Speed, the Law, the Autobahn

Speed, the Law, the Autobahn

For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law (Romans 5:13b)

Romans 5:13b is one of the difficult texts that we must deal with this week in our Bible study. I’ve been struggling with the best way to explain this.

First the commentators:

  1. Calvin: “For until the law: that though God had not as yet denounced judgment by a written law, yet mankind were under a curse, and that from the womb”
  2. Moo: “refers to the time before the giving of the Mosaic law to Israel” (The Epistle to the Romans, By Douglas J. Moo p 332)
  3. Calvin: “sin is not imputed: Without the law reproving us, we in a manner sleep in our sins; and though we are not ignorant that we do evil, we yet suppress as much as we can the knowledge of evil offered to us, at least we obliterate it by quickly forgetting it. While the law reproves and chides us, it awakens us as it were by its stimulating power, that we may return to the consideration of God’s judgment.”
  4. Moo: “sin can be changed explicitly and in detail to each person’s account only when that person has consciously and knowingly disobeyed a direct command that prohibits that sin” (Ibid)
  5. MacArthur: “The apostle points out that before God gave the Law on Mount Sinai, sin was already in the world. But men’s failure to meet the standards of the Law was not imputed against them because during that period they had no law. Yet, because death reigned from Adam to Moses, that is, death was universal even though there was no law, it is obvious that men were still sinful. It was not because of men’s sinful acts in breaking the Mosaic Law, which they did not yet have, but because of their sinful nature that all men from Adam until Moses were subject to death.”

My own comments on “sin is not imputed when there is no law”:

  1. It is clear that this cannot mean men before the Mosaic law are not sinners!
    • Romans 2:12, “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law”
    • Romans 2:14-15, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)”
  2. When I was a child a fell of the swing and hurt myself. This was before I had ever heard about “the law of gravity”. But I knew by nature that there was such a thing as “gravity” and that I could not defy it! When Mom patched me up she didn’t accuse me of violating the law of gravity … she said you need to be careful on the swing because when you fall off you will hurt yourself!
  3. Consider the Autobahn. This is every man/boy’s dream … driving a Porsche 911 with no speed limit. The image above has the sign that indicates there is no speed limit!
  4. Even without a speed limit, speed kills. Here’s a link with pics of non-fatal Autobahn accidents.
  5. If Jim races his Porsche 911 at breakneck speeds on the Autobahn, while I cannot be charged with “breaking the law”, but I still can experience the consequences of my foolishness. (Bottom of the image above)
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