Yesterday I was listening to a sermon by John Piper and he made the following argument:
Paul is defending the Law. Verse 7: “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be!” The reason he is defending the Law is that he has said some things about the Law that would shock some of his readers. In essence he has said: If we make the Law the decisive means of justification or sanctification (being declared righteous, or becoming righteous) we find that its effect is exactly the opposite.
- It does not justify from sin; it reveals sin. Romans 3:20, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” If we try to make it a means of justification, it becomes a means of condemnation.
- Neither does it sanctify; it stirs up more sin. Romans 7:8, “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.”
The Law reveals sin and stirs up more sin. Therefore, the holy, just, and good Law of God is not the decisive means of justification or sanctification. It is not the first and decisive way to get right with God, and it is not the first and decisive way to bear fruit for God.
John Piper. Jesus Christ and the Law of God. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/jesus-christ-and-the-law-of-god