The Law Is Like A Thermometer

Through the law is the clear knowledge of sin

Rom. 3:20b
God Gave Us A Standard

The law is like a thermometer. A person may be sick with a fever. But if you say to him, “Friend, your complexion does not look very good; you have a temperature,” he may not believe you.

All you would have to do is get a thermometer and put it in his mouth. After two minutes you could show him definitely that he has a temperature.

We were already sinful; we already had a “temperature”; but we did not know about it. So God gave us a standard. Although the law may not be a perfect standard, it is a sufficiently high standard.

God uses the law to measure us. By it we see that we have transgressed. Once we see that we have transgressed the law, we know that we have sinned.

Sin was within man already; but without transgressions, he would never have confessed that he had sin. It was only after he transgressed that he would confess that he really had sin.

When I read the Bible, I marvel at the words the apostle used. In these verses [Gal. 3:19; Rom. 4:15; 5:20] he did not use the word sin; rather, he used the word transgression three times.

Sin is always within man, but until it is carried out, sin does not become transgression. There must be something to transgress before there can be the possibility of transgression.

A Little Child Who Always Gets His Clothes Dirty

Let me illustrate. Suppose there is a little child who always gets his clothes dirty. He always uses his sleeves to wipe his nose, and his clothes get dirty quickly.

In his temperament, habit, thought, and conscience, he never considers that to dirty his clothes is a sin. His father does not consider it a sin either. The fact of sin is there even though there is no disobedience.

The child’s clothes are very dirty, but he does not mind it at all. His conscience feels fine, because his father has never said that this is wrong. He can be unconcerned about it.

Even when his clothes are very dirty, he can still eat with his father, sit with his father, and walk with his father. Everything is fine as far as he is concerned. In other words, he has not transgressed.

But one day his father tells him that he cannot get his clothes dirty anymore, and that if he does it again, he will spank him.

If the child has been doing this habitually, his father’s speaking will manifest his sins.

Originally there was sin only, no disobedience. But once the child disobeys, there is transgression.

In the same way, only when there is the law will there be the transgression. When the law tells you to do this or that, transgression will be manifested.

Originally this child could come before his father uprightly and without fear. But now if he behaves according to his habit and does this again, he will have no peace within and his conscience will speak.

All quotations in this post, unless otherwise noted, are from  The Gospel Of God, chapter 4 by Watchman Nee. Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA, U.S.A. 1990, Source:

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