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What the Bible says about Law Illuminating Sin
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 19:11

Warned means "illuminated": "by them we are illuminated." Today, we might say that God's Word—His law—throws light on the subject. It keeps us informed so that we can see our duties plainly and the consequences of disobedience. The act of keeping them will produce good things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Fourteen)

Romans 6:14-15

What does it mean to be "under the law"? The apostle Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV), and every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned (Romans 3:23). Once the knowledge of the law comes, there is no excuse, and the law condemns all who break it to eternal death. Paul personifies the law as the instrument that points the finger of condemnation at each of us: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Therefore, to be "under the law" means to be "under the condemnation of the law."

The phrase "under the law" is also used in Romans 3:19; I Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5; 4:21; 4:18.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?

Romans 7:7

Law shows us our duties. In reference to God, it awakens us to a consciousness of sin. Through law, we become aware of the contrast between what we ought to do and what we actually do. Our civil legislators enact laws, and thus they tell us what is ethical, right, and good in a particular, secular area of life.

Instead of calling a transgression of the state's laws "sin," we call it "crime." Many crimes are also sin. The difference between secular law and God's law is that God's law relates directly to the divine. It reveals our duties to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)

Romans 7:9

What Paul means by "I was alive once without the law" is that, at one time, he without the knowledge of what the law meant. It was "when the commandment came" that he understood. At this point, Paul knew that he was as good as dead because he had broken the law (Romans 6:23).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)

Romans 7:9-14

Notice that it was not the law that killed him but sin! Plain, simple truth—sin slew him. By contrast, Paul says that the law was ordained to life. It is holy, just, good, and spiritual. That is very clear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Nine)

Romans 10:4

Here, end does not mean "conclusion" as in "done away." If the law was done away, sin could not exist because Paul states, "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Rather, end should be "goal" or "purpose," meaning that this verse names Christ as the object of the Bible (see Romans 6:22; I Timothy 1:5; James 5:11; I Peter 1:9). The law—indeed, the whole Bible—is aimed toward Him; He is its target. Paul is saying Jesus is what the law produces; He personifies its intent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction

Galatians 2:19

The law plays a large part in our salvation in that it is through the law that we are revealed as sinners—that we might repent, be justified, and thus made alive to God. If the law were not there to tell us what sin is, we could never repent. If the law were not there to set the standard, we would never have anything to shoot for. If the law were not there to show us "this is the way to live," we would have no clear path as to what is right.

Thus the law, far from being done away, is there for our salvation—even though it cannot give us life, of and by itself. This ties in with Romans 7:7-9. Paul also says, in Galatians 2:20, that he "died," which needs to be connected with Romans 6:1-6. He died, then, because the law revealed that he was a sinner and claimed its due. He remained alive only because he is joined with Christ, becomeing a part of His body.

Paul rose from baptism as a symbol of Christ's resurrection, and he lived because of the faith of Jesus Christ, who made this possible by what He did. Paul's life was different than when he was striving to be justified by the law. The law can condemn and guide, but it cannot give one life. Nor can it give a person the power to keep it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Six)

Galatians 3:12-14

Even though the law can guide a person in the right way to live, and even though it describes the character of God, it also condemns and brings one guilty before God through an awareness of sin. However, it does not possess the power to forgive, to justify, or to give life.

It takes a living Personality—the Giver and the Enforcer of the law—to forgive, to justify, and to give life. The law can do nothing to reverse the condemnation—the curse—once it is incurred through sin, but Christ took the curse upon Himself so that we do not have to bear our own punishment. The Father, in His mercy, permits His death to apply for us. He forgives and justifies us, if we accept Christ's death on our behalf with true repentance and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Six)


 




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