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, you shall not covet.
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Paul shows that the law is not sin but the yardstick of sin. For Paul demonstrated that sins lie dormant in us and that they will not go unpunished by God. When a man finds this out he becomes guilty and thus does not thank the law. For who would be grateful to someone who tells him that he is running the risk of punishment? But he gives thanks to the law of faith, because the man who was made guilty by the law of Moses has been reconciled to God by the law of faith, even though the law of Moses is just and good in itself (because it is good to show that danger is near)…. Paul takes on a particular role in order to expound a general principle. For the law forbids covetousness, but because it is a matter of desire it was not previously thought to be sin. For nothing could be easier than to covet something which belongs to a neighbor; it is the law which called it sin. For to men of the world nothing seems more harmless and innocent than desire. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
In this passage [to v. ], it seems to me that the apostle is portraying himself as a man set under the law and that he speaks in that role. The law was given not to introduce sin nor to extirpate it but simply to make it known; by the demonstration of sin to give the human soul a sense of its guilt in place of the assurance of its innocence. Sin cannot be overcome without the grace of God, so the law was given to convert the soul by anxiety about its guilt, so that it might be ready to receive grace…. Desire was not implanted in him by the law but was made known to him.
Paul did not say that he had no sin apart from the law but rather that he was unaware of it. Therefore the law is not the cause of sin but rather the instrument which points it out, making it clear to those who did not know what it was. It did not do this in order that, once sin was made known, those who committed it should continue in what they were doing…. On the contrary, its intention was to convert people to better things by making their sins known to them. .
It is clear from Romans [:] that even without the law the Gentiles knew what was required of them. It must therefore be accepted that they knew, though they did not know everything. For there are things which some Gentiles regard as good and proper while others reject them as bad and unlawful. Therefore the giving of the law was necessary to define for us what should and should not be done, outlining for us and showing us what the behavior of a righteous person is. .
Is the law (of Moses) sin? God forbid. The apostle declares, that the law itself was far from being sinful; on the contrary, that it was good, spiritual, holy: but, saith he, I should not know concupiscence to be sinful, unless the law said: thou shalt not covet: by which it is made known to every one, that sins of thought consented to, and evil desires, are sins. (Witham)
Note how Paul gradually shows how the law was not merely an accuser of sin but to some extent its producer as well. This was not from any fault in it but from the disobedience of the Jews … for he has taken care to guard against the attacks of the Manichaeans, who accuse the law of being evil in itself.
The apostle refrains from any criticism of the law…. What high praise of the law we get from the fact that by it the latent presence of sin becomes manifest! It was not the law which led me astray but sin.
But, behold, he bears testimony to the law, and excuses it on the ground of sin: "What shall we say, therefore? Is the law sin? God forbid.".
"God forbid! "(See how) the apostle recoils from all impeachment of the law. I, however, have no acquaintance with sin except through the law.
After showing that through Christ’s grace we are freed from the slavery of the Law [n. 518], and that this liberation is useful, the Apostle now answers an objection which arises from the foregoing, namely, that the Old Law seems not to be good. In regard to this he does two things. First, he solves the objection through which it seems that the Old Law is not good; secondly, he shows that the Law is good, there [v.14; n. 556] at For we know. In regard to the first he does two things. First, he sets out the objection with regard to the Law; secondly, he solves it, there [v.12; n. 551] at Wherefore the Law indeed. 533. First, therefore, he says: I have said that sinful passions existed by means of the Law and that it is a Law of death. What then shall we say follows from such statements? Shall we say that the law is sin? 270 This can be taken in two ways. In one way, that the Law teaches sin, as is said in Jer 10(:3), "The laws of the people are vain," namely because they teach vanity. I...