“The ancient promise made to Abraham and his descendant, that they should eventually possess the world, [or more literally: the God who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that He has foretold and promised as if they already existed] wasn’t given because of any achievements made through obedience to the Law, but because of the righteousness that had its root in faith. For if, after all, they who pin their faith to keeping the Law were to inherit God’s world, it would make faith meaningless and destroy the whole point of the promise. For the law can produce no promise, only the threat of wrath to come” —Romans 4:13-14
“The Law cannot produce any promise, only the threat of wrath to come. And, indeed, if there were no Law the question of sin would not arise” —Romans 4:15
Did you catch that? If not, read it again . . . the Law—the rule book—cannot produce any life . . . but without the Law—the violation of the Law wouldn’t exist . . .
Now wait, I do not want to skip over that without us truly understanding what is being said here. Think of the days of Adam and Eve and their act treason—that fateful moment when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Follow along as an interesting scenario unfolds: God creates Adam and later Eve, each complete with a will (remember, God made mankind in His image, and God has a will). From all the information given to us, God put nothing off limits to the first couple; everything was for them—translation: there is no way to go against God. No rules or laws or commandments were laid on them. Nothing they could do was immoral. They could not break rules, because there weren’t any rules to break. They could not make a bad choice, because there are no moral choices.
Okay, so the Lord created one thing about which they could make a moral choice; one rule they could break; and that created thing was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the rule was they were not to eat from it. In other words, without the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the restriction against eating its fruit, there were no moral choices for them to make. Without the existence of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and without God telling them they could not eat of it, there would have been no reason for Adam and Eve to even have a will.
Now, did Adam and Eve have any concept of good and evil before the Fall? It would appear not. Did they have any concept of morality? It would appear not. Things just were as they were; they made no differentiation because they didn’t know there were any differences. However, when God set the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil before them, and told them NO!—Now they had an opportunity to exercise their wills. Now, they could make a moral judgment. Even more, by choosing to disobey, they indeed did gain a knowledge of good and evil that they had never before encountered. I think it is fair to say they never even considered the possibility of disobeying God; nor did they have any idea that by doing so, evil was the result. Why? Because they had no knowledge of the difference between Good and Evil. But, by means of Satan’s deception and temptation, and at the decision of their own wills, they chose to go against God’s one moral rule—not to eat of that tree—and the first transgression against God by humans occurred. We call a transgression against God, sin. Sin now entered the world. What is sin, but an act of evil?.
Do you see this? Without choices, there can be no sin. This has a direct correlation to when Moses was given the Law, on Mt. Sinai. What did Paul just say?
. . . for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation —Romans 4:15
Remember that in the New Testament the word Law (capital L Law) usually refers to the Torah. What Paul is saying is that where there is no Torah, there can’t be violations against God. Now, please catch this: The Torah was to Israel, what the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was to Adam and Eve. The primary difference is that Adam and Eve only had one regulation in their Torah: don’t eat that fruit! The Torah, The Law, given to Israel on Mt. Sinai had many more regulations—but with exactly the same effect. By means of those rules, Israel gained a knowledge of good and evil.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome