Indwelling Sin Weaponizes the Law

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:7–12, ESV)

How does our indwelling sin wage its war in us? What are his tactics? Paul explains. “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” (Romans 7:8) Wait, I thought the Tenth Commandment was “Don’t covet,” yet Paul says the command produced all kinds of coveting. Just to be clear, coveting is a church word for wanting what isn’t yours. It is jealously desiring what someone else has from their wife to their donkey, or in our vernacular, their BMW. The command is to be content with what God has given you and believe in God’s goodness in what he has given and what he has not given. Don’t covet. Paul says, rather than stopping me from coveting, the command created all kinds of coveting. How? Here’s the tactic.

“For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” (Romans 7:8)

“Dead” here I take to mean, dormant. Inactive. Lifeless. When you go to a park, do you think, I am definitely going to walk on the grass! No. It’s not even a thought or a desire until you see what? A sign that says, Don’t walk on the grass. Suddenly a desire rises in our hearts to do what? Walk on the grass. I so want to walk on the grass. When no one is looking, I want to let my shoe hang over the sidewalk edge. How does that feel? Strangely exciting. Wonderfully naughty.

“I was once alive apart from the law.” (Romans 7:9)

“Alive” here is not eternal life or spiritual life, but rather, I was alive without coveting. I was at the park just fine before I saw the sign. We might say, I was just minding my own business.

“But when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” (Romans 7:9-11)

This is a slow-motion replay of how indwelling sin gets us to sin. We see here that sin weaponizes the law. Sin takes something good and uses it to create an alternate evil desire. The very command is weaponized to create desires to do the opposite. To weaponize something is to take something good and turn it into something bad.

Think of when man discovered fire. Fire is wonderful. On it you can cook meat. It can warm you on a cold night. But how long was it before someone used it for arson on their neighbors’ house? Gunpowder was developed in China for fireworks. Yay! Everyone in China loves fireworks. Children love fireworks. Is gunpower good? It can be. But someone realized, we can use this to blow things up and shoot projectiles and win wars.

I’ve been listening to the audio recording of David McCullough’s wonderful book, The Wright Brothers. It’s interesting that they had no sooner proved they could fly than the militaries of the world were offering them money for their flying machines. Why? To weaponize the good thing of aerial flight. Is flying bad? No. Like the law, it’s wonderful. But like fire or gunpowder, our enemy weaponizes God’s good law against us.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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