Speed Limit Signs and Romans

Suppose you are driving down the road and suddenly realize you have no idea what the speed limit is! You have traveled that road many times before, but just never paid attention to what the speed might be. Let’s also add that you look down at your speedometer and it says you are moving at about 50 miles per hour. So, you know exactly how fast you are going, but you simply do not know what the law is for that particular road. You don’t see a sign anywhere, so you just continue to drive the speed you are going. To your own conscience, that speed seems right. After all, it’s what you have always done and since there is nothing saying otherwise, you go on about your business.

Now, let’s suppose that sometime later, you are traveling down that same road, but this time, several large, easy-to-read signs that say, “Speed Limit 35” have been posted all along the roadway. What do you do? Do you continue to drive the same speed you have always driven, because that’s what seemed right to you, or now that you know what the law is for that street, do you start abiding by it? This is a pretty simple concept to understand. You have to make a choice. Obey or not obey.

This is the same concept that Paul is trying to help the brethren understand at the church in Rome. In Romans 3:20, he writes, ” … for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Then, in Romans 7:7 he explains, “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.'” It is the same application as the speed limit sign. You did not know that you were breaking the law by speeding until you were told what the law was by that sign. The sign is simply relaying the message of the lawgiver and the one who will enforce the law. It is implying that if you want to avoid being pulled over by the police and then appear before a judge, then here is what you must do, drive no faster than 30 miles per hour on this particular road. Simple. The Bible relays a similar message to us about what the Lawgiver and the One who will enforce it expects from us. He expects us obey to His commands (Acts 5:29;John 14:15; Heb 5:9; 1 John 2:3-5), or face punishment (Rom 2:16).

We could continue to expand this analogy by supposing that there were some people who just naturally followed the law and were already driving 30 mph, even though they didn’t have the signs (Rom 2:14). But now that the signs have been posted, then they too, must keep the law or face the consequences. They cannot appeal to a time before the law was given, because that law or agreement is now old and has been put away (Col 2:14). There is a new law that they must follow (Luke 22:20). They also do not have any authority to change the signs (Rev 22:18-19), even though some people will try to say you don’t have to obey what the sign says (Rom 16:18; 2 Pet 2:1).

Yet, despite all that, “you have become dull of hearing‘ (Heb 5:11) and just don’t really understand the law, so you keep breaking it (cf. Rom 6:1). Even after several policeman have warned you (cf. Rom 3:21), it still hasn’t quite “sunk in” that if you keep breaking the law, you will be punished (Rom 6:16). After a while, the judge decides to send his son out to give you an example to follow (cf. John 3:16, 13:15; 1 Cor 11:1). He gives him authority of the law (Matt 28:18). So, his son explains the law to you in detail, using language that you can easily relate to (Matt 13:10-11). He then drives down the same street as you, using a vehicle just like yours and follows the law perfectly, without fault (cf. Heb 4:15; Eph 1:9). You heard him, you learned from his example, and now you know exactly what it is you are supposed to do. Therefore, if you go and break the law again, knowing what you now know, will the judge excuse you for your ignorance? No, he certainly won’t! (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22)

Hopefully, this little analogy will help you remember what Jesus Himself said about God’s message to us, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” John 15:22).