Questions From Readers
● Since the Law given to the Israelites was something good, why could the apostle Paul say that the commandment provided an ‘inducement for sin’?—U.S.A.
In showing that the Mosaic law could not enable imperfect humans to gain a righteous standing before Jehovah God, the apostle Paul wrote: “When we were in accord with the flesh, the sinful passions that were excited by the Law were at work in our members that we should bring forth fruit to death. . . . What, then, shall we say? Is the Law sin? Never may that become so! Really I would not have come to know sin if it had not been for the Law; and, for example, I would not have known covetousness if the Law had not said: ‘You must not covet.’ But sin, receiving an inducement [literally, an onrushing off] through the commandment, worked out in me covetousness of every sort, for apart from law sin was dead.”—Rom. 7:5-8; interlinear reading.
Had it not been for the Law, the apostle Paul would ‘not have known sin’ in the sense that he would not have known or discerned the full range and scope of sin, all that sin includes, one example being the sinfulness of coveting. However, as Paul notes, the Law “excited” sinful passions and the commandment against coveting provided an “inducement” for sin. Does this mean that, if there had been no commandments, Paul would never have practiced what was condemned in the Law?
No, for that would mean that the laws against adultery, murder, thievery and the like served to increase crime and violence. This is wholly contrary to God’s ways. Before the Law was given, persons had already become involved in coveting, murder, thievery and other things of this nature. So the Law was designed to control the actions of the Israelites and not to incite them to increased lawlessness. The psalmist declared: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” (Ps. 19:7) In what way, then, did the Law excite sinful passions and provide an “inducement” to sin?
This becomes clear when we remember that the apostle Paul said: “Apart from law sin was dead.” That is, what sin was had not been defined specifically. One cannot be accused of sins not legally branded such. So before the Law came, Paul or his nation lived uncondemned for such sins as were not specified. There was a hope of life without the Law. Hence when God’s Law, specifying sins, was introduced for gaining life, Paul or his people died. Why? Because they became designated as sinners cursed, condemned to death. Paul or his nation found that they were sinners more than they had thought. The Law made them more conscious of being sinners. In the light of the law, they saw themselves as sinners on more counts. Thus in the light of that law more sinners came to view. Not that the law prompted them to sin, but that it exposed them as sinners. Thus sin received an inducement through the Law and worked out sin in Paul and his people. The Law provided the basis for condemning more people as sinners and on many more legal counts.