In previous posts I have looked at sin, freedom from sin and freedom from law. Here we see a further section of scriptures that look at the matter of the knowledge of sin.
The understanding of the knowledge of sin is important for all Christians, even after they are set apart from the law and have had their sins removed.
It is important to understand these things because sin is a problem for all of mankind and it is not something easily escaped. Even though the scripture tells us we are set free from sin and have been removed from the law, it is the fact of sin that sneaks up on us and has the power to tear us down and pull us apart…if we allow it.
So understanding sin and the power of sin under the law becomes critical so that we do not allow it to overcome us.
The knowledge of sin comes from the law. This is clear from these two verses which say,
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
The law is NOT sin as Paul states here, but it is because of the law that sin is recognised for what it is. The example Paul uses of covetousness was presumably an issue with which he had to deal. As he says, he would not have known that to covet someone else’s goods, possessions or status was a sin until the law told him that it was sinful to covet.
This same premise showing that by the law we understand what sin is and gain the knowledge of sin is seen also in 1 Corinthians 15:56 which says,
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
It is the law that gives sin it’s power and makes sin all the more sinful because when sin occurs the law is broken.
The problem with the law is not the law itself but how we relate to the law.
The law is holy, just and good but the evil passions and desires that are inherent within man are not good. Man is by nature prone to sin. And what this section scripture tells us is that it is the law that entices man to do sin.
Note in particular the first sentence in verse 8 which says, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” The sin factor within Paul’s human nature was enticed by the law and led him to suffer covetousness.
Now how does this happen? A simple example. Think about young children. How often is it that when they are told not to do something, that is the exact thing they do in disobedience of the instruction. And have you ever been on a diet? When certain high fat or high calorie foods are a no-no, what are the foods your body craves? The very ones that you should not have.
It seems that as soon as there is a rule or a “law” put in place to prevent someone from doing something, they seems to want to go out of their way and do it. It’s like some kind of an invisible force drawing you towards the very thing you do not or should not do and enticing your human passions and desires to do those very things. And it is when these “laws” come to the front of mind that the passions rear up to try to force you to go against the laws and against your mind.
I believe this is not accidental. It is a function of the way humans are hard wired. When Adam and Eve forsook the way of God and chose to follow the passions of their flesh, they were re-wired so that all of mankind who followed would similarly have these passions and desires to go against their will and seek to do wrong. Prior to the fall of Adam and Eve the sin factor did not exist for they had eternal life. It was only when they broke the one commandment they were given, not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, that sin came in and was inherited and passed down to all their descendants.
Freedom from Law
That is why freedom from law is so important. If it is the law that is causing our sinful passions to be aroused and causing us to desire to do what is wrong, then that thing which causes this to occur must be removed. And as we have seen, the thing that gives sin it’s power and that causes our passions to flare up to do wrong is the law.
This is why God removed the law for if there is no law then it cannot work on our passions to do evil. Our passions cannot be aroused by a law that we are no longer under. Paul made this abundantly clear in the last sentence of verse 8 here where he wrote,
“For apart from the law, sin lies dead.”
When we are separated and are apart from the law, sin does not have its power to act. When you remove the power of sin, which is the law, sin can no longer be aroused by the law and we will no longer feel the need to do the wrong thing. However the challenge we all face is to first believe that we have been separated and are now apart from the law in Jesus Christ through faith, and then to live that way.
This does not mean that our passions have gone or that they will not still be aroused to do the wrong thing. In fact they will be aroused, and as we get into the next sections of Romans 7 we see Paul discuss this very issue. But by removing the law God has removed one of the most powerful things that leads us to desire to do what is wrong. Not that the law is evil or sinful, which I must reiterate again, but it is how we react to the law from the standpoint of our sinful human nature.
When God removes the law He can effectively remove the knowledge of sin. It is possible for sin to be so far removed that it does not even occur to the person and this is part of the work of transformation that the Holy Spirit does within us.
Look at the state that Paul found himself to be in when he said in 1 Corinthians 4:4,
For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
Paul had reached the place in his walk with Christ where he could not recall and was not aware of anything that he had done wrong. He had no knowledge of sin in his own life. He knew he had been forgiven of his past sins and that God through Jesus Christ had taken those sins away. He also knew he was set free from law by faith and unable to fall into sin again. And because of these things and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in his life over many years, he had come to the place where he no longer saw any sin in his life and his actions.
That is the place we all need to aspire to and achieve by seeking out and following the truth of the gospel in Christ Jesus. And if Paul could do it, so can we. Yes he was a great apostle of The Lord, but he was also just a man beset with sin and all the afflictions, passions, lusts and desires of this human life. And yet The Lord called him and turned his life around, just as The Lord will do for all of us.
He will take away the knowledge of sin in our lives as He did with Paul and freedom from law is an important and necessary step in that process.
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