“But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Romans 7:8).
When confronted with God’s holy law, sinful men are motivated not to obey it, but to break it.
It is a perverse fact of fallen human nature that the surest way to get people to do things is to tell them not to do them. When people see a sign reading “Keep off the grass!” or “Don’t pick the flowers!” their first impulse is often to trample the grass and take some flowers.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. God’s law reveals what is right and what is wrong—and sinful men choose to do what is wrong. In his classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan vividly depicts the seemingly paradoxical truth that the law does not restrain sin but stirs it up. In the house of Interpreter, Christian was shown a large, dust-filled room. A man with a broom, representing the law, appeared and began to sweep. The resulting dust cloud nearly choked Christian. Bunyan’s point was that just as sweeping a dusty room does not remove the dust but only stirs it up, so the law does not restrain sin but merely aggravates it.
Does that mean the law is evil? Certainly not. “The Law is holy” (Rom. 7:12) since it derives from a holy God. And it does sinners good by exposing their sin and revealing to them their need for a Savior. The law, then, is not the culprit—sin is.
Using himself as an illustration, Paul notes that “sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind.” ”Opportunity” translates a Greek word used in military terms to speak of a base of operations from which attacks could be launched. Sin used the law—especially the knowledge of right and wrong it brought—to launch its attacks on Paul.
Don’t be afraid in your evangelism to confront sinners with the demands of God’s holy law. They must face their utter inability to meet its demands before they will recognize their need for a Savior.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would help you discern the subtlety of sin’s attacks against you.
For Further Study
Read 2 Kings 17:13-16. Did the Israelites’ knowledge of God’s law keep them from sinning?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.