The Law - Part I
Excerpted from What I Hate, That Do I, by Jimmy Swaggart
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?”
God became man and came to this world for the express purpose of going to the cross.
It is impossible to fully understand the great doctrines of the Bible unless one first understands the cross of Christ. When I speak of understanding the cross, I am referring to understanding it not only for salvation, but also for sanctification.
Do You Not Know, Brethren, For I Speak To Them Who Know The Law
Romans 7 is at least one of the most important chapters in the entirety of the Word of God respecting the Christian walk and its victory, or the lack thereof. Every single believer who has ever lived must go through the scenarios of Romans 7; it is not possible for it to be otherwise. The fact is that it is not intended for the believer to stay there any length of time, but the sad truth is that most believers, even those who truly love the Lord, have remained in Romans 7 all of their lives, and that is the tragedy.
Yet that’s the case because they do not understand the cross of Christ as it regards sanctification, which means that they really don’t know how to live for God. I realize that’s quite a statement, but regrettably it happens to be true.
By not understanding Romans 7, many believers ignore it, or else they just scan it when they come to its place in the order of Scripture. Others give it little credence because they have been taught that it pertains to Paul’s “before conversion” experience, of which they have little interest; however, that is gross error. I pray that we will be able to properly expose that error and portray the truth of this great chapter.
That which makes the teaching in this chapter so important to the believer—and it is written to believers exclusively—is because Paul had some of the same problems that all of us have or have had. He thought surely after he was saved and baptized with the Holy Spirit that he could live a victorious, overcoming Christian life, but to his dismay he found that he could not, at least with the light that he then had. That same situation caused him to exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).
In that frame of mind, Paul went to the Lord seeking an answer. The answer was gloriously and wondrously provided and given to us in Romans 6, 7, and 8.
In fact, what the Lord gave to the apostle Paul is the meaning of the new covenant, which is the meaning of the cross. It is the greatest revelation the world has ever known.
In Romans 7, the Holy Spirit through the apostle outlines the reason for the failure of the believer. Sin is not to have dominion over us, yet sin does have dominion in the lives of virtually all Christians. Romans 7 tells us why, and, if that is correct, and it is, then we are made to understand how vitally significant this chapter really is.
Why Does The Holy Spirit Through Paul Open This Scenario With The Law?
Paul opens this chapter with law—whether the law of Moses, laws we devise ourselves, or laws devised by some church. In other words, law is the problem, but it should not be a problem because the law of Moses was given by God. It is the problem because of the manner in which it is approached by most Christians. Let us say it again: whether it is the law of Moses, which it isn’t in most Christian lives; laws we devise ourselves, or laws devised by some church—this is most definitely the problem.
First of all, Paul is writing to gentiles, which means they had precious little understanding of the law of Moses. However, and I state again, the reason the Holy Spirit had him to do this was simply because law, or actually the manner in which it is addressed, is the problem. I hope to show the reader how that it is the problem, even though it is the law of God, and thereby perfect.
To be frank, the problem is really not in the law; the problem is in mankind.
Considering all the things that Paul says about the law, which some were inclined to take wrongly, one is apt to think that the law of Moses was evil. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the law of Moses, which was really the law of God, was holy and righteous and actually perfect in every respect. The giving of the law by God to the children of Israel placed them in a position of far greater advantage over all other nations. While others had laws, they were all man-devised, but Israel’s law had come from God and consequently gave these people a tremendous advantage in every respect.
So What Was The Problem With The Law?
First of all, the problem was not actually the law, but rather how man approached the law. Instead of accepting and using the law of Moses as it was intended by God, they attempted to make salvation out of its commandments, which God never intended.
Among many other things, the law of Moses was intended to point out and define sin. As well, it was to portray to man his total inadequacy and inability to keep the simple commandments— the Ten Commandments—that God laid down. He was then to throw himself on the mercy and grace of God for help and redemption, which was portrayed in the sacrificial system. It actually was a portrayal of the cross of Christ, which would one day come. While some few did exactly that, most did not. Most of Israel became puffed up in their own self-righteousness. Despite the fact that they couldn’t even keep the few commandments that God had given them, they multiplied hundreds of other commandments to go along with what was already there. In effect, Jesus was the giver and keeper of the law, and actually the only man who ever lived who did keep it, and kept it perfectly. But by the time that Jesus came, Israel would not accept Him. Not only would they reject His message, but in their evil they felt that they had to destroy the messenger, which they did by crucifying Him. Again, the law of Moses was not the cause or fault, but rather the evil wicked hearts of these people.
So How Does This Effect The Gentiles?
Whether it is the law of Moses or a law of our own devising, man seeks to try to satisfy his spiritual needs by his own efforts. He tries to do it with laws of one kind or another, exactly as Israel did with the Mosaic law. There is an innate spirit in man, even in believers, that is loath to admit to himself or to God that he cannot solve his own spiritual problems. All of this is a result of the fall.
There are many reasons the Holy Spirit had the apostle use the law of Moses as an example. One reason is that if man could not gain righteousness by his attempts to keep the law of Moses (considering it was from God and perfect in every respect), how in the world does he think he can bring about the same results through some pitiful laws of his own making? Yet all of us have fallen into this trap in one way or another.
Our trust is in our own laws and efforts rather than in Christ and Him crucified. That, in a nutshell, spells out our failure.
Man’s self-sufficiency is his greatest enemy. In other words, we have met the enemy, and he is us!
It’s strange, but believers will look at the world and chide them for refusing to admit that they need Jesus, while we are doing the same thing. Too often we claim that we are leaning on Jesus when in reality, we are leaning on our own arm of flesh. All of it is so subtle and religious; consequently, it deceives so many people.
Read part two of “The Law” in the February issue of The Evangelist.