Main Idea: God gave us His law so that we would see just how far we fall short of the glory of God.
[Video of Jordan Peterson]
Jordan Peterson: If your gonna make your kids tough, which they better be if they’re gonna survive in the world, you can’t interfere when they’re doing dangerous things carefully.
Interviewer: Think about it, that specifically. Dangerous things carefully. That’s such a place where kids learn.
Jordan Peterson: That is the only place they learn. That’s where everyone learns everything. When you’re doing dangerous things carefully. That’s where you learn. And so [if] you interfere with that, you interfere with the process by which your children expand their competence. And it takes courage not to interfere with that.
That was Jordan Peterson speaking about the tendency for many parents to engage in what’s called helicopter parenting. As you may know, helicopter parenting refers to how many parents hover over their children because they want to keep their children from getting hurt, or keep their children from failing, but also keeps them from learning important lessons about getting hurt and failing. So a good mother or father not only knows when to protect their child, but also knows when to allow their child to go their own way, even if it means that they experience pain.
And, you know, God is our Father. He tells us in His word how we might glorify Him, and yet He doesn’t force us. He allows us to go our own way for a time so that we would see that only His way is the way that leads to life and peace.
We saw at the end of our passage last week, as we’ve seen many times before, that we can’t be saved through obedience to the commands in the Bible, because none of us are able to perfectly obey God’s law. So we find that the purpose of God’s law isn’t really to show us how to be saved, but rather to show us that we can’t be saved through our actions. It’s purpose isn’t so that we can read it, obey it, and therefore justify ourselves, but instead to show us just how much we sin and fall short.
But this way of thinking might also cause us to think that God’s law causes us to sin. Like, if I tell you all not to think about a giant spider crawling up through the baptistry, what are you all thinking about? Yeah! You’re thinking about a giant spider crawling up through the baptistry! So I planted the idea into your mind, and now you can’t stop thinking about it.
Are God’s commands like that? Do we sin simply because God told us not to sin? And why did God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden of Eden and then tell Adam, “Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?” Did God actually secretly want Adam to eat from the tree so that all of mankind would be condemned? Or, to put it another way, did God tempt Adam?
These are deep questions, questions that many of you have probably wondered about at some point, and many people use these kinds of questions as rationale for why they refuse to trust in God. But the Bible actually addresses this line of thinking head on and answers it in a way that shows us that only Jesus can save us from this predicament.
What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! But I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life again and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:7-13)
Father, help us to see our sin so that we might fully embrace and rejoice in Your grace. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
So good parents not only allow their children to make their own mistakes, but they also give their children a framework to live by so that they might flourish. We teach them about God and right and wrong. Sometimes, because we love them, we even have to lay down the law and give consequences. So even though we give them the freedom to make their own choices, we still encourage them and even command them at times to choose what’s good.
And, once again, because God is a good Father, He also gives us commands. The Jews called it the law, and it contained all of the rules that God required of them as His people. But as the Jews read the law, and even as we often read the Bible, we’ve sometimes received the commands God has given us for our good, and not believed that they were truly good.
Maybe you’ve wished before that God wouldn’t have given you certain commands, like the command not to get drunk, or the command to give generously back to Him through your tithes and offerings. Maybe sometimes you don’t see the point in His commands and you resent Him for taking away what you think is more fun, just as a teenager might resent his parents for many of their rules, like having a curfew or turning off screens once in a while. We always seem to think that we know more than God, but maybe we need to be humble enough to realize that God might just know more than us.
Our passage this morning begins with another one of those “Absolutely not!” declarations that we’ve been seeing at various times through the book of Romans. In response to our desire to justify ourselves, and because we even go so far as to blame God for our sin, Paul writes, “Is the law sin?” And he immediately answered the question with an emphatic, “Absolutely not!” By no means! God forbid that we should even think such a thing!
God’s law is holy and just and good. Every command in the Bible, when understood in its historical and cultural context, is good, and shows us how we might truly live in the way that both glorifies God best and leads to our own flourishing in the world. God’s rules are good.
And yet, we fail to keep them. The law itself is good, but we just choose not to obey it.
It’s like if there’s an active shooter at a mall or school. We could blame all kinds of things for those situations. We could blame guns and call for stricter gun control, or we could call for more attention to mental health, and I’m not even saying that we shouldn’t carefully think through these kinds of things, but when it comes down to it, the person who pulls the trigger is the one who pulled the trigger, and must be held accountable for his own free actions.
In the same way, we can’t blame God for our inability to keep His law. And yet, it was because of God’s law that we know that we’re sinners. Continue reading from the end of verse 7.
But I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. (Romans 7:7b)
So we might try to blame God for giving us the idea to sin. But notice at the beginning of verse 8 what causes us to disobey God’s command. Verse 8.
And sin [sin itself], seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life again and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (Romans 7:8-11)
So it’s like the sin in us is just looking for an opportunity to spring into action. God’s law is good, and we need it, and yet our sinfulness takes it and twists it and uses it as an opportunity to glorify ourselves rather than glorify God.
You’ve probably seen this experiment done before.
[Video of Marshmallow Experiment]
Now, not every one of those kids gave into temptation and ate the marshmallow, but what were they all thinking about? Yeah, they were all thinking about eating the marshmallow? Why? Because it was there, and because they were told not to eat it.
Now, this isn’t a perfect analogy, because God does not tempt us. James 1:13 makes this very clear. It says:
No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. (James 1:13)
So God doesn’t tempt, but He does test. Deuteronomy 8:2 says:
Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these forty years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
God tests us not so that He would find out something about us, because He already knows everything about us, but rather so that we would find out something about us. He tests us so that we would see where our faith stands, and we often find that we are sinful beyond measure. Verse 12.
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:12-13)
So God gave us His law so that we would see just how far we fall short of the glory of God. But I want you to notice something else about why God gave us His law. It’s that very last phrase: “so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.”
Here’s the thing. Knowing God’s law has created in us the desire to break God’s law, but it’s not the fault of the law. It’s not God’s fault that we break His commands. The goal of the law isn’t to make us sinners, but to make sin itself sinful beyond measure.
Now, God is not the author of evil. God did not cause us to choose evil. And yet, God allowed us to choose evil for a time, and for a purpose.
[Picture of article]
In an article titled, “Why Did God Allow the Fall,” James Anderson wrote this:
[Screenshot of article]
“A world with no fall and no salvation is altogether less God-glorifying than a world with a tragic fall but also a wondrous salvation.”
In summary, God allowed us to fall so that He could save us. God allowed us to choose evil so that we would see how good He is.
You see, Jesus didn’t just go to the cross to save sinners, but to destroy all sin. And God didn’t want to just destroy a little sin, as if He’s just a little powerful. No, He wanted to destroy all sin. He wanted us to see that even though our sin became sinful beyond measure, God is powerful enough and good enough to forgive and conquer all our sin through Jesus’s sacrificial death and resurrection.
So even though our sin killed us, God’s purpose was to save us by grace through faith in Jesus.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)