What does it mean that these sinful passions were 'through the law' and worked in our members to bring out fruit to death? Were those passions sanctioned by the law, an aberration of the existing law, exposed by the law, only brought out because of the law, or something else?
NLT - 5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.
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I believe that Paul is referring to two different effects of the Law. First, the fact that the Law spelled out the various types of sin made the people specifically and undeniably aware of the actions that God found unacceptable. However (and paradoxically), at the same time, by making these prohibited actions so clear, and God's condemnation of them so explicit, the Law actually created in the people (especially because they were already sinful by nature) a consuming desire to do the very things that God had forbidden. We can see the same dynamic at work between parents and children. Nothing makes children want to do something so much as having their parents tell them that they aren't allowed to do it. (By contrast, if the parents had not said anything about it, the children might not have even thought about doing it. It's the forbidden nature of the act that makes it tempting.) The devil originally used the same ploy to cause humanity to fall into sin (Genesis 3:1-20). As Paul indicated in Romans 7:7-25, it was not the Law's fault that it had these effects. It was a consequence of the presence of sin in humans. The Law just brought the sinful nature of humans to light, and gave them no further excuse for continuing to sin.
"sinful passions through the law" Throughout Paul's writings, along with the other writer's(not authors) of the New Testament past the 4 Gospels have one "theme"; Faith. In Paul's writing; 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. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. Romans 7:5-8 KJV What he's referring to is the difference between a life lived trying to attain Salvation, or keep Salvation, by following the law. Our mortal bodies are constantly being pulled by our "self gratification" desires, which were shown to us as opposition to GOD'S commands. None of us knew stealing was bad, until we were told stealing was wrong. Once we learn what we cannot do, satan uses that against us, and ultimately GOD, to lead us away from HIM through our desires to fulfill our mortal body's gratifications. Thus, Faith and Law are separate. We are saved by Faith, apart from the Law. We follow the Law to please God, not for Salvation. Reading this, pay PARTICULAR attention to verse 22, which I seperated; We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Godʼs law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to Godʼs law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 NIV Thus the war between our "flesh, and mind" In Christ Alone
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