Revelation, Sin, And Me

 For those who were looking to the Law of Moses as God’s final answer forthe salvation of the world from sin, Paul had some sobering words inRomans 5. Not only was the Law not God’s final answer, God’s Lawintensified the problem. “The Law came in in order that the trespassmight abound” (5.20). Many Jews would have probably thought just theopposite. Having sung Psalms 19 and 119 all their lives with all the great praise of the Law, they might have thought that the Law itself was God’s finalsolution to the problem of sin introduced by Adam (5.12). It was not.
 
Paul had no problem singing Psalms 19 and 119. In fact, heencouraged churches to sing the Psalms (Eph 5.19; Col 3.16). What he issaying in Romans 5 doesn’t in any way contradict a full-throated singingof these Psalms in praise of the Law of God for the simple fact that the Law, while being an intensifier of sin, is, in itself, not theproblem. The Law of YHWH is perfect. It is the revelation of who he isand his will for the lives of his people.
 
Israel was created by the Word of YHWH, the Law of Moses, and was a new Adam. Israel was created to be a new humanity. Between Adam and Moses,  while there was sin in the world and death reigned (5.13-14), that sinwas of a different sort. It was serious and had serious consequences.  The people had a certain level of knowledge about the sin, but thatknowledge didn’t rise to the level of the explicit commands for lifetogether as the people of God revealed in the Law. Between Adam andMoses there was relative ignorance (that is, relative to the greatknowledge that came through the Law). While there was judgment on sin,  God wasn’t as near as severe in his judgment as he would be after thegiving of the Law. (When you think about what he did in Noah’s day,  that’s saying something!) With greater revelation–the Law–came greaterresponsibility. With greater responsibility comes greater judgment forthose who don’t fulfill those responsibilities. To whom much is given,  much will be required (Lk 12.48). Much was required of Israel becausemuch was given to Israel.
 
Israel was created as a new Adam by the Law. But the Law of YHWH thatcreated this new Adam revealed that the new Adam is like the old one: atransgressor. The holy, righteous, and good Law of God threw light onthe sin and death that abode in man as represented in Israel. The Lawwas not the problem. Man was the problem. The sin that man committed inrelative ignorance before is exposed by the Law to be transgressionagainst the righteous commandments of God. In this way the Lawintensifies the problem of sin. Now man knows what sin is, but the Law,  because of the weakness of flesh, can ultimately do nothing to deliverman from his sin (cf. Rom 8.3).
 
When the Law throws light on man’s dark soul, the sin exposed fightsagainst the light. The Law intensifies sin in man because it stirs upman’s sinful nature with more to rebel against. We see the sign “Don’ttouch,” and we want to touch. We hear the command of God, and sin rearsup in us and tells us that God is keeping us from happiness andfulfillment with his stifling commands. God knows that if we have whathe has forbidden, we will rise higher than he wants us to rise (a la  the serpent in Genesis 3). The Law is good. We are sinners. God’srevelation will expose and draw out sin in us for what it is: rebellionagainst him.
 
This happened in Israel. Because Israel had the Law of God, the sin inIsrael was the deepest, darkest, and most heinous sin in the world; notbecause the bare actions were any worse than the nations around them,  but because of the revelation against which they sinned.
 
We who have received the gospel have even greater revelation thanIsrael. The times before Christ Jesus were revealed were times ofrelative ignorance (cf. Ac 17.30). God’s full and final revelation hasbeen given in Christ Jesus. Those who created by the gospel to be thepeople of God, the church, are the new Adam in Christ Jesus. With thisstatus comes even greater responsibility than Israel had and greaterjudgment for rejection of this revelation (cf. Heb 10.26-31).
 
For this reason we must be careful to respond in faith to the revelationof God in the gospel. This means that when the gospel exposes our sins,  even when that revelation comes through imperfect messengers (and italways will), that we distinguish between the good revelation of God andour sin. The revelation isn’t evil. We are. Consequently, when our sinsof anger, bitterness, malice, sexual immorality, covetousness,  impatience, lack of self-control, quarreling, etc. are revealed,  we should fight the light. Fighting the light is only a revelation ofjust how deep our continuing problem with sin is. As Christians we musthumbly submit to the revelation of God, be thankful that God has notleft us on the path of death, and confess and repent of our sins.