Is the law done away? (part 3)

     The problem with God’s law is that, wonderful and holy though it is, it can’t do anything about our sinful nature or our sinful passions. In fact, according to Paul, the law only rouses our sinful passions, not controls them, Romans 7:5. Tell a child not to do something, for instance, and what does he do? He’s immediately tempted to go do it!

     The law seems to act like an automatic trigger. Something goes “twang” in our heads, like a broken guitar string, when we’re told what to do, because our immediate response is to bristle. But that’s us. Any attempt at laying down the law meets with resistance. It makes us act worse, not better. Look at the Israelites in the Old Testament, for instance. They had the best laws in the world, backed up by the best of blessings if they obeyed them, and what did they do? They resisted, moaned, got into trouble for disobedience and subordination, and finally chucked God all together. 

     What is it about our nature, then, that when told what to do, it only rouses passions of resistance and temptation in us? But that’s how powerful our nature is. It’s so powerful it burns holes right through any law imposed on it. There wasn’t a set of laws in Israel, for instance, or a system of rituals, that could contain their attitudes or their actions. Rather than contain them, the law only made them worse. To impose the law on human nature, then, never works. It only stirs the pot. And while we’re “controlled by (our) sinful nature,” that’s the story for all of us, Paul says in verse 5.

     “But now,” Romans 7:6, “by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” What “bound” us was our sinful nature with its dizzying array of passions, all leaning like sunflowers to the sun toward sin (verse 5). And what method did God use to deal with this nature of ours? The law. But after hundreds and hundreds of years of imposing the law, the great lesson we learn from Israel is that the law doesn’t work. It can’t change human nature.

     So God “released” us from that old system of law and written rules, and opened up a new way of dealing with our nature instead. And this time it involved something a whole lot more powerful than the law. This time human nature was up against the Spirit…