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Waggoner on Romans

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    The Law of Sin

    April 23, 1896

    In the first seven verses of the seventh chapter of Romans we have had the relation which we by nature sustain to sin, and which by grace we afterwards sustain to Christ, represented under the figure of marriage to a first and second husband. The union with the second husband can not take place while the first husband is living; and in this case the marriage is so perfect, the two parties being literally one flesh and blood, that one can not die without the other; therefore we must needs die with sin, before we can be separated from it. But we die in Christ, and as he lives, although he was dead, we also live with him. But in his life there is no sin, and so the body of sin is destroyed, while we are raised. Thus in death we are separated from the first husband, sin, and united to the second husband, Christ.WOR 117.1

    In the verses which follow the apostle has pictured the struggle with the sin that has become distasteful. It is really an enlargement of that which has been presented in the first verses. It is the story ofWOR 117.2

    The Struggle for Freedom

    “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is not more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:8-25.WOR 117.3

    Altho this is a long portion of Scripture, it does not need so long treatment as some shorter portions, since there are several repetitions. For instance, the statement in verse 15 is repeated in verses 19 and 20. Verses 17 and 21 are also the same thought, as also verses 18 and 23. The points, however, will doubtless appear very much more clearly by the usualWOR 118.1

    Questioning the Text

    What does the apostle say that sin wrought in him?WOR 118.2

    “Sin... wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.”WOR 118.3

    How did it do this?WOR 118.4

    “Taking occasion by the commandment.”WOR 118.5

    What was the condition of sin without the law?WOR 118.6

    “Without the law sin was dead.”WOR 118.7

    But what was the apostle’s condition without the law?WOR 118.8

    “I was alive without the law.”WOR 118.9

    What change occurred when the commandment came?WOR 118.10

    “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”WOR 118.11

    What did he find the commandment to be?WOR 118.12

    “The commandment... I found to be unto death.”WOR 118.13

    Yet for what was the commandment designed?WOR 118.14

    It was “ordained to life.”WOR 118.15

    What did sin do?WOR 118.16

    “Sin... deceived me, and... slew me.”WOR 118.17

    How had it the power to do this?WOR 118.18

    “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”WOR 118.19

    What was it that deceived or slew him, the law, or sin?WOR 119.1

    Sin... deceived me, and... slew me.”WOR 119.2

    Wherefore what is true of the law?WOR 119.3

    “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”WOR 119.4

    Was then that which was good, namely, the law, made death unto him?WOR 119.5

    No; “but sin.... working death in me by that which is good.”WOR 119.6

    Why was this?WOR 119.7

    “That it might appear sin;” “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”WOR 119.8

    What do we know of the law?WOR 119.9

    “We know that the law is spiritual.”WOR 119.10

    But what about ourselves?WOR 119.11

    “But I am carnal.”WOR 119.12

    And therefore in what condition?WOR 119.13

    “Sold under sin.”WOR 119.14

    What do we call one who is bought and sold?WOR 119.15

    A slave.WOR 119.16

    What is the evidence that the one who is carnal is a slave?WOR 119.17

    “That which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.”WOR 119.18

    What is shown by the fact that he does the evil that he hates?WOR 119.19

    “I consent unto the law that it is good.”WOR 119.20

    Therefore who is it in reality that does the evil works?WOR 119.21

    “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”WOR 119.22

    To what law is such an one subject?WOR 119.23

    “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”WOR 119.24

    In what does he delight?WOR 119.25

    “I delight in the law of God.”WOR 119.26

    How does he delight in the law of God?WOR 120.1

    “After the inward man.”WOR 120.2

    Then why does he not obey it?WOR 120.3

    “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”WOR 120.4

    In what condition is such an one?WOR 120.5

    “O wretched man that I am!”WOR 120.6

    What is his distressed cry?WOR 120.7

    “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”WOR 120.8

    Is there any hope of deliverance?WOR 120.9

    “I think God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”WOR 120.10

    Sin Personified.-It will be noticed that in this entire chapter sin is represented as a person. It is the first husband to which we are united. But the union has become distasteful, because, having seen Christ and having been drawn to him by his love, we have seen that we were joined to a monster. The marriage bond has become a galling yoke, and our whole thought is how to get away from the monster to which we are united and which is dragging us down to a certain death. The picture presented in this chapter is one of the most vivid in the whole Bible.WOR 120.11

    The Strength of Sin.-“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15:56. “Without the law sin was dead.” “Sin is not imputed when there is no law.” “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” So it is that “sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” Sin is simply the law transgressed, “for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Sin has no strength, therefore, except that which it gets from the law. The law is not sin, and yet it binds us to sin, that is, the law witnesses to the sin and will not grant us any escape, simply because it can not bear false witness.WOR 120.12

    The Law of Life, and the Law of Death.-“The commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” The law of God is the life of God. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. His life is the rule for all his creatures. Those in whom the life of God is made perfectly manifest, keep his law. It is very evident therefore that the design of the law is life, since it is life itself. But the opposite of life is death. Therefore when the law is transgressed, it is death to the transgressor.WOR 120.13

    The Deadly Enemy.-“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” It is not the law that is the enemy, but the enemy is sin. Sin does the killing, for “the sting of death is sin.” Sin has the poison of death in it. Sin deceived us so that for a time we thought that it was our friend, and we embraced it and delighted in the union. But when the law enlightened us, we found that sin’s embrace was the embrace of death.WOR 121.1

    The Law Cleared.-The law pointed out the fact that sin was killing us. “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” We have no more reason to rail at the law than we have to hate the man who tells us that the substance which we are eating, thinking it to be food, is poison. He is our friend. He would not be our friend if he did not show us our danger. The fact that he is not able to heal the illness that the poison already eaten has caused does not make him any the less our friend. He has warned us of our danger, and we can now get help from the physician. And so, after all, the law itself was not death to us, but its office was “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”WOR 121.2

    “The Law Is Spiritual.” -“For we know that the law is spiritual.” If this fact were more generally recognized, there would be much less religious legislation among so-called Christian nations. People would not try to enforce the commandments of God. Since the law is spiritual, it can be obeyed only by the power of the Spirit of God. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24); therefore the law is the nature of God. Spiritual is opposed to carnal, or fleshly. Thus it is that the man who is in the flesh can not please God.WOR 121.3

    A Slave.-“But I am carnal, sold under sin.” One who is sold is a slave; and the evidence of the slavery in this instance is very plain. Free men do that which they wish to do. Only slaves do that which they do not wish to do, and are continually prevented from doing what they wish to do. “For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” A more disagreeable position can not be imagined. Life in such a state can be only a burden.WOR 121.4

    Convicted, but Not Converted.-“If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” The fact that we do not wish to do the sins that we are committing shows that we acknowledge the righteousness of the law which forbids them. But conviction is not conversion, although a very necessary step to that condition. It is not enough to wish to do right. The blessing is pronounced upon those who do his commandments, and not upon those who wish to do them, or who even try to do them. Indeed, if there were no higher position for a professed follower of the Lord than that described in these verses, he would be in a far worse condition than the careless sinner. Both are slaves, only the latter is so hardened that he finds pleasure in his slavery. Now if one must all his life be a slave, it is better for him to be unconscious of his bondage than to be continually fretting over it. But there is something better; therefore it is a blessing that we are convicted of sin, and that our slavery is thereby made as disagreeable as possible.WOR 121.5

    Two Laws.-“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Compare this with verse 5. Remember also that all this is written to them that know the law. It is not addressed to the heathen who have not the law, but to those who profess to know God. While knowing the law, we are united in marriage to sin. This sin is in our flesh, since they who are married are one flesh. It is the law that witnesses to the fact that we are sinners, and that will not grant us any escape from it. But we are slaves. Whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin. John 8:34. Therefore it is that the law that will not let us be anything but what we are, is really holding us in bondage. While we are in that condition, it is not to us a law of liberty.WOR 122.1

    A Body of Death.-We are joined in marriage to sin. But sin has in it death; for “the sting of death is sin.” Sin is that with which death kills us. Therefore the body of sin, to which we are joined when in the flesh, is but a body of death. What a terrible condition! Joined in such close union that we are one flesh with that which is in itself death. A living death! And “the strength of sin is the law.” It witnesses to our union, and thus holds us in that bondage of death. If there were no hope of escape, we might curse the law for not allowing us to die in ignorance. But although the law seems to be pitiless, it is nevertheless our best friend. It holds us to a sense of the dreadfulness of our bondage until in anguish we cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We must be delivered, or we perish.WOR 122.2

    A Deliverer.-The pagan proverb has it that God helps those who help themselves. The truth is that God helps those who can not help themselves: “I was brought low, and he helped me.” No one ever cries in vain for help. When the cry goes up for help, the Deliverer is at hand; and so, although sin is working death in us by all the power of the law, we may exclaim, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57. “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Romans 11:26. “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:26. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”WOR 122.3

    A Divided Man.-“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” That is, of course, while in the condition described in the preceding verses. In purpose he serves the law of God, but in actual practice he serves the law of sin. As described in another place, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye can not do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:17. It is not a state of actual service to God, because we read in our next chapter that “they that are in the flesh can not please God.” It is a state from which one may well pray to be delivered, so that he can serve the Lord not merely with the mind, but with his whole being. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24. WOR 122.4

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