Doom from the law defines the natural man. He is dominated by his sin and continuing on that course means he will experience the folly of legalism. Paul, the Apostle, had once known that folly himself and describes it in Romans Seven:
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the
contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not
have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all
manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.
9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin
revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it
12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin,
that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so
that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
Paul uses the past tense here, reminding us of the time when he was a proud Pharisee, full of self-righteousness—a legalist trying to earn God’s favor. He did pretty well with the first nine commandments, dealing with outward acts, but the tenth was an issue. In his heart, he was covetous. No one else may have known, but he knew—and he felt condemned. But, that was the very purpose of the law for:
ITS REVELATION (v.7). The law is a mirror that reveals who we really are. It exposes sin, but sinners want to excuse sin. We call drunkenness, alcoholism; adultery an affair; sodomy is gay; lying as overactive imagination. But no one goes to the doctor until they realize they’re sick. This is the law’s painful work—to prod and probe until the problem is laid bare.
ITS REVITALIZATION (v.8-9). John Phillips says the law’s “straight edge reveals the crookedness of human nature and…forces into the open all the latent rebellion of the human heart.” He illustrates this by pointing to the sunshine of spring on a vacant lot brings up all the weeds that were dormant in the ground as well as the grass. As pointed out in previous study, because of our sinfulness, we want to do the very thing we’re forbidden to do. Put a sign on a storefront, “Do not throw rocks at glass” and the window will be broken repeatedly!
ITS RETRIBUTION (v.10-11). The law carried not only precepts but penalties. Ultimately, the wages of sin is death: physical death and finally eternal death.
ITS RECOGNITION (v.12-13). This is meant to drive us to our knees. That’s when we can be saved. That’s what happened to Paul. He was blinded by the light and broken by the Lord. He was brought to the end of himself, but that’s where he met Christ.
Friend, Christ can only save you when you acknowledge that only Christ can save you. You stop trying to earn God’s approval, but instead trust in God’s approval of His Son’s work on the cross for you--and that delivers us from the doom of the law.