According to voting records, John Cenkner cast ballots in the California elections of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010. The only problem was that he died in 2003. For obvious reasons, the dead can’t vote! In Romans 7, Paul uses the concept of death to help us understand our complicated relationship with God’s law.
Just as the believer’s union with Christ in His death changes our relationship to our sinful nature, it also alters our relationship to God’s law. Using the analogy of a married woman whose husband dies, Paul points out that those who are united with Christ in His death have “died to the law” (v. 4). This was necessary because of the way our sinful nature interacts with the law. Instead of preventing sin, God’s law actually aroused it (v. 5).
Does this mean that the law itself is responsible for sin? Paul’s answer in verse 7 is very emphatic: “Certainly not!” Paul uses the example of coveting. For a rebellious child, when the law tells him not to covet, it stirs up all of his covetous instincts (vv. 7, 8).
God’s law is holy, and its commandments are “holy, righteous and good” (v. 12). The problem with the law resides within us. Sin makes it impossible for us to measure up to God’s standard. And this very good thing can actually stir up wrong desires in us. Paul personifies sin, saying that it used what was good to bring about his death (v. 10). In this way, the commandment shows that sin is “utterly sinful” (v. 13). Sin shows its destructive power by taking the law that was designed for life and using it as an instrument of death.
>> We slip into sin because we do not take our capacity to sin seriously enough. We overestimate our ability, thinking we can obey God’s law in our own strength. Not only do we fall short, but our sinful nature craves the very desires God’s law prohibits.
Father, help us not to shy away from acknowledging our fallen natures. Recognizing our sin drives us to hold fast to you. You have defeated death and sin, and we draw on your strength to choose righteousness.