The letter kills(II Cor.3:6)
The Law is an organism and therefore an indivisible unity. Even if anyone keeps the whole law and sins in any one thing, he is fully guilty" [or, is responsible to it entire] (Jas 2:10; Gal.3:10).
Therefore every distinction between a moral "law" and a ceremonial "law" is false, because thereby arises an impression that there are two laws, of which the one-the ceremonial law-could be fulfilled by the work of Christ, but the other not. It is only correct to speak of moral or ceremonial "laws" in the plural, in the sense of individual enactments, " commandments " in both spheres (comp. Jas. 2: 8).
Nevertheless the Law, like every organism, is divisible into members, and in this sense it has three associated groups of ordinances: moral appointments, those of Divine worship, and social regulations. Of these the first two have special, spiritual significance in the story of salvation.
Yet frequently the social appointments, in great part, also have significance in this history, often as prophetic typical foreshadowings of the New Testament truths of salvation, for example, the year of jubilee (Lev. 25; Luke 4:19), the law as to redemption by a relative (Ruth), the cities of refuge (Josh.20) etc. In such a case the social provisions stand in line with the typical ceremonial appointments.
The Law produces knowledge (Rom.3:20; 7:7), namely:
i. Knowledge of sin, as missing the goal, as transgression, as rebellion.
ii. Self-knowledge by the sinner of his sinfulness, powerlessness, and lost condition.
This advances in three stages. Sin is
(I) Missing the Mark. The New Testament word for "sin" (Gk. hamartia) meant originally "missing the mark." Thus about 100 times in Homer (900 B.C.), as when a warrior missed his foe with his spear (comp. Judges 20:16,LXX); or in Thucidides (450 B.C.), if one missed the road. Only later, since Aristotle (350 B.C.), was it transferred to the spiritual and moral realm.
In the absolute sense, "sin" is only against God; "against thee, thee alone, have I sinned" (Psa. 51: 4). But the sinner is blind (Eph. 4:18,19); his conscience is deceitful (Acts 23:1; comp. I Tim.1:13; I Cor.4:4); and he does not perceive the Divine ideal. Therefore it must be made unmistakably plain to him through revelation. This comes to pass through the Law. On the stage of world history it has been given as the model example, an appointed demonstration through Israel of the Divine will for the moral conduct of men.' Thus first is made manifest what "missing the mark" is.
But sin is more, even more than "ignorance" (Acts 17:30), than " error " (Heb. 9:7), than " defeat " (Rom.11:12), than " fall " (Eph.2:1, literally). It must be unsparingly unmasked. It is
(2) Disobedience, Transgression, Lawlessness (Rom.5:19; Heb. 2:2; I John 3:4). Therefore the Law must not only describe the ideal, it must prescribe it, must require, command, demand that man fulfil it, it must amount to "law."
But by this the character of sin becomes aggravated. For where there is no boundary line one cannot speak of?" trespassing " over the boundary; " where there is no law there is also no transgression" (Rom.4:15). But where such line exists, in case of non-observance there is transgression. Before Moses there were indeed from time to time, from case to case, " command and transgression" (Rom. 5:14,18; I Tim.2:14); but only since Moses has there been an institution systematic and educative in the knowledge of sin and transgression, working in unbroken continuity through the centuries, in word (especially Exod. 20) and symbol (Heb. 10: 3; 9:7).
Thus law does not refer so much to the existence of sin but to the possibility of its being imputed: "sin is not imputed if there is no law" (Rom. 5:13). Law does not indeed 'make' the sin; but it makes the "sin" a "transgression." But thereby a milder condemnation of sin becomes impossible: "the Law works wrath" (Rom. 4:15).
But the conflict becomes keener. Sin is unmasked as
(3) Rebellion. For through the mere existence of law the evil feels itself all the more provoked to display its real self. 'Forbidden fruits taste sweet.' By the prohibition the desire is inflamed (Rom. 7:8), the sin "springs to life" (Rom. 7:9); it awakes out of "death" (Rom. 7:8b), advances to "lust" and to "deed" (Rom. 7:8); and sin expresses itself in sins (Rom. 7:5). Thus the law is the "strength of sin," which forces the evil from within to without (I Cor.15:56); and sin itself is as the fire in iron glowing but not yet red-hot, which at first burns quietly without being noticed, but if splashed with water hisses and rebels. Thus sins increase as a result of law.
But precisely herein sin comes, as it were, to the help of the law. For now the law has an increased opportunity to complete its work as the exposer of sin. Thus the more sin sins against the law, so much the more it sins in unwilling service for the law against itself; and thus through the law every outbreak of evil is used in the service for good, and Satan must work against himself.
Yet sin had not willed this! It would have misused the Divme law as "occasion" (Rom.7:8,9), a handle to thrust down mankind into so much the greater misery! Not only human weakness but more especially the commandment, which was given to me unto life, the same proved to be to me unto death; for sin, taking occasion through the commandment deceived me and killed me through the same. Did then that which is good turn out to be unto me death? That be far! but sin-in that tbrough the good it worked death unto me" (Rom.7:10-13). But this means-that the very life-gift of God changed sin into a murderous weapon, the very ruler's staff of the Most High into a dagger, the very salve by which the eye should be caused to see into poison. With that which is holy it would have murdered mankind! The holy itself should be made to serve sin, and God's revelation become a tool of Satan.
Yet at this very point the overruling of God shows itself in a specially victorious manner. For now the nature of sin is first properly unmasked; it is rebellion against God, enmity against the most High, revolution in the kingdom of the spirit, and, in its intention usurper of the throne of the Divine world-sovereignty!
But God has permitted all this that sin might be revealed as not merely "sin,' but as "exceedingly sinful" (Rom.7:12,13). The Law came in besides that the transgression should overflow" (Rom.5:20). Thus while the evil attempted to make the good serviceable to itself(Rom.7:13), the reverse took place -the good used the evil in its service, and the patience of God led only to severer judgment on sin.
But the path to the goal becomes yet darker. Because the Law reveals the guiltiness of sin, it shows at the same time the guilt of the sinner. Sin indeed is not "a" guilt but "his" guilt and deed and doer belong together. Only through this does the message of the Law become personal. In the first place
(I)The sinfulness of the sinner is revealed, and with the perception of guilt unto death there vanishes the enjoyment of life. The Law has enormously increased the responsibility of the doer. Thereby it has set the sinner under the "curse" (Deut.27:26 Gal.3:10). "The law worketh wrath" (Rom.4:15).
Therewith life for him has ceased to be "life" at all. "When I was still without law, then I 'lived,' but when the commandment came sin revived; but for me came-death" (Rom.7:9,10). Now there remains for the soul only a disastrous presentiment, a fearsome expectation of righteous judgment. The Law, the "letter," has "killed" (II Cor.3:6), and although "holy" in its character, "righteous" in its sentence, and "wholesome" in its purpose (Rom.7:12), it has nevertheless proved itself to be the 'servant of death and judgment' (II Cor.3:7,9). It has effected the death of the sinner without being the cause of it.
(2) The Helplessness of the Sinner. Yet there awakens in the man the "willing," the intention, the preference for the good (Rom.7:18), that is, his better ego, the ' mind" reasons (Rom. 7:25). It fights against the evil, "assents joyfully" to the Law (Rom.7:16), indeed, as regards the "inner man," is "well pleased" with God's commandment (Rom.7:22).
In a most tragic and dramatic manner this conflict of soul is set forth in Romans 7. This chapter speaks neither of the experience of a Christian after his conversion (as Augustine, Jerome, the Reformers explain), nor of Paul's experience under the Law before his conversion (so, e.g. Neander). Much rather Paul speaks of himself as he would be if he were considered as "in himself" (ver. 25, autos, ego, that is "I, of myself, standing in my own strength," apart from the Holy Spirit). In Romans 7 he is always "in himself," but in Romans 8 always "in Christ". Thus these two chapters do not treat of two successive experiences but of two conditions, two ways of considering the matter. Even a regenerate Christian can (abnormally indeed) sometimes (or often) be in Romans 7 as to his experience, while, as to his standing, he is always in Romans 8, and should certainly walk constantly in Romans 8.
In this conflict the victory seems easy. The good "lies at hand" (Rom.7:18; Gk. parakeitai). And yet! the outcome- perpetual defeat (Rom.7:15,16). As last the man no more understands himself: " my whole conduct is incomprehensible to me" (Rom.7:15). He perceives that not he himself has the determining of his actions, but sin dwelling in him. He is not even the lord in his own house (Rom.7:17,20). He is inwardly torn to pieces---for what he will he does not do, but what he does not will that he does (Rom.7:15,16): he is incapable of all good (Rom.7:18; Acts 15:10), " sold " under sin (Rom.7:14). Moreover, sin is a "law," and he, the man, is its slave.
In the fight for the fortress, 1 for the soul of man, which is waged between the two spiritual kingdoms, the "law of God" and the "law of sin," 'the law in the members'-which on the battleheld of the personality is the advance division of the host of the law of sin-always succeeds in winning the victory over the " law of the mind," this division of the host of the law of God. Thus the soul is always conquered for sin (Rom. 7:23); and this comes to pass so compulsorily that this victory must itself be described again as "law" (Rom.7:21). The "Law of Moses" cannot help (Rom.8:3), but can only, like a mirror, light up the chaos. But thus there arises in the man the perception that he is
1That in Rom. 7:21-23, there passes before Paul a picture of military life, is shown by his expressions "fighting against"(antistrateuomenon) and "dragged away as prisoner of war" (aichmalotizonta). In Rom. 7:21-8:3 Paul speaks of six laws(see above), to which the "law of the spirit of the life in Christ Jesus" is added as a seventh.
(3) Lost. Hoping he despairs and despairing he hopes, and, put to shame by all within, he looks without and above and cries: "O miserable man! who will deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom.7:24).
But this was exactly what the Law would have: the perception of the necessity for and the holiness and divineness of his Deliverer. With His coming it can therefore itself disappear. Christ as the "goal" of the Law is at the same time its "end" (Rom 10:4).
Thus out of the Old Testament purpose of the Law follows the New Testament freedom (Rom.7: Gal.3). The fearful way of death by which the Law had led the sinner, was, in Christ, at the same time, also a "death" of the sinner in reference to the Law. "I through the Law have died to the Law" (Gal.2:19; comp. Rom. 7:1-6; Col.2:20,21). The Law had led the sinner downwards even unto despair, to feeling dead; but precisely thereby had it led him upwards to laying hold of life. It was the path of that godly sorrow which works salvation (II Cor. 7:10). Now, after the descent into the hell of selfknowledge, there can begin the heavenly ascent of the knowledge of salvation and Christ. To testify more exactly of Him-that was the purpose of the appointments of the Divine service in temple and priesthood.
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