Monday: The Law of Sin and Death

(Rom. 8:1-8)

Paul assures the Christian that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. . . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2, NKJV). If we read these verses apart from their immediate context, it would appear that Paul was referring to two opposing laws: the law of life and the law of sin and death. However, the difference is not with the law but with the individual before and after he or she receives Christ.

Image © Kevin Carden from

Image © Kevin Carden from

In what ways does Paul’s discussion in Romans 7:7-13 illustrate the role of the law?

The function of the law depends on the person with whom it is associated. The same knife, for instance, can be used by a surgeon to heal or by a murderer to kill. In the same way, a thief who breaks a law to steal someone’s purse will stand in a different relationship to the law than will the one whom the law was meant to protect (the owner of the purse). The law itself may sometimes be described as holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:12, NASB), or as the law of sin and of death (Rom. 8:2, NASB). However, in the same way that God’s retributive vengeance does not stop Him from being a God of love, the law’s function as an agent of sin and death does not make it sinful.

According to Romans 8:5-8, the law is an instrument of sin and death for those who set their minds on the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:5, NASB). This describes the person who is still married to the old self and has no apparent desire to sever the relationship and be joined to the resurrected Christ. As a result of the sinful union, the person finds himself at enmity with God and His law since they are on opposing sides (Rom. 8:7).

Paul then emphasizes that it is impossible for the mind set on the flesh to submit to God’s law, or even to please Him (Rom. 8:7-8, NASB). This is obviously not a reference to the struggling individual of Romans 7:13-25, since that person serves the law of God with my mind (Rom. 7:25, NASB). Paul is probably referring to those who by their wickedness suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18, NASB). It is for these rebels against God’s sovereignty that the law becomes an instrument of sin and death (Rom. 2:12).

How do you relate to the law when you violate it?



Monday: The Law of Sin and Death — 13 Comments

    • Denise, there's no need to fear!

      Christ has made it possible to live without condemnation. As Paul says, there is no condemnation to those "who are in Christ Jesus." That means having a daily living relationship with Him. In her comment (below), Jeanette suggests how this is done.

      Those need to fear who refuse to accept Christ as Lord. Have you not accepted Him? If not, ask Him to be Lord of your life right now. 🙂

  1. Daily we have to surrender our lives to Jesus to develop a strong relationship with Him. Daily we have to plead for the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct our lives and to study the scriptures in order to 'hide His words in our hearts, that we might not sin against Him'

  2. I would like to raise a question concerning the explanation of the two laws which the lesson says is really about the application of only one law. The lesson states, "If we read these verses apart from their immediate context, it would appear that Paul was referring to two opposing laws" and then it refers us to Rom 7:7-13 for an explanation. However, it seems to me that there is a more immediate context than that one that we should look at first:

    I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Rom. 7:21-23 NKJV)

    In these verses, if Paul is only speaking about one law then how can he honestly say that he saw, "another law in my members" as though there was something else involved. He then concludes his point two verses later, "So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Rom. 7:25 NKJV). So what is the law of sin that was working in his members? Maybe it is, "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20 NKJ). As Paul said earlier in his letter to the Romans:

    But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification (Rom. 5:15-16 NKJV)

    So, to me there actually are two laws, one condemns to death, the other saves to life. One says if you do wrong you die while the other says even though you did wrong because you believe in Me and the promises I made you, you will live. So then the law of Christ and the cross overrides the law of sin and death for the one who believes in the promises of God.

    In my way of thinking Paul is still addressing the problem of how we are saved and concluding that Jesus is the only solution to our inherited sinful nature which is at work in our members.

    • hello Tyler, you are right in saying there are two distinct laws mentioned and the law of sin and death cannot be the law of the Spirit of Life. they are opposite. in fact in Rom 7, Paul mentions three laws; law of God, law in his mind and law in his members or body. from this point till chapter 8 except when he refers directly to 'law of God', he uses the word law as a substitute for rule or power eg rom 7;21, 8;1-2. he refers to the power/control of sin vs. the control/ power of the Spirit. thank God that thru Christ, the Spirit's power has set us free from the rule of sin and death. We are free to walk in righteousness

  3. In Romans 7:7-13 Paul makes it clear that sin is irrelevant without the law and only exists in the presence of law. Yet the law is not the problem (it is not sin).

    To Paul sin was dead (non-existent) before he was conscious of the law (Romans 4:15), since sin has no meaning without the law. At that time Paul was alive (not under condemnation of death). When he gained knowledge of the law his evil works were revealed to him and he died (came under condemnation of death) (1 Corinthians 15:56).

    The law was intended to promote life (Leviticus 18:5; Luke 10:28), but transgression resulted in death. It was not the law but sin (a mystery) which deceived and killed (condemned to death) Paul. In other words sin brought Paul into opposition to the law so that he might be destroyed in the presence of a holy and just law. Paul was a victim of sin, not the law. Sin held Paul so that as it (sin) was condemned Paul might also be condemned. Only Jesus could rescue Paul.

    That which was intended for good (law) was exploited and made to look evil, even blamed for sin and death. Still the law stands blameless and its just requirements vindicated by the life of Christ, who now stands between the repentant sinner and the law. The Redeemer and Reconciler is able to bring mankind back into harmony with the law.

  4. Am feeling guilty when I did the thing without realizing at first. The question I would like to ask and know is that Transgression of law with realizing at first is sin?

    • Lucas, even though sin is sin it seems to me that God tends to overlook real ignorance, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent (Act 17:30 NKJV). We can also see in Lev 4 that sins of ignorance were taken care of in the sanctuary services. Paul also testifies concerning himself, “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1Ti 1:13 NKJV). So, even though he sinned in ways that we normally will not do he still received mercy from a loving God who reads the heart and knows who His sheep are.

      The only sins that cannot be forgiven are those we do in stubborn rebellion and even then it is only those who continually refuse the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:32). As the writer of Hebrews says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Heb 10:26 NIV). Notice it is only those sins that are done defiantly on a continual basis when we know better that are the ones that create a problem, all the rest are easily taken care of through confession and belief in the promises of God.

      I think Matthew Henry says it best in no uncertain terms:

      From the description he gives of the sin of apostasy. It is sinning wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, sinning wilfully against that truth of which we have had convincing evidence. This text has been the occasion of great distress to some gracious souls; they have been ready to conclude that every wilful sin, after conviction and against knowledge, is the unpardonable sin: but this has been their infirmity and error. The sin here mentioned is a total and final apostasy, when men with a full and fixed will and resolution despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour,--despise and resist the Spirit, the only sanctifier,--and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life; and all this after they have known, owned, and professed, the Christian religion, and continue to do so obstinately and maliciously. This is the great transgression: the apostle seems to refer to the law concerning presumptuous sinners, Num. 15:30, 31. They were to be cut off. (Matthew Henry commentary on Heb 10:26)

    • Yes. Take a look at Luke 12:47-48 and Romans 2:12-16. Those who know the law but do not follow it, is in greater trouble than those who do not know. But as the bible says, those who never knew, God had given them a conscious and the Holy Spirit as a guidance in knowing what is right and what is wrong.

  5. Dear Sis Denise. You mentioned about being fearful about the consequences of the law. Let me 1st give you an example about myself then cont.
    It was one bright summer day a few years ago. I was on my way to school and was late for the class but intended to reach on time by any and all means. As I got to the stop sign; the sun was in my eyes and could not see the police vehicle on the opposite side of the road. I stopped then moved on. Suddenly, I heard the noise of the police vehicle; I said to myself, it must be someone he caught. Then as I slowed down I realized it was me who he was coming after. As he approached me, he said to me that I did not stop at the stop sign. I mentioned that I stopped but he said all I did was slowed down but did not come to a complete stop. He gave me a warning and let me go.

    After that incident, I went home and prayed earnestly asking God to show me how to drive within the speed limit and to obey the rules of the road. I was sincere in my prayer and needed to change my driving ways. I even heard the voice of God saying what time to get ready so as to drive to work and be on time. No police ever stopped me again for disobeying the rules of the road (at stop sign or driving fast).

    I use this as my example for the lesson dealing with the law. You have nothing to fear if you know by the grace of God you are doing what is right. By prayer and fasting, bible study and constant communion with God, he will speak to you personally to your needs. Remember it is a trick of the devil to bring fear to us about God’s law. Satan wants us to believe the law is too hard to be kept and if we don’t then punishment awaits us. Also remember the law is like a school master. He shows the pupils what is right and what is wrong and gave them the choice. The law guides us and shows us Calvary.

    • Domingo, there is only one sin that is unforgivable, that is grieving the Holy Spirit. There is only one way to do that, that is not wanting to repent to the point that you can no longer hear the Holy Spirit.

      If you are still in a position where you are able to ask yourself if you have committed the unpardonable sin, you definitely haven't committed it.

      Jesus gives us a promise. He is willing and faithful to forgive us our sins as long as we confess our sins to Him.


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