are not fully emancipated from the Law, we can never know full emancipation from sin. But what is the difference between deliverance from sin and deliverance from the Law? We all see the value of the former, but where, we wonder, is the need for the latter? For answer, we must first of all ask ourselves what the Law is, and what is its special value for us.
Romans 7 has a new lesson to teach us. It is found in the discovery that I am “in the flesh” (Rom. 7.5), that “I am carnal” (7.14), and that “in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (7.18). This goes beyond the question of sin, for it relates also to the matter of pleasing God. We are dealing here not with sin in its forms but with man in his carnal state. The latter includes the former, but it takes us a stage further, for it leads to the discovery that in this realm too we are totally impotent, and that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8.8). How then is this discovery made? It is made with the help of the Law. . . .
What the Law Teaches
Many Christians find themselves suddenly launched into the experience of Romans 7 and they do not understand why. They fancy Romans 6 is quite enough. Having grasped that, they think there can be no more question of failure, and then to their utmost surprise theyfind themselves right in the midst of Romans 7. What is the explanation?
First let us be quite clear that the death with Christ described in Romans 6 is fully adequate to cover all our need. It is the explanation of that death, with all that follows from it in chapter 6, that is as yet incomplete. We are still in ignorance of the truth set forth in chapter 7. For Romans 7 is given to us to explain and make real the statement in Romans 6.14, that: “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.” The trouble is that we do not yet know deliverance from law. What, then, is the meaning of Law?
Grace means that God does something for me; law means that I do something for God. God has certain holy and righteous demands which He places upon me: that is law. Now if law means that God requires something of me for their fulfillment, then deliverance from law means that He no longer requires that from me, but himself provides it. Law implies that God requires me to do something for Him; deliverance from law implies that He exempts me from doing it, and that in grace He does it himself. I (where “I” is the “carnal” man of chapter 7.14) need do nothing for God: that is deliverance from law. The trouble in Romans 7 is that man in the flesh tried to do something for God. As soon as you try to please God in that way, then you place yourself under law, and the experience of Romans 7 begins to be yours. . . .
The more we try to keep the Law the more our weakness is manifest and the deeper we get into Romans 7, until it is clearly demonstrated to us that we are hopelessly weak. God knew it all along, but we did not, and so God had to bring us through painful experiences to a recognition of the fact. We need to have our weakness proved to ourselves beyond dispute. That is why God gave us the Law.
So we can say, reverently, that God never gave us the Law to keep: He gave us the Law to break! He well knew that we could not keep it. We are so bad that He asks no favor and makes no demands. Never has any man succeeded in making himself acceptable to God by means of the Law. Nowhere in the New Testament are men of faith told that they are to keep the Law; but it does say that the Law was given so that there should be transgression. “The law came in . . . that the trespass might abound” (Rom. 5.20). The Law was given to make us lawbreakers! No doubt I am a sinner in Adam; “Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: . . . for apart from the law sin is dead . . . but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7.7-9). The Law is that which exposes our true nature. Alas, we are so conceited, and think ourselves so strong, that God has to give us something to test us and prove how weak we are. At last we see it, and confess, “I am a sinner through and through, and of myself I can do nothing whatever to please a holy God.”
No, the law was not given in the expectation that we would keep it. It was given in the full knowledge that we would break it; and when we have broken it so completely as to be convinced of our utter need, then the Law has served its purpose. It has been our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that in us He may himself fulfill it (Gal. 3.24).