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The Purpose of Using the Tenth Commandment in Romans 7:7

February 26, 2007

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Romans 7:7

Q. Why did the apostle select the Tenth Commandment in Rom. 7:7 specifically?

In general we can say that all of the moral commands of God are linked, and when one is transgressed then the rest are also by proxy, or it leads to the transgression of other commands in practice. Yet the question arises in Rom. 7:7: why did the apostle select the final Commandment of the Decalogue to explain his point?

In the other commandments an outward religious appearance can persuade others at least of our obedience to the Law of God. However, the Tenth Commandment concerning coveting searches much deeper into the heart of the sinning party. Coveting is left hidden, or as we have here even the thought of it in the heart makes a man guilty, let alone the willingness of that person to continue in it. Paul is showing that “God in this last command, requires so much integrity from us that no vicious lust to move us to evil, even when no consent succeeds.”(Calvin) As Hodge brings out the meaning of the Tenth Commandment used here, “The point of the apostle’s argument is, that his knowledge of sin is due to the law, because without the law he would not have known that mere desire is evil, and because these evil desires revealed the hidden source of sin in his nature.”

If the Lord in this way is to be obeyed (in the inner recesses of our hearts), how much more in our outward affections toward performing of His Law. Any desire, bias, gravitation away from God’s will is sin, whether carried into act or not. This was the issue which tested the heart of the “rich young ruler”.

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