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On the trail of eternity

Paul and the Law: "I wretched man ..."

Paul and the Law

By on 15 May 2020

Man weighed and found too light ...?
The fountain in Burgeis, South Tyrol for Paul and the Law:

Above the fountain is a figure holding a pair of scales in his hand. It represents the archangel Michael, who "weighs" and judges man: The standard is the law of God. In one of the scales sits the man, Paul, in the other lies a millstone. Michael, who is considered the conqueror of Satan, holds a sword in his hand. Michael means: "Who is God?".

Paul considers that it is precisely the law that tempts him to sin: "I wretched man! Who will deliver me ...?"

Paul and the Law: "I wretched man ...!"

After long explanations about the law (of God) and its effect, Paul comes to this desperate statement:

For the good that I want I do not practise, but the evil that I do not want I do.
I wretched man! Who will save me from this body of death?

Paul's ambivalence towards the law

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul expresses his ambivalence towards the law in an impressive way.
He is in favour of the law, but the law brings problems with it:

  1. The law brings death to the one who breaks the law.
  2. The law brings sin into the focus of attention in the first place. What is forbidden fascinates only because it is forbidden. And so the very drive is activated that can lead to problems.
  3. Before the law existed, man was "innocent", in the sense of unconscious. Now that he has attained consciousness - through the law - he can no longer do whatever suits him. Rather, he must decide for or against the law, knowing that this will have consequences.

Paul and the Law

Paul enters into a dialogue with himself on this subject (see below). In this dialogue he says, in essence:

  • What is it then? Is the law evil because it produces evil will in me?
  • Certainly not! The problem is rather that in me, that is in my body, another law is active, namely the law of nature and of the instinct, which fights against the good law of God and against consciousness. My mind wants one thing, the good, my body does another, the bad....

Quite desperately, he stammers out these words:

  • I wretched human being! Who will deliver me from this body that ultimately brings me only death?

Then he recalls hope and the message of God's love:

  • I thank God for Jesus Christ. For through him I know that I can come to him as a son to his father. I am free! I am neither the slave of sin nor the slave of God! I am free to follow the law out of love. If I am in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, then I am in Him and with Him. Then there is no condemnation for me. Then nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Paul and the Law, quoted verbatim from Romans:

From the New Testament of the Bible, Epistle to the Romans chapter 7:7 to 8:2, Elberfelder Übersetzung (Bible Server).

Paul and the Law

What shall we say now? Is the law sin?

No way! But I would not have known about sin except through the law. For I would not have known of covetousness either, if the law had not said: "Thou shalt not covet!"

But sin seized the opportunity through the commandment and caused every desire in me;

For without the law sin is dead. And I lived without law: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. Andthe commandment, which was given for life, proved to be death to me. For sin by the commandment seized the opportunity, deceived me, and by the same killed me. So then the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Has goodness now become death to me? (Verse 13 😉 )

No way! But sin!( that it might appear sin, bringing about death through the good in me, that sin might become exceedingly sinful through the commandment). For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal[selfish], sold under sin[negativity, separation]; [And so it is] for: what I accomplish I do not approve; for not what I will I do, but what I hate I practice. But if I practise that which I do not want, I approve the law that it is good.

But now it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me.

For I know that in me, that is in my flesh[for drive, ego], nothing good dwells.
The wanting is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not practise, but the evil that I do not want, that I do. But if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me.

So I find the law that with me, who wants to do good, there is only evil.

For I am well pleased with the law of God according to the inner man [ self ]. But I see another law in my members, which is contrary to the law of my reason, and brings me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.

Miserable me!

Who will save me from this body of death? 

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So now I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but the law of sin with my flesh.

So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made thee[1] free from the law of sin and death.

Paul in the face of grace

But last but not least ...

(Chapter 8, verses 38 and 39):

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Fountain of Burgeis, Saint Michael

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