Sunday, 16 June 2013
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. Romans 7:13
In response to the previous verses, particularly the logic which follows from 8-12, another rhetorical question is now proposed. If the law is good and yet death came about through the introduction of the law, then has “what is good become death to me?” Again, he is proposing a question which seems obvious on the surface and yet which is based on a misunderstanding of what has occurred. Thus the answer is, “Certainly not!”
Instead, sin (the thing which brings about death, not the law itself) “that it might appear sin” is what produced the death “through what is good.” The fault isn’t in the law, which is good. The fault is in the person’s disobedient will.
In order to completely understand this, we can look to what Thomas Aquinas wrote in the 13th century. He said, “…evil never follows in the effect, unless some other evil pre-exists in the agent or in the matter… But in voluntary things the defect of the action comes from the will actually deficient, inasmuch as it does not actually subject itself to its proper rule. This defect, however, is not a fault, but fault follows upon it from the fact that the will acts with this defect.”
The astonishingly profound thought of Aquinas is merely an explanation of Paul’s thoughts here in Romans. “The defect of the action” – in this case disobeying the command, “comes from will actually deficient.” In the case of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, this was a result of the lack of the knowledge of good an evil; they were in a state of innocence – this is their deficiency.
But was this God’s fault? No! Aquinas says it is “deficient, inasmuch as it does not actually subject itself to its proper rule.” What was the proper rule concerning their state of innocence? It was to obey their Creator and not eat the fruit; the good commandment which they were given.
When they disobeyed by using free will, was it because of a fault in them as created by God? Again – No! It “is not a fault, but fault follows upon it from the fact that the will, (meaning their free will) acts with this defect.” The blame is placed squarely and solely on man.
And nothing has changed since then. When we act with our free will in a manner contrary to whatever good law is given, it produces “fault” or “sin.” And the sin produces death. It is not the law, but the exercising of our free will which brings this about.
Did God know that this would be the case? Of course He did, but He also knew that free will in man was a necessity for an honest, reciprocal relationship of love. In the end, free-will, despite all of the evil which has come from it, is still the better option for man. Because with the fall comes the hope of restoration through Christ. And with the introduction of the law comes the final point of this verse. The commandment was given “so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”
In other words, by giving a commandment, sin is known to be sin. By giving the Law of Moses which included many commandments, sin “might become exceedingly sinful.” The law shows us our desperately fallen state and thus our desperate need for Christ. Through Him, we receive imputed righteousness and through Him we aren’t just saved from this body of death, we are eternally saved from it. Through sin we see our unrighteousness. Through much sin, we see it all the more. And the more we see it, the more glorious appears the grace of God through Jesus!
Life application: Your life is one marked with failure and sin, but through Christ what was so desperately fouled up can be purified, made spotless, and restored completely. Through Christ, the past is gone and a new path is found. We can now exercise our free will to the glory of God and not for a life of sin.
Heavenly Father, I simply can’t grasp the immense mercy You have lavished upon me. You are so far above me and so glorious, and I have lived a life which has continuously been one of doing wrong, thinking bad thoughts, and failing to measure up to Your perfect law. And yet, despite my failures, You offered me Your righteousness through the gift of Your Son. I simply can’t grasp the immense mercy You have lavished upon me. Amen.