[Aug 11]—Hands In The Cookie Jar

Romans 7:7-13

            One of my favorite illustrations regarding our sinful nature that we’re born with comes from Billy Graham. He told the story of a mother who walked out of her kitchen and then walked back in, only to see her toddler son up on the counter and his hand literally in the cookie jar. Upon seeing his mother’s stern face and hearing his (full) name being called out in rebuke, he frantically shakes his head “No!” as if trying to wordlessly convey to her “No! You didn’t really see me with my hand in the cookie jar! It’s not what it looks like!” In other words, this child has learned how to lie before he’s learned how to talk.
Paul is still discussing the believer’s relationship with the Law. We’re no longer bound to the Law as we once were. Through Christ, we died to the Law and now belong to Another.
            In this passage he asks a really pertinent question. We’ve seen in our personal lives that the Law (and any good rule) seems to be counterproductive, since they apparently provoke rebellion. God tells us not to do X, and for some strange reason, we’re attracted to X just because it’s forbidden. So is the Law sinful? Once again, Paul responds with the strongest possible negative in the Greek. It’s not the Law that’s sinful, it’s us.
            Which part of Paul’s life is he talking about in vss. 7-13? Some people say it was when he officially “came of age” at age 13, but my best guess is that it’s describing his childhood. From infancy into early childhood, he didn’t really understand the difference between right and wrong, so he was “alive apart from the law.” Then his parents taught him moral lessons, such as “Do not covet.” “Sin” (which I think is referring to his innate sinful nature) “sprang to life and [he] died.”
It’s not talked about much in the Bible, but I do believe that there’s an “age of accountability,” before which God doesn’t hold us really accountable, and after which we know the difference between right and wrong (and we choose the wrong), and he does hold us accountable. I think that’s what Paul is talking about here.
He takes great pains to emphasize, however, that it’s not the Law or the Commandments which are bad, even though they seemingly produced a bad result. It was intended to bring life (which we’ll get to in a moment), but it supposedly led him into sin. But his final verdict on this is: “[The] law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”
What does he mean when he says that the Law was intended to bring him life? Well, there are a couple of good explanations. If people really did obey the law, that would mean life for them, even eternal life, just like he says in 2:7-11. Of course, none of us really obey it, at least not to the perfection that God’s nature requires. But it was definitely intended to bring them life: As Moses made his final presentation of the Law, he called upon them to “choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
            But there’s something I want to seriously emphasize for today. The Mosaic Law--which most Christians avoid like a stinky sock--is holy, righteous, and good right now, in the present tense. Just because we’re not under the Old Covenant anymore doesn’t mean that it’s useless. As I’ve tried to hammer home again and again and again, as New Testament Christians we need to include in our study of Scriptures the Old Testament including (or most importantly) the parts that don’t naturally appeal to us the most. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out (probably ad nauseam), Paul said that all—not some, not most, not the parts we like—all Scripture is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That includes the Pentateuch and the Prophets. And quite frankly if there’s a portion of Scripture that your instincts lead you to avoid in your Bible Study, I’d suggest you make a specific effort to focus on it. We’re coming up to a new year, and I have both a 2-year and a 3-year plan to read the entire Bible cover to cover. If you agree with Paul that the Mosaic Law is “holy, righteous and good,” then maybe you need to take a closer look at it.

Father God, all of your word is precious to me, but way too often I don’t show it. I don’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of your mouth. By your grace, I want to demonstrate that. 

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