Friday, 3 May 2013
For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Romans 5:13
This verse is speaking about the Law of Moses. Prior to that law, there was sin in the world. This sin, as was previously noted, was introduced by Adam’s rebellion. From that moment, all born into humanity inherited Adam’s sin. Sin was at work and yet because there was no law given, sin wasn’t imputed. Does this mean that the people were guiltless? No. The reason is that they inherited Adam’s sin. Therefore, they were guilty through Adam.
In addition to this, there is the law of conscience which was explained in Romans 2. As he said there, people “show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” We stand guilty before God when we violate the natural laws which are instilled in our hearts.
What Paul is speaking of in 5:13 is the specific revelation of the Law of Moses. Violations of this law are not imputed to people who have not been given this law. How can someone be held guilty for a law that doesn’t exist? As Paul says, “For until the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”
If a policeman came up to you and said, “You are under arrest for having a black car,” you might wonder what he’s talking about. There is no law against having a black car. However, if the legislators at the state capital passed a law which outlawed black cars, then you could be arrested for having a black car. The Law of Moses set down particular rules for a particular set of people. When they broke those laws, they were guilty before the law. Those outside of that law cannot be held guilty for such a law though.
Later in chapter 5, we will see a reason why the law was introduced. Paul elsewhere (such as in Galatians) explains other reasons for the giving of the law. In the end, the law is an important aspect of what God is doing in the stream of human existence, but it is not an end in and of itself. It only points us to something else; something which we desperately need.
Life application: There are different programs going on in the pages of the Bible which are introduced for different reasons and they may apply at certain times, but not at others. It’s important to understand when something applies and when it doesn’t. If we mix these programs inappropriately, then our understanding of God’s work becomes convoluted. The Law of Moses, which was given to Israel, is such a program. It applied at a certain time to a specific group of people. Christ Jesus fulfilled that law on our behalf. Don’t reinsert that law now that it has been fulfilled.
Thank You Lord for the beauty of Your word. It’s a big and complicated book that I can come to again and again to find new treasures, and yet its overall message is so simple that a child can understand it – we have turned from You and yet You have reached out to us in love through Your Son to call us back to You. I accept His work; I receive Jesus. Amen.