Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Law and the Sinner (Romans 7:1-25)

"Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died" (Romans 7:9).

When a Christian hears the law of God, he should be delighted. He should be thrilled to hear the voice of his loving Father. He should be excited at the truth and wisdom that God gives through His Law. And indeed, Christians who are not harboring some secret sin, and who have learned how to hear God’s voice, do delight in the Law.

When the Law comes to the sinner, however, the reverse is the case. The Law condemns. This is true for unbelievers and also for Christians who have wandered into sin. Yet, because we are sinners, we suppress the truth of God’s law. We hold it down. We pretend not to hear it. We invent philosophies that get around it (Romans 1:18–32).

At the same time, however, nobody escapes knowing the Law. In order to suppress something, we must lay hold of it. Thus, in order to suppress our knowledge of God’s righteous demands, we first hear and recognize it. This is a complex and seemingly contradictory psychological action called “self-deception.” How can we deceive ourselves? To deceive ourselves we must first know the truth and then pretend that we don’t. When this happens deep within the personality, a person really does forget the truth in his conscious mind, but the deeper levels of his personality do not and cannot forget God’s truth.

Paul says that he was alive apart from God’s law at one time in his life. He was dead in sin, but he felt alive. He knew the Law very well, being a trained Pharisee, but he had suppressed any personal relevance the Law might have had for him. One day, however, “the Law revived, and I died.” Suddenly, he felt the force of the Law. He “came under conviction.” And he felt as it he had been smitten. He died.

This kind of experience happens to Christians who have strayed. It also happens to non-Christians, who then suppress the conviction again and refuse the grace of God. But it can also be one of the ways God brings a sinner to Himself, by convicting the sinner of sin and death, and then showing him the way of salvation in Christ.

Is this how you became a Christian? Or were you brought up in the faith? No matter how you became a Christian, the experience described in this lesson applies to you. You are still a sinner and from time to time you need to come under conviction. Is there some sin that needs to die in your life today?