After yesterday’s post it is tempting to think that the Jewish Law was the root of the Christians’ problem in ancient Rome, after all the commands of the Law are what allowed sin to tempt and enslave (7:9-10). Of course, this message would not fly in a half Jewish church, not to mention the fact that it maligns something that came directly from God.
Paul makes it clear that he is claiming nothing of the sort:
So, then, the law is holy; and the commandment is holy, upright, and good. . . . We know, you see, that the law is spiritual. (7:12, 14a)
The Law itself is a good thing. Guidance from God on how to live life righteously and wisely is never bad. But the side effect of Law is temptation, incitement to sin, and ultimately enslavement.
Why is that? Why is Law by itself not the answer to our sin problem?
Law possesses no power within itself to save us from ourselves. It offers direction but no propulsion. It tells us what to do — and it is right and that guidance is a blessing — but it does not give us a way beyond ourselves to do the very thing we know and often want to do.
I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want, you see, but I do what I hate. . . . For I can will the good, but I can’t perform it. For I don’t do the good thing I want to do, but I end up doing the evil thing I don’t want to do. . . . What a miserable person I am! (7:15, 18b-19, 24a)
Law is not the answer. We (and the Roman Christians) need a supernatural power beyond ourselves to enable the life of righteousness and wisdom the Law describes.
The answer comes tomorrow.