The old way of the Law (part 1)

Paul tells us in Romans 7:6 that “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.” Does that make the “old way” of the law bad, then?

No, because the law was perfect for bringing sin out into the open, verse 9 – “when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died.” The law identified the sins that consume and control us. It brings them to life “so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful,” verse 13. In other words, we can see sin for what it is. But that’s all the law does. It can only expose the sins within us, it can’t stop them. 

Paul brings this out in vivid detail in his own life. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin,” verse 14. The law was still “holy, righteous and good,” verse 12, but it couldn’t stop Paul sinning. To Paul’s great dismay, sin still held him firmly by the nose, rendering him absolutely powerless against it, despite all his law-keeping.

It was hugely confusing for him. “I do not understand what I do,” he cries out in verse 15. This wasn’t what he expected from the law. He thought the law would enable him to “bear fruit to God,” but instead he found himself totally under sin’s command still. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” verse 15

On the positive side, Paul realized that “If I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good,” verse 16. His desire to keep the law meant he agreed with it at least. He knew when he broke the law it was wrong, and it bothered him. So sin had never stopped Paul wanting to obey the law. But for all Paul’s desire to obey the law it couldn’t stop him sinning. And that’s what confused him, because he thought that obeying the law would stop him sinning.  

Instead, his attempts at obeying the law as best he could only exposed more sin in Paul, not made it less. What on earth, then, was causing this to happen? It wasn’t Paul’s fault, surely, because he wanted to obey God. His shocking conclusion was – verse 17 – “it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” There was this other creature living inside him that had total control over him…(continues in Part 2)

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