SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 27 September 2020
Sermon Text: Romans 7:7-12
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I. Sin is dead and I am alive
II. With the law, sin comes alive and I am dead
II. With the law, sin comes active and I am deceived
Conclusion: The law is holy, righteous and good
We know that the words delivered to our ears and hearts through the Apostle Paul in this chapter of Romans are from God, just like all the rest of the Bible are. The Spirit of God inspired His faithful servant, Paul, and through him spoke to us. And His message delivered to us in this section of the Scripture is that ‘His law is holy and righteous and good.’ In a word, God defended His law from any accusation, from any speculation, or from any wrong impression. This is, in a word, God’s ‘No!’ answer to anyone who might say, ‘God’s law is evil,’ or ‘God’s law causes us to sin, therefore, we should reject the law.’ This is also God’s considerate admonition toward others who might disfavour the law of the Bible given in the form of ‘Do this’ and ‘Do not do that.’
Why does He have to defend His law? What caused the Lord to clarify the nature of His law and defend it as holy and righteous and good? Because there are people who question the nature of the law, accusing it as unholy, unrighteous or evil. In fact, everyone whose heart and soul the Spirit of God has not yet revived through faith in Jesus raises this allegation. Simply put, sinners hate God’s law and, whenever opportunities come, they do two things – that is, accusing God’s law as evil and blaming the law for causing them to sin. So, it was and still is necessary to defend His law and teach all its true nature. God answers to all accusers and doubters and says that the law is holy, righteous and good.
This message is given in the second half of Rom. 7, starting from v. 7. But today, we’ll focus on the section up to v. 12 and consider the relation between the law and sin and how the law and sin work in a sinner. I pray that today’s message may help you to realise, first of all, how cunning and deadly sin was in you as it is in all unrepentant minds at the present, and, secondly, how wonderful it is that you’re in the Lord Jesus. Then, most importantly, I pray that you may realise or reminded of how lovely the law of God is and, so, be able to give your thanks to the Giver of law that is holy, righteous and good!
I. SIN IS DEAD AND I AM ALIVE
Firstly, I’d like you to see, in these six verses we’ve read today, what sin did to you when you were in sin and what it does still to all people who are in sin. To state this simply, I’d like to borrow the concept explained in the end of v. 8 and the beginning of v. 9 – that is, ‘sin is dead and I am alive.’
This defines man’s status ‘apart from the law’ – in other words, when the law was not in the picture of one’s life, when a sinner did not hear the law and did not know what it said. When a person is in this status, sin is dead to his mind. That is, he can neither see sin, nor can he find sin, nor recognise sin in his thoughts and deeds. Like a dead person is not visible to the eyes of a living one, sin is found nowhere to a person who does not know the law of God. Sin is, therefore, dead to the eyes of people who are ‘apart from the law.’ The Bible designates them as sinners.
While sin is dead to the eyes of sinners, they themselves are alive. Sinners do whatever they like to do as if everything is allowed for them, as if there’s no bar, no restriction set for them. In this sense, they’re alive. Their mind sees no restraints, and everything seems possible to their eyes. A good example of this is found in this catchphrase homosexuals use, that is, ‘As long as you are happy, does it matter who you fall in love with?’ All seem possible to their minds; nothing seems closed to their eyes – so, they’re ‘alive’ in sin.
The Apostle Paul reveals this truth with a deep pain and regret from his former experience. He remembers the time in which he was ignorant of the true meaning of God’s law; at that time, he did all things freely according to the desires of his own sinful heart. For example, he made stoning and killing Stephen, the man of God, possible and even legal. In addition to that, he freely persecuted Christians and destroyed churches. Sin was dead indeed to his eyes and mind, and he was alive in sin!
This is the attitude of every sinner in mankind and no one would answer, ‘yes,’ to this question, ‘Do you think you’re a sinner?’ Sin is dead to their eyes and they are alive. Being alive in sin, they challenge the righteousness of God whenever they see casualties of a natural disaster, and repeat their question and say, ‘How could God kill innocent people?’ To their eyes, sin is invisible while all men and women are innocent, neutral, naïve.
Up until the moment Jesus’ grace found us, until the moment His atoning blood washed us of our iniquity, you and I had been alive in sin, just like them. You and I were so alive in our minds and we did whatever seemed to be desirable to our eyes, finding no sin, no wrong in our thoughts and deeds. Sin was dead to our eyes, and we were alive in sin!
II. WITH THE LAW, SIN COMES ALIVE AND I AM DEAD
Then, God’s law came to our ears, first, then, to our heart. And when it came, it changed everything in us. The law of God revealed sin clearly to our eyes and mind, showing us that it was not dead at all but alive and active! It is like a scene in the BBC nature documentary series I watched and enjoyed. The title of this series is ‘Night on Earth.’ It is about things happening in the world at night, under the darkness, when things are hidden to human eyes. In an episode of this series, the African savanna was focused. It was a pitch-dark night. All human eyes could see was the contour of the horizon of the plain that barely reflected the starlight. Then, as the narrator spoke, the crew switched their camera from a normal one to a special one, that is, a HD thermal imaging camera which could depict thermal heat signals and enabled human eyes to see what was going on in that darkness. With that thermal imaging camera, the dead scene of the savanna became so alive that even a lion’s breath could be felt by its viewers. Before this new imaging device came, the African savanna was absolutely dead to everyone’s eyes, but when its power is on and rolling, a whole scene is disclosed to everyone’s eyes. The African savanna was not dead at all but alive and in full action!
Likewise, the law of God came and revealed sin. And sin is very much alive, more than anyone’s wild guess. It has grabbed all people with its deadly paws and pangs, and many of those people have already been devoured. The law of God came and shone a bright light on sin. Moreover, sin is always searching for more preys. Its schemes to trap people and tear them off are spotted and unveiled by the law. So, sin came alive as the law came.
Then, suddenly, I and you alongside Paul realised that we had been dead! All thoughts and deeds we had done freely were nothing but signs of our death in sin. We suddenly realised that. We were dead in sin! The law came, revealed sin to our very eyes, thus, sin became alive, and we were found dead. So, the law reveals and exposes sin, and exposed with it, our dead status.
III. WITH THE LAW, SIN COMES ACTIVE AND I AM DECEIVED
This is not all the law has uncovered. The law brings to light what sin has done to sinners. As v. 7 testifies, sin blindfolds sinner’s eyes so that he cannot see things right. As Paul gives an example in v. 7, coveting is wrong and sinful, but being blindfolded, a sinner cannot know that coveting is wrong and sinful. So, the mind of a sinner lusts after all kinds of things from his neighbours – neighbour’s wife, neighbour’s house, neighbour’s car, fame, health, achievement and so on. Worse, coveting grows and drives sinners to crave more from others. So, one tribe deprives another, a nation rises against another, and the list of these goes on as has always been.
In addition to blindfolding, sin has done one more wicked thing to sinners. It has deceived them as v. 11 tells us. How does it deceive people? By making a false promise. What false promise has sin made to sinners? A promise of blessings which sin can never keep. A typical example of this false promise of blessing is found in the garden of Eden. The serpent, the head of all sin, asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Eve’s answer was, ‘We may eat all but of the tree that is in the midst of the garden.’ The serpent’s deception through a false promise of blessing was quickly brought in and it said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Another example we know is of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. When he saw the land where Sodom and Gomorrah stood, it looked ‘like the garden of the LORD,’ as Gen. 13:10 states, and he chose that land and dwelt there only to suffer from the multitude of sins of the dwellers in that land and finally he witnessed God’s judgment not only upon those sinful ones, but also upon his own house. Sin deceives people by promising false blessings. We hear numerous other false promises like, for example, the one we Christians often hear especially in the Lord’s Day morning, ‘You’re tired and in need of good rest; skip today’s worship service and rest; you’ll be refreshed for the whole week that is coming.’
You must know that this is not all sin does. Sin’s deception is not only through giving false promise of blessings; it also deceives sinners even with the law of God. See both vs. 8 and 11, and hear what these verses say: v. 8, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment [that is, ‘the law of God’], PRODUCED in me all kinds of covetousness.” Then, v. 11 says, “For sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it KILLED me.” Sin was active in sinners before the arrival of God’s law, and according to the words in these verses, sin is also active with the law of God in sinner’s mind. Simply put, by twisting the commandment, by altering the nature and purpose of God’s law, it both produces more sin in sinners and kills them!
In fact, both of these point out the one same thing, that is, sin uses God’s law to provoke and encourage sinners to sin more than before. It is like this; when we see a sign that says, ‘Private property: do not enter,’ we immediately want to cross that border line; seeing such traffic signs as ‘Stop’ or ‘One way,’ our immediate reaction is ‘why should I stop?’ and ‘Why shouldn’t I go this way?’ (J. Stott); ‘R 18+’ rated movies seem to attract more teenagers. Every human being shares this propensity to react negatively to any and all directives. Every one of us know the exact meaning of ‘stolen fruits are the sweetest’; and only after a rule is put in place do people want to do whatever it forbids (R.H. Mounce).
When I did not know it was trespassing to cross a field, I crossed that field without any thought, let alone any amusement. But once a sign is put, I suddenly start enjoying my trespassing – it becomes an amusement. John Stott, in his commentary to Romans, pointed out a story of Augustine of Hippo, a great church leader and theologian of the 4th century. When Augustine was 16 years of age, he and his naughty friends shook a pear tree and stole its fruit. He did that not because he was hungry; he threw them all to the pigs. This is what Augustine wrote in his book, Confessions: ‘I stole something which I had in plenty and of much better quality. My desire was to enjoy not what I sought by stealing, but merely the excitement of thieving and the doing of what was wrong.’
Provoking and encouraging sinners to sin even more than before is one thing sin does to sinners. The other thing sin does to them is killing them in two ways. One is to tell sinners to behold the existence of a righteous God who never misses any sin uncounted but exacts. Pointing sinners’ eyes to see God, it deceives and says, ‘Do you see how righteous the law is? You’ll never keep the law; so, forget about keeping it but instead, enjoy your life more by breaking the law more.’ You see how many have been deceived by this lie and deception.
But there are some people who differ from the average ones; they seek to keep the law in search of their eternal wellbeing. To everyone of this group, sin uses another tactic, that is, to encourage them to keep the law, missing none, but all law in a perfect way. Then, sin tells them that they can surely meet the requirements of the law, thus, save themselves. What a horrible scheme it is! So, in these ways, sin deceives people even through the law, through the commandment, and kill them!
CONCLUSION: THE LAW IS HOLY, RIGHTEOUS AND GOOD
But God’s law came not for this purpose, but for the promise of life, as v. 10 boldly points out. Lev. 18:5 is also clear about this, saying, “You shall therefore keep My statues and My rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them.” The Lord means that not any man could keep them but a person who behold what it promises will be led to Jesus Christ who fulfilled all law and satisfied its requirements for the ones God loved and destined to salvation. Gal. 3:24 agrees and says to us that “the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
This purpose proves that the law is holy, righteous and good. Moreover, the law reflects the nature and attributes of its giver, that is, God Himself. So, as the Lord is holy, righteous and good, His law is the same. A couple of weeks ago, we opened and read from Ps. 119. And the psalmist confesses in v. 97 his love for the law of God, saying, “Oh how I love Your law!” and his love becomes deeper in v. 103, saying, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray that all of you may give your full consent to the psalmist as you thank God for His good and righteous law. At the same time, I pray that you and I remember and never forget the dreadfulness of sin and its evil schemes against us all. ***