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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the combined retreat of Calvary Road
Baptist Church and the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Tuesday Evening, September 10, 2002

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

Paul is giving his own experience here. But what he says describes every awakening. Every unconverted person is "alive without the law." And every unconverted person must experience the reviving of sin, and be slain by the law.

Therefore, my text speaks to you tonight - if you are unconverted. Pay close attention, because I am going to say some things you need to know if you hope to find salvation.

I. First, you have false peace in your present state.

"For I was alive without the law once" (Romans 7:9).

He was alive. He then died. This shows two different states of mind. First he had a false peace. He was free from conviction in his conscience. He was free from the fear of punishment in Hell. He thought he was O.K. The Apostle tells us several times about being like this before he came under awakening conviction. He saw himself as blameless, recorded in Philippians 3:4-6; Acts 23:1; Acts 26:4-5, and in other places.

That's the way you are tonight. You are "alive" in your own sight. You are secure. You are unafraid. You do not feel guilty. You think that all you need to do is learn how to be saved - or hear some sermon that "jogs" you into correct doctrine. You have the false hope of getting saved the way you are, without going through a crisis. But I tell you there must be a struggle and a crisis in your soul, or there is no real conversion.

Aaron Yancy was hopefully converted last year. He came again and again to see us in the inquiry room. Gradually he became thoroughly lost in his own eyes. I can see his face, with tears literally streaming down his cheeks, looking up at me like a man condemned to the gas chamber. I will never forget the horrible look on his face when he became awakened to the horror of his hopelessly sinful heart.

He was alive without the law once! There was a time when he was totally careless about his soul. All he thought about was getting ahead and graduating from college. He got a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, and was ready to leave. I said to him, "You'd better not go. You'd better get converted." I was surprised that he actually listened to me. I thought, "There's a side of this boy most people don't see. He covers it with jokes. But God is working on his heart." Then he came under conviction of sin, and gave up hope in himself. His experience was very close to that of the Apostle Paul:

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

There was a time when he lived for jokes and fun and school. There was a time when he had false peace. There was a time when he enjoyed his life, even though he was "without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).

And that's the way you are tonight! You are comfortable just the way you are! Nothing bothers you! Sermons on Hell go right past you - never wounding your heart! You will go to sleep soundly tonight in your bed - with no fear whatever.

"There is no fear of God before [your] eyes" (Romans 3:18).

You are alive without the law!

"I was alive without the law once" (Romans 7:9).

That is your condition tonight - alive without the law - asleep in sin - resting while your heart is bound in darkness - enjoying yourself in this world - even while your soul hangs by a rotten thread over the pit of Hell!

"I was alive without the law once" (Romans 7:9).

That's you, isn't it? You aren't really afraid of Hell, are you? You aren't really afraid of the sins you've committed, are you? You are not really sick of the sinful thoughts in your heart, are you? You are not really concerned with the fact that your heart is ruined, and godless, are you? You are not troubled by the fact that you have no love for God, are you? Of course not! You are alive without the law! You are content with yourself just as you are. You see no need to be any different or feel anything different. All you need to do is learn a couple of things so you can get baptized and join the church. "No big deal," you think. No big deal! Yet your heart is ruined. Your mind is godless. Your soul is damned! But it's no big deal!

"For I was alive without the law once" (Romans 7:9).

You have false peace in your present state.

II. Second, the commandment must come.

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived…" (Romans 7:9).

Paul had been free from the alarm and inner turmoil which he later experienced when he was convicted of sin. He had been attempting to obey God's laws, but he hadn't realized that he had continually broken God's laws in his heart. He had only outwardly obeyed God's law. But the fact that he broke God's law inwardly hadn't dawned on him.

Mrs. Hanson told me about speaking to someone she has known a long time about the subject of sin. That person had been quite a sinner, and Mrs. Hanson knew it. But the person said to her, "I'm not a sinner. I've always been a good person."

That was a rather blatant, outgoing way of saying it, but it's really what every lost person thinks, more or less. To a greater or lesser extent every lost person thinks that they aren't too bad, at least not as bad as others. The Pharisee said, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are" (Luke 18:11).

Now, be honest with yourself. Haven't you thought that sometimes? Haven't you excused yourself for being like you are? I believe, if you are being honest with yourself, that you will have to admit that sometimes you think that you really aren't that bad, or that others are worse than you, or that there is some excuse for the way you are. Am I at least partly right?

But Paul says, "When the commandment." When the law was applied to his heart by the Holy Spirit. The time came in Paul's life, before his conversion, that he went through what we call "awakening." This is when God moved in his heart, and his sin became an overwhelming reality to him.

Before this awakening, Paul was proud, and self-confident, and self-righteous. He thought that he was a good enough person.

"But when the commandment came, sin revived…"
   (Romans 7:9).

This means that the conviction of sin had not previously occurred, but by this awakening experience, the law of God pierced his heart. It was very real. He suddenly saw that he had a sinful heart and life. The law came to life inside him and tormented him, because he now knew that he had never really been a good person at all. He saw that he had been deceiving himself all his life, that he was truly a sinner, that his heart had broken the law over and over.

That hasn't happened to you yet, has it? But it must happen to you or you will never be awakened enough to experience real conversion. You must come to a place where you are tormented about being sinful.

Now, it isn't the amount of torment over your sin that's necessary. Some are troubled less than others. But in every awakening which leads to conversion there is at least some torment and inner turmoil over sin. You see, that's what we are looking for! When the pastors, deacons or other counsellors speak to you in the inquiry room, they are looking to see if you are troubled by your sin.

There are two ways that the Holy Spirit shows a person they are sinful. First, by showing them that they have committed some particular sin or some particular sins. Some awful sin you have committed comes to your mind and troubles you. That's the first way that "the commandment [comes]" (Romans 7:9).

But the great evangelist George Whitefield often pointed out in his sermons that there is a second, even more terrible, way that the commandment comes. And that is when you see not only how awful the particular sins you have committed are, but when you see more deeply that your very nature is sinful. Whitefield often said words to the effect, "There is no true conversion until total depravity is felt in the sinner." I believe he was right. That was my experience in the days leading up to my own conversion. I came to realize that my condition was actually worse than simply committing a sin. I was a sinner, and I knew it.

Now, this knowledge that your very heart and nature are sinful may be greater or less, according to the individual. But some of this comes in every awakening that leads to true conversion.

Isaiah had such an experience when he said:

"Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5).

He felt an overwhelming sense of sinfulness and uncleanness - even in his speech. This certainly reflected his feelings regarding his heart as well. He felt "unclean."

Have you ever felt that you were an unclean person? Have you ever felt that your mind and heart were unclean? If you haven't I don't think you have ever yet been sufficiently awakened to be truly converted.

I believe that Aaron Yancy went through some of this soul-searching anxiety before his conversion, as I said a moment ago. Outwardly, he is a joker, and everyone likes him. But there is a depth to this young man that many people don't know about.

Aaron began to see that he had committed certain horrible sins. But more than that, he came to see that he was actually sinful inside - that his very heart and mind were sinful in the sight of a holy God.

How can you prepare for such an awakening to your sin? First, by thinking of actual sins you have committed. Take a minute right now, and think about the worst sins you have committed. (pause). Now take those thoughts and think about them some more in the next few minutes, and later tonight and tomorrow as well. Then think how little you have loved God, and how little you have obeyed God in your heart. Let that sink in. Think about the sinfulness of your rebellious heart. Let that sink in until it causes an inner turmoil, inner unrest in you. Pray for God to make you see yourself as exceedingly sinful. Ask God to show you that you are very sinful inside.

(1) Ask God to show you the worst things you have done by sinning.

(2) Ask God to show you how sinful your heart and mind really are.

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

That leads into my last point.

III. Third, you must die.

That doesn't mean that you die physically. It means that you become even more filled with guilt and misery. It is the opposite of "I was alive without the law once." It is the opposite of that - "I died." It was the sight of his sins and his sinful nature that brought him to what he calls "death" in chapter five, verses 12, 14, and 15. That means thoughts of his sinfulness produced withering and condemning effects of deep misery.

You probably haven't felt this yet, after only a few minutes of thought and prayer. I mean that you must become completely disgusted with the kind of person you are. When you dislike the sinful person you are, and are very upset with yourself, you are "dead" in the sense that Paul gives in our text.

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

When you are overwhelmed, more or less, with your sins and your sinful nature, you are awakened. If this is a deep awakening, it will lead shortly into true conversion.

Only when you are disgusted with your sins and who you are can the gospel of Christ sound like the good news that it really is.

Jesus said:

"They that are whole [well] have no need of the physician, but they that are sick" (Mark 2:17).

Only when you are sickened by the probing of the law in your heart and mind will the Blood of Jesus seem like precious medicine.

"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

Oh, may that happen to someone tonight. And may others experience it soon! "The commandment came, sin revived, and I died!" May that soon be said of you!


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. John S. Waldrip: Romans 7:7-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Once For All" (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9).

I.   You have false peace in your present state, Romans 7:9a;
Ephesians 2:12; Romans 3:18.

II.  You must have the commandment come to you, Romans 7:9b;
Luke 18:11; Isaiah 6:5.

III. You must die, Romans 7:9c; Mark 2:17.

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