Romans 7:7-13: “What then are we to infer? That the law is sin? God forbid! So far from that, I would never have known what sin meant except through the law. I would never have known desire if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” For, when sin had, through the commandment, obtained a foothold, it produced every kind of desire in me; for, without law, sin is lifeless. Once I lived without the law; but, when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and in that moment I knew that I had incurred the penalty of death. The commandment that was meant for life-I discovered that that very commandment was in me for death. For, when sin obtained a foothold through the commandment, it seduced me, and, through it, killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just and good. Did then that which was good become death to me? God forbid! But the reason was that sin might be revealed as sin by producing death in me, through the very thing which was in itself good, so that, through the commandment, sin might become surpassingly sinful.”
One feels mixed emotions toward the Law when it is encountered in the Book of Romans. For in Romans we find both “good news” and “bad news” pertaining to the Law. Consider the two very different perspectives of the Law indicated by Paul in this book:
The Good News
(1) The Law contains the “oracles of God” (3:2)
(2) The Law defines sin and righteousness (7:7) and bears witness to the righteousness of God in Christ (3:21-22)
(3) The Law was given to result in life (7:10; see Leviticus 18:5)
(4) The Law is spiritual (7:14); it is holy and righteous and good (7:12)
The Bad News
(1) Knowing the Law apart from obeying its commands only makes one more guilty (1:32–2:29)
(2) The Law cannot save man but can only condemn him (3:9-20)
(3) The Law brings about God’s wrath (4:15)
(4) The Law came in that sin might increase (5:20)
(5) The requirements of the Law are fulfilled by those who walk in the Spirit (8:4)
(6) Sinful passions are aroused by the Law (7:5, 8)
(7) Sin used the Law to kill us (7:11)
It comes as no surprise that sinners have no love for law, especially the Law of God. They hate God and His Law (see Ephesians 2:1-3). The natural man cannot understand it (see 1 Corinthians 2) and seeks actively to oppose and overthrow it (Romans 8:7-8). Yet unbelievers’ disdain for the Law of God is not surprising. What is distressing is the number of Christians who disdain the Law of God. The Law of God is seen by some Christians as something evil, something of which we would do well to be rid. Such thinking at best perceives of the Law of God as obsolete, superseded by grace.
Many sins, on the other hand, are looked upon as something good and desirable. This is surely true of the unbeliever. But here again even Christians may be tempted to view sin as something good and desirable, just as Eve saw that deadly tree as desirable, not only to look at but to eat from so that she might be like God, knowing good and evil.
God’s Law consistently receives bad reviews from the world, while sin is heralded with great reviews. The Law is looked upon with disdain, or with mere toleration, while sin is thought to be desirable and appealing. If we must give it up, for God’s sake, we will, but only reluctantly.
While our text in Romans 7 is not the only passage we could use to show the hideousness of sin and the beauty of God’s Law, it is one of the most emphatic biblical statements concerning this reality. Paul’s words in Romans 7:7-13 are intended to convince his reader that the Law is a wonderful gift from God in which the believer can and should delight, and that sin is a horrible malignancy which the world would be better off without. As we study Paul’s words, pay special attention to those things which show us the beauty of the Law and those which show us the ugliness of sin.
Chapters 3-8 of Romans weave together in a remarkable way the various themes of faith, grace, sin, righteous-ness, and law. Especially important for Paul’s Jewish readers was his comprehensive treatment of the law and its role in a person’s coming to Christ and then living for Christ.
Paul has established that the law cannot save (Rom. 3-5), that it cannot sanctify (chap. 6), and that it can no longer condemn a believer (7:1-6). Now he establishes that the law can convict both unbelievers and believers of sin (7:7-13), and next that it cannot deliver from sin, either before or after salvation (7:14-25), and that it can be fulfilled by believers in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (8:1-4).
By New Testament times, Jewish rabbis had summed up scriptural law in 613 commandments, comprised of 248 mandates and 365 prohibitions. The mandates related to such things as worship, the Temple, sacrifices, vows, rituals, donations, sabbaths, animals used for food, festivals, community affairs, war, social issues, family responsibilities, judicial matters, legal rights and obligations, and slavery. The prohibitions related to such things as idolatry historical lessons, blasphemy, Temple worship, sacrifices, the priesthood, diet, vows, agriculture, loans, business, slaves, justice, and personal relationships.
To those scriptural laws the rabbis had added countless adjuncts, conditions, and practical interpretations. The attempt to fulfill all the laws and traditions became a consuming way of life for legalistic Jews such as the Pharisees. At the Jerusalem Council, Peter described that extreme legalism as “a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
As far as the divinely-revealed laws were concerned, it is clear why faithful Jews tried to keep them in every detail. Through Moses, God had declared, “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut. 27:26). The next chapter of Deuteronomy specifies some of the severe consequences of disobedience, consequences that affected virtually every area of life:
But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land, where you are entering to possess it. The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery beat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew and they shall pursue you until you perish. (28:15-22)
As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul reiterated the truth that “for as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them’” (Gal. 3:10; cf. Deut. 27:26). James declared that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Why one wonders, did God give His chosen people a law that was impossible for them to keep? His purpose was not only to reveal the standard of righteousness by which the saved are to live but also to show them the impossibility of living it without His power and to show them the depth of their sinfulness when honestly measured against the law. The law was not given to show men how good they could be but how good they could not be.
Following his quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26 mentioned above, Paul told the Galatians, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident” (Gal. 3:11a). To substantiate that truth he quoted another Old Testament passage that declared that “the righteous man shall live by faith” (v. 11b; cf. Hab. 2:4). The law was given to establish God’s standard and to reveal to men the utter impossibility of their achieving that standard of righteousness and their consequent need for forgiveness and for trusting in God’s goodness and mercy. As Hebrews 11 makes clear, both before and after the giving of the Mosaic law, those who became acceptable to God were those who trusted in His righteousness rather than their own.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their failure to understand that truth (Luke 18:9). Paul, once the consummate Pharisee (Phil. 3:4-6), came to clearly understand that reality after his conversion. He testified to the Philippian
believers: “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss … in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:7-9).
After declaring that “while we [believers] were in the flesh, the sinful passions … were aroused by the Law,” and that “now we have been released from the Law,… so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter [of the Law]” (Rom. 7:5-6), Paul knew the next question his readers would ask would be, What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? “Was the law given by God through Moses actually evil?” they would wonder. “And can Christians now disregard the standards of the law and live as they please?”
Paul responds by again using the strongest Greek negative, (May it never be! See 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:13). “Of course not! Of course not!” is the idea. The law not only is not sinful but continues to have great value for the Christian by convicting him of sin. In 7:7b-13, Paul gives four elements of the convicting work of God’s law: it reveals sin (v. 7b), it arouses sin (v. 8), it ruins the sinner (vv. 9-11), and it reflects the absolute sinfulness of sin (vv. 12-13).
Here begins one of the greatest of all passages in the New Testament; and one of the most moving; because here Paul is giving us his own spiritual autobiography and laying bare his very heart and soul.
Paul deals with the torturing paradox of the law. In itself it is a fine and a splendid thing. It is holy. That is to say it is the very voice of God. The root meaning of the word holy (hagios) is different. It describes something which comes from a sphere other than this world. The law is divine and has in it the very voice of God. It is just. We have seen that the root Greek idea of justice is that it consists in giving to man, and to God, their due.
Therefore the law is that which settles all relationships, human and divine. If a man perfectly kept the law, he would be in a perfect relationship both with God and with his fellow men. The law is good. That is to say, it is designed for nothing other than our highest welfare. It is meant to make a man good.
All that is true. And yet the fact remains that this same law is the very thing through which sin gains entry into a man. How does that happen? There are two ways in which the law may be said to be, in one sense, the source of sin.
(i) It defines sin. Sin without the law, as Paul said, has no existence. Until a thing is defined as sin by the law, a man cannot know that it is sin. We might find a kind of remote analogy in any game, say tennis. A man might allow the ball to bounce more than once before he returned it over the net; so long as there were no rules he could not be accused of any fault. But then the rules are made, and it is laid down that the ball must be struck over the net after only one bounce and that to allow it to bounce twice is a fault. The rules define what a fault is, and that which was allowable before they were made, now becomes a fault. So the law defines sin.
We may take a better analogy. What is pardonable in a child, or in an uncivilized man from a savage country, may not be allowable in a mature person from a civilized land. The mature, civilized person is aware of laws of conduct which the child and the savage do not know; therefore, what is pardonable in them is fault in him.
The law creates sin in the sense that it defines it. It may for long enough be legal to drive a motor car in either direction along a street; then that street is declared one-way; after that a new breach of the law exists-that of driving in a forbidden direction. The new regulation actually creates a new fault. The law, by making men aware of what it is, creates sin.
(ii) But there is a much more serious sense in which the law produces sin. One of the strange facts of life is the fascination of the forbidden thing. The Jewish rabbis and thinkers saw that human tendency at work in the Garden of Eden. Adam at first lived in innocence; a commandment was given him not to touch the forbidden tree, and given only his good; but the serpent came and subtly turned that prohibition into a temptation. The fact that the tree was forbidden made it desirable; so Adam was seduced into sin by the forbidden fruit; and death was the result.
Philo allegorized the whole story. The serpent was pleasure; Eve stood for the senses; pleasure, as it always does, wanted the forbidden thing and attacked through the senses. Adam was the reason; and, through the attack of the forbidden thing on the senses, reason was led astray, and death came.
In his Confessions there is a famous passage in which Augustine tells of the fascination of the forbidden thing.
“There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it and carry our spoils away. We took off a huge load of pears-not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my wretched soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply in order to become a thief. The only feast I got was a feast of iniquity, and that I enjoyed to the full. What was it that I loved in that theft? Was it the pleasure of acting against the law, in order that I, a prisoner under rules, might have a maimed counterfeit of freedom by doing what was forbidden, with a dim similitude of impotence?. . . The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing.”
Set a thing in the category of forbidden things or put a place out of bounds, and immediately they become fascinating. In that sense the law produces sin.
Paul has one revealing word which he uses of sin. “Sin,” he says, “seduced me.” There is always deception in sin. Vaughan says that sin’s delusion works in three directions. (i) We are deluded regarding the satisfaction to be found in sin. No man ever took a forbidden thing without thinking that it would make him happy, and no man ever found that it did. (ii) We are deluded regarding the excuse that can be made for it. Every man thinks that he can put up a defence for doing the wrong thing; but no man’s defence ever sounded anything else but futile when it was made in the presence of God. (iii) We are deluded regarding the probability of escaping the consequences of it. No man sins without the hope that he can get away with it. But it is true that, soon or late, our sin will find us out.
Is, then, the law a bad thing because it actually produces sin? Paul is certain that there is wisdom in the whole sequence. (i) First he is convinced that, whatever the consequence, sin had to be defined as sin. (ii) The process shows the terrible nature of sin, because sin took a thing-the law-which was holy and just as good, and twisted it into something which served the ends of evil. The awfulness of sin is shown by the fact that it could take a fine thing and make it a weapon of evil. That is what sin does. It can take the loveliness of love and turn it into lust. It can take the honourable desire for independence and turn it into the obsession for money and for power. It can take the beauty of friendship and use it as a seduction to the wrong things. That is what Carlyle called “the infinite damnability of sin.” The very fact that it took the law and made it a bridgehead to sin shows the supreme sinfulness of sin. The whole terrible process is not accidental; it is all designed to show us how awful a thing sin is, because it can take the loveliest things and defile them with a polluting touch.
(7:7-13) Introduction: the purpose of the law is clearly pointed out in this passge. It is a passage that needs to be carefully studied by both the world and believers. It is a passage that needs to be proclaimed from the housetops, for the law was given by God to show man his desperate need for a Savior.
- Is the law sin, that is, evil? (v.7).
- The law reveals the fact of sin (v.7).
- The law gives sin the opportunity to be aroused and to work every kind of evil (v.8).
- The law reveals the fact of condemnation and death (v.9-10).
- The law reveals the deceitfulness of sin (v.11).
- The law reveals the way of God: holiness, righteousness, and goodness (v.12).
- The law shows that sin is exceedingly sinful and that it is the cause of death (v.13).
(7:7) The Law: Is the law sin, that is, evil? This is a legitimate question because of what Romans has declared about the law.
- The law judges and condemns men: “As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12).
- The law and ritual do not make a person a Christian: “He is a Jew [Christian], which is one inwardly; and circumcision [a ritual] is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter [law], whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29).
- The law cannot make a man righteous and acceptable to God: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20; cp. Romans 3:27).
- The purpose of the law is not to save man but to bear witness that man desperately needs the righteousness of God: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:21-22).
- The law leads man to boast in himself—in his own works and self-righteousness—not in God: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27; cp. Romans 4:2, 4; Romans 2:29).
- The law does not justify a person: “If Abraham were justified by works [the law], he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:2-5).
- The law is not the way a person receives the promise of God: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).
- The law works wrath in that it accuses man of sin and condemns him: “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).
- The law causes sin to increase and multiply: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
- The law enslaves and brings men into bondage: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14; cp. Romans 7:1).
- The law arouses men to sin: “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death” (Romans 7:5).
Such facts as these can naturally cause a person to question the value of God’s law. If the law lays such a burden of sin upon man, what good is it? Is it not evil? Scripture declares loudly and clearly: “God forbid! Let it never be! Such a thought is far from the truth!”
(7:7) The Law: the law of God reveals the fact of sin. Apart from the law, man would be aware that some acts are wrong, such as stealing and killing. However, there would be much that man could not know if he did not have the law, much that he would desperately need to know in order to live a full and peaceful life.
“By the Law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “Where no Law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). The Law is a mirror that reveals the inner man and shows us how dirty we are (James 1:22-25). Note that Paul did not use murder, stealing, or adultery in his discussion; he uses coveting. This is the last of the Ten Commandments, and it differs from the other nine in that it is an inward attitude, not an outward action. Covetousness leads to the breaking of the other commandments! It is an insidious sin that most people never recognize in their own lives, but God’s Law reveals it.
The rich ruler in Mark 10:17-27 is a good example of the use of the Law to reveal sin and show a man his need for a Saviour. The young man was very moral outwardly, but he had never faced the sins within. Jesus did not tell him about the Law because the Law would save him; He told him about the Law because the young man did not realize his own sinfulness. True, he had never committed adultery, robbed anyone, given false witness, or dishonored his parents; but what about covetousness?
When Jesus told him to sell his goods and give to the poor, the man went away in great sorrow. The commandment, “Thou shalt not covet,” had revealed to him what a sinner he really was! Instead of admitting his sin, he rejected Christ and went away unconverted.
The law reveals the fact of sin, the fact…
- that men are not in a right relationship with God.
- that men are not in a right relationship with other men.
- that men are living selfishly, thereby dooming themselves.
- that men are coveting and lusting, thereby destroying their world and their future.
- that men are displeasing God and have become unacceptable to Him.
The point is this: when a man sees the fact of sin, the fact that he is a sinner, he can correct it and do something about it. The knowledge of sin is a great and glorious thing, for we can take our knowledge and use it to correct the wrong. Without the law, we would roam in ignorance, not knowing what was wrong and what was right, what was dooming us and what was freeing us. If there was no restraint, that is, no law, every man would be doing what he wanted when he wanted; he would be doing his own thing—fulfilling his own desires—regardless of the fallout and the hurt inflicted upon others.
Now note: the law reveals sin; it awakens man to three facts about sin.
- The law reveals the fact of sin, that sin actually exists. The law awakens man to the reality and truth of sin. Man knows that coveting is wrong because the law says, “Thou shalt not covet.” He knows that some things are good and other things are bad because the law tells him. He knows that certain things please and other things displease God because the law says so. In simple and clear language, the law tells a man…
- what the nature and will of God is.
- what he must do to be acceptable to God.
- The law reveals the fact of man’s own sin, that man is unquestionably a sinner. The law awakens man to the reality that he himself is a sinner. The law shows man…m
- The law reveals the fact of man’s sinful nature, that man is actually aroused to do some of the things that are forbidden. The law shows man that he has a sinful, depraved, polluted, and corrupted nature. The law shows man that he covets and lusts, enjoys and is aroused…
- to take the second helping of food.
- to take the melons on the other side of the fence.
- to secure the same things owned by his neighbor.
- to go after the excitement and stimulation of the forbidden.
- to fulfill the lust of the flesh.
- to feed the lust of the eyes.
- to satisfy the pride of life.
The purpose of the law is to reveal sin so that man can correct his behavior and save himself and his world. Apart from God’s law, he would not know that he needed to be saved.
On the contrary, Paul says, just the opposite is true. It is outrageous and blasphemous even to suggest that anything God commands could be deficient in the least way, much less sinful.
By being perfect itself, however, God’s law does reveal man’s imperfection. I would not have come to know sin, Paul goes on to explain, except through the Law. In other words, because God has disclosed His divine standards of righteousness, men are able more accurately to identify sin, which is failure to meet those standards.
The apostle has already mentioned or alluded to that truth several times in the epistle: “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20); “the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation” (4:15); and “until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (5:13).
Paul is not speaking of humanity’s general awareness of right and wrong. Even pagan Gentiles who have never heard of God’s revealed law nevertheless have His “Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15). In the present passage the apostle is speaking about knowledge of the full extent and depravity of man’s sin.
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Paul uses the first person singular pronouns I and me, indicating that he is giving his personal testimony as well as teaching universal truth. He is relating the conviction of sin that the Holy Spirit worked in his own heart through the law before and during his Damascus road encounter with Christ and the three days of blindness that followed (see Acts 9:1-18)
Although Christ’s appearing to him and calling him to apostleship were sovereign acts of God, at some point Saul (as he was then known) had to confess his sins and trust in Christ for salvation. God forces no one into His kingdom against his will or apart from faith. In his testimony before King Agrippa, Paul recounted that, even while he was outwardly persecuting the followers of Christ, he was inwardly kicking “against the goads” of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work in his heart (Acts 26:14).
Paul had been trained in Judaism since his early youth, had studied under the famous Gamaliel in Jerusalem, had tried to follow the law meticulously, and had considered himself to be zealous for God (Acts 22:3; Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:5-6a). Before his conversion, he easily could have prayed the prayer of the self-satisfied Pharisee in the Temple who thanked God that he was not like other people (see Luke 18:11-12). He may have asserted with the rich young ruler that he had kept all the law since his youth (see Matt. 19:20; Phil. 3:6b).
Zealous Jews made such claims because rabbinical tradition had modified and externalized the law of God in order to make an acceptable lower lever of obedience humanly attainable. They did not take into account personal faith in God or the inner condition of the heart. To them, a person who lived up to the outward, observable demands of the rabbinical interpretations of the law became fully acceptable to God.
During his pre-salvation experience of conviction, Paul came to realize that the most important demands of God’s revealed law were not external but internal and that he had failed to meet them. It is significant that the apostle chose the most obviously internal injunction of the Ten Commandments to illustrate his personal experience that the law reveals sin. I would not have known about coveting, he explains, if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” It may have been the growing awareness of his own covetousness that finally broke his pride and opened his heart to the transforming work of the Spirit. Years after Paul’s conversion, he told believers in Philippi, “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
The real battle with sin is internal, in the heart and mind. Counseling, therapy, or even strong willpower often can modify a person’s behavior. People may stop drinking by faithfully following the plan of Alcoholics Anonymous or stop lying or cheating by submitting to psychotherapy. But only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can take a sinful heart and make it pure and acceptable to God. The law’s part in that transformation is to make a person aware of his sin and of his need for divine forgiveness and redemption and to set the standard of acceptable morality.
Charles Hodge wrote, The law, although it cannot secure either the justification or sanctification of men, performs an essential part in the economy of salvation. It enlightens conscience and secures its verdict against a multitude of evils, which we should not otherwise have recognized as sins. It arouses sin, increasing its power, and making it, both in itself and in our consciousness, exceedingly sinful. It therefore produces that state of mind which is a necessary preparation for the reception of the gospel.… Conviction of sin, that is, an adequate knowledge of its nature, and a sense of its power over us, is an indispensable part of evangelical religion. Before the gospel can be embraced as a means of deliverance from sin, we must feel we are involved in corruption and misery. (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.], p. 226)
Apart from the law, we would have no way of accurately judging our sinfulness. Only God’s law reveals His divine standard of righteousness and thereby enables us to see how far short of His righteousness we are and how helpless we are to attain it by our own efforts.
The central theme of the Sermon on the Mount is that God demands perfect righteousness in the heart (Matt. 5:48), a righteousness that far surpasses the external and hypocritical righteousness typified by the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Following that declaration, Jesus gave a series of illustrations of God’s standards of righteousness. In God’s sight, the person who hates or denigrates his brother is as guilty of sin as the murderer (vv. 21-22), the person who lusts is as guilty of immorality as the adulterer (vv. 27-28), the person who divorces his or her spouse except on the grounds of unfaithfulness causes both of them, as well as any future spouses, to commit adultery (vv. 31-32; cf. also Matt. 19:3-12; Mark 10:11-12). Truth is truth, and falsehood is falsehood, Jesus declared, and an oath can neither justify a lie nor authenticate a truth (Matt. 5:33-37).
Jews had no excuse for failing to understand that God demands inner as well as outward righteousness. The Shema (from the Hebrew word for “hear”) comprises the texts of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41, and it was recited twice daily by faithful Jews. The two texts from Deuteronomy were also among the four passages that were written on small pieces of parchment and placed in phylacteries worn on the foreheads and left arms of Jewish men during prayer.
The same two texts were placed in mezuzahs, small boxes that Jews attached to their doorposts, following the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20. Both phylacteries and mezuzahs are still used by many orthodox Jews today. The two texts from Deuteronomy include the repeated admonition to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:5; 11:13).
When the Pharisees (who were the supreme authorities on the Mosaic law) asked Jesus to identify “the great commandment in the Law,” He answered by citing Deuteronomy 6:5. He then said that the second greatest commandment “is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” and declared that “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Doubtless with great reluctance, His antagonists accepted His answer as correct (Matt. 22:34-40; Lev. 19:18).
In a reverse situation, when Jesus asked a lawyer of the Pharisees to identify “what is written in the Law,” the man immediately cited Deuteronomy 6:5 as the foremost commandment and, like Jesus, stated that the second great commandment was to love “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25-28).
It is clear, therefore, that despite the externality of their rabbinical traditions, which frequently contradicted Scripture (Matt. 15:3-6), the Jews of Jesus’ and Paul’s day knew that God’s two supreme commandments had to do with inner motives rather than outward actions. Yet they continued to place their faith in their own outward achievements rather than in the God they professed to love with all their hearts.
(7:8) The Law—-Lust—Sin: the law gives sin the opportunity to be aroused, working every kind of evil. Note the exact words of the Scripture: “Sin, taking occasion [opportunity] by the commandment, works in men all manner of evil,” that is, sin uses the commandment. Sin is not within the commandment; it is separate from it. The commandment or law is not sinful. Sin is within man, not within the law. Man’s aging, deteriorating, and corrupt nature has within it…
|the principle of sin
the tendency to sin
the fondness for sin
the urge to sin
|a diseased flesh
a selfish appetite
a self-centered mind
a dead spirit
Since Paul was a devout Pharisee, seeking to obey the Law before his conversion, it is easier to understand these verses. (Read Phil. 3:1-11 and Gal. 1 for other autobiographical data on Paul’s relationship to the Law in his unconverted days.) Keep in mind too that “the strength of sin is the Law” (1 Cor. 15:56). Since we have a nature that can go toward the flesh, the Law is bound to arouse that nature the way a magnet draws steel.
Something in human nature wants to rebel whenever a law is given. I was standing in Lincoln Park in Chicago, looking at the newly painted benches; and I noticed a sign on each bench: “Do Not Touch.” As I watched, I saw numbers of people deliberately reach out and touch the wet paint! Why? Because the sign told them not to! Instruct a child not to go near the water, and that is the very thing he will do! Why? “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
Believers who try to live by rules and regulations discover that their legalistic system only arouses more sin and creates more problems. The churches in Galatia were very legalistic, and they experienced all kinds of trouble. “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). Their legalism did not make them more spiritual; it made them more sinful! Why? Because the Law arouses sin in our nature.
Note three points.
- It is the law that gives sin the opportunity to be aroused. The law actually stirs, awakens, and arouses sin to work all manner of evil. When a man is told not to do something, there is something within him that is stirred and wants to do it. Sometimes the desire to do the forbidden is so strong it becomes a rage, inflamed to such a point that the person just has to do it.
- It is man that takes and misuses the law; it is not the law that takes and misuses man. The law does not violate man; man violates the law. It is not the law that takes man and forces him to sin. It is man that takes the law and breaks it, that deliberately goes against what it says. It is sin within man that takes and misuses the law to work all manner of sin. Therefore, it is not the law that is evil; it is man who is evil.
- Without the law, sin was dead; that is, it was not alive and active. It was not guiding and directing man; it was not able to fulfill its function which was so desperately needed: showing man his critical need for deliverance from sin and its condemnation of death.
Without the law, sin is dead, but with the law sin becomes alive. Man is able to look at the law and his true condition, that he is a sinner who must be saved if he is to become acceptable to God and live eternally. The law is not evil but good, gloriously good, for it shows us our desperate need for salvation.
Paul once again (cf. v. 7) makes clear that the law itself is not sinful and is not responsible for sin. It is the sin that is already in a person’s heart that takes opportunity through the commandment of the law to produce coveting of every kind as well as countless other specific sins.
Faithful preachers have always proclaimed the demands of God’s law before proclaiming the grace of His gospel. A person who does not see himself as a lost and helpless sinner will see no need for a Savior. And the person who is not willing to be cleansed of his sin, even if he recognizes it, has no access to the Savior, because he refuses to be saved.
Bible commentator F. F. Bruce writes, “The villain of the piece is Sin; Sin seized the opportunity afforded it when the law showed me what was right and what was wrong” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963], p. 150). The problem is with sin, not with the law “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?” Paul rhetorically asked the Galatians, and then answered with his favorite negative, “May it never be!” (Gal. 3:21).
Opportunity originally was used of the starting point or base of operations for an expedition. Sin uses the commandment, that is, God’s law, as a beachhead from which to launch its evil work.
It is no secret that man has a natural rebellious streak that causes him almost reflexively to resent a command or prohibition. When people notice a sign that reads “Keep off the grass” or “Don’t pick the flowers,” for instance, there is often an impulse to do the very thing the sign forbids.
In his book Principles of Conduct, John Murray observes that the more the light of God’s law shines into our depraved hearts, the more the enmity of our minds is aroused to opposition, proving that the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God ([Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957], p. 185). When a person is confronted by God’s law, the forbidden thing becomes all the more attractive, not so much for its own sake as for its furnishing a channel for the assertion of self-will.
In his rich allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan paints a vivid word picture of sin’s arousal by the law. A large, dust-covered room in Interpreter’s house symbolizes the human heart. When a man with a broom, representing God’s law, begins to sweep, the dust swirls up and all but suffocates Christian. That is what the law does to sin. It so agitates sin that it becomes stifling. And just as a broom cannot clean a room of dust but only stir it up, so the law cannot cleanse the heart of sin but only make the sin more evident and unpleasant.
The axiom of Paul’s argument here is that apart from the Law sin is dead. It is not that sin has no existence apart from the law, because that is obviously not true. Paul has already stated that, long before the law was revealed, sin entered the world through Adam and then spread to all his descendants (Rom. 5:12). “Until the Law sin was in the world,” he goes on to explain, “but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (v. 13). Paul’s point in Romans 7:8 is that sin is dead in the sense that it is somewhat dormant and not fully active. It does not overwhelm the sinner as it does when the Law becomes known.
(7:9-10) The Law: the law reveals the fact of condemnation and death. This is a major purpose of the law. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law” (Gal. 3:21). But the Law cannot give life: it can only show the sinner that he is guilty and condemned.
This explains why legalistic Christians and churches do not grow and bear spiritual fruit. They are living by Law, and the Law always kills. Few things are more dead than an orthodox church that is proud of its “high standards” and tries to live up to them in its own energy. Often the members of such a church start to judge and condemn one another, and the sad result is a church fight and then a church split that leaves members—or former members—angry and bitter.
As the new Christian grows, he comes into contact with various philosophies of the Christian life. He can read books, attend seminars, listen to tapes, and get a great deal of information. If he is not careful, he will start following a human leader and accept his teachings as Law.
This practice is a very subtle form of legalism, and it kills spiritual growth. No human teacher can take the place of Christ; no book can take the place of the Bible. Men can give us information, but only the Spirit can give us illumination and help us understand spiritual truths. The Spirit enlightens us and enables us; no human leader can do that.
Note three points.
- A man who does not know or pay attention to the law feels alive. He is just not aware of the law; therefore, he does not pay attention to sin. He is not aware that he is a sinner and short of God’s glory, violating God’s will and going contrary to God’s nature. He is ignorant of God’s law; he pays little attention to right and wrong. When he does wrong and fails to do right, he is not aware of it. Therefore he feels…
- no consciousness of sin.
- no guilt.
- no dread of punishment.
- no sense of judgment.
He feels alive, safe, secure, confident, and assured that he is pleasing to God and will be approved and accepted by God. He feels alive despite the reality of his sinful state and condition. Without the law he does not know the truth, that he is a sinner, condemned and unclean and ever so short of God’s glory and acceptance.
- A man who does know God’s law and pays attention to it sees sin come alive. By knowing the law the man becomes acutely aware of sin when he breaks the law. It is the law that gives him…
- a painful awareness of sin.
- a sense of guilt.
- a sense of judgment to come.
- a dread of punishment and of death.
It is the law that causes his spirit to die, that destroys his confidence and assurance, comfort and security. It is the law that shows him the true state and condition of man: that he is a sinner who is to face condemnation and death; that he desperately needs to be delivered from sin and death; that he desperately needs a Savior who can make him acceptable to God.
- The point is this: the law is ordained to bring life, but not in the way men think. Men think that the law was given to be kept, and that by keeping the commandment they can earn the acceptance of God and work their way into heaven. However, this is not the way the law brings life to man. The law brings life to man…
- by destroying his self-centeredness and self-righteousness.
- by revealing the truth to him, his true state and condition.
- by showing him that he is a corrupt, sinful being.
- by demonstrating that he desperately needs to be delivered from sin and death.
- by proving that he desperately needs a Savior, One who can make him acceptable to God.
When a man really looks at the law of God, he learns his true condition: he is corrupt and destined to face condemnation and death. In learning this fact, he is driven to seek the salvation of God. Therefore, the law is not evil; it is good.
(7:11) The Law: the law reveals the deceitfulness of sin. Note again: it is sin that takes the law and misuses it; it takes the law and deceives us. How? There are at least two ways.
- Sin misuses the law and deceives a person by making him feel safe and secure. Sin, that is, self-righteousness, says obey the law and you shall live. But this is deception, for no man can keep the law perfectly. Down deep, the thinking and honest man knows he can never achieve perfection by keeping God’s law; but his sin, his self-righteousness, drives him onward to try and try; and he is forever deceived and doomed. The point is this: the law reveals the deceitfulness of sin or of self-righteousness. The law proves that man is not perfect, that he cannot live without sinning, that he sins and sins and cannot keep from sinning. When a man honestly looks at the law, the law destroys the deceitfulness of sin.
- Sin misuses the law and deceives a person by discouraging him and making him feel helpless and hopeless. Sin deceives men into thinking that the law has been given to bring life to man. Therefore, when a man continues to break the law, he is keenly aware that he is condemned and unable to achieve the righteousness of the law. He knows that he has displeased God and senses that he is unacceptable to God. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness swarm over him and he becomes defeated and down and out. Sin simply takes the law and uses man’s failure to discourage him. Sin uses the law, so to speak, to whip man, to make him feel unworthy and helpless and hopeless, to drive him deeper and deeper into despair.
Now note: such an attitude toward the law is the attitude of sin. The law was never given to drive men to despair, and in truth, it cannot. It is sin within men that drives them to despair. Twisted minds and ungodly thoughts drive men into a state of hopelessness. The law was given to reveal sin to men, to take the sin that already exists and to reveal its shame and consequences to men. When the law was first given, man was already in a state of sin and death: he was sinning and he was dying. God gave the law to man because He loved man, because He knew that men needed to be pointed toward Christ and needed to be shown their terrible condition and desperate need for a Savior. Such is the glorious purpose of the law, a purpose which is far from being evil.
The law not only reveals and arouses sin but also ruins and destroys the sinner. Still recounting his own experience before salvation, Paul confesses that he had long been alive apart from the Law. As a highly-trained and zealous Pharisee, he was certainly not apart from the law in the sense of not knowing or being concerned about it. He was an expert on the law and considered himself to be blameless in regard to it, thus thinking he lived a life that pleased God (Phil. 3:6).
But throughout all his years of proud self-effort, Paul had served only the “oldness of the letter” of the law (Rom. 7:6). But when a true understanding of the commandment came, he began to see himself as he really was and began to understand how far short he came of the law’s righteous standards. His sin then became alive, that is, he came to realize his true condition in its full evil and destructiveness. On the other hand, he died in the sense of his realizing that all his religious accomplishments were spiritual rubbish (Phil. 3:7-8). His self-esteem, self-satisfaction, and pride were devastated and in ruins. Paul died. That is, for the first time, he realized he was spiritually dead. When he saw the majesty and holiness of God’s perfect law, he was broken and contrite. He was finally ready to plead with the penitent tax-gatherer, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). He recognized himself as one of the helpless and ungodly for whom Christ had died (see Rom. 5:6).
In our day of great emphasis on God’s love, often to the neglect of His wrath and judgment, it is especially important to evaluate the genuineness of salvation more by a person’s regard for God’s law than by his regard for God’s love.
This commandment, representing all of God’s law, which was to result in life, proved rather to result in death for me, Paul says. What he had considered to be a means of gaining eternal life had turned out to be the way of spiritual death.
God gave the law to provide blessing for those who love and serve Him. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord gave His people such promises as, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart” (Ps. 119:1-2).
But the law, the commandment, cannot produce blessing and peace in the unbeliever, because he cannot fulfill the law’s requirements and therefore stands under its sentence of death. The law cannot produce the life it was meant to produce because no man is able to meet the law’s perfect standard of righteousness. If it were possible, perfect obedience to the law could bring life. But because such obedience is not possible for fallen, sinful man, the law brings him death rather than life.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are saved and given eternal life because “the requirement of the Law [is] fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” and because Christ Himself indwells us through His own Spirit, “though the body is dead because of [our] sin, yet [our] spirit is alive because of [His] righteousness” (Rom. 8:4, 10; emphasis added).
Repeating what he has just said about sin taking opportunity through the commandment (cf. v 8) and causing his death (it killed me; cf. vv. 9-10), Paul says that sin also deceived him. Deceit is one of sin’s most subtle and disastrous evils. A person who is deceived into thinking he is acceptable to God because of his own merit and good works will see no need of salvation and no reason for trusting in Christ. It is doubtless for that reason that all false religions—including those that claim the name of Christ—in one way or another are built on a deceptive foundation of self-trust and self-effort. Self-righteousness is not righteousness at all but is the worst of sins. Both by the standard of the law and by the standard of grace, the very term self-righteousness is a self-contradiction.
Sometime before his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road, Paul came to recognize sin’s deceit and the law’s impossible demands and was convicted by the Holy Spirit of his own unrighteousness and spiritual helplessness.
(7:12) The Law: the law reveals the way of God, the way of holiness and righteousness and goodness.
Unsaved people know that there is such a thing as sin; but they do not realize the sinfulness of sin. Many Christians do not realize the true nature of sin. We excuse our sins with words like “mistakes” or “weaknesses”; but God condemns our sins and tries to get us to see that they are “exceedingly sinful.” Until we realize how wicked sin really is, we will never want to oppose it and live in victory.
Paul’s argument here is tremendous: (1) the Law is not sinful—it is holy, just, and good; (2) but the Law reveals sin, arouses sin, and then uses sin to slay us; if something as good as the Law accomplishes these results, then something is radically wrong somewhere; (3) conclusion: see how sinful sin is when it can use something good like the Law to produce such tragic results. Sin is indeed “exceedingly sinful.” The problem is not with the Law; the problem is with my sinful nature.
- The law is holy: set apart and full of purity, majesty, and glory—set apart in that it reveals God’s nature and will—set apart in that it exposes sin, all that is contrary to God’s nature and will. The law is holy in that it is different and set apart from everything else on earth. The law is God’s way of holiness, the way to live a life of holiness, the way that is so different and so set apart that no man can reach its purity.
- The law is just: righteous, fair, impartial, equitable, straight. The law treats a man exactly like he should be treated; it shows no partiality to anyone. It also reveals how a man should treat others. The law is just in that it reveals exactly how a man should live. It shows him how to live in relation to God and to his fellow man, and it judges him fairly and impartially.
- The law is good: it shows man how to live and tells him when he fails to live that way. It exposes his sin and demonstrates his desperate need for a Savior. The law tells man the truth about the nature of man in a most explicit way, and it points him toward the need for outside help in order to be saved.
(7:13) The Law—Sin: the law shows that sin is exceedingly sinful and that it is the cause of death. Note three points.
- The law is good; it is not the cause of death. “God forbid! Such is impossible!”
- The law was given to expose sin and to make men deeply aware of its presence and consequences. Men needed to know just how exceedingly sinful sin is. Men needed to know that sin…
- is the worst possible affront to God.
- is the worst imaginable rebellion against God.
- is against all that God represents.
The law proves that sin is against God: against all that He is, against all of His nature and will. Sin is selfish, destructive, dirty, ugly, and impure. The law is the very opposite. The law was given to show how exceedingly sinful sin is, to show just how terrible it is. Take any sin and stand it up against the law that prohibits it and the great contrast is seen. For example, take murder and stand it beside the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.”
Look at the great contrast.
- The commandment protected man’s life, but sin took his life away.
- The commandment protected man’s presence with loved ones, but sin took his presence away.
- The commandment protected man’s existence upon earth, but sin took his existence away.
- The commandment protected man’s contribution to society, but sin took his contribution away.
- The commandment said that man could live, but sin said “no,” and killed him.
So it is with every sin, whether adultery, stealing, or taking God’s name in vain. The law was given to show how exceedingly sinful sin is. It was given to make men think of their sinful state and condition and of their desperate need for deliverance and salvation.
- The law was given to make men think about death, to make men aware that they die because they violate the will and nature of God. Men died before the law was ever given. They died because they did not live holy and righteous lives, did not live according to the nature and will of God. God gave the law so that sin and its condemnation of death would be exposed more than ever before. Men had to be shown that they were great sinners and that they died because they sinned. The law shows men clearer than ever before and in no uncertain terms…
- that they do sin.
- that they are not perfect.
- that they are condemned to die.
Therefore, they need a Savior who will deliver them from sin and its terrible consequence of death. The law shows man his desperate need to be saved from sin, death, and judgment.
The apostle again answers the question, “Is the law sin?” (7:7). Now he declares that not only is the law not sin but that the law is, in fact, holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Throughout the remainder of the chapter Paul continues to praise and exalt God’s law, calling it spiritual (v 14), good (v. 16), and joyfully concurring in his “inner man” with its divine truth and standards (v. 22).
David highly exalted God’s law, proclaiming:
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
The fact that the law reveals, arouses, and condemns sin and brings death to the sinner does not make the law itself evil. When a person is justly convicted and sentenced for murder, there is no fault in the law or with those responsible for upholding it. The fault is in the one who broke the law.
Once again anticipating a question that would naturally come to mind in light of what he has said, Paul asks, Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? And once again Paul answers his own question with a resounding, May it never be!
To use again the analogy of the murder trial, it is not the law against murder but the committing of murder that merits punishment. The law itself is good; it is the breaking of it that is evil. How much more is God’s law good, and how much more evil is the breaking of it.
It is not the law that is the cause of spiritual death but rather it is sin. The law reveals and arouses sin in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting … death through that which is good. Sin’s deadly character is exposed under the pure light of God’s law.
God has given His holy, righteous, and good law in order that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. As already noted, the preaching of the law is necessary to the preaching of the gospel. Until men see their sin for what it is, they will not see their need of salvation from it.
Paul’s point here is that sin is so utterly sinful that it can even pervert and undermine the purpose of God’s holy law. It can twist and distort the law so that instead of bringing life, as God intended, it brings death. It can manipulate the pure law of God to deceive and damn people. Such is the awful wretchedness of sin.
In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul gives additional insight on the place and purpose of the law.
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:19-22)
The ultimate purpose of the law was to drive men to faith in Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the demands of the law on behalf of sinners who trust in His righteousness instead of their own.
After salvation Christians still need continual exposure to the divine standards of God’s law in order to see more clearly the sin in their lives and to confess it and experience the full blessing that belongs to His children. Then they can say with the psalmist, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11) and can claim the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Why did Paul choose the commandment forbidding coveting rather than some other command? Did he randomly choose this command, or was there a particular reason for his choice? I believe Paul deliberately chose the commandment pertaining to coveting for very significant reasons.
Consider these reasons why coveting is such a serious and significant sin.
(1) Coveting is a matter of the heart. It is not a matter which can be judged by outward appearance. Murder and stealing are visible sins which are immediately apparent to anyone who sees the evidence of a dead body or missing goods. Coveting is a sin of the mind and heart. We can covet, and no one may ever know it. Legalism tends to dwell on externals, while true Christian liberty is a matter of the heart. Paul therefore avoids an external example, choosing instead an invisible, internal sin.
(2) Coveting is one of the characteristic sins of the flesh. Our flesh has its appetites which often come into conflict with God’s revealed will. These appetites, or desires, are often forbidden lusts (see Galatians 5:16, 19; Ephesians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:10). Sin frequently overpowers our flesh by appealing to its lusts.
(3) Coveting is a root sin which is often the cause of other sins. Coveting in and of itself seems to do no harm to anyone, but it very frequently provides the motivation for stealing and even murder. To put a stop to coveting is to “head other sins off at the pass.”
(4) Coveting is a sin which best illustrates Paul’s statement, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law” (verse 7). Not all sins are crimes. Murder, perjury, and robbery are sins, and they are also considered crimes by society. Almost anywhere in the world, one will find laws against these sins. Society’s laws serve to signal us that if these activities are crimes, they must be wrong.
Coveting is a sin which is almost never considered a crime. I know of no government which has a law forbidding coveting. Part of the explanation for this is the difficulty of identifying coveting and proving that this offense has taken place, since it is a sin of the heart and mind. Another reason is that most people do not think coveting is really wrong. In some societies, like our own, many forms of coveting would actually be commended rather than condemned.
All of this powerfully demonstrates Paul’s point. Unless God’s Law had identified coveting as a sin, we would never have recognized it as such. Coveting is like a tumor hidden inside our body. Because it is not external, like murder, we do not recognize its deadly existence and nature. The Law is like an x-ray, exposing it for what it is and warning us that we must deal with it.
(5) Coveting is used by Paul not only as an illustration of the principle he lays down in verse 7 but also as a link to his illustration from his own personal experience in verses 9-11. Coveting seems to lie at the root of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. In the account of the fall, every tree in the garden was “pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). Adam and Eve were given possession of virtually everything in the garden with the exception of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the fruit of which they were forbidden to eat (see Genesis 2:16-17). Satan successfully focused Eve’s attention and desire on the fruit of this tree. The result was that she seemed to focus only on the fruit of this forbidden tree as “pleasing to the sight and good for food,” and, in addition, “able to make her wise.