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Sin Killed Me (7:7-13)

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Most people would probably agree that newborn babies are innocent. They have done nothing wrong or bad. In the same way, most would agree that small children are also innocent though they do things which we would never accept or tolerate from adults. Why do we consider young children innocent even though they misbehave? It is because they do not know right from wrong. They do not know what is expected of them. They do not know anything about social etiquette.

How do we teach children proper behavior? We do it through example and rewards as well as by rules, restraints, prohibitions and discipline. Example and reward teach children what to do while rules and guidelines tell them what not to do. It is only when they are capable of understanding our rules that we hold them accountable for breaking them.

However, this raises a question. Since it is our rules which define wrong behavior, and since we hold a child innocent until he knowingly breaks a rule, aren’t the rules to blame for loss of innocence? Shouldn’t we do away with rules and the punishments for breaking them so our children will retain their innocence as they grow up? If we do not call anything bad then, by definition, won’t children always be good?

In reality, we know that this is nonsense. Children who grow up without boundaries and restraints rarely become good as adults. A child who is never corrected does not learn self-restraint. Instead, he becomes selfish and cruel to others. The solution to raising children so that they become good people is not to do away with standards of behavior, but to help them ingrain the standards into their character. Then acting the right way becomes a natural reflex.

The same principles are true in spiritual things. In his inspired letter to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul points out that we become sinners when we violate God’s standards. Since we have sinned, we must also pay the penalty of sin, that is, we must die. Some would say that the way to deal with the problem of sin is to do away with God’s Law. If the Law does not exist, then we cannot be judged by it. However, just as in the case of raising children, doing away with standards of conduct is not the solution. As Paul says, we are not holy in God’s sight even if we have never broken a written commandment. Even those who have never had the opportunity to know God’s standards have still sinned by going against their conscience.

Because God’s Law brings condemnation, there are those who question whether the Law itself is bad. How can something which is good, result in our death? Paul answers these questions in chapter 7, verses 7 through 13 of his letter. He writes, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn’t have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn’t have known coveting, unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. The commandment, which was for life, this I found to be for death; for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. Therefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. Did then that which is good become death to me? May it never be! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.”

In this passage we see that one of the purposes of God’s Law is to define what sin is. Just as a child cannot know what unacceptable behavior is until we explain it to him, how can we possibly know what is displeasing to God unless God tells us? However, defining what sin is also carries a risk – it draws attention to it. As Paul says, without the command to not covet, we would not know what covetousness is. But once we become aware of the command, we naturally begin to think about what it means to covet and the things which we are not to covet.

The intent of the command is to help us avoid what displeases God. However, by showing us what displeases God, the command also gives opportunity to desire those very things. When we desire what is forbidden, we sin and the outcome of sin is death. In this way, the effect of the command to not covet is exactly the opposite of the intent of the command. Instead of granting us life, the command brings death.

Actually, as Paul points out, it is not the command itself, but sin working through the command which brings death. It is sin which deceives us into thinking that we can live even if we disobey God’s commands. In another place Scripture says, “...encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)

Since God’s commands result in our death, some will argue that the commands are not righteous or good. This is not so. God is holy, righteous and good. Therefore it follows that His commands will also be holy, righteous and good. It is not the commands which are at fault, but sin which has deceived us into disobeying the commands.

Parents put many good rules in place so that their children will grow up to have happy and productive lives. When a child disobeys and is punished as a result, whose fault is it? The rule which the child violated is still good even though we can say that the child received punishment as a result of it. The rule is not to blame. His parents are not to blame for punishing the child. No, the child is at fault for disobedience. In the same way, we cannot blame God’s commands for our punishment. Instead of blaming God we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

In a sense, we miss the point when we say that death comes to us through God’s commands. One of the purposes for the commands is to highlight sin. Without the commands we would not recognize how utterly evil, deceitful and devastating sin really is. God’s commands should teach us to hate sin and the death we experience because of sin.

Paul writes that sin is deceitful. If you would like to learn more about sin and what it does to us, be sure to listen to our next program.