Keep Off the Grass


We were visiting Pompeii a few years ago and signs were posted throughout the ancient city that read, “Don’t touch.” The prohibitions were designed for a good purpose—to preserve the almost 2000-year-old ruins from tourists’ hands. I think I reached out and touched anyway. What is it about such signs that are an almost irresistible draw? And signs that say, “Keep off the Grass,” that tempt us to march boldly across the lawn? The “Don’t Touch” sign wasn’t wrong—but it did incite the rebellious nature inside me. Paul gets personal in today’s passage, sharing how his sin sprang to life when he faced a prohibition in the law.  

  • How do you respond when you read the Ten Commandments?
  • Does it feel hopeless to try and keep them all? Or do you think you can do it?


7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. How was the writer of Romans, Paul, awakened to a heart-knowledge of sin?
  2. In what way did the commandment that promised life prove to be death to Paul (vss. 10-11)?
  3. How was the law described (vs. 12)?
  4. In your own words, explain the relationship between sin and the law.
  5. How did you first become aware of your sin? Are you still trying to live the Christian life in your own strength? Yield your efforts and frustrations to the Spirit, who will set you free in Christ.


The Law wasn’t wrong or sinful—but it gave sin an opportunity. The Law was holy and good, given by God. But through it, sin sprang to life and did what sin does—deceives and kills. We either have no hope to keep all of the Law and therefore feel hopeless and say, “I might as well live it up,” or we think we can do it and bask in self-righteousness. Both views are deadly. Both are showcases for our sin, leaving us spiritually dead and lifeless. So, we must die to the Law and the sin it incites. And we must live to God, as one set free in Christ.

  • Ask God to show you if you are being deceived in any way by sin in your life.
  • Praise and thank God that he makes you aware of your sin and doesn’t leave you wallowing in it.