Paul says a lot of wonderful and nuanced things in Romans 7.
For instance, he says, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” So the law is not sin-producing, but rather, sin-alerting. And sin, being very sneaky and conniving, seizes “an opportunity through the commandment” to produce all kinds of sin in me.
Then the clarification, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good..” (7:13a)
I am in complete awe of that verse and how jam-packed it is with meaning that effects me everyday.
The law was good. It is good. It is holy and just and loving. Yet, sin can take a good thing and turn it into an opportunity for sin to abound. Not just for us to be sin-aware, but for sin to increase! To be “sinful beyond measure.” (7:14b)
I can think of multiple ways this happens even with the good gifts God gives me on this side of the cross. The law was given before the cross, and yes, sin seized the chance for sin to abound through the giving of the law. But after Christ’s death and ressurection, it would seem to me that the gifts from God relating to His body and Christian life would be immune to such sin entanglement. But I find it isn’t so.
Some of the best gifts given after Christ’s atoning sacrifice, like the fellowship of the body, spiritual gifts of discernment or teaching or service, and many more are all still vunerable to sin’s perversion. Sin can take the good gift and produce death through what is good.
Now, for those of us in Christ, His righteousness covers us and ultimately death is not produced in us. He also gives His Spirit to guide and help us in our weaknesses. We have tools with which to fight the enticements of sin. And I am so thankful for that.
Left to my sinful flesh, I begin to idolize the gift of fellowship over the Person without whom no fellowship could ever exist. I start to value spiritual gifts over the subject of which the gifts should be about. And what’s worse, an attitude of entitlement about the gifts creeps in.
So, I say with Paul, “Wretched [wo]man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24)
And then Paul answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It’s Jesus who delivers us from this body of death. And there is no condemnation for me. I wage war on the sinful members of my body and in my inner being I rejoice in God’s loving commandments and His good gifts. So God is God, good gifts are not. But good gifts are free to be embraced as good when God is my Treasure and Sweet Reward.
Has sin ever taken a good thing in order to try and produce death through it in your life?