A few posts ago I wrote about the nature of sin in a post titled “What Is Sin.” In that post I looked at sin and identified that it is a very broad concept but at the root sin is the state of disobedience to and rejection of the will of God.
In these verses we see a further insight into the nature of sin and also the basis of how The Lord has overcome sin for us. Here we see one of the keys for overcoming sin and also a glimpse of what we must must believe and hold onto by faith to be able to stand freed from sin in Jesus Christ.
This matter of overcoming sin is covered in many parts of the bible by different writers and from that we can see how important it is to overcome it. Man cannot do this by himself but it is only by the grace of God that we are able to stand freed from sin and to complete that process of freedom we must be set free from the law.
Sin Under The Law
God gave the law to Moses for the purpose of curbing sin and to define good from evil. The law was the minimum standard that God set for the world to live by if they were to live in accordance with His will. So what we see in the law is the will of God and when people break the law they are rejecting what is the will of God.
The apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:4 that,
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Lawlessness is the breaking of the law and so one important aspect of what sin is, is the breaking of the law. Whenever a person breaks the law of God they are rejecting the will of God, rejecting God Himself and rejecting His standard for what is required of us in this life and thus they commit sin.
The law gives sin it's power as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:56 when he said,
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
We die because of sin. That is the sting that Paul speaks of here. And the then he makes the point that the thing that gives sin it's power is the law.
Why? Because the law draws the line in the sand between what is good and what is evil. Before the law came there was no specific point that anyone could specify as sin. But when the law came it was black and white. The law shows at what point the deeds and actions of a person are acceptable, but step over the line and you commit sin.
The law itself is not sin but it defines what sin is. So the law and sin are closely entwined and because there is always the reminder of sin in the law, you could never be made perfect because of the law or under the law.
Also it was not possible for anyone to be made perfect under the law because the law dealt only with physical things. The law could only deal with actions, deeds and behaviours. It condemned a person when they acted in a certain manner. But the law could do nothing to cleanse the conscience. It could do nothing to transform the spirit of a person or to reform the mind and thinking of the person.
And these are the reasons why if we are to love with God we needed a change. We needed to be set free from sin, which was achieved through faith in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, but we also needed to be set free from the law to break the power of sin that has a hold over all of mankind.
Set Free From Law
We see in these verses from Romans 5:12-14 the clue regarding this issue. It says,
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
In verse 13 Paul makes the point that sin is not counted where there is no law. Now he speaks about the fact that sin was in the world before the law was given and that people died before the law was given even though their sins were not the same as that of Adam and Eve. So certainly their sin was counted against them even though there was no law otherwise why did they die? So what is Paul talking about?
The reason those people all died is because they rejected God. The sins they committed, even though there was no law, was the rejection of the will of God to replace it with obedience to their own will and the will of satan. This is why they died without the law.
Paul explains the distinction in another scripture in Romans 8:10.
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Here we see the important separation that makes this all make sense. There is a separation between the body and the spirit and while the body cannot escape death, the spirit can. This makes sense too when we remember that there are two deaths that Jesus spoke about; the death of the body which Jesus considered to be just a sleep, and the death of the spirit after the final judgement.
Now what we also see in relation to this separation is the nature of the Old and The New Covenants. The Old Covenant that encompassed the law given to Moses was a covenant that dealt with the things of the flesh. We see this defined in Hebrews 9:9-10 where the write, speaking about the rituals under the law makes the point that it cannot work on the conscience or spirit of a person but only the things of the flesh.
[the law and rituals the old covenant]…9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
But Jesus made the point that God is not concerned with the things of the flesh. What He is interested in is the spirit of man and the transformation that is needed to restore man to a state of perfection. He said in John 6:63 which puts this all into perspective.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The teachings that Jesus gave under the New Covenant and the reconciliation He wrought between man and God through the shedding of His blood are teachings that are spiritual. They are not of the flesh. And that too is shows a further difference between these two covenants. The Old Covenant was built on the basis of keeping the works of the law and following the rituals of the temple worship and blood sacrifices and so on. But the New Covenant is not based on works, it is based on the acceptance of the grace of God by faith.
Why Remove The Law?
So this now brings me back to why should there be a need to remove the law? Quite simply because if God was to reconcile man to Himself He had to remove sin. It is sin that stands between man and God and makes man the enemy of God for all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And to remove sin He had to remove the power of sin, which as we see from the scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:56 quoted above, is the law.
Removing the law does not change the physical and fleshly things that cause us to die in the world. But through the death of Jesus and by baptism we put on the death of Jesus in place of our own physical death, so that body and the spirit are separated in the eyes of God. When we believe we have died with Jesus and hold fast to the belief that we are dead to this world but alive to God in Christ Jesus, then God accepts our faith and accords it to us as righteousness.
That is why Paul says in Romans 8:10 above that the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. By accepting our faith in entering the death of Jesus and putting on His death as if it were our own, God separates the way He looks at us for now He sees our spirit separated from the flesh and He is now willing to work with our spirit and begin the work of transformation to overcome the nature of man. He gives us the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the spirit to work the transformation of our own spirit within us to become like God.
And that is also why Jesus says that the words and teachings He gave us were spirit and truth and that the flesh is of no help and of no avail. The inheritance of eternal life comes through the transformation of the spirit of people, not the actions of the flesh. The basis of the inheritance is through faith, not works of law.
And where there is no law there is no sin. When the law is removed it cannot be broken. You cannot break a law that you are longer confined by and have been set free from. And in taking on the death of Jesus we are set free from the law because the law ends at death as it says in Romans 7:1.
But if we are to receive the fulness of the new covenant and have the work of transformation completed within us, we must believe we have died and are set free from sin and also set free from the law. Without this faith you will stunt your spiritual growth and hold back the work of transformation for a person confined under the law by their own beliefs cannot grow in the spirit. Paul said quite clearly in Galatians 5:4-5 how devastating the law is to a Christian.
4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
A person who does not accept that they have been separated from and set free from the law through Jesus Christ is separated and severed from Christ. They continue to worship and are confined under the old covenant of law for it is only by Jesus Christ that we are separated from the law. If you continue to hold onto the law after coming to Christ you cut yourself off from Christ and He cannot help you and work the transformation of the spirit in your life.
So learn, understand and believe these things for they are the road to life through Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.
(Photo sourced from www.freeimages.com taken by Naeem Mayet)
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