The Torah, Foe or Friend?

As Paul spoke to the Romans about sin in the life of humans, he did so using the effect of Torah to illustrate the issue. In making this illustration he was careful to say that the Law is holy (Romans 7:12), the Law is Spiritual (Romans 7:14), and the Law is good (Romans 7:16)) and that the aim of the Law itself is life (Romans 7:10). He says this so his readers will not misunderstand him as saying there is a bad element to the Law. Sadly, these efforts on Paul’s part have been missed by us. Many come away from Romans convinced that the Law and the Gospel are as pitted against each other as the Spirit and the flesh. Some read Romans 7:25 believing the “Law of sin” refers to the Torah while the “Law of God” refers to the Gospel. We may even think that the “Law of sin and death” in Romans 8:2 refers to the Torah. This could not be further from the truth.

Paul says while his heart concurs with the “Law of God”, he sees a “different law” at work in his members, making war against the “law of his mind” making me a “prisoner of the law” of sin with is in his members. How many “laws” does Paul talk about here? By my count, two. But one more is coming. The “law of my mind” with which Paul inwardly agrees is the Law of God, or the Torah. “The different law” which is at work in his members and has held him prisoner is the “Law of Sin.” Later Paul will connect this phrase to “Death”. The Law of Sin is simple, sinners sin. Humans rebel against God and His goodness. The second part is like it- Sinners die. These two pieces are the “Law of Sin and Death.”

Paul says the Torah is an irritant to the law of sin that lives in us. This happens in a few ways. 1. the Torah tells us what sin is. 2. The Torah tells us which things sins are. 3. The Torah tells us the consequences for sin. All together, the Torah has a way of focusing the rebellion against God that already exists in me. The more I rebel against the Law the greater the debt I owe to make things right, the greater the shame I have before God. The worse off I get, I find myself facilitating between two poles, I become hardened, committed to my resistance against God, or I fall into despair, knowing I am without ability or resources to make things right to return to God, until I cry out “Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of sin and death?”

The Torah does contain a difficulty for us. It has all the power needed to condemn me, but offers none of the power needed to save me. But the problem is not the Torah. The problem is me. I am a sinner, and sinners sin. The law of sin and death is at work in my body of sin and death, and the Law makes it more visible and more apparent. Ultimately, the Law frees me from sin in that it slays me, and dead people can’t sin. They also can’t live. So I need help from another Law. The next “Law” Paul introduces is “the Law of Life and Liberty in Christ Jesus” which sets me free from the law of sin and death. Christ lived the perfect life, and died a sinners death, became my righteousness in that He obeyed the Torah I could not obey, and paid the price I could not pay. If I had died for my sins, it would called “justice”, and incomplete justice at that. But that Christ died for my sins, the Godly for the ungodly, that is grace.

God’s righteous standard is eternal truth. The Torah is Holy, Righteous, and Good. As such it could only be a hope for Holy, Righteous and Good people. To live under it is to be liable for all the consequences of breaking it- death. (Galatians 3:10) God’s Torah may slay me, but He knows that I must be slain if I am going to be saved. The Law is not foe, but friend. The Law is the Gospel’s beloved ally. I could not be saved by it. But I could not been saved without it.

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