Paul`s epistle to Rome contains some the grandest truths of the Bible. Examples include such statements as this one: "that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes" [Rom. 1:16]. Another example would be this declaration: "that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" [Rom. 3:28], or this: "that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" [Rom. 5:1].
Among those grand truths is this declaration: that our faith in Jesus Christ delivered us from the law, "that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" [Rom. 7:6]. But such a statement raises a question concerning the law. Paul worded that question this way, "Is the law sin?"
I ask myself that same question, "Is the law of God wrong or evil or harmful to me?" Has it become obsolete in this modern age? Like a clap of thunder from the heavens, the Apostle cries out in answer, "God forbid!" "Nay," the Apostle declares, "I had not known sin but by the law, for I had not known lust except the law had said: 'Thou shalt not covet` [Rom. 7:7]."
It is good, for me, to know sin. Not by experience, but by explanation. Knowing sin is a safety issue. It provides us protection. The law provides us the knowledge of sin: it acts as an "early warning system" to avoid the wrath wrapped up in sin.
Picture a troop of Boy Scouts heading out for their first camping trip. If they were not informed of the dangers they might encounter on the trail, they would be at greater risk. Choosing which mushrooms to eat, knowing what ivy is poisonous and recognizing which snakes are deadly requires some previous instruction or sad experience. The law of God is our safety manual for life`s excursion.
Paul gave this illustration. He testified, "I had not known lust except the law said, 'Thou shalt not covet`." Here is the law`s early warning system at work: "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's" [Deuteronomy 5:21].
What is the gain from knowing and obeying just this one commandment? Contentment, and the gain that comes thereby. We lust and have not; we kill and desire to have and, yet, we cannot obtain. We fight and war; yet, we have not because we desire to consume what we seek upon our own lusts [James 4:2]. Godliness, with contentment, is great gain [I Tim. 6:6].
Consider a world without adultery or fornication, theft or coercion, envy or subterfuge. That is a world without lust. It is a world that does not covet: where neighbors respect private property and where the sanctity of live is revered. It is a world that seeks to keep the law of God out of a love for God and for one`s fellow man.
The law is good, for by the law we gain the knowledge of sin. The law of God is good, for knowing sin allows us the opportunity to avoid sin and the price it exacts from our lives. Knowing what sin is gives us the insight needed to divert ourselves from following its path or hiding it in our hearts. Knowing the exceeding sinfulness of sin helps us loosen its cords. It gives us a chance to be set free. Knowing what is wrong gives us a chance to do what is right. Knowing what breeds death gives us a chance to live life. It is good to know sin.