S (Scripture): Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” … 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.
… 15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.
O (Observation): Paul gives a somewhat exhaustive and complicated explanation to the purpose of the law. The law is meant to bring life, ideally. The Commandments from God – if lived out – bring about a world that submits to God and brings harmony between people. So the Law (10 Commandments) and the law (the Jewish laws and interpretations of God’s will for God’s people) is NOT inherently bad or sinful. Rather, the sin that resides in us is what causes us to do the wrong, which we hate.
Paul is telling the Jewish Christians of Rome that the Law / law is neither the problem nor the solution. Instead, sin is the problem! The Law / law points out our brokenness, and thus, reminds us that no one of us (Jew or Gentile) is better than another.
So, the Law / law is still meant for good…but is not the marker for salvation.
A (Application): Much of the battle between denominations is over the interpretation of Scripture. Some read more literally (I.e. God created in 7 days), while some view the different parts of the Bible as a collection of different genres, thus interpreting different parts of the Bible based on the genre (I.e. Creation is a myth – story that tells an ultimate truth – and thus it matters not how many days – or eons – it took to create. Point is: God created!)
This difference in interpretation then leads to major theological differences. A hot topic is the issue of same-sex marriage. Should this be allowed or not? Different denominations come to different conclusions. Should clergy be allowed to serve if they are in a same-sex marriage (or committed relationship)? For the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) the answer is: Yes! They can be allowed, but the congregation has to decide for itself if they will allow this. Again, the interpretation of scripture is important, because some will take a broader view of the arc of Scripture and some will look at strict interpretations of key verses to support or refute the decision of the interpretation.
Why bring this up? It comes back to the Law / law and sin. No matter who interprets the Scriptures, some sin will exist in us. The Scriptures, which are made for our good, can and will be twisted in various ways because of the sin that resides in us. Anyone who interpreted the Law / law (or more broadly, Scripture) will have an interpretation tainted by sin. Sin will take the life out of the good intention.
So, we are all on equal footing. We are all interpreting the Scriptures with some element of brokenness in our hearts and minds. So, with the guidance of the Spirit we do the best we can to faithfully interpret Scripture. As the ELCA, we recognize our shortcomings, and open up the Scriptures to multiple interpretations within our own denomination. Does that open a can of worms? Absolutely! Does that mean we stop interpreting? Certainly not!
We do the best we can to interpret scripture faithfully. The main driving point then becomes how do we interpret scripture through the person of Jesus Christ? That is our main driving point: Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Only through that lens, do we feel like we can faithfully interpret the Scriptures.
Not better or worse than anyone else…just differently. And hopefully, with the help of the Spirit.
P (Prayer): Lord, open our eyes to the Scriptures in ways that bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.