For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Note 3 at Ro 7:9: Paul stated that there was a time in his life when he (his soulish, emotional, or personality part) was not separated from God. This was before the Law came. But the Law of God was communicated thousands of years before Paul was born, so what does this mean?
When Paul spoke of the Law coming, he was speaking of the time in all people's lives when they recognize that they are violating a command of God. Children may know they've been told not to do certain things and that if they do them, they will be punished. However, there comes a time when they realize that it is not just Mom or Dad or society that they are disobeying, but this is disobedience to God. That's when the Law comes and God imputes their sins from that time. Prior to that time, their sin nature is not being imputed to them (see note 2 at Ro 5:13), and they can fellowship with God.
Notice that Paul said, "When the commandment came, sin revived." He did not say, "Sin came." You cannot revive something that doesn't already exist. The sin nature already exists in every human at birth (see note 1 at Ro 5:15 and note 4 at Ro 5:16), but until the Law comes, that nature is dead (Ro 7:8). That does not mean that it is not functional. Observation tells us that very young children have a functional sin nature. But God is not imputing sin unto people until the time that they knowingly violate God's Law.
This is why children can receive from God even before they are born again, and it also explains why infants who die go to heaven. Until the time that Paul calls "when the commandment comes," or what many call "the age of accountability," the sin nature does exist, but God is not imputing that sin. Therefore, they are not bearing God's judgment against sin. But once the commandment comes, then the wrath of God against sin is released (see note 3 at Ro 4:15), and unless they receive Jesus as their Savior, they will bear the eternal punishment of God (see note 4 at Mr 3:29).
It is impossible to fix a certain age when this accountability occurs. That varies from person to person. For some, such as in cases of retardation, it is possible that this age of accountability is never reached. We can be sure that our all-knowing God will be righteous in His judgment of each individual.
Note 4 at Ro 7:9: All people are born with a nature that is dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1-3), but until they reach an understanding where they are accountable to God, sin is not imputed unto them (see note 3 at this verse). Until that time, people are alive in the sense that they can communicate with God without the barrier of sin. However, once the Law comes and sin is imputed, there is a separation from (or death to) God that can only be remedied by the new birth (see note 2 at Joh 3:3) through faith in Jesus.
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