“I’m a good person, I live by the 10 commandments!” Anyone ever said that to you? Trouble is none of us live up to the commandments. If we don’t murder, we may hate another. If we don’t commit physical adultery, we consider it in our hearts, when we look at another person lustfully. And even if we had been able to keep moderately well, the ones that affect our human relationships, what about loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength? No, we certainly don’t live up to the 10 commandments!
Paul has argued that the promise to Abraham is fulfilled apart from the law. What then, was the purpose of the Law? The law appears to be a hindrance, unable to confer the Holy Spirit V2-5, brings a curse on those under it V10, promises life but withholds it V12-13, and apparently thwarts God’s promise, as we read today in V15-18. So, what was the purpose of the Law? The law came, as a result of God’s rescue of Abraham’s descendants, freeing them from slavery in Egypt. The law was, in part, a stop gap measure until the Lord could fulfil his promise to Abraham of Genesis 12:2-3. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The law was to bring provisional awareness of transgressions; transgressions being anything not aligned to God’s character and purpose, in short, sin. The law was a means to identify and classify sin. One can only transgress if there is a rule to break or a line to cross. Paul is not saying that sin didn’t exist until there was law. Sin is universal, affecting those with and those without the law. However, knowing what causes transgression against God, means that as a people saved by God’s rescue, and wanting to please God, we attempt to live according to the way we know God wants us to. The law acts to label behaviour so we know that it’s against what God wants.
Knowing all this Paul is in anguish: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Take some time to thank God for all that Jesus has done in rescuing you from sin and death.